The football pre-season continued as Dartford faced Kent neighbours Ebbsfleet United at Princes Park on a humid 9th July evening. Both clubs started their warm-up campaigns with victories at the weekend. The Darts settled matters away at Sevenoaks Town with a tight 1-0 win. Meanwhile, National League mid-table side, Ebbsfleet came out victorious in a seven goal thriller, eventually winning 4-3 at K Sports.
Although tonight’s game was a friendly, it’s fair to say that Adam and Jamie will expect another tough encounter against an Ebbsfleet side that shouldn’t be underestimated no matter what the circumstances. With eight new signings so far, the joint managers will want to see the players continue to gain fitness, improve and get to know each other on the pitch. Tonight’s friendly was also another opportunity for Adam and Jamie to try out a few more trialists as they continue to rebuild the squad.
The game was played out in front of 847 fans and the home side came out of the blocks showing their intentions immediately as they taunted the Ebbsfleet defence throughout the first half. Wingers were the key, as both flanks proved a problem for the visitors, with Ryan Hayes in fine form in the opening 45. Whilst Ebbsfleet had a few moments in attack, The Darts’ defence looked reasonably comfortable and, when it was breached, the visitors’ attack rarely threatened Mark Smith’s goal.
The opening 20 minutes saw both teams going through the motions, before the home side started to get a grip in attacking areas. The quick-footed Darren McQueen was always going to be a threat and this was proved when he had a well-struck shot blocked in the 25th minute. Ebbsfleet subsequently woke up, pressed more, and created a few opportunities themselves as the home defence sat back. However, Dartford then proceeded to hit Ebbsfleet on the break, with Darren McQueen’s shot taking a deflection over the bar, as he took a little too long with the ball.
The Darts’ pressure paid off eventually, as Josh Hill climbed and got a good head on the ball as it floated in from a corner, sending it into the back of the net. Three minutes later, it should have been 2-0 as a mix-up at the back left Ebbsfleet keeper Ashmore in no man’s land. Luckily for him, he got to the ball first, but smashed it against McQueen, sending the ball just wide of his own goal.
With half-time approaching, Dartford were clearly getting stronger and growing in confidence. Another attack saw Charlie Sheringham arriving into the Ebbsfleet box, only to see his shot fly wide of the post. The home side will certainly feel the happier of the two at the interval and would be justified in feeling that they should be 2-0 up.
The second half saw the temperature drop and a nice cool breeze flow around Princes Park as the flood lights came on. Dartford made four substitutions during the break, which was to be expected in such a game, and there was an air of expectation that Ebbsfleet intended on pushing more for the equaliser. That was certainly the case in the opening exchanges, but once again the visitors were vulnerable to being hit on the break. This is exactly what happened as we reached the 52nd minute, as Dartford countered with Luke Wanadio who played in Sam Blackman. Unfortunately that second goal didn’t arrive as the midfielder saw his shot blocked by the Ebbsfleet defence.
Dartford kept a good shape in the second half and also looked lively on occasion, especially Ben Greenhalgh, who had entered proceedings at half time. However, the intensity wasn’t as pronounced as it was in the previous 45. As the game reached the 71st minute, the home side were made to pay as a good ball over the top saw Anderson running through and Mark Smith rushing off his line to intercept. Unfortunately he missed and the Ebbsfleet striker slotted the ball home to put the visitors level at 1-1.
Ebbsfleet looked the stronger of the two thereafter, as they searched for a winner. With ten minutes remaining a floating corner was met with a powerful header which, thankfully, zoomed wide of the Dartford post. Still the home side pressed on and got a positive result, as the players put in a strong performance in this highly entertaining pre-season friendly.