Dartford’s fourth home game in succession saw them face Isthmian South East side Phoenix Sports in the Kent Senior Cup Semi-Final.
The visitor’s ambitions of an upset were swiftly demolished, as Liam Nash helped himself to two of
four Dartford goals in a second half display which portrayed the host’s qualities on the pitch, as they
cruised into the Kent Senior Cup Final.
The game kicked off with the Dartford section of the 437 supporters in full-voice, as usual, yet it
would be Alhaji Sesay who’d be called into action first. Phoenix started quite brightly and soon
launched an attack along the Dartford right flank, winning a free-kick in the 4th minute. Lewis Clark
sent a high ball into the box, but Sesay was able to catch it confidently.
Four minutes later saw the Darts attack, as Luke Wanadio beat the defender, only to be bundledover. With the free-kick, Dartford forced a corner, which was played short to Amrit Bansal-McNulty.
The QPR loanee broke free into a good position only to fire over Steven Phillip’s crossbar. The
Dartford number four would be centre of attention throughout the evening and would cause the
visitor’s defence no end of problems. Just to prove his qualities, Bansal-McNulty would force another corner three minutes later. However, when the ball eventually fell to Jack Jebb, his effort would find Phillips in the way.
As the 13th minute approached, Bansal-McNulty drove through the Phoenix defence and shot
towards goal, only for Phillips to thwart him again. He needn’t worry, however, because Dartford
would take the lead seconds later! It was a rather scrappy goal, which Jordan Wynter put away after a few deflected efforts within the Phoenix box.
With Dartford now ahead, the game became more open, yet it was the hosts who looked more likely to add to their solitary goal. As confidence increased, more opportunities would be created, as first Nash (22), Jebb (36), and then Ronnie Vint (39) all had chances to score but failed to hit the target.
Relieved to end the first half only one goal behind, Phoenix began the second forty-five with added
purpose. They were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position in the 47th minute after a foul on
Lauris Chin. Jack Hopkins fired over Sesay’s crossbar and Dartford punished that miss four minutes later. Nash dealt out the punishment, as he collected a dropping ball in the box, turned and fired past Phillips.
Dartford were now playing with confidence, as they passed the ball well and exploited the space
offered by the visitors. Another attack found Elliott Romain in a terrific position. He received the ball
on the edge of the Phoenix box in the 63rd minute, turned and sent it flying beyond Phillips to
extend the lead to 3-0.
With his side now comfortably in control, Steve King decided to make a couple of changes, as Billy
Crook and Lee Noble replaced Jack Jebb and Noor Husin (66) and Tyrique Hyde replaced Elliott
Romain (74). Meanwhile, the visitors replaced Henry Douglas with Connor McGrady (66) and Jeff
Duah-Kessie with James Pyer (72).
As we reached the 77th minute, Dartford’s comfort zone received a wake-up call when a rare
Phoenix attack resulted in referee Isaac Searle awarding them a penalty. The decision seemed harsh, after Craig Braham-Barrett appeared to slip while racing to get to his opponent and, subsequently, fall into him. Kehinde Aileru put the penalty beyond Sesay and, out of nothing, Phoenix had pulled a goal back.
The visitors made their final substitution with eight minutes remaining, as Oliver Andrews was
replaced by Charlie Busby. However, that was irrelevant because, three minutes later Dartford
scored a fourth. The goal arrived after superb attacking play between Wanadio and Bansal-McNulty, which resulted with the latter firing into the back of the net.
If that wasn’t enough, Liam Nash capped off a fine performance with an outstanding finish in the
90th minute. Receiving the ball just outside the Phoenix box, the Dartford forward then cut in and
smashed an absolute beauty past the hapless Phillips to score his second of the night and Dartford’s fifth.
This was a relatively comfortable evening for the Darts, with many strong performances on the pitch.
The choice of the Man of The Match award was a difficult one, as there were a few individuals
deserving tonight. One such player was Amrit Bansal-McNulty, who was in excellent form, and
thoroughly deserved the recognition. We now await to learn who we will face in the Kent Senior Cup Final with anticipation.
DARTFORD: Sesay, Wynter, Braham-Barrett, Bansal-McNulty, Vint, Bonner ©, Husin, Jebb, Romain,
SUBSTITUTES: Crook, Smith, Hyde, Hill, Noble.
PHOENIX SPORTS: Phillips, Douglas, Clark, Hopkins ©, Barry, Whitelock, O.Andrews, Duah-Kessie,
Chin, Aileru, R.Andrews.
SUBSTITUTES: Busby, Pyer, Probets, McGrady, Bird.