Report: Dartford 0-0 Hemel Hempstead Town – Darts remain unbeaten after stalemate
An improved second-half performance from Dartford was not enough to secure all three points as the early front-runners in the National League south met at Princes Park, both eager to extend an early lead over the pack.
The visitors certainly started the brightest with their high-tempo style that has seen Dean Brennan’s side score six times in their opening two games.
Steve Crawley provided the first effort of the affair as he cutely brought down Jordan Parkes’ free-kick before turning to produce a timid effort that was comfortably collected by Deren Ibrahim.
The high press from the visitors meant the Darts were always going to have opportunities on the counter-attack, the first of which fell to summer recruit Chez Isaac. The midfielder intercepted the ball intelligently on half-way and drove forward until opting for a speculative effort from 30 yards which drifted well over the bar of Laurie Walker.
Back with a bang
The Darts were grateful to Ibrahim, who has regained the number one spot this season, for producing a double save to prevent the Tudors from taking the lead. First, Karl Oliyide’s found himself in space on the left side of the box and produced a curling effort that the Gibraltan international palmed around his left post.
Then, from the resulting corner, he gathered well following a James Kaloczi header after the defender rose highest in the Dartford box.
It certainly didn’t prove to be a contest that petered out before the interval as both sides went close in an open game.
After another interception the hosts piled forward but under defensive pressure ex-Millwall forward Jamie Philpot’s cross-come-shot from the right looped safely onto the roof of Walker’s net.
The ‘keeper was similarly untroubled moments later following Callum Driver’s curling effort which went well over the bar.
The visitors should’ve opened the scoring moments before the interval as Oliyide had a golden opportunity one-on-one with Ibrahim following a run down the right channel. The ‘keeper did well to narrow the angle quickly and force the winger to poke just wide.
Half-time: Dartford 0-0 Hemel Hempstead Town
Parkes was at the heart of everything the Tudors did well and it was his testing free-kick that nearly provided the assist for what would’ve been a deserved lead. Ismail Yakubu’s back-post slide just failed to divert the ball home.
The second-half was fought much more in the centre of the pitch as both sides were eager not to be the first to concede. Jamie Coyle and Adam Flanagan’s side appeared to take a much more pro-active approach as they wrestled momentum off the visitors.
The hosts’ newly appointed captain Tom Bonner failed to make a clear enough connection with Ben Greenhalgh’s free kick as the ball lifted onto the roof of the net – it would not have counted anyway as referee Jacob Miles pulled play back for a foul.
Parkes, who caused the hosts all sorts of trouble last season, and the Tudors nearly profited from a huge slice of luck as the midfielder’s corner was cleared well by Ibrahim off the line.
The ‘keeper recovered well to then do just enough to put off Herchez Sanchez-Watt as his glancing header from a Parkes cross was just over the bar from close range.
The Darts were left to rue a slow start to last season by the end of the 2017/18 campaign in which they narrowly missed out on automatic promotion. It’s games like this, to stand any chance of repeating or bettering last season, they would need to make the most of and convert any chances when they came.
With ten minutes left on the clock that chance did come via the penalty spot after Miles spotted a handball in the Hemel box.
With usual penalty taker Elliot Bradbrook not in the matchday squad Philpot took on the responsibility but blazed over from 12 yards out, failing to even test Walker.
By now all the chances were falling for the hosts as they sought for a late winner. Delano Sam-Yorke, fresh off his man-of-the-match performance in the 1-0 win over Chelmsford City, headed wide following another Greenhalgh set-piece.
Philpot nearly redeemed himself early into the four minutes added on and was only denied by a fantastic stop by Walker in the Hemel goal as the visitors held on for a point.
Full-time: Dartford 0-0 Hemel Hempstead Town
Dartford: Ibrahim, Driver, Onyemah, Vint, Bonner ©, Mensah (Murphy), Noble, Greenhalgh (Ighorae), Sam-Yorke, Isaac (Roast), Philpot.
Hemel Hempstead Town: Walker, Doyley (Howe), Connolly, Parkes ©, Ward, Yakubu, Kaloczi (McCall), Oliyide (Osborn), Cawley, Sanchez-Watt, Prestedge.
By Henry Clark (@HenryWAClark)