With the football season only a fortnight away, Dartford’s pre-season warm-up games are arriving
thick and fast. Game number five saw the Darts face another tough fixture, as Leyton Orient came to
Princes Park on Saturday 20th July.
The hosts have been showing signs of strength and consistency in previous games, collecting some
good results along the way. Managers Adam and Jamie have been rather successful in the transfer
market too. The new arrivals appear to be adapting to their new surroundings and are beginning to
feel at home at Princes Park. It can also be said that a few of the trialists have shown promise as
well, especially 22-year old defender Luke Warner-Eley, who signed for the Darts on Friday.
Visitors, Leyton Orient, would be forgiven for not wanting to turn up this season after the sad and
shocking death of manager Justin Edinburgh on the 8th of June. One cannot begin to imagine how
the staff, players and fans of the club must be feeling. Such occurrences have a tendency to make
things like football pale into insignificance. On the other hand, football also has a wonderful way of
bringing people together for the greater good, and this was the case with Saturday’s friendly match.
There were fundraising buckets situated around Princes Park in aid of The Justin Edinburgh 3
Foundation, and there was a minute’s applause conducted honourably before kick-off.
Despite such difficulties, The O’s have been in excellent form under the guidance of Interim Head
Coach, Ross Embleton and his assistant, Danny Webb. The club have won three of four games and
even managed a 2-2 draw with Championship side, Hull City at Brisbane Road. Such pre-season
results must surely be encouraging for all involved with the club, which was promoted to League
Two from the National League last season. Everyone involved will surely want to continue the
success that Justin Edinburgh achieved by getting the club back into the league.
Regardless of the circumstances, Leyton Orient were always going to provide a stern test for Adam
and Jamie’s side. This was proven by the starting eleven for this game, which saw a very strong
lineup announced and only two trialists listed, both of whom were on the bench. Meanwhile, the
visitors had two new signings available. Midfielder Josh Wright [ex-Bradford] started, while striker
Lee Angol [ex-Shrewsbury] was on the bench.
Dartford got the game underway in front of 821 fans, but the hosts were slow in getting started and
were made to pay in the 4th minute. Leyton Orient won a free kick on the right hand side, which was
lifted into the box. O’s defender, Marvin Ekpiteta, managed to get on the end of the ball, stabbing it
home to give the visitors the lead. Five minutes later should’ve seen Orient double their lead, as Joe
Widdowson saw his attempt cleared off the line by Luke Warner-Eley, as he raced back to defend the
That moment seemed to spark Dartford into life and they began to assert their authority on the
game and searched for an equaliser. The midfield trio of Lee Noble, Sam Blackman, and Josh Hill
started to put themselves about a bit with some crunching tackles throughout the match.
Meanwhile, the Darts also used the width to good advantage, with the right and left combinations of
Jordan Wynter/Ryan Hayes, and Luke Warner-Eley/Luke Wanadio respectively working together
well. As the half hour mark approached, the hosts were awarded a free kick which saw Wanadio
strike the ball straight at the O’s defence. Unfortunately the resulting corner came to nothing as the
visitor’s defence stood firm.
As the Darts continued searching, Leyton Orient were always a threat going forward, and a free kick
was given away on the edge of our area as half-time approached. Ruel Sotiriou struck the ball, but
thankfully, it blazed over Mark Smith’s goal to the relief of the crowd.
The second half saw the Darts venturing forward more and Warner-Eley tried his luck with an
ambitious effort in the 47th minute. Unfortunately, a spectacular effort it wasn’t, as his shot from
the left flew harmlessly wide of the target. Eight minutes later saw the impressive Wanadio collect
the ball on the left and play a beautiful pass into the path of Cameron Brodie. The crowd groaned as
the latter scuffed his shot and the ball was collected with ease by Sam Sargeant in the O’s goal.
The football in the second half was entertaining to say the least, as Dartford searched for the
equaliser and Orient pressed to put the game beyond reach. The football was end to end, with both
sides creating opportunities. Unfortunately it just wasn’t happening for the Darts in the final third.
That’s something that couldn’t be said for the visitors, who made Mark Smith work in the 63rd
minute. James Brophy cut in onto his left foot, opened up space in the Dartford defence, and let fly
with a powerful shot which was heading into the top corner. However, Smith was equal to it, diving
to his right and making the save of the match. Seven minutes later, Sargeant made a diving save
himself to keep out Ben Greenhalgh’s excellent effort from distance.
Despite their hard work, it just didn’t happen for the Darts and they paid the price three minutes
from time. Orient won a corner, which was whipped into the box and nobody picked up Sam Ling as
he ran into the penalty area unmarked. His powerful header flew into the back of Smith’s goal and
sealed the win for the visitors.
Result aside, this match saw another good performance from the Dartford players. With more
accuracy in the final third, the result would surely have been different.