Dartford made the short trip to Dulwich Hamlet with the intention of putting last weekend’s defeat
at Bath City behind them.
Steve King would surely have insisted on a better performance from his players and was boosted by the return of a few key personnel, despite his squad still struggling with injuries overall. It was
pleasing to see the return of Billy Crook and Jordan Wynter to the starting eleven. Meanwhile, Sam
Blackman continued his comeback with another place on the bench, where he was joined by a
returning Norman Wabo.
The Darts also announced the signing of midfielder Tyrique Hyde shortly before the match. The
20-year old has joined from Colchester United on an initial month’s loan, and was immediately
selected into the starting eleven.
A positive response is exactly what Steve King got, as his players performed well in an entertaining
first half. Both sides created meaningful opportunities to score the opening goal, yet both also lacked that cutting edge in the final third. Having said that, it was the hosts who created the best
opportunity, when Lionel Ainsworth got behind the Dartford defence and found himself in a terrific
position to put his side in front in the 24th minute. As he shot from distance, Mark Smith spilled the
ball but somehow managed to claw it to safety before it rolled over the line.
Before that, the visitors had started very well as Billy Crook, Luke Wanadio and new signing Tyrique
Hyde looked to get on the ball early, forcing The Hamlet back. The hosts looked to take advantage of the counter-attack as Dartford pressed forward in numbers, and that’s exactly what happened in the 7th minute. Nyren Clunis breached the defence and was fouled at the last minute by Josh Hill, who earned himself a yellow card from referee Robert Whitton. Thankfully, the resulting free kick came to nothing.
As we approached the eighteenth minute, Jordan Gibbons sent in a terrific ball to Wanadio, but the
Dartford number eleven sent his shot well over the bar. Four minutes later saw Wanadio at it again,
as he received the ball after great play from Liam Gordon, only to be denied by the goalkeeper.
If we fast forward to that spill by Smith in the 24th minute, the Dartford goalkeeper was able to
redeem himself a minute later, when he made a fantastic save from Ainsworth, who had found
himself in a glorious position to score. Then six minutes later the Darts had a penalty shout after
Wanadio was shoved over in the box. Unfortunately the referee wasn’t interested and play
continued, as things seemed to go a bit quiet with both sides offering little in attack as the half
ended with a stalemate.
Dartford started the second half well, but it was the hosts who took the lead in the 47th minute after
Crook had committed to the foul, giving away a free-kick in a dangerous position. Up stepped
Christian Smith to send the free-kick under the wall and into the back of the net.
The goal sparked Dartford into life, as they searched for an equaliser, and it should have come in the 52nd minute when Edwards bundled over Elliot Romain in the penalty area. However, the referee again denied the visitors a deserved penalty and, instead, showed Romain a yellow card for his protests!
With Dartford chasing the game, Steve King made the decision to swap Wanadio for Norman Wabo.
The returning forward made an immediate impact, as he combined well with Gibbons on the right
side, causing problems for the host’s defence for the remaining 28 minutes. And Dartford should
have equalised in the 68th minute after a period of madness in the Hamlet goal-mouth.
Unfortunately, first McQueen, then Crook hit the post and Wabo then fired into the side-netting
from the rebound.
With fourteen minutes remaining, referee Robert Whitton finally awarded Dartford a deserved
penalty after Romain had powered into the box, only to be brought down. The striker dusted himself
down, composed himself and fired into the top corner to bring his side level. The goal was justified
after Dartford had dominated proceedings since going behind, but Dulwich could have stolen all
three points with five minutes remaining, when Smith collected a terrific ball, cut inside and shot
from distance. Thankfully his effort struck the outside of the post and disappeared to safety.
Dulwich finished the game stronger, as they searched for the winner, but the Darts held strong to
earn a valuable point. The Dartford players certainly responded positively in today’s game and, with
more accuracy in the final third, would have surely come away with a victory. But a solid
performance and a hard-fought point is something to build on, as the season approaches the busy
DULWICH HAMLET: Edwards, McCoy, N. Smith, Ijaha ©, Taylor, C. Smith, Clunis, Dempsey, Mills,
SUBSTITUTES: Connors, Chapman, Orlu, Kearney, White.
DARTFORD: Smith, Gibbons, Gordon, Crook, Hill ©, Vint, Hyde, Wynter, Romain, McQueen,
SUBSTITUTES: Bonner, Brodie, Wabo, Blackman, Hayes.