Report: Dartford 2-0 East Thurrock United – dogged Darts back on track.
Dartford welcomed fellow National League South strugglers East Thurrock United to Princes Park with both sides desperate for three points to kick-start what has been a disappointing start to the 2018/19 season.
Darts managerial duo Jamie Coyle and Adam Flanagan questioned their players ‘desire’ ahead of the Bank Holiday double header and made two changes to the side that lost 1-0 away to Hungerford Town. Lee Noble returned to the side for just his fourth league start following a spell out with injury.
The hosts started brightly with Elliott Bradbrook feeding Kudus Oyenuga down the left in the second minute. The ex-Chelmsford City forward cut onto his right foot in search of his first league goal before curling straight into the arms of Jack Giddens.
Saved by the flag
The Darts thought they’d broken the dead-lock in the 9th minute after a cute chip from Ben Greenhalgh found Oyenuga at the back post but the forward’s celebrations were cut short by the linesman’s flag.
A hopeful ball from the left by Tom Derry nearly found Danilo Orsi-Dadomo ghosting in at the far post but Mark Onyemah was on-hand to clear well.
A lung-busting run by Callum Driver down the right in the 22nd minute saw the ex-Welling United defender sending a cross to the back post that drifted just over Giddens’ bar.
Jamie Philpot was restored to the hosts starting line-up and was a nuisance throughout to the Rocks defence. After putting Giddens under pressure the ‘keeper cheekily chipped the forward before scuffing his clearance, much to the delight of the home support.
The visitors had few sights at goal in a first-half dominated by the Darts but Deren Ibrahim recovered quickly after spilling an effort from distance from Freddy Moncur.
With 32 minutes on the clock Philpot rose well to flick on Ibrahim’s goal-kick but Oyenuga couldn’t adjust his feet as Giddens came flying off his line to eventually clear the danger.
The ex-Millwall forward was involved again as he fed Driver on the right by-line with a lovely through-ball. The right back’s cross fizzed across the 6-yard box before ex-Dart Lee Burns appeared to divert the ball behind via his arm. Despite some furious appeals by Dartford players and staff the referee signalled for a corner.
The hosts soon forgot their grievances as Ben Greenhalgh’s corner from the right eventually made its way to captain Tom Bonner at the far post who fired home convincingly to end his side’s barren spell of four games without a goal.
Bonner soon turned villain just minutes later as he blocked Moncur’s shot with his arm as the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Captain Sam Higgins took on the responsibility but he smashed his penalty straight into the legs of Ibrahim.
Just before the break the hosts could’ve extended their lead to add insult to injury but Philpot headed just wide from a Greenhalgh cross.
Half-time: Dartford 1-0 East Thurrock United
‘More of the same’ would’ve been the message from the Dartford managerial duo at half-time but it was the visitors who saw most of the ball in the second period.
They had an early chance to get back on level terms too as the Dartford defence failed to deal with a Harry Lee long-throw that found Burns unmarked in the box but the defender could only head over.
All hands on deck
Ronnie Vint did well to deal with Danny Harris’ deep cross from the right but from the resulting corner his Dartford team-mates failed to clear their lines as Lee’s dangerous ball into the middle was somehow not met with a finish by a man in light blue.
The visitors were getting closer to finding an equaliser and it was one-way traffic on the attacking front. The Darts began to lose their individual battles and breathed a sigh of relief when Ben Marlow’s curling effort on the edge of the box struck the post.
Oyenuga’s first touch had let him down for much of the contest but a nice swivel saw him create some room down the right before he fired wide from a tight angle.
Despite his penalty miss Higgins, top scorer in the league last season, gave both Vint and Bonner a tough afternoon with his physical presence. He rolled Bonner with ease before firing wastefully over on the edge of the box.
Then, in the 65th minute, his audacious effort from 35 yards left Ibrahim rooted to the spot as it whistled past his left post.
The hosts failed to get going on an attacking front in the second-half but the first sequence of quality passing saw them double their advantage against the run of play.
Doubling the advantage
Greenhalgh played a one-two with Lee Noble, who was outstanding on his return to the side, with the move capped off by a fine diving header into the bottom left corner from the ex-Concord Rangers winger.
The second goal seemed to kill-off any hopes the visitors had of rescuing a point as they failed to trouble Ibrahim for the rest of the contest.
Moncur came the closest to doing so but he shot wide after cleverly turning Onyemah as the Darts showed the character their managers had questioned to eventually grind out a much-needed win.
Full-time: Dartford 2-0 East Thurrock United
Dartford: Ibrahim, Driver, Onyemah, Vint, Bonner, Greenhalgh, Noble, Oyenuga, Murphy, Philpot, Bradbrook.
East Thurrock United: Giddens, Harris, Stephen, Moncur, Scott, Burns, Orsi-Dadomo, Lee, Higgins, Egan, Derry.
Man-of-the-match: Lee Noble
Written by Henry Clark (@HenryWAClark)