New management, new squad, new season, Dartford’s summer of change is put to the test for the first time this weekend against Bath City.
The Darts open their 2018/2019 National South campaign at Twerton Park where they won 2-1 last term. Only half of the squad that featured on that October evening remain at Dartford for the forthcoming season.
Adam Flanagan and Jamie Coyle will select their first competitive squad which will include seven new signings. Callum Driver will be familiar with the Darts having had a spell with the club previously. The new management team have made use of their contacts by signing Ben Greenhalgh, Billy Roast and Manny Igahore from Flanagan’s former club Concord Rangers, whilst Driver arrives from Coyle’s old team Welling United. Delano Sam-Yorke joins the strike force from Maidstone United, Kudus Oyenuga from Chelmsford City and Sam Mensah from Whitehawk.
Three days before the opening game, Dartford announced the signing of Chez Isaac. The 25 year old midfielder spent last season at Woking and has played for Braintree Town, Boreham Wood and Watford. The news came a day after striker Alex Wall was released even though he only signed this summer. The Darts also brought in Jamie Philpot from Millwall where he made nine first team appearances. He has had previous spells at Woking and Coyle’s former club Welling United.
With the loss of top scorer and National South’s Player of the Year, Alfie Pavey to champions Havant and Waterlooville, the creativity of Ryan Hayes who made 580 appearances for the club and the experience of Danny Harris, who appeared 400 times in a Darts shirt, Flanagan and Coyle have had to rebuild.
However, the duo did manage to retain the likes of former captain Elliot Bradbrook, Deren Ibrahim, who has been publicly backed as the number one goalkeeper, Lee Noble, Andy Pugh and Tom Bonner. Mark Onyemah, Ronnie Vint, Tom Murphy and Alfie Cue will also be part of this season’s squad.
Dartford prepared for the new season with friendly wins at Aveley, Sevenoaks Town, Thamesmead Town and Folkestone Invicta and three defeats to Football League clubs Millwall, Gillingham and Colchester United. Noble has had limited time on the field during pre-season but hopes to be fit for the opening game of the campaign, the midfielder has been struggling with a minor calf injury. Unfortunately, Pugh’s double leg break against Colchester United will rule him out for the long term. The striker has scored 50 goals for the Darts in 159 appearances and his intelligent play will be missed.
Coyle highlighted his concerns when he spoke to www.kentonline.co.uk, he said: “It’s upsetting because we had really high hopes for him this year. He’s been training well, looking sharp and we were expecting him to have a good season. He’s a strong character and with his mentality, he’ll be back as quick as anyone else”, he continued: “We’ll support him as much as we can. He’s a huge player for the club and has been for the last few years. It’s a real concern because if Pughy stayed fit this year, it’s almost a guarantee of 25 goals. Trying to find someone to fill that void is very difficult”.
The Darts completed a league double over Bath City last term, Alfie Pavey’s brace was enough to secure the three points at Twerton Park last time, although the Romans did equalise just before half-time through Tom Smith. The reverse fixture at Princes Park ended 2-0 back in April, this time Danny Mills and Pavey scored in either half.
Jerry Gill will start his first full campaign as Bath City boss having replaced Gary Owers ten months ago. The Romans manager is pleased with preparations which include friendly wins over Reading and Bristol City’s under 23 teams, Keynsham Town and Street, as well as a Bristol Rovers XI, Evesham United and Weymouth. The only defeat for the Romans was against Exeter City.
After a ninth-place finish last season Gill has added some attacking options which include John Mills from Hereford F.C, who netted 140 goals in three seasons with the Bulls. Ross Stearn comes in from Sutton United, where he scored twice against the Darts almost two years ago and Adam Mann from Evesham United, where he scored 24 goals in the Southern League Division One West. Gill also welcomes Ryan Clarke in goal from Bristol City, Ryan Brunt from Exeter City, Robbie Cundy from Gloucester City and Joe Raynes from Frome Town. Other players to feature regularly during pre-season who were part of the squad last term include Kevin Amankwaah, Frankie Artus, Dan Ball, Jack Batten and Matt Richards.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 31 / Bath City wins: 40 / Draws: 19
21.04.2018 Dartford 2 Bath City 0
24.10.2017 Bath City 1 Dartford 2
04.03.2017 Dartford 2 Bath City 0
22.10.2016 Bath City 0 Dartford 1
16.01.2016 Dartford 4 Bath City 1
05.09.2015 Bath City 0 Dartford 0
Dartford have won their last five matches against Bath City, scoring 11 and conceding two.
The Darts are six games unbeaten against the Romans last losing in 1990, when Bath City won 1-0 at Twerton Park.
Dartford last won their opening game of the season five years ago, when they beat Alfreton Town 1-0 at Princes Park. Since then they lost two in a row and drew in the previous two campaigns.
The Darts last away win on the opening day was 4-0 against Weston-super-Mare back in 2011.
This season will be the earliest Dartford have ever started a new league campaign.
DATE: Saturday 4th August 2018
VENUE: Twerton Park, Twerton, Bath, BA2 1DB
KICK OFF: 15:00 pm
TURNSTILES: Open from 13:00pm
Adult Standing/Seating: £13.00
Senior (65+) Standing/Seating: £10.00
Student/Under-18 Standing/Seating: £7.00
Under-16 standing/seating: £2.00
Serving Armed Forces: £10.00
NOTE: Admission for carers of disabled supporters is free
SEATING: Seating is available on a first come first served basis in certain areas of the stadium.
FACILITIES: Bar and food open from 12:30pm
PARKING: Parking is free of charge in the clubs car park but is a first come first served basis.
MATCH UPDATES: Full Coverage will on twitter @dartfordfc