Dartford will have to get over their final day heartbreak when they host Braintree Town, if they want to repeat their National South playoff triumph six years ago.
A last minute winning goal by champions Havant and Waterlooville snatched the title away from the Darts in the cruellest way. Dartford led Bognor Regis Town when Havant and Waterlooville let in an equaliser in their match against Concord Rangers, putting the Darts in pole position. However a last minute goal from former Dart, Jason Prior meant the Hawks claimed the title on the final day.
Despite the set back manager Tony Burman is proud of his players, he spoke to www.kentonline.co.uk and said: “We’re disappointed we haven’t won the league but I’m delighted with the effort everyone’s put in. We couldn’t have asked for more”.
Burman highlights the positives from the campaign which ended on an extraordinary winning streak, he commented: “That’s nine wins on the spin and I know it’s over 42 games but we’re equal on points, we’re the highest goalscorers in the league and our defensive record is third-best so what more can you ask?”, he added: “I’m absolutely delighted with what we’ve achieved so far this year and it’s not finished yet. We have to move on”.
Should Dartford move on and earn promotion through the National South playoffs, they will also break the current club record of ten consecutive wins in all competitions. The Darts last attempt at the playoffs ended in victory when they beat Welling United, this time the new format has given them a bye into the semi-final and home advantage if they make the final.
The Darts are on an incredible run of form which continued in their 2-1 away win at Bognor Regis Town. Danny Mills scored his fourth in as many games, all headers and Ronnie Vint hit a controlled volley for the second. Defensively Dartford have also improved with six clean sheets in the last eight games and have won their last four home matches.
Braintree Town made the playoff on the final day hitting Gloucester City with three second half goals. The win stretched their unbeaten run to six in the league with five victories and a draw.
On reaching the end of season finale manager, Brad Quinton said: “It’s a fantastic season for us bearing in mind when I arrived last summer we had no players and no team,” he explained. “But, despite one or two setbacks en route, all the players have worked hard and we’ve achieved our goal of getting into the playoffs – which we are all eagerly looking forward to”.
In the first set of playoff matches played on Wednesday night both fixtures ended up in extra time. Braintree Town couldn’t break the deadlock against Hemel Hempstead Town after 90 minutes, whilst Hampton and Richmond Borough and Truro City were level at 1-1. The Iron did manage to put the ball in the back of the Hemel Hempstead Town net in the final minute of extra time, only for the goal to be ruled out for offside. With the match still goalless after 120 minutes, Braintree Town went the distance and won 3-2 on penalties. Meanwhile, Hampton and Richmond Borough didn’t need spot kicks sealing a 3-1 extra time win to earn a semi-final clash away to Chelmsford City.
When Dartford last played Braintree Town in December the two sides were joint top of the National South with the Darts leading on goal difference. The Darts were held at Princes Park in the final home game of 2017, Andy Pugh scored against the run of play after 17 minutes thanks to Tom Murphy’s surging run and assist. The Iron equalised in the second half when Ricky Gabriel crossed for Marcel Barrington to score from close range. Nathan Collier made his first start since returning to Dartford.
The previous clash between the two was in August and Dartford had to come from two goals down. The Darts had to show their fighting spirit to earn a 2-2 draw. Braintree Town went in at half-time in the driving seat with goals from Karl Oliyide and Billy Crook. In the second half, Lee Noble’s header back to Tom Murphy pulled a goal back, but the goalscorer was forced off through injury.
The equaliser came from captain Elliot Bradbrook who headed home after Tom Bonner nodded the ball back across goal from a corner. On that evening, Warren Mfula made his first start and Richard Sho-Silva his debut.
It’s been almost six years since Dartford beat Braintree Town when Tom Bonner and Jacob Erskine scored the only two goals of the game. Since then, the Darts went five games without scoring against the Iron, drawing one then losing four in a row. The pair of draws this season has stopped the poor run against the Essex club and now the Darts have to go one better.
Head to Head
Braintree Town wins: 6 / Dartford wins: 2 / Draws: 4
Last six league games
|Dartford (WWWWWW)||Braintree Town (WDWWWW)|
|Bognor Regis Town||A||1-2||Gloucester City||H||3-0|
|Bath City||H||2-0||Oxford City||H||0-0|
|East Thurrock United||A||1-0||Truro City||A||2-1|
|Gloucester City||A||1-0||Concord Rangers||H||2-1|
Previous Six Meetings
Elliot Bradbrook will make his 400th start for the Darts if selected for the semi-final. The Dartford captain has scored 133 goals and made an additional 11 substitute appearances.
Another player to hit the 400 mark will be Danny Harris, but that will be total appearances (302 starts and 97 substitute appearances), the midfielder turned full back has scored 75 goals for the club.
In his second spell with the Darts, Nathan Collier has now made 49 substitute appearances and is one away from a half century.
The Darts have won nine league games in a row and are one win short of equalling their club record of consecutive victories in all competitions.
Dartford have won their last five home games, one more victory will see the Darts set their best winning streak at home this season.
Braintree Town are unbeaten in seven matches against Dartford stretching back to 2013.
On This Day
Dartford took a one goal lead going into the National South semi-final playoff second leg against Basingstoke Town. Lee Noble’s long range effort gave the Darts an advantage four days before the return match at Princes Park on 6 May 2012. Dartford went in front but it took until 56 minutes, Adam Green’s free-kick was put in the mixer for Elliot Bradbrook to rise the highest, putting the Darts 2-0 up on aggregate. Basingstoke Town equalised on the day with Shaun McAuley sweeping a shot beyond Louis Wells. The Darts restored the two goal aggregate lead when Danny Harris bundled the ball over the line from close range, sending the hosts through to the final where they beat Welling United to clinch promotion.
DATE: Sunday 6th May 2018
VENUE: Princes Park, Grassbanks, Dartford, Kent, DA1 1RT
KICK OFF: 3:00pm
TURNSTILES: Open from 12:30pm
Youth (13-17) : £5
Children ( u12) FREE with accompanying adult. Maximum 2 children per adult.
Season Tickets NOT VALID.
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