Dartford returned to the top of the National South and hope to stay there when they host title challengers Hungerford Town this weekend.
The Darts will want to put some distance over the Crusaders as only four points separate the two sides. Whilst Steve King’s men lead the National South, Danny Robinson’s team are in fourth after the same amount of games.
Dartford could make it a first league double over their opponents after winning at Bulpit Lane in November. Finding themselves a goal down when Ryan Seager scored a penalty, the Darts rallied to take victory with two excellent goals by Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong.
Unbeaten in three games against Hungerford Town, the Darts have scored twice in each of those fixtures. A complete turnaround of form before Dartford’s current run, when they went four games without finding the net against the Berkshire club, losing three.
Last season, the two sides met just the once and it ended 2-2 at Bulpit Lane. The now departed pair of Darren McQueen and Luke Wanadio netted after Zidan Akers opened the scoring for Hungerford Town. Looking set for a victory the Darts conceded an equaliser two minutes from time, Conor Lynch rescuing a point for the hosts.
The last time Princes Park hosted this fixture, the Darts ran out 2-1 winners. Phil Roberts made his debut for Dartford, but it was his strike partner Jamie Philpot who put the Darts one up. Lee Noble extended the lead and in the last minute Marvel Ekpiteta grabbed a consolation.
Despite seven players unavailable and five changes to the starting eleven, Dartford approach this weekend’s game on the back of a 3-0 win over Billericay Town. A goalless first half left the Darts wondering whether their lack of goals would continue. However, returning from his successful loan spell at Chelmsford City, Charlie Sheringham scored a second-half hat-trick, his first in a competitive game for the club.
Sheringham scored five goals in five games with the Clarets and he was rewarded with a first Dartford start since November. The striker was one of five changes, another one of those was a surprise signing. With goalkeeper Craig King suspended, Steve King signed Daniel Wilks from Welling United who made his debut and kept a clean sheet. Josh Hill, David Ijaha and Luke Allen were the others selected in a much changed line up.
Craig Braham-Barrett, Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong and Noor Husin weren’t in the squad and Ricky Modeste is still recovering from injury. Cameron Brodie took his place on the bench after returning from a loan spell at Tilbury. Former Huddersfield Town youngster, Denilson Carvalho got a run out following his move from Tower Hamlets prior kick off. Jazzi Barnum-Bobb and Craig King will be suspended for this weekend’s game against Hungerford Town.
Victory against Billericay Town was just the tonic after King labelled the defeat against bottom club Braintree Town as ‘unacceptable and unrecognisable’. After addressing the surprise loss with his players, the Darts put in an outstanding display against Ricay. Not only did the Darts score three they created plenty of chances to add to the tally, including Connor Essam’s shot off the crossbar and two cleared off the line. King feels if his side wants to get a positive result on Saturday they will need to replicate their efforts from Tuesday night.
King is not the only manager making signings. After a blistering start in the National South, Hungerford Town have lost some ground after four defeats in their last seven league games. Antonio Diaz has arrived from Salisbury, Mike Atkinson from Bracknell Town, Andre Burley has had his loan spell extended to the end of the month and Jake Evans scored in their last game on his debut against Maidstone United.
The Crusaders have won three of their last four games showing signs they have returned to that early season form. In those matches Ryan Seager has netted four times as he continues to be the Berkshire club’s main man in front of goal. The striker has 12 goals to his name so far and is the league’s joint top scorer with former Dart, Jason Prior.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 3 / Hungerford Town wins: 3 / Draws: 2
Current League Form
|Billericay Town||H||3-0||Maidstone United||H||2-1|
|Braintree Town||A||1-2||Havant and Waterlooville||A||2-4|
|Tonbridge Angels||H||1-0||Bath City||A||2-0|
|Ebbsfleet United||H||0-0||Hemel Hempstead Town||A||1-0|
|Eastbourne Borough||A||1-3||Dulwich Hamlet||H||0-3|
|Hungerford Town||A||2-1||Oxford City||H||1-4|
Dartford have kept three clean sheets in their last four games and have not conceded at home in the league since the 1-0 defeat against St Albans City on 17 November. The run of four home clean sheets in a row was last achieved between 28 December 2019 and 25 January 2020.
The Darts last managed five consecutive home clean sheets in the league back in the 2008/2009 Isthmian Premier League winning season.
Charlie Sheringham’s hat-trick on the weekend was the first for a Dartford player since Alfie Pavey’s against Needham Market on 30 September 2017. It was also the first Princes Park hat-trick since Warren Mfula scored three against Oxford City on 19 August 2017.
On This Day
Andy Pugh’s first half brace set Dartford on their way to a 4-1 home win over Bath City five years ago. A third was added to the striker’s double by Ryan Hayes before the visitors pulled a goal back. With three minutes remaining Callum McNaughton added some gloss with a fourth. In 2000, the Darts were knocked out of the F.A Trophy third round when they were beaten 2-1 by Heybridge Swifts. Dartford have won two of their last three games on this day 4-1, in 1988 they beat Burton Albion in the Southern Premier League at Watling Street.