The Darts have been making big strides recently and hope to continue moving forwards when they host Oxford City this weekend in the National South.
Dartford completed their fourth consecutive victory in their last match beating playoff hopefuls and Isthmian Premier League champions Dorking Wanderers. In an eventful afternoon, the Darts went two up with more goals from Darren McQueen and Elliott Romain. Dartford ‘dominated the game until 2-0’, but ‘switched off’ according to manager Steve King. The home side hit back with goals from Jimmy Muitt and Luke Moore setting up an exciting finale in which both sides hit the woodwork in the final ten minutes. Then eight minutes into injury time McQueen won a penalty, dusted himself off and netted the winner.
The Darts have not had much luck with injuries this season, but manager Steve King has been able to quickly plug the holes when necessary. Prior the 3-2 win at Dorking Wanderers, Jordan Wynter hurt his knee in the warm up allowing Kyjoun Marsh-Brown to step in at late notice. Steve King had already brought in full back Nick Arnold from Wealdstone before the game and he explained his decision to DFCTV, he said: “I’ve always wanted at least three full backs. I’ve worked with him before, he’s a very talented boy who started his career at Reading, played at Wycombe Wanderers and went to Whitehawk with me and played in two playoff finals. He signed for Aldershot Town, won a cap for the England C team and more recently played for Wealdstone”.
Wynter joins a list of players who have recently suffered from injury including goalkeeper Mark Smith, midfielder Luke Allen and loanee Tyrique Hyde, who has extended his stay for another month. King has used the loan market to his benefit by bringing players to the club, equally he is using the loan system to benefit current squad members. This week Ryan Hayes went out on dual registration to Sevenoaks Town and Norman Wabo loaned to Cheshunt. Sam Blackman is already at Hythe Town and the Dartford boss intends to send Lee Noble and Cameron Brodie out on loan to build up his match fitness and gain experience in Brodie’s case.
Ahead of the Oxford City game, King stated: “We will see what bodies we’ve got available and we will prepare properly as we always do. We’ve got a good harmony going on here”. It’s that harmony that has seen Dartford make ‘good strides’, King added: “We’ve scored at least three goals four times in a row. We’re going in the right direction because sides are playing us now and they realise it’s not the Dartford it was, it’s now a completely different Dartford and they know they’re going to be in a game”. He continued: “Whoever we play now that’s the level I wanted to get to, where nobody could come and roll us over and I think we’re getting close to that level”.
The form of Romain and McQueen has been extraordinary with the duo responsible for 17 of the 24 league goals scored by the Darts since King has been in charge. A better brand of football and tighter defence in recent weeks has moved the Darts away from looking to maintain their National South status to thinking about gate-crashing the playoffs. The positivity of Dartford’s form is starting to be mirrored off the pitch, King commented: “The mindset has completely changed for the fans, the boys have done brilliantly to change that. Fans are now coming to games excited about what is going to happen”.
It was an end of an era for two managers last time Dartford played Oxford City. Tony Burman led the Darts out for the last time during his interim spell and Mark Jones was in charge for his last league game as Oxford City’s boss. Equal on points before kick-off, Dartford moved three points ahead by full-time as they secured a 1-0 away victory courtesy of Ben Greenhalgh’s curling effort which found the top corner. Greenhalgh has spent the last two months on loan at Tonbridge Angels and the goal he scored at Oxford City turned out to be his last for the Darts, the midfielder left this week by mutual consent after 62 Dartford appearances and seven goals since joining in at the beginning of last season.
Although Jones led Oxford City to a cup win a weekend later, he left the club by mutual consent after failing to win a league game for two months. Since then, Andy Ballard and Justin Merritt have taken charge. Ballard was assistant manager to Jones and has a 20-year affiliation with the club, Merritt is the Director of Football and managed the Hoops between 2014 and December 2016.
Defensively, Oxford City have been vulnerable but since Jones’ departure they have scored with more frequency turning defeats into valuable points. The interim duo has improved Oxford City’s form with six wins, two draws and two defeats. They got off to a brilliant start winning four and drawing one of their first five matches.
Last weekend, Oxford City followed in Dartford’s footsteps by taking a two-goal lead, letting it slip before finding a winner. Only the Hoops managed their 3-2 victory by stunning table toppers Wealdstone. Joe Oastler and Elliot Benyon helped Oxford City go 2-0 ahead before Jacob Mendy and Adam Coombes levelled the match. Finn Tapp headed the decisive goal to secure Oxford City’s third win in their last four outings.
The Hoops other two victories completed a festive double over Hungerford Town with Kyran Lofthouse scoring the winner in a 2-1 victory on New Year’s Day. In the reverse fixture on Boxing Day, Oxford City netted three times in a 22-minute spell eventually winning 3-2. Sandwiched between those two triumphs, the Hoops lost 2-1 at Weymouth.
Both teams have started to hit form after managerial changes this term, the Darts have the second-best record over the last six games whilst Oxford City have the fourth.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 5 / Oxford City wins: 2 / Draws: 2
Current League Form
|Welling United||H||4-0||Hungerford Town||A||2-1|
|Welling United||A||3-0||Hungerford Town||H||3-2|
|Concord Rangers||H||0-1||St Albans City||H||3-3|
|Billericay Town||H||3-2||Maidstone United||H||1-4|
Last Six Meetings
Dartford have won their last three home matches against Oxford City including a 7-1 mauling in August 2017.
Dartford under Adam Flanagan and Jamie Coyle this season
Won 1, Drew 4, Lost 4, Scored 11, Conceded 20, Points per game: 0.77
Dartford under Steve King this season
Won 7, Drew 3, Lost 2, Scored 24, Conceded 12, Points per game: 2.00
Oxford City under Mark Jones this season
Won 2, Drew 4, Lost 7, Scored 11, Conceded 21, Points per game: 0.76
Oxford City under Andy Ballard and Justin Merritt this season
Won 7, Drew 2, Lost 2, Scored 29, Conceded 22, Points per game: 2.09
On This Day
In the summer of 1958 a young Pele helped Brazil win the World Cup, in the same year Dartford won their last game they played on 11 January. The Darts beat a Lovells Athletic side 3-1 at home in the Southern League and are still waiting to win again on this day. Since then, the Darts have played six times all away from home including two F.A Trophy first round ties. Dartford lost to Dover 2-1 in 1975 and drew with Merthyr Tydfil 1-1 in 1992. In 1962 the Darts lost 4-0 against Hastings United in the Southern Premier League and five years later they drew 2-2 with Wisbech Town in the Southern League First Division. Boston United beat Dartford 3-0 in what is now the National League back in 1986 and the last match 23 years ago saw Witney Town thrash the Darts 5-1 in the Southern League Southern Division.
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