Finally the new season kicks off this weekend starting with the home F.A Cup tie against Slough Town.
Dartford have only played three competitive matches since March and one of those was the playoff eliminator versus the Rebels. The Darts ran out 3-0 winners at Arbour Park, leaving their opponents without another competitive fixture since.
That day Charlie Sheringham changed the momentum of the game, the striker who has signed on for this campaign scored a brace before the now departed Luke Wanadio wrapped up the match. However, the three goal winning margin didn’t tell the whole story, as it was Slough Town who created the better chances in the first half with missed opportunities from Josh Jackman and Ryan Bird.
The Darts managed to play Jon Underwood and Neil Baker’s side pre and post Steve King’s appointment last season. Tony Burman took interim charge for the first meeting at Princes Park which saw the Darts take a two goal lead. Last season’s top scorer Darren McQueen, who left the club this summer, found the net and shortly afterwards Josh Hill doubled the advantage. Slough Town pulled a goal back before the break through Dan Roberts and in the second half Matthew Lench and Ben Harris completed the turnaround.
At Arbour Park in January, Steve King was in charge as his side went down 1-0 to a Roberts goal. The Rebels hadn’t beaten the Darts before they completed the league double over them last season ending Dartford’s five game unbeaten run in this fixture, which includes two previous F.A Cup meetings.
It’s a tough draw for both of the National South sides who met in this competition four years ago. In 2016, Dartford were made to work for their win, coming from behind on two occasions against lower league opposition. The Rebels, then in the division below and with home advantage were leading with seven minutes to go.
An early Elliot Bradbrook own goal put the Darts on the back foot, but the captain equalised in the second half. Slough Town’s James Dobson regained the lead from the spot piling pressure on Burman’s side. In the closing stages of the tie Andy Pugh came to life, first the striker won a penalty scored by Bradbrook and then he went on to net the winner right at the end.
The first F.A Cup clash between the two sides came in 1988 when they played for a place in the first round proper. The player manager led by example, Peter Taylor showed some clinical finishing to earn his side a 2-1 victory. The Darts went out at the next stage to Kettering Town in a campaign where they reached the F.A Trophy semi-final and came runners up in the Southern Premier League.
Dartford’s transition over the last year under Steve King has been incredible. In a sense with club favourite Lee Noble leaving after 12 memorable years it feels as though one era has officially ended. The dynamic midfielder played 489 games in a Dartford shirt, the sixth highest appearance maker in the club’s history.
Yet the Darts can look forward to some exciting times and some new faces. Jack Barham will be hoping to form a decent partnership up front after signing from Dorking Wanderers, Ricky Modeste arrives from rivals Dover Athletic and full back Jazzi Barnum-Bobb comes in from Wrexham.
David Ijaha worked with King before and made his move from Dulwich Hamlet and coming in on loan is Michael Fernandes from Colchester United. Former Oxford City goalkeeper, Craig King will have competition between the sticks with the arrival of American, Ethan Wady on loan from Chelsea. That leaves two players returning in Connor Essam from Hemel Hempstead Town, who has had loan spells at Princes Park before and Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong signed from Aldershot Town after a successful spell with the Darts last term.
After this F.A Cup second qualifying round tie, Slough Town will begin their third season in the National South since promotion. Managers, Underwood and Baker are not a pair for wholesale changes, but they have signed Jack McKnight from National League side Eastleigh and Louis Lomas on loan from Norwich City.
Both sides begin their National South campaigns on Tuesday night when Dartford host Chelmsford City and Slough Town welcome Hemel Hempstead Town.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 4 / Slough Town wins: 2 / Draws: 2
|19.07.2020 (NSP)||Slough Town||0||Dartford||3|
|01.10.2016 (FAC)||Slough Town||2||Dartford||3|
|29.10.1988 (FAC)||Slough Town||1||Dartford||2|
|10.01.1981 (FAT)||Dartford||4||Slough Town||1|
NSP – National South Playoff / FAC – F.A Cup / FAT – F.A Trophy
Dartford have been knocked out before the third qualifying round just once in the last 11 seasons, when the Darts suffered a shock defeat against Uxbridge in 2015.
Dartford have won all four knockout games against Slough Town, twice in the F.A Cup (1988 and 2016), once in the F.A Trophy (1981) and once in a playoff (2020).
The Darts have lost their last two F.A Cup home ties (1-5 v Swindon Town in 2017 and 2-3 v Kingstonian in 2019).
Both sides have kept just one clean sheet in this fixture and they came in the last two meetings.
On This Day
Dartford have played three F.A Cup ties on this day with the most recent back in 2001. The Darts then in the Southern Division One East hosted Croydon Athletic of Isthmian Division Three in a second qualifying round replay, the lower league side drawing 2-2 in the first game. Dartford made it through with a 4-2 victory in the end, against a side that went on to claim the Isthmian Division Three title that season scoring 138 goals in the process. In 1964, Dartford drew fellow Southern Premier League club Bexley United and won 3-1 at home in the third qualifying round. The Darts went out that season to Aldershot Town in a first round replay. In 1959, Dartford were knocked out in a 2-0 home defeat against Tunbridge Wells United at the second qualifying round stage.