This weekend Dartford close out the year with the second of three consecutive Kent derbies, this time at home against Tonbridge Angels in the National South.
Only three months has passed since the Darts last met the Angels, management duo Adam Flanagan and Jamie Coyle took charge of the Darts for the last time. Dartford were struggling at the wrong end of the table sitting third from bottom, Tonbridge Angels a place and two points behind. Talk of a six pointer may have come too early, but the result proved to be crucial in another way.
Joe Turner scored twice to help Tonbridge Angels to a 3-2 victory the first coming from a penalty. Against the run of play Dartford levelled before the break when Josh Hill scored from close range. Parity didn’t last long as Turner put the Angels back in front before the break with a driving shot from fifteen yards. The Darts thought they could grab a point with fifteen minutes remaining, Ryan Hayes sent in a free-kick for Charlie Sheringham to equalise. Tonbridge Angels managed to win it with five minutes left, Tom Derry sliding in the winner and ending Flanagan and Coyle’s spell in charge.
Tonbridge’s triumph ended a dismal run against the Darts, who had won the last eight meetings. Four of those were at Princes Park with the most recent Dartford home victory versus their Kent rivals coming in the F.A Trophy second round seven years ago. Harry Crawford, Elliot Bradbrook and Jon Wallis scored that day and the same score was repeated in the F.A Cup four years later at Longmead, Alex Brown, Andy Pugh and Bradbrook netting this time.
Dartford have won the last two league games at Princes Park against the Angels, in 2011 Bradbrook, Danny Harris and Charlie Sheringham found the net in a 3-1 victory and in 2009, Allan Tait and Harris helped the Darts to a 2-0 triumph.
The Darts haven’t hit the heights they expected in 2019, but with recent performances under Steve King with a patched-up squad, there is plenty to look forward to in the next calendar year and on to next season. King has given Dartford a glimpse of the type of players he would like to bring to the club and if the injury list reduces then the Darts should find themselves in a better position.
Tonbridge Angels came through two playoff finals last season to earn promotion. Steve McKimm’s side, playing in the National South for the first time in five years, have been battling at the bottom and will be delighted to stay in the division come April. At the time of writing, prior their away trip to Hemel Hempstead Town, the Angels had taken just three points on the road and were still looking for their first away victory of the season.
Derry, who netted in September’s clash against the Darts is amongst the top scorers for the club this campaign along with D’Sean Theobalds and Joe Turner. One player who has had a positive impact is Dartford loanee Ben Greenhalgh. The midfielder scored a free-kick on his debut and has also chipped in with a few assists in his appearances so far for the club.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 67 / Tonbridge Angels wins: 38 / Draws: 24
Last Six Meetings
Dartford are five games unbeaten at Princes Park against Tonbridge Angels (W4, D1)
The Darts last lost to the Angels at home in 2004 when they lost 3-2 in the Southern League Division One East
Dartford have conceded just once in their last four home games against Tonbridge Angels keeping three clean sheets
On This Day
Dartford have won once in their last seven games played on 28 December and that was a 2-0 home derby with Erith and Belvedere back in 1998. The Darts last played on this day four years ago when they hosted Margate in the National South. Ronnie Vint, Ryan Hayes and Lee Noble are the only survivors from that game that also featured academy graduate Ebou Adams, now plying his trade at Forest Green Rovers. Elliot Bradbrook equalised six minutes into the second-half to earn a 1-1 draw, cancelling out the opener from Freddie Ladapo, who is now at Rotherham United. Nine years ago, Dartford were beaten by their local rivals Ebbsfleet United at Stonebridge Road, Bradbrook scored for the Darts whilst Derek Duncan and Callum Willock netted for Fleet. The Darts finished the match with nine men after Joe Bruce and James White were both sent off.