Dartford’s final game of the National South season against Eastbourne Borough will decide who both sides will face in the playoffs.
These two sides could easily be going head-to-head again as early as mid-week depending on this weekend’s results. If the Darts finish lower than third, they will be taking on the team that finishes sixth or potentially seventh in the playoff eliminator round.
Dartford are currently fourth and to avoid the eliminator round they must beat Eastbourne Borough and hope Ebbsfleet United drop points at home to Chelmsford City. Any other outcome will see the Darts start their playoff campaign on Wednesday 11 May, if they finish fifth or Thursday 12 May, if they stay in fourth. The Darts can only finish fifth if they lose to Eastbourne Borough and Oxford City beat Bath City at Twerton Park, there also needs to be a three-goal swing.
Eastbourne Borough are likely to finish sixth and can only be caught by seventh place Havant and Waterlooville. For that to happen, the Hawks will need to win their clash for the last playoff spot against eighth place Chippenham Town. Danny Bloor’s side have a six-goal advantage over Havant and Waterlooville.
Wednesday 11 May 2022 – Eliminator Match A (5th v 6th)
Thursday 12 May 2022 – Eliminator Match B (4th v 7th)
Saturday 14 May 2022* – Semi Final (2nd v Eliminator Winner Match A)
Sunday 15 May 2022 – Semi Final (3rd v Eliminator Winner Match B)
Saturday 21 May 2022 – Promotion Final
*Subject to change to Sunday 15 May if both clubs are in agreement
Third place was in Dartford’s hands after an impressive 6-0 away win at Slough Town last weekend. With a Bank Holiday fixture also scheduled, Steve King chose to make six changes in the final home game of the regular season and saw his side come undone in a poor display against lowly Braintree Town. The Dartford boss was without Player of the Season Dan Wilks, so Reice Charles-Cook continued in goal. Keiran Murtagh, who managed to score three times in his last two games looks likely to be out for the playoffs after injury at Slough Town. Jordan Wynter is also struggling with injury, whilst Jernade Meade is being carefully reintroduced after a period on the sidelines, he started in the 1-0 defeat on Monday. In form striker Marcus Dinanga made a substitute appearance against Braintree Town, suggesting King is being cautious about his fitness ahead of the playoffs. Dinanga has scored 11 goals in his 14 appearances for the Darts and could be key to their success.
The reverse fixture took place on August Bank Holiday and in only his second start for the club Jake Robinson opened his account with a brace. The first after seven minutes was a predatory finish and the second came from the penalty spot, after some sublime build up play led to a handball. The Sports hit back immediately after the break when Greg Luer made the most of a lack of concentration to cut Dartford’s lead in half. Ade Azeez was brought on and his well-placed header secured victory for the Darts.
Victory over Eastbourne Borough came six months after losing to the Sussex side at Princes Park. The winning goal for the Sports came from Chris Whelpdale. Nine days later the National South 2020/2021 campaign was declared null and void. In fact, Eastbourne Borough were one of the very few teams the Darts played twice that season. Dartford’s last visit to Priory Lane in December 2020 resulted in a 3-1 loss. Charley Kendall, Whelpdale and Joe Rollinson all scored for the hosts, Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong netted a consolation.
Eastbourne Borough have had a very good season under Danny Bloor and in the club’s last three full campaigns they had finished eighteenth. The Sports manager joined the Sussex side around the same time King started his Dartford journey, so it’s also his first full season in charge at Priory Lane. Perhaps with the knowledge of almost certainly making the playoffs, their form has dipped since the start of April. Currently on a run of three straight defeats after a pair of draws, the Sports are winless in five league outings, but they had already done enough to guarantee a top seven place.
Over the Bank Holiday weekend, Eastbourne Borough first lost in what was an important game at the time for Billericay Town. The Sports fell to their first home loss since early February and only their fifth on their own patch this term in the National South. Two early goals gave the visitors hope of staying in the division, although that hope was ended two days later. Eastbourne Borough pulled a goal back through Charlie Walker, but it wasn’t enough to avoid defeat to the team bottom of the table. Then on Monday they lost 2-0 at Tonbridge Angels to leave them in sixth place but guaranteed their highest finish since returning to the National South in 2011.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 13 / Eastbourne Borough wins: 8 / Draws: 4
Current League Form
|Braintree Town||H||0-1||Tonbridge Angels||A||0-2|
|Slough Town||A||6-0||Billericay Town||H||1-2|
|St Albans City||H||3-1||Havant and Waterlooville||A||0-3|
|Maidstone United||H||0-1||Welling United||H||3-3|
|Billericay Town||A||2-0||Slough Town||A||2-2|
|Hemel Hempstead Town||H||1-1||Concord Rangers||H||2-0|
Previous Meetings (last six)
Dartford 3 – 1 Eastbourne Borough (30/08/2021 – National South)
Dartford 0 – 1 Eastbourne Borough (09/02/2021 – National South)
Eastbourne Borough 3 – 1 Dartford (05/12/2020 – National South)
Dartford 2 – 1 Eastbourne Borough (22/02/2020 – National South)
Eastbourne Borough 0 – 2 Dartford (02/11/2019 – National South)
Eastbourne Borough 6 – 0 Dartford (20/04/2019 – National South)
- After going 12 games unbeaten against the Sports, Dartford have won three of the last seven meetings (D0, L4)
- Dartford have won just two of their last eight final matches of the season (D2, L4) both on the South coast (Poole Town and Bognor Regis Town)
On This Day
Dartford were beaten in the National South playoff semi-final against Chelmsford City five years ago. Two goals in the final twenty minutes put the Clarets 2-0 up on aggregate, Duane Ofori-Acheampong scored a last minute consolation. That defeat is one of only two on this day, the Darts also lost 1-0 to Bath City in 1977. Dartford have won six and drawn two in the ten outings on 7 May. The last victory came in 1983 when Dartford won on the road at Enderby Town in the Southern Premier League. Between 1927 and 1955, the Darts won all five on this day including a 7-0 Southern League East victory over Bournemouth and Boscombe Reserves in 1932. Dartford are unbeaten when away from home on this day, winning three and drawing the other.