Dartford play their first away fixture under new manager Steve King, travelling to Eastbourne Borough this weekend in the National South.
Familiar with the football scene in Sussex during spells at Lewes and Whitehawk, King will be hoping to lead the Darts to their fifth consecutive victory on the road in all competitions. Dartford are just a point from the relegation zone and a triumph at Priory Lane will see them rise above their opponents.
Attempting to make his mark and change the playing style at the Darts, King’s squad has been hampered by injuries to key players. Lee Noble faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines whilst Charlie Sheringham, Jordan Wynter and Sam Blackman are a few weeks away from a return. Added to that list, Mark Onyemah who had just got over an operation in the summer, hobbled off against Chippenham Town with what looked like a hamstring problem. However, since taking over the helm at Princes Park, King has managed to sign full back Jordan Gibbons from Chelmsford City and striker Elliott Romain from this weekend’s opponents.
Both new signings made their league debuts last weekend in the 1-1 home draw with Chippenham Town. Gibbons had already made his full debut in the F.A Cup reverse against Kingstonian, the right back retained his place in the line up and impressed against Chippenham Town. Initially the Darts played a narrow formation with Billy Crook, Luke Allen and Cameron Brodie as a midfield trio with Andy Pugh behind strikers Romain and Darren McQueen. The visitors took the lead through Kieran Parselle after Dartford failed to clear a controversially awarded free kick, the goalscorer was to make another impact on the game later on. With the Darts chasing at least a point, wingers Ryan Hayes and Luke Wanadio came off the bench to stretch the Chippenham Town defence. With five minutes left, Parselle was sent off and three minutes later central defender, Josh Hill moved up front and expertly curled in the equaliser.
King was left disappointed at the decision to award the visitors the free kick leading up to their goal, he spoke to www.kentonline.co.uk after the game and said: “Their goal I was little bit upset about because it wasn’t a free-kick on the far side, the referee even said it wasn’t so why did he give it?”. However the Dartford boss was pleased with his team adapting to a new style, he commented: “We’re keeping good possession of the ball and they’ll get braver as it comes along, it’s just that last little bit and that will come in time”, he continued: “The boys can’t do anymore than what has been asked of them, I thought they applied themselves brilliantly and bought into the way we’re playing and what we want to do”.
The new Dartford boss is likely to continue shaping the squad with new players and one area he has hinted at is left back. The signing of Gibbons on the opposite side of the pitch has given the Darts a flavour of what to expect, he explained: “Jordan on the right will get better as games go and he plays more matches”, he added: “Saturday (against Chippenham) was his third 90 minutes in two months so as he gets fitter and stronger he’ll be able to do more. We need to be able to do that on the left-hand side as well so we’ll get a left-sider in that can do that bit”.
As well as Romain returning to Priory Lane, goalkeeper Mark Smith also had a spell with the Sports. Romain joined the Sussex club in the summer and was Lee Bradbury’s first signing, however with Bradbury’s departure almost a fortnight ago and financial issues at Eastbourne Borough, King snapped up Romain after he was released and his recent comments shows he has faith in the striker, he explained: “I think he’s capable of 20 goals in this division. He’s done it at other clubs, Eastbourne Borough, Dagenham and Redbridge, Maidstone United, so for this level he’s a 20 goal-a-season man. He will get better and better in the system I play as time goes by”. Smith spent the first half of last season at Eastbourne Borough before a spell with Billericay Town, Smith has been ever present in the Dartford goal this term.
Seven of the current Dartford squad featured in the humiliating defeat last time the Darts visited Priory Lane. Under the guidance of former managers Adam Flanagan and Jamie Coyle, Dartford recorded their worst defeat in sixteen years when they went down 6-0. Charlie Walker kept hold of the match ball after his hat-trick, Kane Wills, Michael West and Corey Jordan also found the back of the Dartford net. The F.A Trophy third qualifying tie at the same venue went much better almost a year ago, Kudus Oyenuga’s late equaliser forced a replay cancelling out Dean Cox’s strike, the Darts went on to lose the replay at Princes Park 3-2.
Eastbourne Borough played on Tuesday night and were denied all three points against ten men Weymouth. Walker gave the hosts the lead before the Terras missed a penalty then had Brett Williams sent off. Weymouth were awarded a second penalty eight minutes from time and this time Alex McCarthy scored. It was the Sport’s second 1-1 draw in a row after their stalemate at Hemel Hempstead Town on the weekend, Greg Luer equalising for the Sussex side. Eastbourne Borough have now drawn the most games in the division, seven of their 15 National South fixtures this season.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 10 / Eastbourne Borough wins: 6 / Draws: 4
Current League Form
|Oxford City||A||1-0||Hemel Hempstead Town||A||1-1|
|Slough Town||H||2-3||St Albans City||A||3-1|
|Concord Rangers||A||2-0||Chelmsford City||H||0-4|
|Dorking Wanderers||H||3-4||Bath City||A||2-2|
|Tonbridge Angels||A||2-3||Slough Town||H||0-2|
Last Six Meetings
Dartford have won their last four away games in all competitions, a fifth consecutive victory will be the first time the Darts have achieved this feat since April 2018.
Four of Dartford’s five goals against the Sports last season came in the last five minutes of matches.
Prior the F.A Trophy defeat and 6-0 hiding last season, the Darts had gone 12 games unbeaten in all competitions against Eastbourne Borough (W8, D4).
On This Day
Dartford set up a F.A Cup first round tie with Aldershot on this day in 1968. The Darts travelled to Guildford in the fourth qualifying round and won 1-0 setting up a chance to avenge defeat against the Shots four years earlier in the same competition. Dartford also reached the first round in 1982 having survived a scare at Boreham Wood three days earlier. Aidan O’Sullivan’s late equaliser earned a replay which took place on 2 November, the Darts were forced into extra time before going through with a 2-1 victory. The last game on this day came six years ago when the Darts were beaten by Forest Green Rovers in the National League, James Norwood scored the decisive goal in a match that featured Ryan Hayes and Josh Hill. Ten years earlier, Dartford drew a F.A Trophy first round tie with Ashford Town (Middlesex) and two days later went out of the competition after a replay.