A potential F.A Cup classic could be served up this weekend as Dartford battle it out with rivals Maidstone United for a place in the final qualifying round.
The ingredients for an enthralling encounter are ready as the two highest ranked teams at this stage of the competition go head to head. The Darts lead the National South table as top scorers and with the tightest defence, the Stones are just two points behind in second place. A Kent derby, players up against former clubs and the fans back in stadiums should make for an exciting afternoon.
If the last major cup meeting is anything to go by then this tie could be a close affair. Maidstone United came out on top in the F.A Trophy after a replay, a 2-2 draw at the Gallagher Stadium was followed up by a 1-0 win at Princes Park. A week before the initial F.A Cup tie they met in the league and that also finished 2-2.
Dartford boss, Steve King highlighted how difficult the draw was to both teams, he told Dartford FC TV: “It’s one we didn’t want and probably one they didn’t want. It’s the two highest rank teams left in this initial stage. Would we have wanted another tie, an easier one? Yes, course we would, but they are probably saying the same”. Yet he remains confident his side can progress in the competition, he added: “We’ve played three away from home and have won all three so our away form is good. It’s a tough, tough game but anything can happen on the day as you have seen in previous rounds, eight sides have been knocked out from our league against lower league opposition. Both sides will go into that game thinking they can win”.
Dartford’s last two trips to the Gallagher Stadium have ended in victories. In January of last year, they met for the fourth time that season, the Darts won by a single goal in the Kent Senior Cup with Ky Marsh-Brown scoring the winner. In last season’s league fixture Dartford won 2-0 but had to wait for two late goals from Tom Bonner and Charlie Sheringham.
Steve King’s side have been scoring for fun over the last three games bagging five in the F.A Cup tie against Hythe Town, six versus local rivals Welling United and on Tuesday notched another five in their London Senior Cup debut. The Darts came from behind twice when they hosted Athletic Newham to finally win 5-2. King selected a mixture of senior players needing some game time and academy players handing debuts to a number of youngsters. After falling behind, George Porter equalised from the spot to level the time going into half-time. Athletic Newham went ahead again in the second half but braces from Emmanual Sonupe and Dan Roberts sealed a passage to the next round against Sporting Bengal or Cockfosters. Dartford have now hit five or more goals in three consecutive games for the first time since 1975.
Maidstone United have dropped just four points in the National South with two draws in their last four league games. Only Hampton and Richmond Borough and most recently Concord Rangers have taken points off the Stones. Hakan Hayrettin’s side began their campaign with three straight victories over Hemel Hempstead Town, Chelmsford City and Billericay Town. Their other wins came against Oxford City and in their most recent game Bath City.
Hakan Hayrettin believed the second half against Bath City made a statement, he told www.kentonline.co.uk: “If we can grind out results at places like this – make no mistake, Bath are a very good team – then that shows me where we’re at”, he added: “You’re never going to be perfect every game but I felt that second-half performance was as close to perfect as you’re going to get”. Spaniard, Joan Luque has been in form this term with seven goals from left wing, he scored a double on the weekend earning praise from his boss, Hayrettin commented: “The way I’m playing him here suits him at the moment. It’s amazing to have the goals he’s got by the end of September”.
Luque also found the back of the net in the last round of the F.A Cup as Maidstone United beat Isthmian South East side Chichester City. The Stones had to wait until early in the second half before Luque opened the scoring, but Chichester City’s Tyrone Madhani equalised. Christie Pattison and Roarie Deacon added to the Stones tally to secure a 3-1 triumph.
Both Dartford and Maidstone United have former players in their squad, George Porter scored four goals in twelve games for the Stones last season before switching allegiances. This term for the Darts he has managed three goals in eight appearances. Jordan Wynter and Jake Robinson also had spells at the Gallagher Stadium, Wynter made eight appearances before joining the Darts on loan then making a permanent move. Jake Robinson had a short stay at the Stones between his two spells at Billericay Town. The pair have been struggling with injury recently and may not feature depending on their fitness.
Alfie Pavey had an outstanding time with the Darts under Tony Burman during the 2017/2018 campaign. The striker scored 27 goals as Dartford came close to winning the National South title before he joined the champions of that season Havant and Waterlooville. In the summer he joined Maidstone United, the club where it all began for him. Although his been restricted to mainly substitute appearances he did start in the last F.A Cup round against Chichester City in which he missed a penalty, but he does have two goals this term from three starts and five substitute appearance. Jack Barham is another former Dart who joined the Stones in the summer, but he has yet to feature due to injury, but the striker is back in training. He made 15 appearances last season and scored two goals for the Darts.
Saturday’s clash will be the seventh F.A Cup meeting between the two teams with Dartford leading the head to head record after winning the first five. The most recent victory in the F.A Cup against the Stones was a 2-0 home win in 1962. Maidstone United recorded the same score to progress in 1987, both those ties earned a place in the first round for the victors.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 45 / Maidstone United wins: 45 / Draws: 19
|Athletic Newham (LSC)||H||5-2||Bath City||A||3-0|
|Welling United||A||6-0||Chichester City (FAC)||A||3-1|
|Hythe Town (FAC)||H||5-1||Concord Rangers||H||2-2|
|Tonbridge Angels||H||1-1||Oxford City||A||3-1|
|Bath City||A||3-1||Hampton & Richmond||A||1-1|
|Eastbourne Borough||H||3-1||Billericay Town||H||1-0|
Previous Six Meetings
Maidstone United 0 – 2 Dartford (14/11/2020 – National South)
Maidstone United 0 – 1 Dartford (21/01/2020- Kent Senior Cup)
Dartford 0 – 1 Maidstone United (26/11/2019 – F.A Trophy)
Maidstone United 2 – 2 Dartford (23/11/2019 – F.A Trophy)
Dartford 2 – 2 Maidstone United (16/11/2019 – National South)
Dartford 1 – 1 Maidstone United (22/01/2019 – Kent Senior Cup)*
*Maidstone United won 8-7 on penalties
- Dartford have made it to the fourth qualifying round in four of the last seven seasons. Maidstone United have made it to the last qualifying round in six of their last seven campaigns
- The Darts have scored five or more in their last three games, they have never scored five or more goals in four consecutive matches
- Dartford are six away games unbeaten against the Stones in all competitions
- Maidstone United’s last home win in this fixture was a 4-1 Isthmian Division One South victory on 3 March 2007
- Across all cup competitions Dartford have won 19, drawn 5 and lost 14
On This Day
Dartford have always progressed to the next round of the F.A Cup when playing on 2 October. In 2007, Camberley Town took the Darts all the way drawing 2-2 to force a replay. Dartford were held to a 0-0 draw after extra time and had to endure penalties. Tony Kessell was the hero with twp penalty saves whilst Jamie Coyle, Steve Norman, Eddie McClements and Adam Flanagan all scored their spot kicks. In 1982, Tonbridge were beaten 3-2, Lloyds Sittingbourne were defeated 2-1 in 1948 and Beckenham lost 3-1 in 1926.