Dartford look for their sixth consecutive league win to continue their challenge at the top of the table, when they visit struggling Gosport Borough this weekend.
The Darts moved within four points of league leaders Maidenhead United last weekend and kept in touch with rivals Ebbsfleet United, by beating relegation battlers Whitehawk. Yet again, Dartford managed to spread out the goals amongst the starting eleven with Ryan Hayes, Tom Murphy and Andy Pugh helping to secure a 3-1 victory and Dartford’s ninth home win in the league in their last ten.
Since the New Year’s Day defeat to Ebbsfleet United, Tony Burman’s side has responded excellently with four consecutive league wins to keep up the pressure on the top two. Burman is pleased with the club’s turnaround this season, speaking at a fans forum on Monday he attributed the success to the squad’s character, he said: “I haven’t changed what I do each season, but without a doubt those players have a great bond. That has been better as the results have been good. We’ve been through the mill for a few years and when we’re all getting on it’s good. I feel we’ve got our mojo back, on the terraces and in the changing rooms. The response from everyone has been positive”.
Earlier in the season when Dartford faced Gosport Borough they were up against the odds despite home advantage. With the only two recognised strikers out in Andy Pugh and Duane Ofori-Acheampong, captain Elliot Bradbrook injured and Ronnie Vint sidelined, Tony Burman’s squad was dwindling in numbers. The cause was not helped when after nine minutes Tom Bonner was sent off, but in another example of team spirit shining through the Darts claimed a 0-0 draw.
Last term, Dartford put in one of their best performances of the campaign in their visit to Privett Park. Almost a year ago, the Darts came from behind to win 3-1. Dan Wooden gave Boro a first half lead when his deflected shot beat Deren Ibrahim. The second half was a different story, Elliot Bradbrook scrambled home an equaliser and added a second by taking the ball round Nathan Ashmore in the Gosport Borough goal. Andy Pugh capped off a fine display with a third from a tight angle to secure the points.
Borough have had a torrid time of late losing six straight National South games dragging them into the relegation battle. Manager, Alex Pike felt he could see ‘green shoots of recovery’ and when they picked up a point on Tuesday night he may be right. Three new signings featured in the 2-2 draw with playoff hopefuls Hampton and Richmond, which saw Tony Lee score twice. Goalkeeper, Mark Childes and Jack Masterton are two new faces from Eastleigh whilst defensive midfielder Ed Sanders signed from Bognor Regis Town.
Last weekend, Gosport Borough may have lost 2-0 to league leaders Maidenhead United, but conceding two was a vast improvement on the three games prior, when they shipped in 16. Poor form has left Borough two points ahead of the bottom three with the worst defensive record in the division.
Signs of a potential difficult campaign came over the festive period when Chris Flood and Warren Bentley, their summer signings to replace the departed prolific striker Justin Bennett, left with numerous other players. The club were forced to make a statement after the 7-0 loss to Poole Town, in which the Borough had just 12 players available. Since then, a transfer embargo has been lifted and Pike has managed to rebuild a squad. With plenty going on off the field, Gosport Borough are trying to do everything on the pitch to stay in the National South.
Head to Head
Gosport Borough wins: 5 / Dartford wins: 10 / Draws: 4
Current League Form
Gosport Borough (DLLLLL)
Drew 2-2 v Hampton and Richmond Borough (A)
Lost 0-2 v Maidenhead United (H)
Lost 1-5 v East Thurrock United (H)
Lost 1-4 v Hungerford Town (H)
Lost 0-7 v Poole Town (A)
Lost 0-2 v Poole Town (H)
Won 3-1 v Whitehawk (H)
Won 3-2 v Eastbourne Borough (A)
Won 3-2 v Weston-super-Mare (H)
Won 6-1 v East Thurrock United (H)
Lost 0-1 v Ebbsfleet United (A)
Won 2-1 v Ebbsfleet United (H)
Previous Six Meetings
Dartford 0 Gosport Borough 0 (16/08/2016 – National South)
Gosport Borough 1 Dartford 3 (23/02/2016 – National South)
Dartford 2 Gosport Borough 3 (22/08/2015 – National South)
Gosport Borough 0 Dartford 1 (24/10/1989 – Southern Premier)
Dartford 5 Gosport Borough 1 (22/08/1989 – Southern Premier)
Dartford 4 Gosport Borough 2 (04/04/1989 – Southern Premier)
Dartford have won 6 of the last 8 in this fixture, including the last three visits to Gosport. The Boro last beat the Darts on home soil in 1988.
The 0-0 draw earlier in the season was the first blank Dartford recorded against Boro since the 1-0 loss in 1988.
In each of the last five league matches Dartford have recorded different goalscorers. In that time the Darts have scored a total of 19 goals at almost four a game.
Gosport Borough have conceded 67 times this season at an average of 2.48 per game. Only the bottom two sides, Margate and Bishops Stortford have a worse goal difference.
On This Day
For the first time since reforming Dartford play on 11 February. The last time the Darts played on this day was in 1989 when they breezed past Waterlooville 4-1, away from home in the Southern Premier League. Five years before, they travelled to Witney Town and won 1-0 and in 1967 defeated Wisbech Town 3-0 in the Southern League First Division. The last defeat in 1961 was also an away fixture, Tunbridge Wells United knocked the Darts out of the Kent Senior Cup with a 2-0 victory.