Dartford’s F.A Cup adventure begins this weekend with an away trip to a new ground against Isthmian Premier League side Horsham.
Twenty seven years on from the game that never was, the Darts travel to the runners up of last season’s Isthmian Division One South East . Starting from the second qualifying stage Dartford will be hoping progression in the competition will set them on their way in the F.A Cup. Horsham won promotion last term via the playoffs, moved back home and are now sitting fourth place in their league and are hoping to cause an upset.
It’s the second time the two clubs have met in the F.A Cup and the last time it happened a replay was required to settle the tie. A preliminary round tie in 1996 pitted the newly promoted Darts of the Southern League South up against the Hornets, who had secured the Isthmian Division Three title in their previous campaign. A 1-1 draw at Park View Road, Belverdere was followed up with a 1-0 defeat two days later as Horsham went on to reach the second qualifying round.
Rewind four years earlier and the pair were drawn against each other and due to meet in a first qualifying round tie. Even with the financial problems Dartford were suffering they started the 1992-1993 season, but after just four league games Dartford ceased footballing activities meaning Horsham progressed to the next game without kicking a ball.
Nowadays, the Darts are one tier above the Sussex club and since reformation and the F.A Cup exit in 1996 they have won four of the last five fixtures. The last meeting completed a league double against Horsham during the Isthmian Premier League title campaign. The Hornets will be pleased Elliot Bradbrook retired in the summer, the former Dartford captain scored four times against them. In March 2010, Bradbrook recorded a brace and Allan Tait scored the other in a 3-1 away victory. Seven months earlier Dartford won at Princes Park 3-2, Bradbrook scoring either side of former boss Adam Flanagan’s goal. In the campaign before the Darts hit seven without reply winning 4-0 at home, both Brendon Cass and Lee Noble scoring twice and 3-0 at Horsham, a goal from Ryan Hayes and a Cody McDonald double. The hornets did have something to cheer winning an Isthmian League Cup fixture 3-2 in the fourth round.
Adam Cunnington will be available for selection after serving his one match ban for five cautions, the striker missed the 2-0 away triumph at Concord Rangers last weekend in the National South. Victory moved the Darts up to eighteenth as they ended a run of nine away games without a win. Charlie Sheringham opened the scoring after four minutes and Alex Flisher scored his first Dartford goal. Lee Noble’s red card against Dorking Wanderers means he will miss the second game of his three match ban, whilst Sam Blackman and Mark Onyemah are still recovering from long term injuries.
Horsham have already navigated through two rounds starting from the preliminary stage. The Sussex club trounced Tower Hamlets 6-1 to get their F.A Cup journey on the move. Goals from Will Miles, Zack Newton, Jared Rance, a brace from Chris Smith and an own goal from Hamlets defender Alan Zukolli made sure Dom Di Paolo’s side progressed with ease. The first qualifying round tie against Metropolitan Police was quite the opposite and the Hornets needed a second attempt to beat their opponents. Drawn away from home Smith opened the scoring, but Oliver Knight forced a replay. The sides met again for the first F.A Cup fixture at the new Community Stadium and a dramatic last minute winner from Smith earned Horsham their first competitive win at their new home. Although the Police took the lead, Harvey Sparks equalised before half-time and just after the break Smith put the Hornets in front. Metropolitan Police looked to have forced the tie into extra time with nine minutes to play until once again, Smith found the net to take his F.A Cup tally to five goals in three games.
In league competition, the Hornets have settled into their new division well despite a drawing their opening two games. They beat Enfield Town and Lewes before suffering their only defeat against league leaders Folkestone Invicta. Since then they have won their last two Isthmian Premier League fixtures against Brightlingsea Regent on the weekend and versus Wingate and Finchley on Tuesday night. Smith is the man to watch, the striker has scored seven times this month in four appearances, including a hat-trick against Brightlingsea Regent.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 5 / Horsham wins: 2 / Draws: 2
Current Form (all competitions * – F.A Cup)
|Dartford (WLLDDW)||Horsham (WWWDLW)|
|Concord Rangers||A||2-0||Wingate & Finchley||H||2-1|
|Dorking Wanderers||H||3-4||Brightlingsea Regent||A||4-0|
|Tonbridge Angels||A||2-3||Metropolitan Police*||H||3-2|
|Hemel Hempstead Town||H||1-1||Metropolitan Police*||A||1-1|
|Hungerford Town||A||2-2||Folkestone Invicta||H||0-1|
Previous Meetings (* – F.A Cup / ^ – F.A Trophy / ~ – Isthmian League Cup)
The winning side in this fixture has scored three or more goals in the last five meetings. In four of those five games a player has scored a brace (Elliot Bradbrook on two occasions, Lee Noble and Brendon Cass in the same game and Cody McDonald).
Dartford had gone 12 games without a clean sheet away from home before the 2-0 win on the weekend. The run dated back to 5 February when the Darts beat Woking 1-0.
The Darts have made the F.A Cup first round in five of the last nine seasons, including a run to the second round in 2014.
Dartford’s exit at the third qualifying round last time was their earliest since 2009, the Darts last went out at the second qualifying stage in 2008.
Horsham’s best run in the F.A Cup was in 2007-2008 when they took Swansea City to a second round replay, the 6-2 loss was their eighth F.A Cup game that season.
On This Day
Dartford defeated Kidderminster Harriers on this day in 2013 to end a four game winless run in the National League. Jason Prior scored from close range, Elliot Bradbrook doubled the lead and Danny Harris sealed an emphatic 3-0 win. The Darts last won an away game on 21 September whilst competing in the Kent League back in 1993, when they beat Corinthian 2-0. Between the two victories spanning twenty years Dartford drew 1-1 away against Newport Isle of Wight in 1996 and lost 3-0 at Salisbury City in 2002. The Darts last F.A Cup game on this day was in 1971 when they went out in a first qualifying round replay versus Waltham and Hersham.