Dartford travel to third place Hungerford Town this weekend in search of their first ever victory at Bulpit Lane.
The Darts are hoping to regain top spot after slipping to second on Tuesday night. Dorking Wanderer’s win in mid-week leaves Steve King’s side level on points with the Surrey club, but behind on goal difference. Hungerford Town have ambitions of their own knowing a win will leapfrog them above the Darts.
Bulpit Lane has not been a happy hunting ground for Dartford in recent years. Suffering defeat in their first three visits without scoring a goal. Last season, the only meeting between the two clubs, the Darts showed progress in a 2-2 draw. After Hungerford Town took the lead through Zidan Akers, Dartford hit back when Darren McQueen equalised and Luke Wanadio put the visitors in front. However, Dartford were denied their first win at the Crusaders and with two minutes left Conor Lynch levelled the match.
Steve King’s ruthless streak was rewarded last weekend with the signing of former Charlton Athletic striker Chris Dickson. The experienced 35-year-old scored twice on his debut against Slough Town. At National South level he has been a reliable source of goals most recently for Chelmsford City and Hampton and Richmond Borough. At AFC Hornchurch he has netted 30 goals in 46 games and has joined the Darts on dual registration. He has been added to the front line which now boasts loanee Alfie Pavey as well as Jack Barham, Elliott Romain and Charlie Sheringham. The squad now has extra depth up front where King feels the side need improving. For all Dartford’s creative play the Dartford manager believes they are lacking the finishing edge.
After a scrappy first half against Slough Town, King’s half-time team talk did wonders and so victory was just the tonic after the 1-0 home defeat to St Albans City. The Darts boss was pleased to get the side’s home form back on track, especially after defeat against Dorking Wanderers at Princes Park earlier in the month. Hungerford Town will provide another type of test on the road against a top three team, Dartford will want to lay down a marker.
It will come as a relief that this week Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong’s red card versus Slough Town has been rescinded, the midfielder has started every game this season and is a key player in the middle of the park. On the injury front, Ricky Modeste is out with a hairline fracture of the knee, whilst Craig Braham-Barrett, David Ijaha and Abdul Osman have been out in recent weeks. King has also been able to call upon goalkeeper Ethan Wady who got the nod over Craig King last weekend and Connor Essam has kept his place in the side, despite competition from Ronnie Vint. Luke Allen also made his first start of the campaign proving King will happily make changes.
Hungerford Town have turned the table upside down with their early season form. The Crusaders finished bottom of the National South last term and would have been relegated in any normal year. But 2020 is no normal year and the Berkshire club under the stewardship of Danny Robinson have won six of their opening nine games, they only won eight in 33 attempts last season.
The Crusaders have been here before, when they were one of the surprise packages after winning promotion. Hungerford Town finished their first ever campaign in the National South in sixth place and were denied a playoff spot due to ground regulations. Hit by the dreaded second season syndrome, the Berkshire side stayed up on the last day in the following two campaigns before finishing last in March.
Manager, Robinson won the F.A Vase with Thatcham Town and took them up the non-league pyramid, they were also on the verge of another promotion before the pandemic ended the 2019/2020 season. His appointment this summer has seen almost a new squad assembled. Ryan Seager is one of the new signings impressing, the striker has scored seven in nine games since joining from Yeovil Town.
Although early days, Hungerford Town have already proven they can mix it with the pace setters. Victory over league leaders Dorking Wanderers and a draw with unbeaten St Albans City have been added to victories against teams at the bottom end of the table, who they would have been competing with eight months ago.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 2 / Hungerford Town wins: 3 / Draws: 2
Current League Form
|Slough Town||H||2-0||St Albans City||A||0-0|
|St Albans City||H||0-1||Slough Town||A||3-1|
|Maidstone United||A||2-0||Hampton & Richmond||H||0-1|
|Hemel Hempstead Town||A||3-1||Braintree Town||A||2-1|
|Dorking Wanderers||H||2-3||Dorking Wanderers||H||2-0|
|Havant & Waterloovile||H||2-1||Ebbsfleet United||A||2-3|
Last Six Meetings
Dartford have never won at Bulpit Lane (D1, L3) and last season’s visit was the first time in four attempts in which the Darts managed to score.
The Darts have score in three of their seven meetings against the Crusaders, each time netting twice.
Tom Bonner made his 350th start in a Dartford shirt when he lined up against Slough Town. The defender is now on 352 appearances in total.
On This Day
Steve King faced his future employers five years ago and knocked them out of the F.A Trophy. His Whitehawk side came to Princes Park and won the third qualifying round tie 2-1. In that Whitehawk side that day was Craig Braham-Barrett and David Ijaha was an unused substitute. Danny Mills, Dave Martin and Paul Lorraine were other Dartford links involved in Whitehawk’s starting eleven. The last win for the Darts on this day was back in 1987 when they beat Dorchester Town 2-1 in the Southern Premier League. Since then the Darts drew a Southern League Southern Division fixture 0-0 with Ashford Town in 1998 and lost 1-0 at home to AFC Hornchurch, in the Isthmian Premier League in 2009 before the trophy exit in 2015.