Top of the table is up for grabs in Dartford’s first Kent derby of the season when they visit Maidstone United on Saturday.
Steve King’s side are leading the way in the National South and another victory will keep Dartford at the summit. Defeat could see their local rivals replace them depending on other results in the division.
There is plenty of history between the two clubs including the triple header last season. The Darts put on a late show in the league almost a year to the day, coming from two down to snatch a draw. Quick fire second half goals from Danny Wishart and Ibby Akanbi had Maidstone United in charge at Princes Park right up until the closing stages. Tom Bonner bundled in a goal with four minutes to go and in the final minute Darren McQueen equalised.
A week later, the pair were at it again but this time in the F.A Trophy third qualifying round, where they played out the same score. Elliott Romain scored twice against his old side cancelling out strikes from Wishart and Justin Amaluzor. The replay days afterwards was another tight contest and it was Iffy Allen who scored the only goal of the game, to send the Stones into the next round.
Sick of the sight of each other, Dartford and Maidstone United were also paired up in the Kent Senior Cup second round in January. This time it was the Darts who progressed 1-0 with a Ky Marsh-Brown winner. Dartford went on to make the final, which is yet to be played.
Elliott Romain got off the mark on Tuesday night in Dartford’s 3-1 win over Hemel Hempstead Town. The striker played 37 times for Maidstone United scoring just four goals. Another former Stone, Jordan Wynter returned to the starting line up replacing Jazzi Barnum-Bobb. Wynter only made eight appearances at Maidstone United before joining the Darts. Ky Marsh-Brown and Connor Essam were the only other changes as Ronnie Vint and David Ijaha missed out.
Dartford bounced back from their 3-2 home defeat to Dorking Wanderers by moving to the top of the table. Connor Essam made his first start this season against his former club and opened the scoring, the central defender was pivotal in defence and could have ended up with a hat-trick. Jack Jebb also made an impact providing the set piece for Essam to head home and his assist set up the second, which went down as an own goal. Romain netted his first of the campaign before the break and in the second half, BJ Christie grabbed a consolation for Hemel Hempstead Town.
King spoke to DFC TV after the game and was delighted with his side’s first half performance, he said: “After the first ten minutes we grew into the game and were in total control. It’s as good as half I have seen from the lads for a long, long time”. Dartford’s boss called up Essam and highlighted his display as outstanding. With a strong squad King believes the defender “grabbed his opportunity with both hands”.
The result at Hemel Hempstead Town shows more improvements are being made. After a solid start built around a tight defence, the Darts are starting to be rewarded at the other end of the field, King commented: “Slowly we’re getting better, the goals are now coming in slowly and the goal difference is building up”.
Maidstone United have only suffered one league setback this term and are the top scorers in the division. The Stones last outing was a 3-2 victory at Slough Town with goals from Scott Rendell and George Porter, the pair are the club’s joint top scorer with three this season. They won by an even bigger margin in their last match at the Gallagher Stadium, thrashing F.A Trophy finalists Concord Rangers 6-0, putting their only defeat of the campaign to Chelmsford City behind them.
Maidstone United’s other victories include a 2-1 triumph in the Kent derby with Welling United and a 4-1 win against Hemel Hempstead Town. The Stones showed a never say die attitude in their fixture against Havant and Waterlooville last month scoring two injury time goals to draw from two down.
A Kent derby is always a difficult test and King points out this weekend and Tuesday night against St Albans City will be no different, he stated: “Maidstone United are doing really well and have had a really good start to the season, so it’s another really tough game. Then we’ve got St Albans who have also had a really good start, yet another top five side. It seems like we’re always playing a top five side at the moment”.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 45 / Maidstone United wins: 45 / Draws: 19
Current League Form
|Hemel Hempstead Town||A||3-1||Slough Town||A||3-2|
|Dorking Wanderers||H||2-3||Concord Rangers||H||6-0|
|Havant &Waterloovile||H||2-1||Chelmsford City||A||0-1|
|Chippenham Town||A||2-1||Hemel Hempstead Town||H||4-1|
|Bath City||H||1-0||Havant & Waterlooville||A||2-2|
|Hampton & Richmond||A||0-0||Welling United||H||2-1|
Last Six Meetings
Dartford are unbeaten in seven league matches against Maidstone United (W5, D2).
In all competitions the Darts are unbeaten in five away games against the Stones (W4, D1)
Dartford have scored two or more goals in four consecutive league games for the first time since January.
Tom Bonner could make his 350th appearance for the Darts (347 starts and 2 substitute appearances). Josh Hill is currently on 49 games (45 starts and 2 appearances as substitute).
On This Day
It’s five years to the day that Dartford drew 1-1 with Maidstone United at Princes Park. Elliot Bradbrook scored a late equaliser against his old club even though his goal was ruled out at first. Future signing Alex Flisher had given the Stones the lead, but Dartford’s leveller was well deserved after hitting the woodwork three times during the match. Tony Sitford’s overhead kick, two minutes from time, earned Dartford a F.A Cup first round replay against Division Four side Aldershot, the Darts lost the replay 1-0. The last away fixture on this day was in 1989 when Dartford beat Wealdstone 4-0 in the Southern League Cup second round. The second leg ended 5-0 to secure a 9-0 aggregate win.