Dartford will be aiming for a sixth straight victory this weekend when they take on playoff contenders Slough Town at Arbour Park.
After the festive games in which the Darts took maximum points, the following three fixtures were singled out as tests against sides in the playoffs or in top form. That test continues at fourth place Slough Town and so far, Dartford have passed with flying colours. Another win will put Steve King’s men level on points with their opponents.
Oxford City were comfortably beaten 3-0 at Princes Park despite Dartford ‘not being at their best’ according to Luke Wanadio. The winger told DFCTV after the game: “It shows progression since the gaffer has come to the club, it shows we’re united as a team and it shows that we can grind out results even when we’re not at our best, it’s brilliant we just need to keep the wins coming”.
Prior the Oxford City game, King urged his players not to let standards slip and signed two more players who were named on the substitute’s bench. Defender, Craig Braham-Barrett is a Montserrat international and previously worked with King at Welling United, Whitehawk, Farnborough and Macclesfield Town. Liam Nash is a striker and like Braham-Barrett joined the Darts from Hemel Hempstead Town. Nash scored seven league goals in the first three months of this season for the Tudors. Meanwhile, Cameron Brodie has gone out on loan with Isthmian Division One South East side Sittingbourne.
There was only one change to the line-up that beat Dorking Wanderers, Tyrique Hyde celebrated his loan extension by returning to the starting eleven after recovering from injury, the midfielder replaced Kyjoun Marsh-Brown. Just before half time Darren McQueen scored his fourth penalty in five games and third in a row to give the Darts the lead. Due to a lengthy stoppage earlier in the half, when Oxford City’s Finn Tapp suffered a head injury, Dartford scored a second in injury time through Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong, his second for the club. A third was added just before the hour mark when Billy Crook sprayed a wonderful cross field ball to Wanadio who fired his shot goalward to wrap up a 3-0 victory. The run of five consecutive wins has included 16 goals scored and only two conceded and now King’s side are topping the form table.
The away trip to Slough will be another measure of Dartford’s potential, King told www.kentonline.co.uk: “These are the games where I start to see where we are actually at, like the Dorking game”, he added: “Slough is a tough place to go. They are a solid outfit with some bits of quality in the side”.
Tony Burman was in temporary charge during the reverse fixture back in September when the Darts threw away a two-goal lead. Slough Town came back to claim their first ever win over Dartford after Darren McQueen and Josh Hill scored within two minutes of each other. The rebels pulled a goal back before the break through Dan Roberts and in the second half Matthew Lench and Ben Harris completed the turnaround.
McQueen made his Dartford debut the last time the club visited Arbour Park and he found the back of the net in a 2-2 draw. The striker put the Darts ahead after Ben Greenhalgh’s opener was cancelled out by Ben Harris, but Slough Town’s Ben Fraser scored an equaliser to leave the game all square.
If joint managers failed to work at Dartford it’s quite the opposite at Slough Town. Jon Underwood and Neal Baker have been in charge for almost seven years and in that time, they have won two promotions, a county cup and reached the F.A Cup second round twice and first round once. This season the duo has turned the Rebels into playoff contenders after their eleventh-place finish last term.
The Berkshire club lost their opening three games but took 24 points from the next 30 available in a ten-match unbeaten run. The Rebels may have lost to Oxford City to end that sequence, but they started another one by winning five and drawing two of their next seven. However, Slough Town approach their home fixture with the Darts on the back of four games without victory, picking up three draws in the process.
Last weekend, the Rebels took the lead twice with Lench’s goal cancelled out by Billericay Town’s Odysseus Alfa, then George Wells restored Slough Town’s lead only for Ronnie Henry’s last-minute equaliser to deny Underwood and Baker another victory. Despite the current winless streak, just one team has come away with all three points when visiting Arbour Park this campaign and that was Dorking Wanderers on the opening day. Twelve home matches later, the Berkshire club have picked up eight more home victories and four draws.
Sam Blackman returns to the Dartford squad after a successful loan spell at Hythe in the Isthmian Division One South East, the midfielder scored four goals in his spell there. Rowan Liburd’s loan spell with the Darts ‘didn’t work out’ so the striker has returned to Hereford. Luke Allen remains injured and is likely to be out for longer than expected.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 3 / Slough Town wins: 1 / Draws: 2
Current League Form
|Oxford City||H||3-0||Billericay Town||A||2-2|
|Dorking Wanderers||A||3-2||Eastbourne Borough||H||1-1|
|Tonbridge Angels||H||3-0||Hemel Hempstead Town||A||1-1|
|Concord Rangers||H||0-1||Braintree Town||H||1-0|
Last Six Meetings
Dartford last won five league games in a row at the end of the 2017-18 season when they agonisingly finished runners up on goal difference. The Darts finished their campaign with nine straight victories and the following season they won their opening two, taking the total to 11 wins in a row.
The Darts have kept four clean sheets in their last five games, their best defensive spell since that winning run at the tail end of 2017-18. Dartford kept six clean sheets in seven back then, and including the two opening games the following season made it seven clean sheets in ten league matches.
Dartford have won six penalties in their last nine league games, scoring five.
Only league leaders Wealdstone (33) have picked up more home points than Slough Town (28). Only Havant and Waterlooville (27) have picked up more away points than Dartford (20).
On This Day
Dartford’s last away win on 18 January came in 1992 when they beat Waterlooville in the Southern Premier Division. It was the second 5-0 victory in three league games after the Darts thrashed rivals Gravesend and Northfleet on New Year’s Day. Since then Dartford have claimed one victory on this day in five more attempts, the 1-0 home win against Sittingbourne in the Southern League Division One East, 17 years ago. Sandwiched between the two triumphs the Darts lost 1-0 to Newport Isle of Wight in the Southern League South in 2003 and two years later were beaten 2-1 by Folkestone Invicta, in the Kent Senior Cup second round. Dartford’s last home game on 18 January ended with James White scoring a late leveller in a 1-1 National South draw against Staines Town in 2011. The last away fixture was three years later when the Darts were defeated 1-0 by Salisbury City in the National League.