Dartford kick start their National South campaign on Saturday with an away trip to Wealdstone and a lack of attacking options.
Pre-season has dealt the Darts with an unlucky set of circumstances leaving just Andy Pugh the only fit striker. Pugh has yet to play a full ninety minutes of competitive football since his double leg break last summer. Darren McQueen and Alex Flisher, who signed for Dartford this summer have both dislocated their shoulders and Charlie Sheringham is nursing a thigh injury. That has left management duo Adam Flanagan and Jamie Coyle frantically scrambling for a striker before the campaign starts.
On Wednesday, Coyle spoke to www.kentonline.co.uk and said: “As we speak, we have Andy Pugh as our only fit forward. When I say fit, he hasn’t played a full game yet because we’re trying to increase his minutes since his leg break. So, in terms of Saturday, we’re a little concerned. We’ve lost some influential players and we’re down to the bare bones”.
Hoping to improve their success rate in recruitment compared to last season, Flanagan and Coyle have introduced some new faces around Princes Park. Sam Blackman is eager to impress after his move to Princes Park from Concord Rangers and made a decent start in the friendlies he played. However, the midfielder broke his ankle, had surgery and will be out for some time. That leaves a smaller squad available to select on the weekend, including a permanent goalkeeper, Mark Smith who joined from Eastbourne Borough, defender Josh Hill who signed from local rivals Welling United, new signing Luke Warner-Eley who performed well in pre-season and Jordan Wynter, who signed from Maidstone United after his successful loan spell with the Darts last term.
Another player returning to Princes Park, Luke Wanadio will provide assists and goals from the wing, Luke Allen could line up in central midfield after signing from Braintree Town and latest signing Amos Nasha comes in from Chelmsford City, after previous experience with Dover Athletic and Concord Rangers. Academy graduate, Cameron Brodie will also be an available midfielder after signing his first contract with the Darts.
Three years on from when Dartford opened their campaign at home against Wealdstone, the Darts will be hoping to win against their opponents for only the fourth time in twenty meetings. When the two sides met in August 2016, the Darts went ahead twice and were denied victory during second half injury time as the game ended 2-2. Dartford suffered the same fate in January last season, this time at the Vale, Elliott Bradbrook opening the scoring and Wealdstone’s Eion McKeown rescuing a point in the 92nd minute.
Despite finding the Stones difficult to beat since Dartford reformed in the early nineties, the Darts are unbeaten in their last three trips to the Vale winning 4-0 two years ago and 2-1 the year after.
At the tail end of last term, the Darts playoff push faltered, whilst by contrast Wealdstone timed their run perfectly to earn a top seven spot on the final day of the campaign. The Stones negotiated their way to the semi-final beating Bath City before defeat against eventual winners Woking. Since then, former manager Bobby Wilkinson left the club and in his place Dean Brennan was appointed.
Brennan brings plenty of experience from his playing days in non-league football and developed a proven track record in management at Hemel Hempstead Town. He guided the Tudors to their highest ever league finish then beat the record by claiming the Southern Premier League title. Brennan went on to better Hemel Hempstead Town coming ninth then sixth in the National South. His spells at Billericay Town and Kingstonian didn’t work out for different reasons, but now he will lead Wealdstone with the hope of reaching the playoffs again.
Using his contacts in the game, Brennan has made fourteen signings as he shapes his squad for the 2019/2020 campaign. Four of which have been signed from his former club Billericay Town, Connor Smith and Ross Lafayette return to the Vale, whilst Michee Efete and Billy Clifford also join from the Essex club. Clifford also worked with Brennan at Hemel Hempstead Town, who the new boss signed Kavan Cotter and Matt Saunders from.
Another five players arrive having signed from teams playing above the National South. Dennon Lewis spent some of his summer away from football by featuring on television show Love Island, he will be hoping to last longer at Wealdstone having left Bromley. Ryan Sellars returns to the Stones from Fc Halifax Town, Nick Arnold joined from Aldershot Town and Dejon Noel-Williams, son of former Premier League striker Gifton comes in from Oxford United. Michael Phillips was Maidstone United’s Player of the Season last term and made the move to Wealdstone last week.
Further additions were made from teams below the National South, Reece Beckles-Richards from Wingate and Finchley, Jacob Smith from Kings Langley, Jacob Mendy from Carshalton Athletic and Afolabi Coker from Ashford United.
Dartford’s joint boss, Coyle commented: “They’ve signed some very good players, they have a large squad to call upon and it’s going to be a tough game”, he added: “They were very good against us last year. Dean’s gone in there as manager, the players will be eager to impress in his first game but you look at the league this year and there are no easy games”, he concluded: “Even though we’re struggling with numbers, we’ll go there with confidence and be as positive as we can possible can”.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 13 / Wealdstone wins: 14 / Draws: 14
Last Six Meetings
Dartford have lost just once in their last six games against Wealdstone, an upturn in form considering they had lost the three meetings before that sequence.
In eight of the last fourteen games bewteen the two sides the match has ended up in a draw, Wealdstone have won four to Dartford’s two in that spell.
Both teams have only failed to score once in the last eight games against each other, with the last scoreless draw coming ten years and thirteen matches ago.
The last time both teams were defeated on the opening day of the season was in 2015.
DATE: Saturday 3rd August 2019
VENUE: Grosvenor Vale, Ruislip, Middlesex, HA4 6JQ
KICK OFF: 15:00pm
TURNSTILES: Open from 13:00pm
- OAPs, (proof of age may be required)
- Registered Disabled (Stadium parking for blue badge holders – please advise in advance)
Students: £6.00 (upon production of valid student ID)
Under 18s: £6
FACILITIES: Bar and food open from 13:00pm
MATCH UPDATES: Full Coverage will be on twitter and website @dartfordfc
COACH: – departure time 11.30am, £10 members, £12 non-members– To make your booking, please speak to Mick Austin either by calling/texting on 07969 181796.
Leave the M25 at Junction 16 and take the M40 towards London. At the end of the M40 the road becomes the A40. Take the first exit on the A40, onto the B467 towards Ruislip. At the roundabout at the top of the slip road take the first exit towards Harefield/Ruislip. Continue along the B467 going across two roundabouts. At the end of the B467 you will reach a T-junction that has a small bandstand located in front of you. Turn left here onto the High Road. Follow the High Road passing West Ruislip Station on your right and at the roundabout with the White Bear pub on the right hand corner, take the fourth exit into Wood Lane. Continue along Wood Lane crossing one small roundabout and at the next roundabout bear right onto West End Road. Then take the second left hand turn into Grosvenor Vale and the stadium is located at the bottom of this road,
There is a car park on site but limited spaces only. Otherwise please use parking available around the roads nearby.