A superb second-half display ensured that Dartford recorded a fourth league win in a row, as their superior quality proved too much for Cheshunt to deal with.
As 619 supporters braved the wet and windy conditions, the in-form hosts were hoping to enact revenge on their 2-1 defeat at Dartford earlier in the campaign. Pierre Fonkeu netted a brace on that occasion, but he started on the substitutes’ bench this time around, leaving the Ambers to deal with the excellent duo of Luke Coulson and Malachi Napa instead.
The omens looked good for the hosts at the start of this fixture. Afterall, they’d hit a good run of form recently, which had seen them beat Ebbsfleet United 1-0 in an unbeaten run reaching five games. However, Alan Dowson’s side are a different proposition and so it proved to be…
As the weather conditions continued to batter the pitch, the start of the game was an even affair with neither side able to get into any kind of rhythm.
The Ambers created the first half-chance early on when Rowan Liburd fired well wide of Dan Wilks’ goal, before the Dartford goalkeeper dealt with a free-kick with ease after Kristian Campbell had fouled Cheshunt skipper Joe Re in the 10th minute.
As the rain lashed down, both sets of players couldn’t keep the ball down, preferring to play it high instead… particularly the hosts, who tried to play their long-ball tactics with the hope of catching out the Dartford defence. However, Tom Bonner and Co were in fine form this afternoon.
That being said, Re did manage to locate Liburd with a great ball after 31 minutes. The latter tried the shot, but Bonner was on hand to make a brilliant block before the hosts put it behind for a Wilks goal-kick.
But, just as it looked as if the Ambers were finding their feet, the Darts won their first corner of the game after terrific work from Kristian Campbell. Luke Coulson sent a dangerous ball into the box and Rowan Liburd headed it beyond his own goalkeeper by mistake.
Cheshunt tried to respond and, despite the elements (which were actually in their favour during this half), earned themselves a corner before the break. The ball eventually fell to Emmanuel Maja on the edge of the area, but Wilks was able to make a routine save.
The second-half started in much the same manner, until the visitors began to assert their superior quality. And, shortly afterwards, Alan Dowson’s side hit the Ambers with a quick-fire double.
After Dan Wilks had collected the ball, he launched a long pass towards Luke Coulson who, despite the attempts to thwart him, still managed to race forward before being able to send the ball beyond Adam Desbois to double the Darts’ lead (51).
The visitors were then awarded a free-kick by referee Mr Steven Hughes seconds later, which Coulson sent straight into Cheshunt’s danger area… where it was met by the towering header of Dartford skipper Tom Bonner… which he duly sent into the back of the net (52).
Despite being shell-shocked by the Dartford blitzkrieg, the hosts tried to respond and drag themselves back into the game. But, they came up against the superb Dartford defence which was proving to be a tough nut to crack. Connor Essam was on hand to intercept Tyrelle Newton’s effort before Wilks was able to collect (55).
Dartford’s first change in personnel took place after 64 minutes, when Keiran Murtagh replaced Jordan Wynter. That would be followed by Charlie Sheringham coming on for Alex Wall (70) and Pierre Fonkeu replacing Malachi Napa (75).
Meanwhile, as we return to the action, Malachi Napa was brought down inside the Cheshunt box as he raced towards goal with the ball, only to see Mr Hughes wave away the penalty appeals (66). The young midfielder was putting in another good performance for the Darts and has also extended his loan period for another month.
On the other side of the pitch, teammate Luke Coulson was in fine form once again. And, having already scored one and assisted with two, came close to adding a second goal of his own in the 69th minute. It was a good drive by one of the best players this afternoon, but Desbois was equal to it on this occasion to keep the score at 3-0.
The hosts continued to try though, and were able to net a consolation goal in the 84th minute. Substitute Brandon Njoku was the goal scorer, despite the best efforts of Maxwell Statham to stop him.
But, it wasn’t enough as Dartford closed ranks to ensure that they returned to Kent with yet another victory on the road to maintain their five point lead at the top of the National League South table.
CHESHUNT: Adam Desbois, Bill Cracknell, Isaac Pitblado, Fraser Alexander, Taylor McKenzie, Lewis Hobbs, Reece Beckles Richards, Joe Re, Rowan Liburd, Tyrelle Newton, Emmanuel Maja.
SUBSTITUTES: Jamie Reynolds, Chris Harris, Mo Camara, Brandon Njoku, Preston Edwards.
DARTFORD: Dan Wilks, Jordan Wynter, Kristian Campbell, Samir Carruthers, Connor Essam, Tom Bonner (c), Luke Coulson, Alex Wall, Maxwell Statham, Jack Smith, Malachi Napa.
SUBSTITUTES: Jayden Boulton, George Whitefield, Keiran Murtagh, Charlie Sheringham, Pierre Fonkeu.
By Chris Palmer