DARTFORD 0 DAGENHAM & REDBRIDGE 0 Dartford’s pre-season continued with a hard-fought display against National League side Dagenham & Redbridge on a gorgeous, yet windy Saturday afternoon.
Fresh from a comprehensive performance in their mid-week fixture against Aldershot Town, the Darts again used pre-season to check out the abilities of players on trial at the club.
Three were listed in the starting eleven, as they represented shirt numbers 3, 4 and 10. The trio were joined by Craig King, Jazzi Barnum-Bobb, Josh Hill, Tom Bonner, Jack Jebb, Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong, Noor Husin, and Elliott Romain.
The first half was a cagey affair, with neither side offering much in attacking fluency. Both pressed each other tightly when not in possession, yet both sides were also guilty of sloppy passing when in possession of the ball. There were periods when the Darts got forward, but accuracy alluded them when trying to find that perfect final ball.
The same could be said of the visitors, as they failed to test goalkeeper King with any goal-bound effort, until the stroke of half-time… with seconds remaining, Balanta managed to get inside the Dartford box and strike towards goal. Thankfully, King denied him with a fine save to keep the game goalless at the break.
At the other end, Dartford managed to carve out some space to get crosses into the Dagger’s danger area, but Justham wasn’t seriously tested. The closest the hosts came to taking the lead was when Romain held up the ball well, before feeding Berkeley-Agyepong through. Unfortunately, the latter’s effort from the edge of the box was blocked well by the Dagger’s defence in the 32nd minute.
The game improved in the second forty-five, and the hosts should have taken an early lead within four minutes after Barnum-Bobb was fouled. The free-kick was crossed in beautifully, finding the head of Bonner, who sent the ball into the back of the net. Unfortunately, the goal was disallowed for offside…
This seemed to ignite the visitors into life, as they pressed forward and forced King into a terrific save three minutes later, after good work from McCallum.
The football was end-to-end and played at a higher tempo compared with the first half, as both sides created chances in quick succession.
On 58 minutes, Jebb sent a dangerous ball behind the Dagenham defence, only for Romain to see his effort saved by Justham. Meanwhile, at the other end, Johnson was only able to fire wide of King’s post two minutes later.
As expected, Steve King made ten substitutions on the hour, and an additional three trialists entered the frame. They were joined by Ronnie Vint, Connor Essam, David Ijaha, Jordan Wynter, Lee Noble, Luke Allen, Charlie Sheringham, and Ky Marsh-Brown.
The visitors responded with changes of their own, and in the 64th minute, former Dartford striker Darren McQueen joined his new teammates.
The pacey little forward would prove to be a rather lively character as the game progressed. With nineteen minutes remaining, McQueen must have thought he’d scored after good attacking play from the Daggers released him into the Dartford danger area. Thankfully, his effort took a slight deflection and went wide for a corner.
His teammate, Balanta, also breached the Dartford defence three minutes later. Once again, the hosts breathed a sigh of relief as his effort smashed off the upright and Dartford were able to clear the danger.
Both sides continued to look for a winner, as those privileged amongst us were treated to end-to-end football. The Darts swiftly turned defending into attacking, forcing a corner in the 77th minute. Yet the visitors returned the favour by clearing the danger, breaking forward and winning a free-kick. The attacking culprit? McQueen of course! The Darts stood firm, however, and cleared the free-kick.
As time ran out, it seemed that both teams had settled for the draw, as things on the pitch began to calm down. However, the Darts had other ideas and managed to present themselves with possibly their chance of the match. It came with just two minutes remaining, as Marsh-Brown beat his opponent with his pace, then created space before delivering a super ball into the path of Allen. The latter was through, but somehow fired over the crossbar. With the final whistle imminent, that was the last moment of real action on the pitch, as the hosts earned a draw in a difficult game.
By Chris Palmer