Dartford’s last fixture before Christmas saw them face a Concord Rangers side which occupied the spot immediately below them in the table.
Despite a good performance last time out, Steve King’s Darts continue to struggle with injuries. As a result, the signing of defender Sanchez Ming was announced before the match. The twenty-nine year old had spent the first half of the season with Welling United, and was available to start against Concord Rangers. The signing of twenty-four year old striker, Marcel Barrington, was also announced before the match. The former Braintree and Beach Boys player was also available for selection, and he took his place on the substitutes bench, as the hosts intended on producing a double over their opponents.
However, a tale of two penalties and poor decision making resulted in Dartford falling to an eighth defeat of the season in front of 971 supporters, leaving them just six points clear of the drop zone.
A tight first half saw both sides refusing to spread any festive cheer, as neither handed out any gifts and clear-cut goal-scoring opportunities were few and far between. Having said that, a half-time stalemate looked unlikely when the hosts were awarded a penalty in the eighteenth minute after Lamar Reynolds committed a foul in the box. Up stepped Elliott Romain, but his weak effort struck the outside of the post and rolled to safety.
Frustrations boiled over a couple of minutes later, as Jordan Wynter flew in with a late tackle, earning himself a yellow card from referee Wayne Cartmel. Two minutes later, the yellow card tally was levelled when Darren McQueen was fouled by Jack Cawley.
Steve King’s men didn’t allow their heads to drop after Romain’s penalty miss, and they played some neat football when in possession. Without possession, they pressed the visitors well, restricting them to long-range efforts. One of these came in the 26th minute, when Joel Nouble tried his luck, but Alhaji Sesay received and held the ball well. Meanwhile, twelve minutes later saw a great move from Dartford, which should have resulted in them taking the lead. Romain received a terrific ball that flew over the top, beat his marker, then attempted to chip the ball over Chris Haigh.
Unfortunately, the Beach Boys’ number one managed to stop it. At the other end, the hosts remained stubborn and strong in defence, as the half drew to a close.
The second half started rather quietly, as two injuries for the visitors held up proceedings. The first meaningful effort of the half fell to Tarique Hyde, who struck an effort from distance, which flew over Haigh’s crossbar. Then, cometh the hour, cometh the man… yet, against the Darts! As the hosts pressed forward, Rangers caught the defence unawares and Kit Elliot found himself one-on-one with Sesay. The latter rushed out, caught the former, and the referee awarded the penalty. Up stepped Nouble to send the ball beyond the goalkeeper to give the Beach Boys the lead.
With 22 minutes remaining and the hosts pressing forward for an equaliser, Steve King made his first change in personnel, as Ky Marsh-Brown replaced Rowan Liburd. Great work from McQueen to win a corner almost resulted in the equaliser, when the corner found Romain. The striker fired towards goal, only to see the ball ricochet wide and behind for a goal-kick. A few minutes later, Rangers took advantage of the space and broke through with an impressive drive from Nouble. He got into the box before striking the ball and forcing a fantastic save from Sesay. Dartford responded by replacing Luke Wanadio with Ryan Hayes.
The substitution was almost followed by an equaliser when Dartford broke forward with Liam Gordon. He picked out Hyde, who fired towards goal. The shot ricocheted back, providing him with a second bite of the cherry. Unfortunately, his second effort smacked into Romain and went behind
for a goal-kick!
With ten minutes remaining, new signing Barrington replaced Ronnie Vint, as the hosts threw everything at Concord Rangers. Hayes was a threat down the host’s right flank, as he terrorised Tom Clifford, got past and sent in a peach of a cross, only for the defence to clear the danger. Then with four minutes remaining, the moment for Dartford arrived… McQueen received the ball and fired a piledriver towards goal, only for Haigh to save it superbly.
Moments later the Darts had the visitors on the ropes, as they pressed in numbers. The ball was sent into the box and dropped beneath the crossbar, only for the defence to clear it once again. The Dartford players cried foul for a blatant handball on the line, but the referee was having none of it,
to the disbelief of all involved.
With time running out fast, Wynter had one last effort, but Haigh was in the way once again to preserve his clean sheet. The result left Dartford rueing that penalty miss from Romain, as they fell to a third league defeat at Princes Park. It’s fair to say that, despite not really doing enough on the
pitch to win the game, yet another poor decision from a referee certainly cost Steve King’s side a valuable point.
DARTFORD: Sesay, Ming, Gordon, Hyde, Hill, Vint, Wanadio, Wynter, Liburd, Romain, McQueen.
SUBSTITUTES: Crook, Bonner, Marsh-Brown, Hayes, Barrington.
CONCORD RANGERS: Haigh, Olufemi, Clifford, Roast, Pollock, Cawley, Reynolds, Wells, Elliot, Woods, Nouble.
SUBSTITUTES: Krasniqi, Green, Blanchefield, Gordon, Howeh.