Competitive football returned to Princes Park for the first time since March, as Dartford entertained Slough Town in the FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round behind closed doors.
And competitive football is what was served, as both sides came out of the blocks intent on creating chances. However, the hosts would surely feel aggrieved after succumbing to a 90th minute penalty, as a stubborn Slough side went through to the next round after fortune favoured them on this occasion.
It was the hosts who came closest first, though, as a superb corner from Gavin McCallum was met by the head of Ronnie Vint. Unfortunately, the defender couldn’t direct the ball towards the target, as it flew just over the Rebels’ crossbar.
Dartford looked rampant in attack during the opening exchanges, and they came close again three minutes later. This time it was Jazzi Barnum-Bobb’s turn to get a great cross into the box after good work by McCallum. The ball was met by Elliott Romain, who saw his effort deflected into the path of Charlie Sheringham. The latter reacted quickly, but his effort sailed just wide of the upright!
More opportunities presented themselves during the next ten minutes, but the Darts just couldn’t get the goal they deserved. The lively McCallum opened up the defence, cut inside and fired just wide (9), before Sheringham got himself onto the end of a Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong free-kick, only to send the ball straight at Jack Turner in the Slough goal (14).
At the other end, Craig King wasn’t seriously tested until the eleventh minute, as he gathered a Sam Togwell header after a Slough corner. The visitors wouldn’t get another opportunity until after the half-hour, when Louis Thomas headed a corner over the bar (33), before Paul Hodges sent a low drive wide from outside the Dartford box (37).
Then, with four minutes of the half remaining, referee Ben Atkinson took centre stage. The hosts drove forward with precision and pace, before sending another dangerous cross into the Rebel box. With his back to goal, Romain latched onto the ball with an overhead kick, which appeared to strike the arm of a Slough defender. With claims of handball and a penalty from every Dartford player, Mr Atkinson, who had had a little chat with Steve King earlier for being a little too vocal I presume, decided otherwise…
The second half began a little slower than the first, as a majority of play occurred in the midfield. Those allowed to watch had to wait until the 54th minute for an attempt on goal, and it came from the hosts, via the impressive McCallum. His excellent low cross was driven into the box, instigating a scramble of bodies, and Slough were able to clear eventually.
This sparked a response from the visitors, who drove forward themselves, before Matt Lench tried his luck from distance. Thankfully, his well-struck effort flew narrowly over King’s crossbar in the 56th minute. Two minutes later saw Dartford make their first substitution, as Ky Marsh-Brown
replaced McCallum. This would be followed by Sheringham coming off for Kairo Mitchell (64) and Josh Hill replacing Braham-Barrett (90).
Returning to the action on the pitch, arguably the save of the game occurred with 67 on the clock. And it was Slough’s Turner who made it, as he made a terrific reactionary save to keep out Romain’s goal-bound effort from close range. Turner would save well again in the 81st minute, as
Barnum-Bobb tested his abilities with a fine strike.
There would be two more attacking opportunities for the Darts, but lady luck just wasn’t shining on them this afternoon. Braham-Barrett would send a wonderful low cross across the face of goal with five minutes remaining, but none of his teammates could arrive in time to get on the end of the ball. Then a brilliant forward drive by Berkeley-Agyepong thoroughly deserved a goal. Unfortunately, Turner was in the way again, as he stood strong to tip the midfielder’s strike over the bar.
At the other end, Aaron Khul found himself with space and tried his luck from distance. His effort lacked technique, however, and flew over the bar and out of the stadium (80)! Tom Bonner received a yellow card three minutes later for a late challenge, but worse was to happen as the game reached the ninety minute mark.
As Slough attacked in numbers, Marsh-Brown sacrificed himself with a late challenge on Hodges, which earned him a yellow card from Mr Atkinson (89). The resulting free-kick caused mayhem in the Dartford box, as Marsh-Brown lunged at Ada Okorogheye, bringing the Rebel down. Mr Atkinson awarded the visitors a penalty and, as Okorogheye limped off injured, up stepped Jack McKnight to slot the penalty beyond King and into the back of the net.
With hardly any time to respond, the Darts were knocked out of the FA Cup and left wondering how they’d lost this one. Football can be a cruel game sometimes…
DARTFORD: Craig King, Jazzi Barnum-Bobb, Craig Braham-Barrett, Abdul Osman, Ronnie Vint, Tom Bonner ©, Gavin McCallum, Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong, Elliott Romain, Charlie Sheringham, Noor Husin.
SUBSTITUTES: Kairo Mitchell, Ethan Wady, David Ijaha, Ricky Modeste, Ky Marsh-Brown, Jordan Wynter, Josh Hill.
SLOUGH TOWN: Jack Turner, Josh Jackman, Louis Thomas, Sam Togwell ©, Max Worsfold, Matt Lench, Ben Harris, Aaron Khul, Ryan Bird, Jack McKnight, Paul Hodges.
SUBSTITUTES: Lee Togwell, Warren Harris, Michael Edegbe, Ada Okorogheye, Sean Fraser.