Dartford hosted ninth placed Hampton & Richmond Borough on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in what could be described as a playoff position six-pointer.
With both sides currently on good form, and with just seven points between them, the pre-match expectations was of an entertaining, yet explosive encounter at Princes Park. However, despite several explosive moments, this proved to be a rather frustrating afternoon for the Darts, as a bright
start was thwarted by a Hampton & Richmond comeback and a rigid gameplan, both of which ended the host’s excellent run of form.
Despite Tom Bonner receiving treatment for an elbow in the face (which went unpunished) everything appeared to be going to plan for the Darts during the opening exchanges, as terrific work by Luke Wanadio was rewarded with a corner after just four minutes. The Dartford attacker was then celebrating the opening goal three minutes later, after Darren McQueen made a great run and crossed the ball into the box. Wanadio leapt high and headed the ball home to score his fourth goal of the season.
With the hosts continuing to control matters, Wanadio should have doubled the lead in the 12th minute after receiving a brilliant ball from Tyrique Hyde. Having held the ball well before twisting and turning the defender inside out, Wanadio then fired towards goal, only to be denied by
Dion-Curtis Henry’s save.
The game then went a little quiet, as the visitors began to pull themselves into the match. Having resisted the Darts’ pressure, Hampton & Richmond then registered their first attempt on goal in the 17th minute, after Ryan Hill saw his effort sternly blocked and sent out for a corner. However,
Dartford hit back again a couple of minutes later and were awarded a corner themselves, which was unfortunately headed wide by McQueen.
As the 26th minute arrived, the visitors levelled the score, after Danilo Orsi-Dadomo slipped the ball past Alhaji Sesay upon being the recipient of a good through ball from Jake Gray. The Darts tried to restore their lead immediately, but found their efforts to be in vain as, first Giovanni McGregor’s long-range strike stung the palm of Henry, and then Wanadio’s deep cross struck the crossbar!
With three minutes of the half remaining, the hosts were made to pay for those missed opportunities. Ryan Hill managed to continue running along the flank, avoided challenges, before finishing from an impossibly tight angle to give the visitors an unexpected lead. As Steve King’s side launched another attack, Sanchez Ming was floored by an extremely late, crunching tackle. Niko Muir was the guilty party, yet referee Joel Mannix decided that the foul wasn’t worthy of a red card, so issued an unsatisfactory yellow. However, Mr Mannix wasn’t finished there, as another late challenge, this time on McQueen, saw Wadah Ahmidi go into the book.
The second half began with Dartford on the front-foot straight from kick-off, but Henry once again denied a good effort from McQueen in the 47th minute. Unfortunately, that bright start soon faded and the game became quite scrappy as neither side seemed able to string a few passes together in
order to maintain possession. Yet the hosts were always in contention and a threat, until Mr Mannix intervened in the 67th minute…
A great attacking move saw Elliott Romain use his strength and get himself into the box, only to be brought down by a challenge. With a majority of the 1,263 supporters expecting a penalty, the referee showed the Dartford striker a yellow card! Having already been booked in the first half,
Romain was subsequently given his marching orders, leaving his team with a mountain to climb.
Steve King reacted a few minutes later by introducing Charlie Sheringham for McGregor. This was followed by Liam Nash replacing Craig Braham-Barrett with ten minutes remaining, as the hosts tried everything possible to get the equaliser.
That equaliser should have arrived in the 85th minute, after brilliant link-up play between Sheringham and Wanadio. The big striker played Wanadio through, only for the defence to clear the danger for a corner. Josh Hill climbed high and managed to get his head on the end of the corner, only to send the ball the wrong side of the upright, thus ending any hopes of salvaging a point.
And so the Darts’ four-game winning run at Princes Park came to an end, together with that impressive run of clean sheets. To be honest, Dartford were unable to get going, as a stubborn Hampton & Richmond side stuck to their own gameplan, frustrated Steve King’s men, and took their opportunities. When Dartford were able to breach the defence, they found that the final ball just wouldn’t fall for them. On another day, the scoreline could easily have swung in Dartford’s favour but, truthfully, they didn’t really do enough to deserve the win.
DARTFORD: Sesay, Ming, Braham-Barrett, Crook, Hill, Bonner ©, McGregor, Hyde, Romain, McQueen, Wanadio.
SUBSTITUTES: Vint, Nash, Arnold, Noble, Sheringham.
HAMPTON & RICHMOND: Henry, Cox, Farrell, Inman, Wassmer ©, Gray, Hill, Ahmidi, Orsi-Dadomo, Muir, Deadfield.
SUBSTITUTES: Laarbi, Ruddick, Donaldson, McAuley, Miller-Rodney.