Upcoming MatchSevenoaks Town vs Dartford/July 13, 2024/Greatness Park

MATCH REPORT | DARTFORD 1 ST ALBANS CITY 1 (PENALTIES: 3-5)

Dartford’s prospects of promotion ended at the Semi-Final stage of the play-offs, as St Albans City won the lottery of a penalty shootout after 120 minutes of frantic football.

As a massive crowd of 3,234 descended upon Bericote Powerhouse Princes Park for this early kick-off, they were treated to an excellent game of football with both sides attacking in numbers. And, before we get to the action, special mention must be made of those 3,234 supporters because, they had the stadium bouncing for the entire afternoon, making for a wonderful atmosphere.

Despite the football being frantic and end-to-end, it was the Darts who created the better opportunities during the opening exchanges, as both Maxwell Statham (3) and Richard Chin (10) forced good saves out of Saints’ goalkeeper Dylan Berry.

The hosts were rewarded for their good start in the 13th minute when Harvey Bradbury was sent through after a superb interception by Statham. The in-form striker saw Berry rushing out towards him and took advantage to lob the goalkeeper to give the hosts a deserved lead.

Jack Smith then forced another good save from Berry with a great strike through a sea of bodies following Luke Coulson’s corner (25), as Dartford threatened to run away with the game.

However, three minutes later saw the visitors remind everyone that they were still in the game and have a dangerous attack of their own. Zane Banton was the player to keep Ben Dudzinski on his toes, as he forced the goalkeeper into his first save of the afternoon with a low drive (28).

Unfortunately, Dartford’s plans took a blow on the half-hour, as the excellent Richard Chin was forced to leave proceedings due to an injury. His performance on the right-flank, together with Maxwell Statham, had been nothing short of excellent and it was sad to see him having to go off. Manager, Alan Dowson, brought on Pierre Fonkeu as his replacement (30).

Having been warned earlier, the hosts then found themselves pegged back with four minutes of the half remaining after having been undone by a low corner. Aidan Francis-Clarke was the player to get the equaliser after a period of Saints pressure was eventually rewarded (41).

The visitors then found themselves to be the first to go into referee Mr Ruebyn Ricardo’s book, after Joy Mukena pulled Harvey Bradbury’s shirt when the Dartford man was through on goal (44)! Luke Coulson took the resulting free-kick, but couldn’t find a way past the defensive wall as half-time arrived with the score level.

The start of the second forty-five saw St Albans replace Callum Adebiyi with Michael Clark, yet it was the hosts who began strongly once again. However, once again Dylan Berry was on hand to keep the score level as he saved superbly from Harvey Bradbury after excellent work by Pierre Fonkeu (47).

The striker was in fine form this afternoon, and even saw an excellent header crash back off the crossbar in the 57th minute, only to be flagged offside anyway.

The visitors began to venture forward themselves at this stage and Shaun Jeffers continued to make a nuisance of himself. Firstly, the striker got caught by the excellent Sam Odaudu, whereby the youngster was shown a yellow card, before the Saint was booked himself…

Having made a brilliant clearance in the 60th minute to prevent Jeffers from scoring, Connor Essam was caught by the St Albans captain’s high boot, which earned him a caution (65), as tempers began to boil. Essam would find himself cautioned late in the game for a late challenge as he returned the favour to Jeffers!

Maxwell Statham saw his strike blocked by Zane Banton in the 75th minute, before the latter’s involvement at the other end almost paid dividends for the Saints. Having found Mitchell Weiss in space, Banton laid off the pass, only for Weiss to miss the target with his header (77).

The Darts then swapped Jack Smith for Samir Carruthers (77), as we approached the closing stages of the ninety. And yet, both sides were going for broke, despite tiring legs materialising.

A superb challenge by Jordan Wynter prevented Shaun Jeffers from getting clean through on goal (84), before Tom Bonner came desperately close to winning the game in the 90th minute. Having got onto the end of Luke Coulson’s corner, the Skipper’s header was somehow tipped onto the crossbar by Dylan Berry, before Aidan Francis-Clarke was on hand to clear the danger.

Right at the death saw St Albans swap Mitchell Weiss with Joe Neal, before the additional thirty minutes began. They then brought on Glenn McConnell for Devante Stanley, while Alan Dowson swapped Harvey Bradbury and Luke Allen with Keiran Murtagh and Charlie Sheringham.

Dylan Berry was once again on hand to make another vital intervention, as he prevented Luke Coulson from scoring after being played through by Carruthers (97), before Ryan Blackman prevented Sheringham from getting a shot away (105).

As we entered the final fifteen minutes, the visitors brought on Huw Dawson for Ben Smith, before Berry was called into action once again. This time the goalkeeper was alert to stop Tom Bonner’s header from creeping into the bottom corner (110).

The goalkeeper then saved well from Sheringham (112), before McConnell was booked for a cynical foul on Samir Carruthers in an attempt to stop the midfielder from launching a counter attack (114).

And so, after 120 minutes of football, the lottery of a penalty shootout arrived. The visitors won the coin toss and took the first spot-kick, which Shaun Jeffers dispatched. In fact, teammates Glenn McConnell, Zane Banton, Chay Cooper, and Joe Neal all went on to score theirs, while Dylan Berry managed to save Samir Carruthers’ first effort for the Darts. Even though Luke Coulson, Charlie Sheringham, and Keiran Murtagh all scored their spot-kicks, it sadly wasn’t enough.

St Albans now face Oxford City in the play-off Final, after they’d beaten Worthing 2-0, so good luck to the Saints in their quest for promotion.

Meanwhile, the Darts will compete for National League South honours once again next season. But for now we rest before those preparations begin, as the dust begins to settle on another competitive, yet emotional season of football at Bericote Powerhouse Princes Park.

TEAMS

DARTFORD: Ben Dudzinski, Jordan Wynter, Richard Chin, Connor Essam, Tom Bonner (c), Luke Coulson, Luke Allen, Maxwell Statham, Jack Smith, Harvey Bradbury, Sam Odaudu.

SUBSTITUTES: Dan Wilks, Samir Carruthers, Keiran Murtagh, Pierre Fonkeu, Charlie Sheringham.

ST ALBANS CITY: Dylan Berry, Devante Stanley, Aidan Francis-Clarke, Callum Adebiyi, Ryan Blackman, Shaun Jeffers (c), Zane Banton, Mitchell Weiss, Joy Mukena, Ben Smith, Chay Cooper.

SUBSTITUTES: Michael Clark, Huw Dawson, Munashe Sundire, Glenn McConnell, Joe Neal.

Match Photos Gallery

By Chris Palmer