Norman Wabo came off the bench to rescue a point for Dartford in an entertaining game against Hemel Hempstead in front of 961 supporters.
A rescue job was not what Adam and Jamie had in mind however. The hosts had every intention of taking all three points against a team that they have a good record against. Such intentions were reflected in the starting eleven, which saw Mark Smith in goal, as he stood behind Tom Bonner’s defensive line. Tom was joined by Rob Howard, Ronnie Vint and Josh Hill. Lee Noble commanded the midfield alongside Luke Allen, while Alex Flisher and Luke Wanadio patrolled the wings. The Dartford attack included the ever-improving Adam Cunnington and Darren McQueen. The substitutes bench consisted of Ryan Hayes, Charlie Sheringham, Ben Greenhalgh, Cameron Brodie and Norman Wabo.
Good intentions aside, the Darts once again found themselves behind to an early goal, which left them chasing the game after nine minutes. It was the hosts who gave possession away cheaply, which enabled Sam Ashford to chip the ball over Smith and into the goal. From that point on, Sammy Moore’s side were hellbent on breaking up the play and wasting as much time as possible, much to the annoyance of the Princes Park faithful.
Moments before Hemel took the lead, the Darts put together some neat passes, which enabled Cunnington to get within shooting distance. However, the promising move came to nothing as the big number 16’s shot flew over Sam Beasent’s goal. After that, the hosts just couldn’t get going, that Ashford goal seeming to have deflated all involved. Despite the Tudors’ lead and attacking threat, clear-cut chances were few and the Darts began to get back into the game. Bonner found himself needing lengthy treatment after a heavy challenge on the half-hour, which referee Richie Watkins took advantage of. He brought a halt to proceedings and
allowed a water break. Three minutes later saw the referee award the hosts a penalty after Cunnington was clearly pulled down in the box. Up stepped the striker only to see his shot saved by Beasent!
A few minutes later saw the injured Bonner replaced by Greenhalgh. The change in personnel meant a reshuffle in positions, with Flisher taking Bonner’s place at left-back. The hosts continued trying to
respond to that early Hemel goal, but the half came to its conclusion minus any real opportunities for either side. The only moment of any significance was Cunnington receiving a yellow card for a foul.
Hayes replaced Wanadio as Dartford got the second half under way, and they started with more urgency. The visitors, on the other hand, were happy to sit back, waste time, soak up the pressure and try to hit the Darts on the break. The hosts continued to press forward and had some good spells of possession. In the 54th minute, midfield duo Noble and Allen played a neat one-two, before passing to Greenhalgh, who flicked in a threatening ball which was put out for a corner. Vint got on the end of Hayes’ corner, but sent the ball wide of the post.
The next fifteen minutes saw Dartford getting more urgent as they searched for the equaliser. Adam and Jamie played their last throw of the dice by sending on Wabo for McQueen, and the dynamics of
the game swung in Dartford’s favour. The anticipation was growing as first Cunnington, then Wabo had a couple of good opportunities. Hayes was a constant threat, as was Allen, Greenhalgh and
Flisher as they probed continuously, searching to release Cunnington and Wabo. The rescue mission was completed in the 84th minute, when Wabo received the ball, cut inside and pulled the trigger. His shot curled passed the hapless Beasent and into the back of the net. The goal floored Hemel and the Darts sensed blood, as they ploughed forward looking for the winner, knowing that they had the visitors on the ropes. Hayes whipped in an exquisite cross across the face of goal a minute later, but Cunnington’s header was inches wide of the post. A minute after that, Wabo saw another excellent effort saved brilliantly by Beasent.
Despite putting immense pressure on the defence and winning several corners in quick succession, Dartford just couldn’t put the ball away and had to settle for the point in the end. The hard-working Noble was awarded the Man of The Match, but surely the accolades would be shared with Wabo for his part in earning the team a valuable point after he scored his third goal in four games. It wasn’t the best of performances across the ninety minutes, but the result means that Dartford stretch their unbeaten run to three games, which is something to continue building on.