New signing, Chris Dickson, marked his debut at Bericote Powerhouse Princes Park with a Man of The Match performance and a brace, as Dartford responded positively to Tuesday’s last-minute loss against St Albans City to condemn a struggling Slough Town to a fourth consecutive defeat.
The debutant wasn’t the only change to the Dartford side, however, as Steve King shuffled his personnel in a bid to sharpen his men and provide the goals that performances deserve. Goalkeeper, Ethan Wady, also made his league debut for the Darts, while Luke Allen and Jack Barham started in an eleven that saw Jordan Wynter moved to right-back in place of Jazzi Barnum-Bobb. With Craig Braham-Barrett still out injured, the impressive and versatile Gavin McCallum continued at left-back. With Dickson and Barham starting, Elliott Romain, Charlie Sheringham, and Alfie Pavey had to make do with places on the substitutes bench.
Dickson, who arrived on a dual registration from Hornchurch, had been in good form before COVID-19 halted the Isthmian League’s progress, and he was insistent on continuing that form for his new club as early as the tenth minute. With the Darts starting brightly, a terrific move involving Luke Allen and Gavin McCallum saw the latter send Dickson through on goal. However, the new #9 was a little too eager to impress, as he didn’t realise how much time he had and took the shot too early, only to see it fly wide of Jack Turner’s upright. Dickson’s strike partner, Jack Barham, was also looking lively throughout the game. He would be the recipient of the clever mind of Allen, who sent a wonderful long ball over the top for his teammate. Using his pace, Barham drifted into the box and sent a brilliantly chipped effort towards goal, only to see the Slough defence clear the danger (13).
With twenty-five minutes gone, the hosts tore Slough open again with some terrific football. As Dickson and Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong combined well, the latter fed the ball into Barham, who struck the ball towards goal. The effort ricocheted off of a defender and fell into the path of Dickson, who struck it at the first attempt. Once again, however, the confident striker could only stand and watch his effort fly high over the crossbar.
The first half saw the Darts create some good opportunities going forward, as Berkeley-Agyepong had a drilled shot blocked well following a corner (27), Jack Jebb shot narrowly wide from distance after receiving the ball from another driving Berkeley-Agyepong run (34), and Dickson sent an effort over Turner’s crossbar after collecting the ball following a long kick from Wady (41).
Meanwhile, the visitors offered little at the other end. In fact, the only time that Ethan Wady was really called into action was when he tipped a dangerous Dan Roberts cross out for a corner in the 41st minute. That corner was whipped into the box by Paul Hodges, Dickson leaped to head the danger clear, but the ball eventually fell to Aaron Kuhl, who blazed his shot well high and over.
Hodges was, in fact, the danger-man for the visitors, but such was the dominance of Tom Bonner and Connor Essam in the center of defence, that the Dartford goal was rarely threatened. The one time that Hodges looked like getting through was after he’d won a challenge with Luke Allen as we reached the 45th minute. However, Allen responded instantaneously with a superbly timed recovery challenge to halt Hodge’s drive from proceeding any further.
The second forty-five exploded into life, as the hosts edged in front straight from the kick-off. The ball was fed through to the excellent Barham, who twisted and turned before sending the ball across the face of Turner’s goal. And there was Dickson to slot the ball home to open his account for his new club. Slough responded immediately with Hodges, who hit the outside of the post in the 49th minute, but the wind would be knocked out of the Slough players two minutes later, as a free-kick was awarded in the host’s favour near the corner flag. Jack Jebb delivered a beautiful ball into the box and Dickson climbed high before heading it beyond the hapless Turner.
With a two-goal cushion, some might have thought that the points were guaranteed for the hosts, but the Slough players didn’t get that message, and began to seek a goal themselves. Getting themselves on top of proceedings for a period of time as they began to get back into the game, the Slough attack kept bumping into the strong Dartford defence. Despite his side holding firm so far, Steve King was taking no chances, and he brought on Jazzi Barnum-Bobb for Noor Husin just after the hour in an attempt to block the holes materialising in the midfield.
The manager would make two more changes soon after, as Alfie Pavey replaced Jack Barham (70) and Elliott Romain replaced Chris Dickson (75). Romain would receive a yellow card from referee, Chris Rolladson, within minutes of entering the field for an altercation with a Slough defender, meaning that the powerful forward would have to be more cautious for the remaining minutes.
As for Chris Dickson? His Man of The Match debut performance could have been marked with a hat-trick. High on confidence, the striker first controlled the ball brilliantly before trying to chip Turner unsuccessfully (73), before setting up Afie Pavey, who saw his shot deflected behind for a corner. Jebb’s corner was cleared, but the ball fell to the excellent and imaginative Dickson just inside the Slough box, who tried his luck with a bicycle kick… Unfortunately, the effort went wide of the upright (74). That proved to be the last action for the debutant, as he left the field delighted with his brace.
And what of the visitors? They should have pulled a goal back in the 72nd minute after Ethan Wady misjudged a long kick from Jack Turner. The ball got beyond the young goalkeeper and was rolling into an empty net, before Connor Essam arrived to clear it off the line. Wady would easily save a long-range drive from Slough in the 89th minute but, aside from that, wasn’t seriously tested throughout, such was the dominance of Bonner and Essam. The goalkeeper would surely be delighted with a clean-sheet on his debut for the Darts.
The only dampener on a fine Dartford performance wasn’t self-inflicted this afternoon. On this occasion, it came from the referee, Mr Rolladson in the 79th minute, as he bizarrely showed Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong a straight red card for what appeared to be a harmless fifty-fifty challenge with a Slough player. Completely shocked, Berkeley-Agyepong limped off the pitch, leaving his side a man down, yet able to see out the remaining time and register Dartford’s seventh victory in ten league games.
DARTFORD: Ethan Wady, Jordan Wynter, Gavin McCallum, Connor Essam, Tom Bonner ©, Jack Jebb, Luke Allen, Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong, Chris Dickson, Jack Barham, Noor Husin.
SUBSTITUTES: Alfie Pavey, Jazzi Barnum-Bobb, Josh Hill, Charlie Sheringham, Elliott Romain.
SLOUGH TOWN: Jack Turner, Josh Jackman, Sam Togwell, Guy Hollis, Lee Togwell, Dan Roberts, Mark Nisbet, Aaron Kuhl, Sean Fraser, Malachi Linton, Paul Hodges.
SUBSTITUTES: Louis Lomas, Max Worsfold, Matthew Lench, Warren Harris, Michael Edegbe.