Midfield duo Jack Smith and Luke Allen found the back of the net, as Dartford returned to winning ways against a struggling Chippenham Town side in front of 947 supporters at Bericote Powerhouse Princes Park.
No sooner had the Bluebirds settled to frustrate their hosts that they found themselves behind, after a blistering attack from the Darts.
The move was simply brilliant, as Luke Coulson raced down the left-flank and, getting beyond his marker, was able to send a delicious cross into the box… the ball found Jack Smith, who connected first time to send a delightful strike beyond Will Henry! The 2nd minute goal was Smith’s fourth in all competitions this season, yet surely one he’d remember fondly.
The visitors soon sorted themselves out though and, while the football was end to end at times during the first forty-five, clear-cut goalmouth opportunities were few. In fact, it took until the 14th minute for Chippenham to register a shot on target. That came via Matt McClure, and proved to be an easy save for Dartford debutant goalkeeper Ben Dudzinski.
With Alan Dowson’s side in control, they were patient with the ball and not wanting to take too many unnecessary risks at the back. Yet, they were unfortunate not to have doubled their lead after thirty-two minutes. An impressive passing move culminated in Charlie Sheringham seeking out Luke Coulson, who then found Samir Carruthers in space just outside the Bluebirds’ box. Unfortunately, the midfielder’s neat strike flew narrowly wide of Henry’s upright on this occasion.
It was as you were for the opening exchanges of the second-half. However, Dartford were forced into making an early substitution after Charlie Sheringham struggled with an injury following a challenge. He was replaced by Pierre Fonkeu in the 52nd minute.
Like most games, Alan Dowson would go on to make the most of the depth in his squad this afternoon. And, in the 73rd minute, we saw Samir Carruthers leave the field to be replaced by Malachi Napa, before Keiran Murtagh came on for Luke Allen six minutes later.
Meanwhile, as they chased the game, Chippenham would swap Owen Windsor with Craig Fasanmade (65), Joe Hanks with Caine Bradbury (75), and Luke Russe with Alefe D’Abadia (82).
As we return to the action, the hosts went on to double their advantage soon after Fonkeu had entered proceedings… and it was another brilliant piece of play that set up the goal.
The excellent Maxwell Statham (who’d be given a deserved Man of The Match award afterwards) combined well with the equally excellent Luke Coulson, whereby the former overlapped the latter before sending a dangerous cross into the Chippenham box. The Bluebirds failed to deal with it, and Luke Allen sent it beyond the hapless Will Henry to score his fourth league goal of the season (54).
The Bluebirds responded positively at first and Luke Russe did have the ball in the back of the Dartford net after the hour mark, only for it to be chalked off for offside. The decision enraged Russe and his coaches on the sidelines, costing said coach a yellow card from referee Abigail Byrne, who wasn’t having any nonsense this afternoon.
Chippenham were getting nowhere this afternoon though, as Tom Bonner marshalled his defence superbly throughout the ninety minutes, leaving the Bluebirds to snatch at any crumbs left… not that there were many.
In fact, the better of the remaining opportunities fell to the hosts, as they controlled the game well. Connor Essam forced Will Henry into a save with a header from Luke Coulson’s corner (78), before Maxwell Statham forced Henry into a more comfortable save four minutes later.
Finally, a last-ditch challenge by a Bluebirds defender prevented Pierre Fonkeu from finding the back of the net after he’d received another excellent pass from Coulson following a swift counter-attack (84), as the hosts remained solid to collect all three points.
The result saw Ben Dudzinski collect a deserved clean sheet on his Dartford debut, as the Darts remain in second place in the National League South table, in what is looking like an exciting second-half to the season.
DARTFORD: Ben Dudzinski, Jordan Wynter, Samir Carruthers, Connor Essam, Tom Bonner (c), Luke Coulson, Luke Allen, Maxwell Statham, Jack Smith, Charlie Sheringham, Jernade Meade.
SUBSTITUTES: Dan Wilks, Kristian Campbell, Keiran Murtagh, Pierre Fonkeu, Malachi Napa.
CHIPPENHAM TOWN: Will Henry, Aaron Simpson, Spencer Hamilton (c), Will Richards, Matt McClure, Alex Bray, Owen Windsor, Joe Hanks, Tom Mehew, Luke Russe, Will King.
SUBSTITUTES: Alefe D’Abadia, Callum Gunner, Craig Fasanmade, Will Tizzard, Caine Bradbury.
By Chris Palmer