A combination of youth and experience earned Dartford the victory, as Marvin Herschel and Alex Wall both scored to condemn struggling Hungerford Town to another defeat in the National League South.
This was the only fixture in the league this afternoon, as others were involved in FA Cup duties. Yet, it also wasn’t the prettiest of matches to watch, as the 901 supporters at Bericote Powerhouse Princes Park witnessed. However, it doesn’t always matter how you win… sometimes you just have to win ugly.
The early exchanges did provide promise though, as the hosts drove forward after Luke Allen had won the ball in the midfield. The Dartford number eight muscled his way towards the Hungerford box, only to be fouled by the late challenge of a desperate Crusader. Kristian Campbell took the free-kick, but unfortunately couldn’t keep it low enough to trouble goalkeeper Matthew Crowther (3).
After eighteen minutes, the game appeared to spark into life, with efforts at both ends. First up were the visitors, who worked the ball well in the midfield via the combination of the lively Ben Allen and Jake Evans. The latter found George Smith, who struck an ambitious effort from distance, which flew high and wide of Joe Young’s goal.
Two minutes later saw the hosts punish the Crusaders after an error gifted them an opening. A seemingly harmless long ball caught out the defence… yet still looked to be under control… that was until Crowther came rushing out off his line. Almost colliding with his teammate, the goalkeeper then lost out to Marvin Herschel who was gifted with an open goal. The Dartford youngster couldn’t miss, and will probably never score an easier goal in his career (20)!
The goal should have lit the spark this game so desperately needed but, unfortunately, the opposite proved to be the case as the clock continued to count during “one of those games”.
Neither side seemed able to get a firm grip on proceedings, as the majority of play consisted of the ball being bounced back and forth in the midfield. On top of that, the teams were “blessed” with a referee (Mr Ben Wyatt) who blew his whistle at virtually every challenge…which resulted in a stop/start afternoon.
A possible Crusader attack was halted by the ever-reliable Tom Bonner, as the captain stopped Niko Muir in his tracks after 27 minutes. During the tangle, the Hungerford man decided to deliberately pin the Dartford Skipper to the ground and, yet, it was the latter who ironically received the yellow card.
As we fast-forward to the 40th minute, the Darts came close once again. A great break forward took place via the in-form Luke Allen, who then fed the ball out wide to Herschel. The youngster then proceeded to race into the box before forcing Crowther into an excellent save to keep the deficit at one goal.
As we approached the half-time break, Hungerford were forced into making an early substitution because Curtis Angell was struggling from a previous challenge. He was replaced by Ryan Jones. The other changes in personnel for the visitors included Conor Lynch on for Jake Evans (71) and Leighton Thomas on for Niko Muir (78).
Alan Dowson, meanwhile, would also use all of his available substitutions. Unfortunately, the first one was also enforced. Having returned from injury today, the unfortunate Luke Coulson pulled up once again and, unable to continue, had to leave the field for Pierre Fonkeu (63). Also to come on were Keiran Murtagh for Jack Smith (71) and Alex Wall for Marvin Herschel (80).
Returning to the action, opportunities were extremely rare this afternoon, even more so during the second forty-five. But, the Crusaders did create a glimmer of hope when a good move ended with Louis McGrory’s long-range drive testing Joe Young (59).
However, the fire failed to spark for the visitors and, with eight minutes remaining, they were 2-0 down and out of the match completely. And, it was a first goal of the season for an experienced campaigner that sealed the victory for the Darts.
Fresh after just coming on to replace Marvin Herschel, Alex Wall received a great ball over-the-top which left the defence in no man’s land. Wall then ran into the box before sending the ball beyond the hapless Crowther to seal the three points (82).
There was time for another Dartford effort, after Fonkeu found Allen on the edge of the Hungerford box. But, the midfielder’s strike failed to test Crowther.
The versatile Jordan Wynter earned himself his first ever Man of The Match award for the Darts, as he helped his teammates prevent Hungerford from creating anything meaningful to ensure that the clean sheet was also secure.
The result sees Dartford climb up to third place and puts them right in the mix for the play-off positions in the National League League South table.
DARTFORD: Joe Young, Jordan Wynter, Kristian Campbell, Connor Essam, Tom Bonner (c), Luke Coulson, Luke Allen, Davide Rodari, Maxwell Statham, Jack Smith, Marvin Herschel.
SUBSTITUTES: Alex Wall, Keiran Murtagh, Daniel Jinadu, Ali Mansaray, Pierre Fonkeu.
HUNGERFORD TOWN: Matthew Crowther, Rhys Tyler, Curtis Angell, Matt Berry-Hargreaves, Jerry Gyebi, George Smith, Jake Evans, Louis McGrory, Niko Muir, Ben Allen, Kyle Bailey.
SUBSTITUTES: Conor Lynch, Joel Rollinson, Leighton Thomas, Ryan Jones, James Rusby.
By Chris Palmer