With just two points from their opening five games, Dartford were determined to record a first win of the season when Braintree Town came to Princes Park on a hot Saturday 24th of August.
Despite current form seeing the Darts stuck in the bottom three of the table, they have been strong in their opening two home matches. Two 1-1 draws against tough opponents saw the hosts coming into this game unbeaten at Princes Park. However, Braintree Town would prove to be another difficult opponent, as they arrived off the back of two consecutive victories. The Iron also had a psychological advantage of being unbeaten against the Darts in the last eight meetings.
However, that unbeaten run ended as Dartford came from behind to secure a first win of the season with a dominating performance in front of 874 supporters.
Adam and Jamie named a strong squad, which saw a few changes from the defeat at Weymouth last weekend. Defender Rob Howard arrived on loan from Southend Utd and found himself in the starting eleven. He was named alongside captain Tom Bonner, Josh Hill and Ronnie Vint, who started his first game of the season. Mark Smith continued in goal and the midfield consisted of the excellent Lee Noble and Luke Allen combination. Alex Flisher and Luke Wanadio patrolled the wings, with the former making his first start for the Darts. Adam Cunnington was partnered with the returning Darren McQueen in attack. The host’s bench included the likes of Ryan Hayes, Charlie Sheringham, Ben Greenhalgh, Cameron Brodie, and Norman Wabo.
The Darts started slowly, as Braintree Town kicked off, and were made to pay three minutes in. Braintree were able to play straight through the Dartford team, threaded the ball wide right, where it was sent into the box. Femi Akinwande found the Dartford defence napping and side-footed the ball onto the inside of the post and in.
The goal sparked Dartford into life, and they continuously attacked in numbers while searching for the equaliser. Flisher and Wanadio were lively on the wings, while Cunnington and McQueen threatened to get behind the visitor’s defence. The Dartford number 16 caused numerous problems for Glen Driver’s team, winning high balls continuously, as he tried to provide McQueen with the perfect ball.
The early exchanges after the goal saw the hosts force a few corners, which saw both Cunnington and Vint head over Michael Johnson’s goal. Cunnington was brought down in the Braintree box moments later, but referee Steven Hughes waved away the appeals to the shock of virtually everyone in the ground! But Dartford wouldn’t be deterred, as they showed grit and determination to pull the game level. The twenty minutes since Akinwande’s goal saw the hosts passing the ball well and forcing six corners, as they pressed the Iron’s defensive line. The persistence paid off in the 30th minute, when the referee awarded Dartford a penalty for handball. Unfortunately, Wanadio’s penalty was saved well by Johnson.
After a period where both sides created opportunities, the Darts finally got the breakthrough in the 42nd minute. Flisher caused havoc when he sent a long throw into the penalty area, and Allen was there to tap it home, bringing the hosts level and deservedly so.
The second half saw Cunnington having to go off due to an injury he picked up earlier. His replacement was the powerful Sheringham. Armed with the big number nine, Dartford continued to dominate proceedings and search for that second goal. They came close in the 53rd minute, when McQueen sent a beautiful ball across the Braintree goal, but no teammate could reach it. Two minutes later saw the excellent Allen play a great through-ball to Sheringham, but the latter saw his
shot saved by Johnson.
As we reached the hour, Hayes came on for McQueen as the Dartford management looked to seal the win. Ten minutes later, the odds improved as Adam Mills saw red for an elbow on Noble. The Darts made their final substitution a few minutes later, with Wabo replacing the excellent Flisher. The change almost paid off within four minutes, when Wanadio played another terrific ball into the danger area. Wabo got on the end of it, but Johnson just got enough on the ball to send it bouncing onto the woodwork and over the goal.
The Darts made good use of the extra man advantage and gave it everything in search of a winner. Three minutes from the 90 saw that winning goal arrive, as Hayes sent in a beauty of a cross and Wabo arrived in time to nod it in, sending Princes Park into full voice! Braintree tried to respond immediately, but their last-minute efforts were in vain, as Bonner’s defence held firm. And so a five-game winless run came to an end. The Darts responded to two successive away defeats
with a solid performance in a game they dominated after going behind early on. There were many strong performances from the players, with everyone standing up and putting in a decent shift to get a positive result. However, it was the excellent Luke Allen who was awarded the Man of The Match award in a game the Darts thoroughly deserved to win.