Dartford entertained Maidstone United as the two sides came head to head at Princes Park in the first Kent Derby of the season.
Steve King’s Darts arrived off the back of two excellent away victories, but left it late to rescue a point after Maidstone had stormed into a 2-0 lead in a frantic second half.
The first half was anything but entertaining, as both sides appeared to cancel each other out. With clear-cut opportunities few and far between, it was the Stones who should have scored the opening goal in a dull forty-five minutes.
As referee Scott Tallis got the game underway, Maidstone immediately set about attacking the host’s goal and a Wishart cross in the fourth minute deserved more. However, the ball arrived into James’ path perfectly, only for his header to fly harmlessly behind.
After a scrappy period, with both sides cancelling each other out, it was the visitors who were presented with a second opportunity twelve minutes later. Akanbi picked up the ball and was allowed to run at the Dartford defence, skipping past two defenders before unleashing a shot
towards goal. Thankfully his effort flew over Smith’s bar.
That was pretty much all that John Still’s side had to offer in the first half, but to be fair, the hosts weren’t much better. The right-side combination of Gibbons and Wanadio worked well, with both players getting forward and sending in dangerous crosses when able. Unfortunately, the Stones’
defence seemed to handle everything thrown at them with ease.
With both defences rock solid, the teams seemed to try the long-ball route, but to no avail as an extremely dull first half came to an end to the relief of almost everyone. The second half, however, started with a bang as Maidstone burst out of the blocks immediately and attacked down their left
before sending in a fearsome cross. Thankfully Kyei managed to drag his shot wide of the post, but the warning signs were clearly evident.
A minute later saw Dartford attack with Marsh-Brown, who got the better of Hoyte, and then sent in a dangerous cross of his own. Romain retrieved the ball in the box and pulled the trigger, only to see his effort superbly blocked by the defence.
In the 53rd minute the excellent Gibbons chipped a lovely ball towards Pugh, but the Dartford number ten couldn’t keep his header down. With end-to-end football, the game was now wide open and two minutes later saw McQueen enter proceedings in place of Marsh-Brown, as Steve King
looked to boost his side with a fresh pair of legs. The substitute almost made an immediate impact as he found Pugh in an excellent position, only for the latter to flick the ball agonisingly wide of the post.
Then disaster struck as Maidstone hit the Darts with two goals in three minutes. First Wishart managed to bundle the ball home from a cross from the right, then Akanbi smashed a low drive past Smith to double the visitors’ lead. With Dartford stunned, Steve King acted quickly by swapping Wabo for Pugh and Hayes for Wanadio in quick succession.
As the hosts prodded and probed, they slowly started to get back into the game and move up the pitch. However, Maidstone were always a threat and, perhaps, should have sealed the three points with a third goal in the 81st minute. Akanbi found himself with the ball after another scramble in the box, but he fired over the bar. Little did he know that his team would rue that miss…
Dartford then came to life and, with three minutes remaining, pulled a goal back. After a little high-heading pinball in the box, the ball landed in Bonner’s path and the captain buried his header with power and accuracy. Seconds later saw Allen retrieve the ball on the edge of the box, but his
effort was fantastically blocked by Johnson. Then, with a minute left on the clock, up stepped McQueen to tuck away a rebound after his initial effort had been saved by Coyle, thus pulling the Darts level.
With the score at 2-2, both sides tried for a winner but there was no time left. And so a thrilling second half came to an end, leaving the Dartford section of the 2,148 supporters relieved at witnessing the hosts come back from 2-0 down to earn a valuable point.
DARTFORD: Smith, Gibbons, Gordon, Crook, Hill, Bonner, Wanadio, Allen, Romain, Pugh, Marsh-Brown.
SUBSTITUTES: Wabo, McQueen, Brodie, Hayes, Vint.
MAIDSTONE UTD: Coyle, Hoyte, Pennell, Elokobi, Kyei, James, Chesmain, Wishart, Akanbi, Khan, Johnson.
SUBSTITUTES: Marshall, Embery, Lewington, Allen, McClure.