Dartford’s impressive form continued as they brushed aside Oxford City on a cold Saturday afternoon at Princes Park to record a fifth straight win in the National League South.
Steve King’s team selection was, once again, a strong one and included the attack that a majority of teams in the league must surely be starting to fear! Elliott Romain, Darren McQueen and Luke Wanadio have been responding to their manager’s style and have all hit form at the same time.
Together with a tighter defence and solid structure on the pitch, the attacking trio have been terrorising defences recently, and making Princes Park the fortress it deserves to be. Today was no exception, as the Darts took advantage of Oxford City’s weaknesses and punished them where it hurt the most.
Two new faces were also announced and included on the Dartford substitutes bench, as the squad continues to be developed. These were former Gillingham, Cork City and Hemel Hempstead striker,
Liam Nash, and former Macclesfield, Cheltenham, Welling United and Hemel Hempstead defender Craig Braham-Barrett.
The game began in a rather scrappy manner, with Dartford creating the only real opportunity in the fourth minute. A nice through-ball from Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong found McQueen in a dangerous area. His flicked cross flashed across the face of goal with nobody able to get to the ball in time.
Referee Daniel Lamport stopped play soon after, as a nasty clash of heads between Romain and Finn Tapp left the Oxford City defender requiring lengthy treatment. With play stopped for more than ten minutes, the Oxford number 18 was obviously in a very bad way and soon left the field via a stretcher to the sounds of a sporting applause. It obviously goes without saying that everyone involved wishes Tapp a speedy recovery.
With Tapp’s replacement, Tarik Moore-Azille, now on the field and both sets of players sufficiently warmed up, the referee resumed play. And within two minutes Dartford created their second opportunity, as Romain played through McQueen, who saw his effort blocked by the defence. After
that, proceedings became a little scrappy as both sides tried to settle down, meaning that the next real effort on goal didn’t arrive until the 33rd minute and, ironically, was created from an Oxford City corner after a poor back-pass by Berkeley-Agyepong. Ajhaji Sesay caught the corner and sent a
wonderful ball out towards McQueen, who controlled it with ease before firing towards goal. Unfortunately, the effort flew over Max Harris’ crossbar and out to safety.
The next ten minutes saw both sides create opportunities, yet it was the Darts who eventually took the lead when McQueen was brought down in the penalty area as we reached the 45th minute. The referee awarded a penalty and it was McQueen himself who took it, sending the ball low and past Harris’ right. With twelve additional minutes to play due to the earlier pause in play, the hosts set about finishing the half strongly, and with nine additional minutes played, Berkeley-Agyepong hit the visitors with the goal of the game. It came from a break down the right wing with Wanadio receiving the ball and driving forward. Getting into the danger area, he slipped a perfect pass into the path of Berkeley-Agyepong, who struck the ball brilliantly, sending it smashing into the top corner.
The second half began rather evenly, with neither team willing to compromise. A few openings were created, but both defences held firm, until the 58th minute…! Once again, it was the hosts who got the breakthrough to finish the game off. After an excellent interception by Sanchez Ming, Billy Crook received the ball in midfield and sent a beautiful long pass towards Wanadio out on the right. The Dartford number eleven drove forward, cut inside and fired beyond the hapless Harris to extend the lead to 3-0.
Three should have become four in the 64th minute, when more quality football from the Darts was deserving of a reward. A neat one-two between Berkeley-Agyepong and Tyrique Hyde resulted in the latter playing Wanadio in. Unfortunately, Wanadio’s shot across the goal from a wide angle whistled wide of Harris’ post.
With the hosts comfortably in control, Steve King took the opportunity to bring on some fresh legs
as, first Charlie Sheringham replaced Romain (70), then Liam Nash made his debut by replacing
McQueen (74). In between the changes, Sheringham came close to netting a fourth goal, but just
couldn’t get on the end of another sizzling cross from Wanadio. Then a few minutes later, Wanadio
was at it again, as he passed to Sheringham, who then chipped the ball towards Josh Hill.
Unfortunately, the big defender was unable to direct his header towards goal.
A minute earlier, a relatively untroubled Sesay made an excellent catch after an Oxford City attack resulted with a cross into his box. This appeared to spur the visitors on, as they tried in vain to get back into the game. But, even the introduction of a fresh Nana Owusu (for Elliot Benyon with nine
minutes remaining) had little effect, as the Darts were organised and determined to maintain the clean sheet.
Ky Marsh-Brown came on for the excellent Berkeley-Agyepong in the 86th minute, and Dartford slowed the game down, frustrating the visitors. As the final whistle blew, a huge cheer erupted from the 1,116 supporters after having witnessed another excellent performance from the Darts. Luke
Wanadio was a deserving recipient of the Man of The Match award, as he contributed towards a fifth consecutive win and was a constant thorn in Oxford’s side. Alhaji Sesay can also be proud, as he collected his fourth clean sheet in five games to help steer the Darts into the playoff positions.
DARTFORD: Sesay, Ming, Arnold, Crook, Hill, Bonner ©, Berkeley-Agyepong, Hyde, Romain, McQueen, Wanadio.
SUBSTITUTES: Nash, Marsh-Brown, Sheringham, Braham-Barrett, Vint.
OXFORD CITY: Harris, Tapp, Oastler, Jefford, Berkoe, Lofthouse, Fleet, George, McEachran, Gordon, Benyon.
SUBSTITUTES: Brown, Jones, Moore-Azille, Owusu, Wiltshire.