Dartford hosted Chelmsford City at Princes Park on a mild March afternoon under difficult circumstances, after the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus.
With the government cancelling sporting events left, right and center, Chelmsford City probably wished this fixture had been cancelled as well, after being demolished by a rampant Dartford side.
The fact that the final scoreline was 3-0 doesn’t paint a true picture of play across the full ninety minutes because, Steve King’s Darts could have netted six or seven goals in a dominant display, which saw them finish the day cemented in sixth place, just four points behind fifth with a game in hand.
With the Dartford section of the 1,486 supporters in full voice, midfielder Billy Crook forced goalkeeper Lauren Walker into a good save within five minutes of the start, as the hosts made their intentions clear. Another opportunity would materialise eight minutes later when Josh Hill found
space behind the defence and received a superb ball from Jack Jebb. Unfortunately, Hill’s effort somehow crept over the bar from just two yards!
Another opportunity was created a minute later, as Darren McQueen’s piledriver stung the palm of Walker, and the goalkeeper managed to direct the shot onto the outside of the post. As the game began to settle in the midfield, the visitors tried to create openings, but were met by a resolute Tom Bonner and Co. A good move was charged down by an impressive tackle from Crook, only for referee Michael Ryan to deem it a foul! Mr Ryan then handed yellow cards to both Craig Braham-Barrett and Anthony Church for their reactions to his decision.
Soon after, the hosts began to grow in confidence and assert their authority on the game, as they piled on the pressure. Such pressure culminated in another excellent goal-scoring opportunity after an exciting break along the Dartford right flank in the 26th minute. Liam Nash controlled the ball well before drilling it across the box where Elliott Romain and McQueen were arriving. The latter reached it first, only to send his effort over the bar from close range.
Four minutes later saw Hill manage to get his head onto another good ball from Jebb, only to see it smack the crossbar. As we reached the 33rd minute, you could forgive the hosts for beginning to think that it wasn’t going to be their day, after another terrific effort from Nash saw Walker make the save and send the ball around his post!
However, the Darts finally got the deserved breakthrough with four minutes of the half remaining.
The outstanding Jebb set up Hill with another excellent ball, and the big defender headed it home to the relief of the Dartford faithful.
If that wasn’t enough, the lead was doubled at the start of first-half stoppage time, after another good ball was sent in behind the defence. Crook kept on running, collected the ball and found himself one on one with Walker. His strike smacked the post, yet Romain reacted quickest and slotted the ball home.
Chelmsford started the second half strongly, seemingly aided by the introduction of Sam Higgins, who replaced Leroy Lita. Higgins managed to breach the Dartford defence, yet his effort came off Mark Smith’s upright in the 49th minute. However, any hope that effort had of igniting any comeback from the visitors was extinguished three minutes later, when the hosts scored a third goal.
And what a goal it was! Noor Husin played a fabulous one two with Jebb, with the former receiving the ball back. Husin took a touch into the danger area and then sent a superb strike beyond Walker to score his first goal for the Darts.
With his team in full control, Steve King was forced into a substitution when Crook pulled up with a suspected hamstring injury in the 56th minute. Sanchez Ming came on and took his place at right-back, while Jordan Wynter moved into midfield.
As Crook limped towards the dugout to applause and chants of his name, his teammates were enjoying themselves on the pitch. With a comfortable lead and an opponent offering very little, the Darts played with confidence and patience, as they passed the ball well when in possession. A second change in personnel occurred with less than fifteen minutes remaining, when McQueen was replaced by Ky Marsh-Brown.
Romain should have scored his second of the game after strong pressing resulted in his side winning the ball back. Unfortunately Walker, who was Chelmsford’s best player by far, managed to make the save and deny Romain in what would prove to be the last goal-bound effort of the match.
As Jack Jebb was announced as a deserving Man of The Match, Dartford made their final substitution, as new signing Matthew Briggs came on for his debut. The defender, who was announced before the game, replaced the excellent Husin and helped his new teammates close out the game.
DARTFORD: Smith, Wynter, Braham-Barrett, Crook, Hill, Bonner ©, Husin, Jebb, Romain, McQueen, Nash.
SUBSTITUTES: Ming, Sesay, Vint, Briggs, Marsh-Brown.
CHELMSFORD CITY: Walker, Omozusi, Omolowewe, Ward, Church ©, Muldoon, Isaac, Imray, Wraight, Lita, Jeffers.
SUBSTITUTES: Simpson, Higgins, Shaw, Chidyausiku, Giles.