Dartford’s first ever encounter with Dorking Wanderers saw the return of former manager Tony Burman. The legendary gentleman took his place in the Darts’ dugout as Interim Manager, until a suitable replacement for the departed Adam and Jamie is found.
Tony’s first task was to get a positive response from the players after the defeat away at Tonbridge last time out. With three points being vital this afternoon, a shuffle in the starting eleven was evident. Mark Smith remained in goal, as he stood behind a defensive line that included Ronnie Vint, Josh Hill, Jordan Wynter and Alex Flisher. The midfield was unchanged, with Lee Noble and Luke Allen, while Ryan Hayes and Ben Greenhalgh ran the flanks. The attack consisted of two big guns in
Charlie Sheringham and Adam Cunnington. On the bench sat Jay Bacon, Darren McQueen, Cameron Brodie, Rob Howard and Norman Wabo.
A positive response is exactly what Tony got, as his players played their part in an exhilarating seven goal thriller at Princes Park. Unfortunately, it was the visitors who scored four of those seven goals, and left the Darts with just one win in ten outings.
The hosts made their intentions clear straight from the whistle, as they played with an air of urgency and attacking football. They should have taken the lead in the 3rd minute when Hayes passed to Noble, who then whipped in a dangerous cross. Unfortunately, Cunnington’s header went wide of Ryan Sandford’s post. Seven minutes later, another good move resulted in Noble picking up the ball and the midfield dynamo pulled the trigger, unleashing a piledriver towards goal, which went straight into Sandford’s arms. Then it was Greenhalgh’s turn, as he unleashed a 25-yarder, which flew wide of the post.
For all the Darts’ efforts, it was the visitors who took the lead in the 12th minute with a goal of some beauty. A quick counter-attack resulted in Niall McManus picking up the ball and firing a 25-yard curling shot, which found the top corner. Dartford hit back and continued to press forward for an
equaliser, which eventually arrived in the 23rd minute, as Greenhalgh’s shot from inside the D found its way through and into the bottom corner. Four minutes later, the Dartford number 11 was at it again, as he just managed to turn and get enough on the ball to slide it home.
At 2-1 the hosts were on top, pressing high up the pitch and searching for the third goal. In the 38th minute, Sheringham and Cunnington combined, with the latter heading the ball into the box and causing a heart-stopping moment for a Dorking defender, who nearly put it into his own net.
Unfortunately, Sandford managed to get hold of the ball. Then, in stoppage time at the end of the half referee Tom Bishop decided that Wynter had bundled over his man, and awarded Wanderers a penalty. Up stepped Jason Prior to fire in the equaliser.
Dartford came out in the second half like a wounded animal and attacked with added venom. Sheringham sent a great ball into the box two minutes in, only to see Cunnington’s diving header fly wide. A minute later Greenhalgh almost had his hat-trick, but Sandford managed to palm his
left-footed effort away to safety.
The Darts played some great football during this period, as they threw men forward in search of a third goal, and it finally arrived in the 59th minute. Some magical football from Hayes saw him send in a beautiful ball, which Sheringham met perfectly. His header flew into the net and he duly
celebrated his second goal of the season.
Just after the hour, Cunnington was replaced by McQueen, then three minutes later Greenhalgh was unlucky not to score. The ball refused to settle at his feet after falling into the box, and another opportunity for his hat-trick was gone.
Eleven minutes from time saw more great football, as McQueen passed to Greenhalgh, who spotted Hayes and laid off the ball. Unfortunately Hayes’
effort went over the top. That was the last of Greenhalgh’s excellent afternoon, as he was replaced by Brodie.
Six minutes from time saw the game swing in Dorking’s favour, as the referee awarded the visitors a free kick on the edge of the Dartford box. Giuseppe Sole took the free kick, which looped over Smith and into the back of the net.
Then the referee took centre stage again, as he bizarrely sent off Noble
for a late challenge to the shock of everyone in the Dartford dugout and stadium. Literally seconds later, with neither side settling for a point, Dorking took the ball down the Dartford right, sent in a dangerous cross and James McShane was there to head it in, turning the game on its
head. Tony responded by bringing on Wabo for Flisher, and the move almost paid off in stoppage time when the striker’s effort curled wide of the post.
But it just wasn’t to be today. The Darts ended up on the wrong side of a seven goal thriller in front of 897 supporters.
Flisher was given the Man of The Match award, yet surely Greenhalgh, Sheringham and a few others might contest that, as every player responded positively and Dartford were unlucky to lose this match.