Due to severe weather conditions, Dartford haven’t played any football for two weeks, so could be forgiven if they were a little rusty as they hosted Eastbourne Borough on a windy Saturday afternoon at Princes Park.
Having suffered defeat to Hampton & Richmond Borough last time out, Dartford walked out onto the pitch with the intention of getting back to winning ways against the Sports. That intention was
clear, as Steve King made several changes to his starting eleven, which included two new signings in midfield, who were joined by the returning Lee Noble.
The first of these new arrivals was twenty-two year old Afghanistan International Noor Husin. The midfielder brings a wealth of experience to the Darts, despite his young age, having made appearances for Crystal Palace, Reading, Notts County and Stevenage Borough. He was accompanied by fellow midfielder Jack Jebb. The former Welling and Wealdstone player is 24 years old, and will surely add something extra to Steve King’s side, as they push to solidify their position in the playoff places.
Two set-pieces saw Dartford secure a fourteenth league win of the season, as they dug deep to complete a hard-fought double over a stubborn Eastbourne side in front of 1,086 supporters.
A scrappy start saw few clear-cut opportunities created by either side, nor were the goalkeepers seriously tested during the opening exchanges. Yet, with both teams trying to gain control of the ball in the blustery conditions, it was the hosts who created an opportunity for Liam Nash to get on the end of. Unfortunately, his rather weak effort was collected comfortably by a scrambling Franco Ravizzoli.
As the 18th minute approached, the visitors got themselves into a positive position, but superb defending from Josh Hill and Tom Bonner cleared the danger. This seemed to spark Dartford into life, as they began to roam forward with more assertiveness, stringing some good passes together.
Five minutes later saw a great break forward, as the Darts attacked with pace, only for Luke Wanadio to be caught by an opposition player. Referee, Wayne Cartmel, awarded the free-kick which was approximately 20 yards from goal, and both Jack Jebb and Liam Nash stood over the ball. It was the debutant who stepped up and struck the ball beautifully with his right foot, sending it screaming into the top corner! Ravizzoli didn’t stand a chance, as he witnessed Jebb give his new team the lead.
The 29th minute saw Eastbourne equalise somewhat fortunately, after a hopeful long-ball over the top found Gregory Luer get through on the Dartford right. Alhaji Sesay rushed out, thinking he could reach the ball first, only to enable Luer to slip it passed and into an empty net.
After those few minutes of madness, things went a little flat on the pitch with neither side able to keep the ball. However, another long-ball over the top caught the Darts unawares in the 34th minute, forcing Sesay to make the save. The Dartford goalkeeper was at it again six minutes later, as he comfortably collected an Eastbourne header.
It’s fair to say that Steve King’s team needed another spark to get going as half-time approached.
However, a yellow card for Lee Noble after his late challenge, before the aforementioned attack on Sesay’s goal, wasn’t what the Dartford manager had in mind! In fact, Noble would be the first player to be substituted by Mr King, as he was replaced by Jordan Wynter in the 47th minute.
As the wind increased and the floodlights came on, play began to get more physical between both sides, and so the inevitable occurred as we approached the 53rd minute. Nash took the throw after the ball had gone out of play, McQueen received it in the danger area, and an Eastbourne defender brought him down. Mr Cartmel awarded the penalty, and the Dartford number ten placed the ball beyond Ravizzoli to put the hosts back in front.
That’s how the score would remain, as both sides continued to struggle with keeping possession in the difficult conditions. That’s not to say that chances weren’t created, however. Wanadio’s terrific cross in the 64th deserved a goal, if only Nash could have reached the ball. Jebb’s free kick in the
74th could have seen the hosts stretch their lead, if only Josh Hill’s header had more power.
With time running out, the visitors tried to increase the pressure upon the Darts, as they searched desperately to level the score. Yet, their efforts were in vain and the closest they came was when a shot on Sesay’s goal ricocheted off another Eastbourne player and over the bar in the 86th minute.
Meanwhile, Dartford made their allocated substitutions, with Armit Bansal-McNulty replacing Liam Nash (75) and Billy Crook coming on for the excellent Jack Jebb (82), who was awarded the Man of The Match award, making his debut one for the history books.
The last opportunity fell to the hosts after the referee awarded a free-kick on the edge of Ravizzoli’s area deep into stoppage time. Up stepped Husin, but his powerful strike was always rising as it flew inches over the bar. Shortly after, the final whistle blew and Dartford completed a hard-fought
double over the Sports and pulled to within a point of sixth place, with a game in hand.
DARTFORD: Sesay, Arnold, Braham-Barrett, Noble, Hill, Bonner ©, Jebb, Husin, Nash, McQueen, Wanadio.
SUBSTITUTES: Vint, Crook, McGregor, Bansal-McNulty, Wynter.
EASTBOURNE BOROUGH: Ravizzoli, Rowling, Domi, Wills, James, Cox, Luer, Skinner, Ferry, Hansen, Gayle.
SUBSTITUTES: Khindfa-John, West, Gbolauan, Hadler, Gravata.