9 goal thriller sees Dartford Women go through to second cup final. Three weeks of cancelled games due to the weather preceded this League Cup semi-final tie on Sunday 23rd February for Dartford Women against Ashford (Middlesex) Ladies.
Ashford sit higher in the league table than the Darts and Dartford were missing several first team players due to injuries. It was great therefore to see some old faces back in the team who were called on to help out.
The weather looked set to impact the game with rain at kick off at Princes Park and high, blustering winds which Dartford chose to play against in the first half. Within 5 minutes the visitors took the advantage and then soon went 2-0 up whilst Dartford were still trying to get organised. Dartford settled and managed to start shifting the pressure with some great cross-field balls from Shauni Griffiths to Emily Read, who was peppering the box with crosses. It wasn’t long before Rachel Stevens got on the end of one to set up Caitlin Hirst who rattled the ball straight into the roof of the net. 2-1 and game on.
However, the visitors had other plans and replied quickly. They scored from a corner after some scrappy defending and the Darts went into half time 3-1 down. All change after the break for Ashford making several subs including their keeper. But Dartford came out firing on all cylinders. They took immediate advantage of having the wind behind them. An overhead kick from Alicia Gibbs played in Caitlin Hirst who slotted into the bottom corner for her second.
Dartford piled on the pressure keeping Ashford in their half and several chances narrowly went wide for the Darts. They were then caught on the counter-attack and Ashford got themselves back to two goals clear at 4-2.
With 20 minutes left to play, there was still plenty of time for a comeback and Verity Snow-Burgess provided just that. Dartford had continued to press and Snow-Burgess fired home with a header from a Read corner. It was 4-3. Adele Keech was brought on in time for a Dartford free-kick just inside Ashford’s half. Keech lofted the ball into the box where Griffiths had made a perfectly timed run to glance the ball with her head over the outstretched keeper. The Dartford supporters went wild and started to wonder if this could be going to extra time. 4-4 and the ref signalled 5 minutes left to play. The Darts didn’t stop there.
They battled and chased down every ball showing real determination to see this through with some brilliant defensive performances. It was going to be a nail-biting finish for the loyal Dartford fans who were out in force again to watch despite the weather! Dartford then forced another corner. The ball was whipped in and Rachel Stevens won the goal line battle to hammer home the winner. The fans’ and players’ perseverance had paid off.
Dartford held on during a tense final three minutes. They’re now through to their second Cup Final of the season following their Kent Cup semi-final victory over Gillingham Ladies in January. Unbeaten in the last six games, Dartford go back into League action next weekend at home against Eastbourne and have a very exciting end to the season ahead.
Photo Kent Event Photos / Steve Young