Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong came off the bench to score a brace, as he helped Dartford come from behind to secure their first ever victory at Bulpit Lane against a strong Hungerford Town.
The hosts took the lead just after the half-hour of a tight first-half, after referee Dale Whitton, who was determined to offer no leniency throughout, awarded a penalty for a Gavin McCallum challenge. The Dartford left-back was left with little option than to make the challenge, which was fifty-fifty at best, to prevent a strike on Ethan Wady’s goal. However, Mr Whitton deemed McCallum’s challenge as unfair and awarded the penalty. Ryan Seager took on the responsibility and managed to squeeze his strike under the outstretched hand of a diving Wady to give the hosts the lead.
Apart from the penalty, Wady wouldn’t be challenged seriously throughout the game, as he stood behind the strong defence of Connor Essam and Tom Bonner. Mr Whitton, on the other hand, would dish out more yellow cards than there were shots on target during the ninety minutes! Starting with Jordan Winter as early as the second minute, the referee’s tally would add up thusly: Callum Willmoth (18), Harrison Bayley (26), Craig Fasanmade (45+2), Matt Partridge (78), Chris Dickson (81), Josh Hill (86), Curtis Angell (90), and Noor Husin (90+4).
The visitors were on top for a majority of the first forty-five, but clear-cut goalscoring opportunities were few due to a stubborn and resolute Hungerford defence. In fact, their first shot on target didn’t materialise until the 21st minute, after good work from Jack Jebb had set up Chris Dickson perfectly. Unfortunately, the striker could only watch as his effort went straight into goalkeeper Luke Cairney’s arms.
There were a few more opportunities, but the Darts were unable to make them count, as first Jebb’s delightfully chipped ball into the box found Cairney before anybody else (24), and then a free-kick, won by Jack Barham, was whipped into the box by Jebb. The ball reached the leaping Connor Essam, but he was unable to direct his free header towards the Hungerford goal.
Meanwhile, at the other end, the only real threat came from Ryan Seager. But, such was the dominance and positioning of Tom Bonner and Co, even he had to resort to long-range efforts, the closest of which flew wide of Wady’s post in the twelfth minute.
The Darts got the second-half underway and were looking more positive going forward, as they searched for an equaliser. Steve King decided to shuffle his squad early, as he replaced Jazzi Barnum-Bobb with Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong (52) and Jack Barham with Alfie Pavey (55).
The pair made an immediate impact and the visitors were deservedly level seven minutes later. Jack Jebb sent a dangerous free-kick into the Hungerford box, Alfie Pavey won the ball, knocking it down towards Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong, who smashed the ball into the back of the net to score his second goal of the season.
The midfielder scored his and Dartford’s second of the afternoon with a contender for goal of the season as we approached the 77th minute. Collecting the ball from a Dartford throw, the midfielder
then drove into the middle of the pitch, before sending a delicious left-footed low drive beyond the hapless Cairney.
As far as Hungerford were concerned, they just couldn’t gain control of the game, such was the brilliance of the visitor’s pressing play. The longer the game went on, the more frustrated the hosts became. In fact, when they did manage to get into a good crossing position, a defensive brick wall awaited them, such as Connor Essam’s superb diving header to intercept a long-range strike from substitute Kyle Tooze in the 74th minute. And to add to their frustrations, Steve King put a third defender into that wall when he sent on Josh Hill to replace Ky Marsh-Brown to ensure his team secured the points (82).
And so Dartford finally came away from West Berkshire with a well-earned victory, as their excellent form on the road continues. The result means that Tom Bonner and Co head into December sitting at the peak of the National League South table.
HUNGERFORD TOWN: Luke Cairney, Louis McGrory, Curtis Angell, Keith Emmerson, James Rusby ©, Callum Willmoth, Ryan Seager, Craig Fasanmade, Harrison Bayley, Matt Berry-Hargreaves, Rhys Tyler.
SUBSTITUTES: Matt Partridge, James Harding, Kyle Tooze, Jordan Edwards, Luke Hopper.
DARTFORD: Ethan Wady, Jazzi Barnum-Bobb, Gavin McCallum, Jordan Wynter, Connor Essam, Tom Bonner ©, Jack Jebb, Ky Marsh-Brown, Chris Dickson, Jack Barham, Noor Husin.
SUBSTITUTES: Alfie Pavey, Luke Allen, Moussa Bakayoko, Josh Hill, Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong.