The battle for honours in the Kent Derby continued, as Dartford travelled to the Gallagher Stadium to face Maidstone United in the Buildbase FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round.
Steve King’s Darts arrived in high spirits after staging a tremendous comeback in the previous encounter, which saw them draw 2-2 after being 2-0 down with six minutes remaining last weekend.
While the Stones have only been defeated once in the league at the Gallagher Stadium, Dartford’s recent away form has been excellent, with six straight wins in all competitions. Such statistics suggested that today’s game would serve up a recipe of terrific football.
And that’s exactly what was served, as Dartford came from behind twice to hold Maidstone to a 2-2 draw and earn a replay at Princes Park, in a thrilling ninety minutes of end-to-end football.
The Darts were quick out of the blocks, as the attacking line-up threatened to overwhelm the Stones’ defence early on. Wanadio was a constant threat on the right wing, as he terrorised the left-back with his quick feet and pace. His efforts should have been rewarded in the fourth minute, but unfortunately Jake Cole in the Maidstone goal wasn’t troubled.
Three minutes later the pacey winger was at it again, as the outstanding Romain broke forward from the midfield and played a terrific through-ball. Wanadio found himself one-on-one with Cole, but shot straight at the goalkeeper. A minute following that moment saw referee Isaac Searle take centre stage, as Dartford had a valid reason for a penalty shout for handball. However, the referee awarded a free-kick outside the box instead!
With the visitors starting brightly, the hosts had to wait for their first real opportunity, and it duly came in the 20th minute. Amaluzor played a dangerous ball into the path of Akanbi, but Smith had already anticipated the move and gathered the ball with ease. The Darts then took the ball straight down the other end in an attack that saw Wanadio receive the ball on the right. He sent a sizzling low cross into the box, but it was too fast for McQueen to control, as he raced in, only to send the ball over the bar from close range.
Maidstone came back into the game in a period where both sides created opportunities, and it was
the Stones who subsequently took the lead in the 37th minute. Wishart picked up the ball on the Maidstone left and struck a beautiful effort which curled into the bottom corner of Smith’s goal. The goal was harsh on the visitors and seemed to deflate them a little, as Maidstone saw out the remainder of the half.
Dartford responded positively in the second half, creating several opportunities in the opening 15 minutes. In the 64th minute, Marsh-Brown sent a peach of a cross into the box and Romain headed it home to bring the score level. Three minutes later saw the excellent Marsh-Brown combine well with McQueen, only for the latter to be fouled on the edge of the penalty area. Up stepped Romain to take the free-kick, only to send it flying over the bar.
With nineteen minutes remaining and Dartford clearly on top, lady luck shone on Maidstone and Amaluzor found himself alone in the box to slot the ball home, thus restoring his side’s lead.
However, a minute later saw Marsh-Brown send a dangerous ball forward, which Bonner won in the air. The Captain’s header looped into the box and fell at the feet of Romain, who smashed it home,
bringing the score level at 2-2.
The remaining minutes saw both teams going at it, as both searched for the winner in a golden goal scenario. The hosts came closest when Embery got the break and shot towards goal. However, the towering Smith was equal to it as he got down to make the crucial save. A minute from time saw Marsh-Brown be rewarded with the game’s only yellow card, as he made the foul to prevent another
An excellent game of football came to an end with nothing to choose between either side. A 2-2 draw results in a replay having to take place at Princes Park on Tuesday evening. Therefore, these two inseparable teams will face each other again for the third game in succession, as the saga of the
Kent Derby continues.
MAIDSTONE UTD: Cole, Hoyte, Marshall, Elokobi ©, James, Akanbi, Amaluzor, Chesmain, Wishart,
SUBSTITUTES: Pennell, Kyei, Edwards, Embery, Lewington, Allen, Johnson.
DARTFORD: Smith, Marsh-Brown, Pugh, Vint, Hill, Bonner ©, Wanadio, Allen, Hayes, Romain,
SUBSTITUTES: Mendy, Sesay, Evans, Walsh, Edmundson, Hawkes.Chambers, Haines.
By Chris Palmer