Dartford were unfortunate to leave Clarence Park with nothing, after putting in an excellent effort in extreme weather conditions.
With more than 1,500 supporters enjoying the sunshine, things on the pitch proved to be far more challenging, as both sets of players struggled to cope with the excessive heat.
But, with a five-minute water break during each half, a game of football was indeed played… albeit a tight one.
The Saints started the brighter of the two sides, as an injury-ravaged Dartford took a little bit of time getting used to a different formation. And, it was the hosts who created the first opportunity in only the second minute… Gio Rasulo’s deep cross intended for Michael Clark almost catching out Mitchell Beeney at his far post, only to drop narrowly wide instead.
The Darts responded well and earned their first corner of the afternoon seven minutes later, which Archie Woods sent into the St Albans box. Moussa Diarra reached it first, but his header was cleared in the nick of time (9).
With conditions clearly taking their toll, referee Mr Harry Jones stopped play in the 25th minute to allow for a drinks break. The stoppage worked, as the hosts became more adventurous going forward. Only a superb interception by Moussa Diarra prevented Rasulo’s pass from reaching Jack James, who had made an excellent run into the danger area (32).
Gio Rasulo was certainly causing a few problems for the visitors, and he thought he’d scored three minutes later, only for the goal to be ruled out for offside (35).
The Darts soon came alive in the final third themselves shortly afterwards, as the excellent Baris Altintop found Tyrell Miller-Rodney with a delightful cross, which was flicked narrowly wide of Michael Johnson’s upright by the latter (38).
Then, deep into stoppage time at the end of the half, the Darts were extremely unlucky to have not edged themselves in front. And Lewis Manor was at the centre of the action…
First he got on the end of Archie Woods’ corner, only to see his powerful header smack back off the St Albans crossbar (45+4). Seconds later, he was found once again inside the opposition’s box, but failed to find the target on this occasion (45+5).
The visitors started the second-half on the front-foot, but once again Lady Luck deserted them, as Michael Johnson pulled off a superb save to prevent Harvey Bradbury from giving his side a deserved lead (48).
Five minutes later saw the goalkeeper at it again, as he was quick off the mark to thwart Baris Altintop (53), before the hosts got their noses in front.
And, it was Gio Rasulo who provided the killer pass which saw Mitchell Weiss through the Dartford defence. With just the goalkeeper to beat, the Saint made no mistake to open the scoring (57).
The Darts responded well once again and a mix-up should have been duly punished. Sam Brown caused confusion when his back pass to Johnson was too short. Harvey Bradbury nicked the ball and, with the goalkeeper in no-man’s land, sent a delightful thirty-yard strike towards goal… only to see the ball smack back off the crossbar… again (67)!
That action was then followed by another five-minute water break in the 70th minute, before Alan Dowson made his first substitution of the afternoon. Charlie Sheringham was the player to come on, as Tyrell Miller-Rodney came off (81). That was soon followed by Luke Coulson replacing Sam Odaudu (83), as the Darts chased an equaliser.
However, it was the hosts who managed to create the best opportunity to score during the closing stages, and Rasulo was involved once again. Only on this occasion, he was the grateful recipient of a terrific pass by Ben Wyatt which sent him through on goal. One-on-one with Mitchell Beeney, it was the Dartford goalkeeper who won this battle with a fine save to keep the deficit at one (90+4).
Yet, the hosts held on to close out the game and seal the points. As for Alan Dowson and the Darts? They can all be proud of their performance under difficult circumstances in a game that could of swung either way. Perhaps with a little bit of luck, the result may have been completely different.
ST ALBANS CITY: Michael Johnson, Jack James, Sam Brown, Ben Smith, Michael Clark, Ryan Blackman (c), Gio Rasulo, Mitchell Weiss, Andronicos Georgiou, Nathan Carlyle, Ben Wyatt.
SUBSTITUTES: Dan Bowry, Shaun Jeffers, Bobby Dunn, Dylan Fage, Olu Lawal.
DARTFORD: Mitchell Beeney, Moussa Diarra, James Golding, Joash Nembhard (c), Sam Odaudu, Baris Altintop, Jordan Wynter, Tyrell Miller-Rodney, Archie Woods, Harvey Bradbury, Lewis Manor.
SUBSTITUTES: George Whitefield, Charlie Sheringham, Tom Wray, Luke Coulson, Marvin Herschel.