Midfielder Jack Smith’s first-half strike was enough, as Dartford earned a hard-fought point at St Albans City to stretch their unbeaten league run to seven games.
This was a game of two-halves in every sense of the word, as both sides battled it out on a beautiful October afternoon at the Mozzarella Fellas Stadium at Clarence Park in front of 1,314 supporters.
The first forty-five saw a high-tempo attacking game, as both protagonists searched for the opening goal. However, proceedings were halted after just four minutes to enable Dartford’s Tom Bonner to receive treatment. The Skipper had inadvertently put his body on the line to block the ball… with his face!
As play resumed, it was the Saints who almost drew first blood after Shaun Jeffers forced Joe Young into making a fine save after seven minutes. Both Jeffers and Tafari Moore were proving to be a threat in particular during the opening exchanges, as was Dartford’s lively Marvin Herschel at the other end.
With the youngster causing all sorts of problems on the right-flank, the visitors began to push their opponents back and, having forced a couple of quick corners, came close in the eighteenth minute.
An attack involving (you guessed it) Herschel eventually ended up with Samir Carruthers, who forced goalkeeper Michael Johnson into a good save. After the resulting corner was somewhat cleared, the Darts ventured forward via a lovely combination of Charlie Sheringham and Carruthers. The latter sent an inviting cross across the face of goal, whereby Jack Smith was on hand to tap his first Dartford goal home (19).
The hosts responded immediately via the troublesome Jeffers, who’d got in behind the Dartford defence. However, Joe Young was alert to the situation and rushed off his line to thwart the incoming Saints’ captain (23).
The game was wide open at this point with both sides attacking at will. And, it was the visitors’ turn next as Herschel collected the ball before racing down the right-flank. He then fed the ball to Josh Johnson, who struck a beautiful curling drive towards goal. Only a brilliant save from Michael Johnson prevented the 18-year-old Oxford United loanee from scoring on his Dartford debut (26)!
Three minutes later saw St Albans level the score with another good attack of their own. The move came on their left-flank via the in-form Tafari Moore, who raced forward before seeking out Shaun Jeffers. The striker then managed to equalise with a fine strike of his own which found the bottom corner (29).
The hosts appeared to gain control of the game during the half’s closing few minutes, but the closest they came to turning the game around was when Hugh Dawson received the ball from Moore before firing wide of Joe Young’s upright (33).
The second-half resembled a game of chess rather than football, as neither side were prepared to give an inch. However, it was the visitors who came closest after 51 minutes when a corner caused havoc inside the St Albans box. Several shots rained in in quick succession, but the Saints’ goal somehow remained untouched.
After a relatively quiet period, Alan Dowson was the first to introduce fresh pairs of legs, as Pierre Fonkeu ad Keiran Murtagh replaced Josh Johnson and Marvin Herschel in the 62nd minute. The double change was followed by Alex Wall replacing Charlie Sheringham with fifteen minutes remaining.
Meanwhile in the other dugout, Chris Paul replaced Joe Neal (67) before Hugh Dawson was replaced by Munashe Sundire (77).
Midfield maestro Carruthers came close with an effort late on, but he failed to keep the ball down (86), before Sam Odaudu’s late challenge on Devante Stanley deep into stoppage time earned him a yellow card from referee Mr Michael Robertson-Tant.
The result sees Tom Bonner and Co remain in third place in the National League South table, well in the fight for the promotion positions, as their good form continues.
ST ALBANS: Michael Johnson, Devante Stanley, Kyran Wiltshire, Callum Adebiyi, Michael Clark, Shaun Jeffers (c), Zane Banton, Hugh Dawson, Joy Mukena, Tafari Moore, Joe Neal.
SUBSTITUTES: Chez Isaac, George Morrall, Munashe Sundire, Chris Paul, Ricardo Di Trolio.
DARTFORD: Joe Young, Jordan Wynter, Samir Carruthers, Connor Essam, Tom Bonner (c), Maxwell Statham, Jack Smith, Charlie Sheringham, Sam Odaudu, Marvin Herschel, Josh Johnson.
SUBSTITUTES: Dan Wilks, Alex Wall, Keiran Murtagh, Davide Rodari, Pierre Fonkeu.
By Chris Palmer