Dartford came from behind twice to earn a hard-fought draw at rivals Welling United, as second-half goals from Charlie Sheringham and Malachi Napa ensured that the points were shared at Park View Road.
The first forty-five was a frustrating one for Dartford, as Welling rushed out of the blocks with confidence. Such was the Wings’ high press that Tom Bonner had to rally his troops to defend strongly for long periods.
Yet, despite earning their first corner within four minutes, it took until the 12th minute for the hosts to test goalkeeper Dan Wilks. Kodi Lyons-Foster was the man to register the first attempt on target, when his header from a corner was saved by the Dartford number one.
The goalkeeper was then called into action seconds later when a failed attempt to clear the danger resulted with Taylor Maloney’s long-range drive also being saved by Wilks.
As tempers began to flair, we saw the first yellow cards of the game be given by referee Mr Stephan Parkinson. First to go into his book was Welling’s Stefan Payne (14), before Jack Smith also saw yellow after he was late on Maloney (16).
The hosts came close once again before the game was halted due a medical emergency in one of the stands. First-half troublemaker Medy Elito was causing problems on the Welling left-flank, and it was his effort that was eventually cleared off the line by the Dartford defence (17).
The Wings came close again via Ade Azeez, after he’d got on the end of Aaron Powell’s cross, but could only watch as his header smacked off of Dan Wilks’ upright in the 30th minute.
Having soaked up a majority of the pressure, the visitors did manage to venture forward and came close themselves via Connor Essam. Unfortunately, the defender couldn’t quite find the target with an acrobatic kick (36). But, just as the Darts looked to be growing into the game, they found themselves behind…
The goal arrived in the 43rd minute and, to be honest, it was a peach of a goal too. Having won a corner, Taylor Maloney found Stefan Payne, who then sent the ball into the path of George Alexander. The latter connected beautifully with a bicycle kick to fire the hosts into the lead right before the break.
Dartford re-entered the pitch fired up for the second-half, and they didn’t have to wait too long before they found the back of the net themselves. A brilliant attacking move saw Kodi Lyons-Foster forced into making the block, but the ball found Charlie Sheringham, who fired in the rebound to pull his side level (53).
Samir Carruthers came close three minutes later, but the talismanic midfielder couldn’t keep his effort down and, three minutes after that saw the pendulum swing back into the Wings’ favour.
A swift attack saw Ade Azeez beat the offside trap and, with only Dan Wilks to beat, the ex-Dartford striker smashed the ball in off the crossbar. There were serious doubts as to whether the ball actually crossed the line, but Mr Parkinson gave the goal regardless, much to the anger of many Dartford players (59)!
Two minutes previous to the hosts retaking the lead, Alan Dowson had made his first substitution of the afternoon. That moment had seen Malachi Napa come on to replace Jamar Loza in the 57th minute. Dartford’s other changes in personnel would see Luke Allen replace Jack Smith (70) and Pierre Fonkeu coming on for Luke Coulson (78).
Meanwhile, in the opposite dugout, Welling would replace George Alexander with Dylan Gavin (69) and Amadou Kassarate came on Ade Azeez (87).
As we return to the action, and with the game precariously poised, a great Welling attack found Gavin inside the Dartford box, only for a superb Tom Bonner challenge prevent the substitute from scoring what looked like a certain goal (76)!
It appeared that the tide had turned more towards the visitors from then on, as they searched for the equaliser. And, as they pressed forward with intent, a superb piece of play was rewarded in the 82nd minute. Samir Carruthers ripped open the Welling defence with a terrific ball, and Malachi Napa capped the move off with a delightful strike which curled into the far corner, leaving Myles Roberts with no chance!
From that point on, the Darts were in full control as they set about nicking all three points. They came close once again when Carruthers found Pierre Fonkeu, but the substitute couldn’t quite find the target on this occasion (90+1) and the points were shared in the end.
The result has put to bed Dartford’s two-game losing streak, and sees them maintain second position in the National League South table.
WELLING UNITED: Myles Roberts, Robert Howard, Medy Elito, Kodi Lyons-Foster, Ade Azeez, Stefan Payne, James Dunne (c), Jamie Sendles-White, Taylor Maloney, Aaron Powell, George Alexander.
SUBSTITUTES: Manny Parry, Kyrell Lisbie, Dylan Gavin, Amadou Kassarate, Kai McKenzie-Lyle.
DARTFORD: Dan Wilks, Jordan Wynter, Samir Carruthers, Connor Essam, Tom Bonner (c), Luke Coulson, Jamar Loza, Maxwell Statham, Jack Smith, Charlie Sheringham, Jernade Meade.
SUBSTITUTES: Kristian Campbell, Luke Allen, Keiran Murtagh, Pierre Fonkeu, Malachi Napa.
By Chris Palmer