MY MOST MEMORABLE SEASON – Micky Collins

    Micky Collins

    Micky Collins played for Dartford from 1992/93 to 1994 95. He was a Goal scoring striker who scored the first goal for the club in the Kent League.
    Played 60 times (one substitute appearances) scoring 35 goals for the club before moving to Thamesmead Town. Continued playing football and played against the Darts in 2009/10 for Chipstead missing out on a match at Princes Park with injury. Managed Erith and Belvedere to League and Cup
    success in 201 2/13 before leaving the club. He is now the manager of Sevenoaks Town.

    What was your most memorable season in a Dartford shirt?

    The standout season for me was 93-94 having been part of the 92-93 squad that saw the demise of the club, a truly heartbreaking experience. To be part of it reforming was a real honour and our striker coach from that season to become manager Tony Burman asking me to join I jumped at it.

    Was there a specific game that stood out during the season?  and Why?

    The most memorable game was the first of the season away at Deal Town the sun was shining the club was alive again, we took an army of fans who sang their hearts out. To score the winner in a 1-0 win capped a very emotional day for everyone. That was probably my best goal in terms of how much it meant to the history of the club.

    Tony Burman was the manager that season. What was Tony like as a manager? 

    Tony done a fantastic job recruiting experienced players with a lot of youth, he also played himself and I learnt an awful lot from him.

    Who would you say was Dartford’s standout player that season?

    My stand out player was Paul Hennessy the marauding left back with a great left foot especially from set pieces, who assisted quite a lot of my goals.

    Do you still keep in touch with any of the team from that season?

    I still speak to Henno occasionally but don’t see any others from that side, I still speak to Tony and we have a great link between Dartford and my current club (Sevenoaks Town).

    Did anything unusual happen that season that you can share with the fans?

    One of the funny moments of the season was away at Folkestone on a bank holiday the game was played in a hurricane I managed to get a late winner to make it 2-1 if I’m right it was the first time we had won away there as a club. I got showered and changed into club tie and shirt as normal went outside the changing room and Tony and his management team were getting dressed in the hallway as the dressing room was tiny, Tony said to me “go upstairs to the bar and drink every pint the fans offer, you deserve it” I went to the bar and can safely say I don’t remember much of the coach journey home. I really enjoyed playing for the Darts the fans were and still are incredible even when I get the chance to visit Princes Park to watch a game.

    Season 1993/94 season review – From Princes Among Men – The History of Dartford FC

    “THE SEASON WE ALL CAME BACK”

    The pre-season friendlies were approached with eager anticipation and excitement. Even those who would normally ignore the build up to a new season were coming through the gates. What happened though was that an enthusiastic but oh so young squad found itself up against infinitely superior and established sides.
    Early goals conceded in both of the first two games did nothing for anyone’s confidence and Directors were heard to murmur “I hope that they do not take too many pastings early on”. An encouraging aspect, giving hope for the future, was that against both Borehamwood and Bromley, the squad gave a better account of itself in the second halves when 0-3 down from the first 45 minutes. We were prepared to be patient, understanding and forgiving. We were just happy to be alive and kicking.

    More respectable scores came against a very good Furness (0-2), a young Welling side and away at Gravesend, both (0-1). Five games and what was to form the squad for the season was coming together but we needed a goal or two. Something wonderful then happened against landlords Cray Wanderers. First one goal, then another and by the time Graham Briggs hammered in the third in fine style near the end we could have taken on the world. Kent League here we come!!

    Well, at least we may avoid the foot of the table. All this within a few weeks of building a club from scratch.

    With the friendlies out of the way, the serious stuff had to be faced and a long journey down to Deal on a warm summer day was agreeable to the senses but approached with some trepidation from a football sense. There were few tougher opening fixtures for the fledglings. The home side, scorers of 128 league goals in 1992-93 were a stern test and the press cuttings on the wall of the bar covering all their big wins from last season instilled in one a “well the result is not important, the Darts are playing again” attitude. From a large number of trialists in the friendlies, Tony Burman performed enough magic to put together a side that had balance and style and the feeling quickly set in that we really were the better side. It was all too much when Micky Collins scored after ten minutes. The celebrations which followed rivalled past league championships, League Cup wins and the Wembley appearance. Absolutely nothing was going to deny us today. Gary Julians talked his way into an early bath just before half time and in all honesty, we took a terrible pasting in the second half when Gary was sorely missed. However, Deal’s finishing was woeful and the final whistle ended a wonderful day.

    The following Tuesday, a hugely encouraging crowd of 442 including several ground hoppers watched Furness put Darts’ enthusiasm in its place. A last minute Paul Hennessy penalty did not hide the gulf between the two teams. The rest of the month was spent finding our place in the pecking order. To have won as many as we lost including a memorable 3-0 taming of Sheppey at Salters Lane was a satisfactory start.

    If anyone was in any doubt of whether there was any quality in the Kent League, they must have been well and truly convinced by half time at Herne Bay. Managed by ex-Dart Tommy Sampson, Bay had won their first six games and already led the league by two points with a game in hand. Their first half performance left Darts breathlessly chasing shadows and trying to keep the score down. Lucky to be only 0-2 down in the first half, Darts conceded a penalty right on half time. The kick was saved and from then on, to their credit, Darts slowly turned the tide. A more even second half was tipped in our favour when Bay lost forward Andy Ballantyne through injury. An 80th minute goal from Paul Hennessy led to a frantic last ten minutes during which Bay held on to the end of a game in which they had earlier promised a hatful.

    Still finding their feet hereabouts, Darts demonstrated the kind of inconsistency that seemed to afflict all Kent League sides with the exception of Herne Bay. A thumping good 4-0 win at high riding Beckenham, a 0-4 home reverse at the hands of Thamesmead and exit from the Kent League Cup by 1-2 at home to Whitstable left all still wondering which way the season was going to go. In many ways, the following Tuesday’s match at Corinthian mirrored the season’s opener at Deal. A first half Darts goal was followed by finishing from the home side that matched that of Deal’s. A last minute and fiercely disputed Paul Hennessy penalty settled matters. The match finished at 9.50 after the start was delayed owing to Paul Burnham being stranded in a traffic jam on the other side of the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge. Ian Crane was summoned from home and performed well between the sticks in Paul’s place.

    Once or twice a season, there are moments that are immensely satisfying and memorable. The situation of the match, its importance or the mood and atmosphere within the crowd all conspire to produce ‘what the game is all about’ incidents. These all came together on 25 September at Alma Swanley. Against a side that had already amassed 23 goals in 5 home games, Darts gave one of their finest performances of the season such that Alma’s goal came as a criminal injustice. With things looking bleak, a ‘competitive’ Alma found that the referee was not amused by crowd baiting and considered a sending off a suitable punishment. Once the ‘all hell’ that had been let loose in the home ranks had been quietened down, Darts made the extra man count but the home goal bore an amazingly charmed life. Until that is, Peter Ayres smashed in a late equaliser to give us a richly deserved point and that moment to savour. Darts could have won the match after that, but in the end were happy with a point after Alma had gone very close in the final minute.

    Most sides enjoyed at least one good win against Darenth Heathside, but not the Darts. After a narrow home win in August, the away match was there for the taking as Darts were clearly much the better side. It’s goals that count however, and a Darts performance which failed to live up to the sunny weather allowed a 1-0 lead to turn into 1-2 and it needed a late typical Micky Collins effort to secure a point. It was definitely one that got away.

    A useful 2-0 home win in the Kent Senior Trophy against a Chatham side which had left its shooting boots at home, was followed by the type of game Darts needed to win to establish themselves in the leading pack but they disappointed in a 0-0 home draw with Folkestone Invicta.

    A casual first half approach at bottom club Kent Police who were coming off a 0-11 thumping by Furness caused Darts to learn the length of the manager’s tongue. Darts’ lethargic attitude was arrested after the break and it all turned out well with a not particularly satisfying 4-0 win. A tougher encounter was experienced at Faversham where Darts were much the better side in the opening half hour and a rare league goal from Grant Falvey was no more than we deserved.

    Championship winning sides however have consistency and this was a quality for which Darts were still searching. A Town side that had lost four of its last five matches came roaring back and equalised before half time. On the balance of the second half, I think that we would all admit that a final score of 1-1 was a point gained rather than two lost.

    The greatest triumph of the season was that so many Darts fans were able to find Whitstable’s well appointed Belmont ground on a dark wet night. Darts gave another good team performance and a 1-0 win thanks to a Tony Burman rocket, made the journey well worthwhile. An amazing match at Ramsgate saw a comfortable Darts 3-1 lead evaporate into a 3-4 deficit before two late goals swung it back again to a final 5-4 triumph. With the possible exception of Mickey Shovelar’s own goal against Boston in 1974, Garry Julians’ ‘goal of the season’ second half effort at Chatham must be one of the finest individual efforts in the Club’s history. It was all the more memorable because Garry clearly intended what happened whereas Mickey did not. Unfortunately, Chatham had not read the script of another memorable away win and scored twice in the last five minutes. This was our first loss in 10 matches.

    Another ‘competitive’ encounter against Alma Swanley was played out at Oxford Road on New Year’s Day. Falling behind early, Darts were always playing catch up against what was a very capable side. Despite equalising after 50 minutes, we fell behind again and a goal to each side in the last minute still left us just short. A disappointment after the Slade Green result.
    After Alma, we were not quite sure how we ranked against the top sides and an away game with Greenwich Borough brought another challenge. Borough were well placed after winning their last four matches, scoring 17 goals in the process. A wet night and torrential rain during the match brought credit to the home ground staff but little else. Darts coped well with the conditions and led 2-1 at half time although a final score of 2-2 was about right. If the players were swamped by the weather, another excellent turnout by Darts fans completely swamped the home supporters.

    It was a point in the season, with many home games in hand where we were hoping to really consolidate our position. Further home draws with Tunbridge Wells and lowly Corinthian therefore, came as a disappointment. Leading the former 4-1 just after half time, Darts looked to be on for a repeat of Boxing Day. Wells to their credit, did not fold and aided and abetted by two appalling penalty decisions, recovered to 4-4 and in all honesty looked like winning. Feelings ran high in the team at the end of the match and the supporters were stunned.

    Less than sparkling performances at home against Crockenhill and Whitstable still produced four points and 6 goals. Five bookings and a sending off for the Eynsford Road side summed up their approach to the match. Darts’ players spent the second half placing the avoidance of serious injury in front of securing points and were looking vulnerable at 2-1. When Crockenhill made their occasional contacts with the ball, they were looking surprisingly dangerous before folding after the sending off. The 4-1 win was comfortable enough in the end. A week later, Whitstable had the Darts dead and buried until a free kick and a penalty, both from Paul Hennessy in the last nine minutes, transformed the game’s momentum. In the end, Darts were unlucky not to snatch a memorable win but were still looking for consistency at home.

    Away from home it was a different story. A solid team performance brought an immensely satisfying 1-0 win at Thamesmead (their first home league defeat of the season). A 36th minute piece of opportunism by Garry Julians after a characteristically strong run and shot by Alan Tutton did the trick. The solidity evident at Thamesmead followed the team into the home encounter with champions elect Herne Bay. An, at times, dour, tense match on a heavy pitch, gave a slightly disappointing crowd an enthralling afternoon. Although the speed and skill of the visitors’ Andy Ballantyne and Stiggy Meadows gave us some heart stopping moments, Darts were well worth their 0-0 draw against a side of Beazer Homes League standard.
    Alan Tutton followed his goal producing run at Thamesmead, by again proving his value at Slade Green. On an excellent surface, Darts were never seriously challenged and one piece of magic from Alan and a rebound from the far post produced yet another away win. A bright sunny day at leafy Culverden gave Tunbridge Wells and Dartford as good an excuse for good football as any, but Darts were strangely lacking in cohesion in the first 45 minutes. Using the ball well on the ground in contrast to Darts’ first half aerial approach, shoot on sight Wells looked set to follow their draw at Furness with a home victory. Lucky to be level at half time, Darts learnt their lesson and an effective ground game after the interval was rewarded when Micky Collins tackled the home goalkeeper who was trying to cope with a bouncing back pass. Micky found himself in a striker’s dream, the ball at his feet and not a defender in sight. It was now four games without a goal conceded and three consecutive 1-0 away wins.

    More sun and good conditions underfoot accompanied a lively first half Darts performance at home to Faversham. Gary Julians in particular enjoyed life, scoring the first, gaining a penalty by being brought down (scored by Paul Hennessy) and scraping the bar with a lob. Darts were good value for their 2-0 interval lead. The visitors proved to be more of a handful in the second half but the final score of 2-1 was about right. If Darts had one tedious habit, it was that of losing control of comfortable leads over moderate sides at Oxford Road. One can think of Tunbridge Wells, Crockenhill and now Faversham. They repeated the dose when ‘visiting’ Cray on a day when the area suffered two heavy hail storms at lunch time making pitch conditions heavy. Comfortably in control at 2-0, we watched in frustration as Cray reduced the deficit before half time and could easily have grabbed a draw.

    Gales and hail followed us to Folkestone on Easter Monday where Darts’ first goal in a 2-1 win was scored by Paul Hennessy from just inside the Folkestone half. Picking up a clearance from the home goalkeeper, Paul used ‘Hurricane Hilda’ at his back to hit the ball back into an empty net. A defensive mistake gave Invicta a simple equaliser but Micky Collins got the winner amid much celebration after 87 minutes. Darts had won their final 5 away matches.

    When Ramsgate came to call, they had won their last 11 league games with a goals record of 40-9. Darts were however, unbeaten in 12 matches and something was about to give. Gary Julians gave us a tight 1-0 win heading in an absolute peach of a cross by Micky Collins. Four days later after being 2-0 in the lead, we again suffered through some nervous final minutes to hang on to 2-1. This time, the visitors were Greenwich Borough on a windy, freezing cold evening. Still, it made it was 7 wins in a row, all of them by the odd goal.

    In those “could have gone either way” games, it is always vital to take your chances if you want things to go your way. Darts were starting to sniff a top three final position when they came up against in-form second place Chatham at Oxford Road. It certainly could have gone either way and after falling behind early in the second half, Darts created enough chances to have won handsomely. The only fly in the ointment was that they did not take any of them and a second goal for Chatham after 87 minutes as Darts piled men forward, merely rubbed salt into the wounds. The game which ended the 14 match unbeaten run produced more chances than any of the previous 7 consecutive victories, but nevertheless, but the proud records were gone. Darts had a number of penalty appeals turned down, some more justified than others.

    Coming off a 4-3 win at Ramsgate (no mean feat at the time), Beckenham must have fancied their chances. Darts had other ideas and gained a deserved 2-0 win through Paul Sawyer and the ‘Micky Collins cross/Gary Julians goal’ combination again. Six days later, in a hard fought but sporting encounter with Sheppey, Darts had some late deadly finishing from Micky Collins to thank for a 3-1 win in a match we could so easily have lost. If the season came in like a lion at Deal, it went out like a damp squib on a wet afternoon at home to the same side. Darts again led comfortably 2-0 through Micky Collins and Gary Julians only to struggle in the second half. This time, they didn’t quite hold on, Deal scoring a deserved equaliser after 88 minutes after a Dartford penalty was saved at 2-0. Darts were just two minutes from fourth place, but finally finished a very creditable sixth.
    Perhaps a final demonstration of how much everyone enjoyed the season was the continuing healthy attendance figures during the closing weeks of the season despite 6.00 and 12.00 o’clock kick offs, competition provided by the Grand National and rain on the final day.