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MY Most memorable season - Tommy Osborne
MY Most memorable season - Tommy Osborne

Tommy Osborne played for Dartford from 2003-2004 to 2008-2009. He made 258 starts scoring 3 goals

Most memorable season playing for Dartford: Probably the 2008/09 in The Ryman Premier division

Why does season stand out: The squad was full of good characters, there was still a real buzz around Princess Park at the time as it was only the second full season playing there, and we had won promotion the previous season. We was also chasing promotion for a second season running as there was a few teams capable of getting into the playoff places right until the end of the season.

Specific game that stood out and why: It would have to be when we beat Hendon 1-0 at home, and I scored my first goal for the club. The previous week we had lost a penalty shootout in the FA Cup to St Albans, where everybody missed bar Jamie Day and myself. Then Thursday night in training Jamie Day got injured, and we had a few players out injured anyway, so somehow I ended up on penalties for this game, I hadn’t scored a goal for the club in six seasons so we were defiantly scrapping the barrel for penalty takers.   It wasn’t a good game at all to be honest, but James White had got sent off for us in the first half so we were up against a bit and defending for most of the game. Then against the run of play we won a penalty. I missed the penalty with a real poor spot kick but the ref said the keeper came off his line, Haysie was desperately trying to get the ball off me to take the re-kick, but I was determined to at least score one goal for the club, and luckily enough scored the second penalty to my relief and the relief of the boys. I remember getting quite a bit of stick in the bar from the supports after the game, saying they didn’t have  much confidence on my second penalty kick……. And to be honest I didn’t blame them..!!!

Manager at the time: Tony Burman

What it was like working under Tony: I played for Tony for five seasons and enjoyed them all, Tony was always honest with me and that goes a long way in having a good relationship with your manager. I still speak to Tony now about football as I’m on the management side of things with Cray Valley. Last season we reached the FA Vase final with Cray Valley, and Dartford let us use the ground for a practice match the week before we played at Wembely, we’ve also had a chat from time to time over players etc, so it’s nice to still have contact with ex manager’s even after you have left the club.

Who would you say was Dartford’s stand out player that season: I would probably have to say Cody McDonald. He was only with us half a season but took the league by storm, scoring loads of goals. He’s pace and eye for goal made him really stand out and eventually we sold him to Norwich. If he had stayed for the whole season I think we would of made the playoff’s that year. Danny Dafter also was a really consistent player for us that season.

Why we done well that year: Being new to the division expectations may not have been as high as the previous season. We did feel we had a strong enough squad to get in the play off’s this season, so there was an element of disappointment when we missed out by about three points if I remember right, but it was a solid season for our first year in the division.

Do I Still keep in touch with any of the team from this season: I still keep in touch with quite a few of the boys from the squad this season, Tony Kessell is a good friend of mine, I quite regularly speak with Adam Flannagen, and  Alex O’Brian as there are still involved in the game. We recently signed Lee Noble at Cray Valley on loan so he could get some minutes under his belt from his injury. I speak with Paul Sawyer who was the assistant manager to Tony at the time. I also keep in touch with Ryan Hayes.

Anything unusual happen this season: Me somehow ending up on penalties…..!!!

Season 2008/09 Review

For the Darts’ first season in the Ryman Premier League, it was bound to be a challenge. The Darts had not tasted promotion since missing out on the Kent League Championship back in 1995-96 and since then, survival was very much the main aim. Pre-season began with two narrow defeats against league opposition, albeit with “XI” quality teams, in Charlton Athletic and Crystal Palace, losing 0-1 and 0-2 respectively. Despite these two defeats, the pre-season preparation was good and barring two defeats (against Bishops Stortford and Thamesmead Town respectively), the Darts won the remainder of their matches, conceding only one goal in the process.
However, when the league season started things were very different. The first league match was away to Hendon, where the Darts suffered the early sending off of John Guest in their 0-3 defeat at Claremont Road. The Darts were then defeated by Dover Athletic and Hastings United 0-2, leaving Tony Burman in an unenviable position of having played three, and lost three with the team yet to score. However, the first victory was around the corner with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Harlow Town on August Bank Holiday Monday. However, there were further set-backs when Wealdstone visited Princes Park and went away with a point, and then former Dart, Junior Kadi scored an injury time free kick to take all three points for Carshalton Athletic by 2-3.

Tony Burman’s charges only picked up one more point in the next two matches, leaving the Darts sitting perilously with only five points out of a possible twenty-four by the middle of September. As tends to happen, a victory against Hastings United in the FA Cup kick-started a spell of form for the Darts, who went on to win their next two league matches, including a 4-0 victory over Horsham, and a well-needed victory against our old rivals Maidstone United. Other than one league defeat against Margate and a 0-1 defeat at Princes Park against Hampton & Richmond Borough, the Darts would not taste defeat until November.

Dartford strengthened their squad by signing striker Cody McDonald from Maldon Town. In 2007/08, McDonald had excelled in a relegated Witham Town side and had moved to Maldon, but this move did not work out for him, and he joined the Darts. If ever a signing had an effect on the momentum of a side, it was McDonald’s. He slotted in immediately, scoring on his debut against Tooting & Mitcham United, and continued on the goal trail, netting in six matches out of seven, including a hat-trick against Oxford City in a 3-3 draw on a very damp FA Trophy fixture at Princes Park, and continued in the replay by netting twice in the 4-2 victory. Following this victory, however, the Darts’ league form suffered again, losing three consecutive matches, including a very disappointing 1-4 defeat at Tonbridge Angels.

The Darts’ FA Trophy journey came to end over two ties in November of 2008, when following a goal-less draw at Clarence Park against St Albans City, the replay ebbed and flowed. After 120 minutes, there had been nothing settled, largely due to some inspired goalkeeping by City keeper Paul Bastock. The resulting penalty shootout, unfortunately, did not go Dartford’s way with Ryan Hayes’ penalty hitting the post and Steve Butterworth’s penalty ending up somewhere in the lower stratosphere. However, the Dartford team could be proud of their performance against a side in the league above over two matches.

Whatever Burman said to the players in the aftermath of the FA Trophy match, it certainly worked as the Darts then went on to win their next three league matches, including a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Hendon, which included a very special event. Tommy Osborne was making his 233rd starting appearance from the club and he had yet to score in the Black and White in normal match-play. However, a second half penalty was awarded and following a successful spot kick in the recent shoot-out, he was given the responsibility. There was a hush of expectation, but unfortunately Tommy’s initial penalty was saved by the Hendon ‘keeper and the crowd sighed in disbelief. However, the referee had decided that the goalkeeper had encroached before the penalty was taken, and the opportunity had arrived again. Osborne made no mistake on the second opportunity and he had scored his first goal in Dartford colours, prompting a charity pay out of £165 from supporters after an agreement had been struck some years before to donate to a charity of Tommy’s choice on his first goal for the club.
The mini recovery was put on hold for a couple of games with two consecutive defeats away to Kent sides (Bromley in the Kent Senior Cup and Dover Athletic in league action), both 4-2. The Darts bounced back though in a particularly pleasant manner, winning the remaining three games of 2008. All three of these matches were away from home, and saw Cody McDonald bag a hat-trick against Canvey Island, before being sent off for two late bookings in the same match. Tommy Osborne proved that sometimes goals are like buses – another penalty was scored, this time away from home at Carshalton Athletic.

The impressive run of form building up to Christmas continued into the New Year, with the Darts only conceding one goal between the 30th December and the 14th February, and winning four games and drawing the other two out of six. Cody McDonald continued his rich vein of form, scoring a brace against Horsham and against Concord Rangers in the Ryman League Cup. However, his scoring feats came at a price. There was interest coming in from league clubs including Charlton Athletic, Reading and Norwich City. Following a trip to the Norwich training ground with Tony Burman, McDonald signed for the Canaries on an 18-month deal for an undisclosed fee.

Following McDonald’s departure, Dartford were knocked out of the Ryman League Cup by Horsham with a 3-2 defeat after Extra Time. Missing the destructive number of goals from the Norwich-bound striker, Dartford’s form took a dip and only one game was won in the following ten matches (albeit with five draws in this number). The final four games saw Dartford bag twelve goals, with back to back 4-0 wins at Princes Park against Canvey Island and Ramsgate. The final home game of the season also saw the Darts score four, in a 4-2 victory over Ashford Town (Middlesex), followed up by a final 0-0 draw at Boreham Wood.

The Darts had successfully consolidated their position in the Ryman Premier League, and despite a few testing periods, had achieved a top-half finish.