Dartford get their National South campaign underway this weekend with an away trip to St Albans City.
Both sides were in strong positions to mount a title challenge when last season was curtailed and expect to be pushing for promotion this time around.
St Albans City will be a perfect test on the opening day for the Darts. Although Dartford were two points better off last term, the Saints lost just once in the fifteen league matches they completed, four games fewer than the Darts.
Yet there is a parallel between this weekend’s opponents. When Steve King took charge of the Darts he turned them into promotion contenders after joining during a relegation battle. Saints manager, Ian Allinson has done the same over the last two years taking his club from a struggle at the bottom to a push for promotion.
Dartford’s last visit to Clarence Park in the 2019/2020 season coincided with St Albans City’s relegation battle and saw the Darts end a four game losing hoodoo. In those previous visits to Hertfordshire, the Darts ended with nothing to show in front of goal firing blanks and picking up no points. However in March 2020, King’s men stopped the rot and came home with all three points in a 2-1 victory. An early penalty scored by Joe Iaciofano meant Dartford had to come from behind and they obliged with goals from Liam Nash and a Darren McQueen spot kick.
Last season there was only enough time to meet the once at Princes Park, a stunning goal from Shaun Jeffers was enough to earn the Saints a single goal victory.
The Darts have warmed up for this season with some decent results against Football League sides. One goal defeats at the hands of Ipswich Town and Charlton Athletic, victories over AFC Wimbledon and Sutton United and a draw with Southend United, who are looking to return to the Football League at the first attempt. New signing, Dan Roberts top scored in the friendlies with five goals since joining from Slough Town.
St Albans City began their pre-season with a resounding 8-1 victory over Arlesey Town, which included a Mitchell Weiss hat-trick. Romeo Akinola has netted six times in the friendlies including a braces against Kings Langley and Hanworth Villa. The Saints also beat a Watford XI, played two games in one day using different squads, losing to Bedford Town but beating AFC Dunstable and closed with a 1-1 draw versus Cheshunt.
|Dartford||St Albans City|
|Ipswich Town (home) – lost 0-1||Arlesey Town (away) – won 8-1|
|Sittingbourne (home) – won 5-0||Stevenage (home) – lost 0-1|
|Charlton Athletic (home) – lost 1-2||Kings Langley (away) – won 2-1|
|Carshalton Athletic (away) – won 3-1||Wealdstone (home) – drew 1-1|
|AFC Wimbledon (home) – won 1-0||Hanworth Villa (away) – won 2-1|
|Sutton United (home) – won 3-1||Watford XI (home) – won 2-1|
|Southend United (home) – drew 2-2||Bedford Town (away) – lost 1-4|
|Sittingbourne (away) – won 2-0||AFC Dunstable (away) – won 3-1|
|Lewes (away) – lost 1-2||Hendon (home) – won 2-0|
|Cheshunt (away) – drew 1-1|
Over the summer, Dartford manager Steve King focused on improving his team’s attacking capabilities and with Jake Robinson joining from Billericay Town he is hoping for a good return in front of goal. Robinson will team up again with Luke Wanadio who returns for a third spell with the Darts and can supply creativity on the wing. George Porter netted in the friendlies against Carshalton Athletic and AFC Wimbledon and joins from Maidstone United. Ade Azeez will also be part of the squad after signing from Dover Athletic, but the former AFC Wimbledon and Partick Thistle striker picked up a hamstring injury over pre-season.
In midfield, Tyrique Hyde is another returnee arriving from Dulwich Hamlet, Danny Leonard comes in from Sheppey United and Kieran Murtagh has impressed and brings experience from Boreham Wood. The Darts haven’t made many changes in defence as last term that was an area in which the excelled, Bagasan Graham has joined to strengthen the back line though.
St Albans City manager Ian Allinson has has a quieter summer trusting most of the squad that performed so well last season. Former Dartford defender Tom Bender signed a new contract and will begin his seventh campaign with the Hertfordshire club. In the week leading up to kick off, the Saints have captured the services of Alkeo Bani, an Albanian under 19’s defender and John Goddard. Other new recruits include Callum Adebiyi from Southern Premier League side Kings Langley, Luke Brown from Hitchin Town. and Michael Oluwadara Dada from Chelmsford City.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 9 / St Albans City wins: 6 / Draws: 5
Previous Meetings (last six)
Dartford 0 – 1 St Albans City (17/11/2020 – National South)
St Albans City 1 – 2 Dartford (07/03/2020 – National South)
Dartford 1 – 1 St Albans City (06/08/2019 – National South)
Dartford 3 – 2 St Albans City (12/01/2019 – National South)
St Albans City 2 – 0 Dartford (01/09/2018 – National South)
St Albans City 4 – 0 Dartford (03/02/2018 – National South)
- Dartford won last season’s opener 1-0 against Chelmsford City. Victory this weekend will be the first time the Darts recorded consecutive opening day wins since 2006 (1-0 v Arlesey Town in 2005 and 4-0 v Weston-super-Mare in 2006).
- The Darts last kept a clean sheet against the Saints in a 2-0 win on 6 February 2006, eleven games ago. It remains the only time St Albans City failed to score versus Dartford.
- St Albans City have won four of their last five home matches in this fixture
On This Day
Dartford celebrated coming back from the brink in 1993 with a historic opening day Kent League win over Deal Town. It took just ten minutes for the party to begin when Micky Collins scored the winning goal in what was a momentous occasion for the club.
In the five fixtures that followed on this day, the Darts have taken just one point, a 2-2 draw with Havant and Waterlooville. The draw with the Hawks in 2010 signified the return to the second tier of non-league football having risen up from the Kent League.
The other four games since beating Deal Town were all away defeats without scoring. In 1999 the Darts lost 4-0 against Fisher Athletic (Southern League South), were beaten 3-0 by Boreham Wood in 2004 (Southern League Division One East), in 2012 Dartford were beaten 1-0 by Woking (National League) and three years ago lost 2-0 at Concord Rangers (National South).