Friday 30 March 2018. Dartford win 1:0 on the most dreadful rain-soaked afternoon in my memory of shooting soccer. After an initial inspection, the officials decided the match should go ahead, and did another check at 2pm. The groundsmen tried their hardest to soak up some of the rain in the worst areas, but with little success. Rain continued for the entire game. Heavy rain turned parts of the Princes Park pitch into a quagmire with mud and standing water in some areas stopping the ball rolling properly. Referee Josh Smith was happy for the game to start but as conditions worsened in the second half he started to become concerned. Twice Referee Josh Smith stopped play and came across to speak with the managers and it looked certain to be game over. At 60 minutes the referee asked the two captains if they wanted to abandon, but they said "no, we've come this far" and continued. So, only the intervention of both captains stopped Dartford's game against Hampton & Richmond on Good Friday being abandoned.
Dartford manager Tony Burman said: "The ground staff did excellent to get the game on. It was playable before the game. The rain did come earlier than we thought but it was right to start. The pitch did make a difference and you had to play a certain way. When the ball went back to Berti (Schotterl, the Dartford keeper) and it stopped in the mud, that's when (the ref) came over and said 'look, I'm going to give it another five. I'll be honest, we thought someone was going to make a mistake and all of a sudden, either side would be 1-0 down. But that's when the two skippers came over. They were more than happy to carry on so the referee felt he would go with it."
"The part of the pitch in front of the dugouts became a complete mudbath and both goalmouths cut up badly too. Both teams played the conditions. You had to get the ball behind defenders and get them turning. A couple of times the ball was played back to the keeper and you're thinking 'wow, that's taking a chance' but we got away with it today. I thought we thoroughly deserved to win the game because we had the better chances."
Alfie Pavey scored a dramatic winner in the last of four added minutes at the end of the game - his 23rd goal of the season.
Burman said: "The boot's on the other foot now. We've had enough times when teams have scored against us and it evens itself out during the course of the season. I'm just delighted we've come away from the first game of the Easter period with three points.
And then Alfie Pavey scored for Dartford in 90+4 extra time. The result leaves Dartford 2nd in the table, two points behind Havant Waterlooville, and 1 goal difference."
Images shot from the shelter of the stands, the first time I've ever had to do this! All credit to Charlie Kerr, Groundsman and his team.
Dartford: Berti Schotterl, Nathan Collier, Mark Onyemah, Tom Bonner, Ronnie Vint, Alex Brown, Lee Noble, Elliot Bradbrook (C), Alfie Pavey, Andy Pugh, Duan Ofori-Achaempong. Subs: Ryan Hayes, Danny Mills, Danny Harris, Tom Murphy, Deren Ibrahim (GK).
Hampton & Richmond: Seny Dieng, Ben Wynter, Josh Casey (C), Sam Long, Charlie Wassmer, Shaun McCauley, Bradley Hudson-Odoi, Shandon Baptiste, Shaun Jeffers, Max Kretzschmar, Brendon Kiernan. Subs: Michael Kamara, Luke heldrick, Christian Jolley, Jack Cook, Harry Crawford.
Images by Carol White-Griffiths and Peter White.
(c) SportShotz Photography