7 February 2023. Ebbsfleet win 2:1 (Shaq Coulthirst 38', Darren McQueen 69') and Dartford stole a second half consolation goal (Jack smith 73').
Dartford’s hold on the Kent Senior Cup came to an end at the last sixteen stage, after local rivals Ebbsfleet United secured a narrow victory on an extremely cold Tuesday night under the floodlights of the Kuflink Stadium. As Alan Dowson shuffled his side to include a healthy blend of youth and experience, it was no surprise that a more experienced looking Fleet dominated a majority of the first forty-five. And with the attacking force of Shaq Coulthirst, Elliott Romain, and Darren McQueen, the hosts were determined to get revenge for the visitors completing the league double during the festive period.
Despite conceding two goals, young goalkeeper Tom Wray was a tower of strength throughout this fixture, as he kept the Ebbsfleet attack out for a majority of the first-half. He was called into action as early as the 4th minute, when he pushed McQueen’s strike behind for a corner, before saving excellently from McQueen’s powerful drive three minutes later. Yet, for all their quality in attacking areas, the hosts were unable to take advantage of their possession and it wasn’t long before the Darts began to grow into the game. Alex Wall was proving to be a handful for the Ebbsfleet defence, and he even had the ball in the back of the net, only to be flagged offside. It was the combination of ex-Darts Elliott Romain and Darren McQueen who were proving a little too hot to handle in this half, but they still couldn’t get past Tom Wray! In fact, McQueen saw another great effort saved by an equally great save by the goalkeeper after 24 minutes, before Coulthirst’s left-footed drive was well saved two minutes later!
As we reached the 33rd minute, it was time for the referee Mr Harry Wager to make himself known… and not in a good way for everyone involved with the visitors. Ebbsfleet captain, Haydn Hollis flew in extremely late and dangerously on Pierre Fonkeu, sparking outrage from everyone wearing a Dartford shirt. However, what infuriated the visitors more was the fact that Mr Wager only showed Hollis a yellow card! Then, to add salt into the wounds, Dartford skipper Keiran Murtagh was booked for voicing his opinion a little too much! Dartford weren’t done though. If anything, the second goal lit an additional spark in them and five minutes later they were back in the game. And what a goal it was too! A beautiful attacking move involving Pierre Fonkeu, Malachi Napa, and Jack Smith was capped off by a superb finish by Smith, as he scored his third goal in all competitions (74). A one-goal deficit almost became level seconds later when Kristian Campbell saw his drive from distance blocked by an Ebbsfleet defender, before another excellent piece of play went unrewarded… However, on this occasion it was down to Mr Wager once again. As the visitors pressed forward, a good move split the Ebbsfleet defence open. Alex Wall held up his man well and was just about to pass to the perfectly positioned Jayden Boulton, only for Mr Wager to bizarrely stop play for an apparent foul! The Darts didn’t give up though, and with 90+1 on the clock, were given one final opportunity after Boulton’s run was stopped in its tracks by a late challenge. Alex Wall took the free-kick, which beat everybody before unluckily crashing back off the crossbar with what was virtually the last kick of the game.
So, the Kent Senior Cup will be awarded to someone else this season after a gallant effort by Dartford to defend it. There were many strong performances on this cold evening, but Tom Wray certainly stood tallest on this occasion. The Darts can now focus on their league challenge, as well as the small matter of the London Senior Cup.
EBBSFLEET UNITED: Chris Haigh, Sido Jombati, Max Shoolbred, Ben Chapman, Haydn Hollis ©, Darren McQueen, Elliott Romain, Shaq Coulthirst, Hayden Bullos, Franklin Domi, Billy Clifford.
SUBSTITUTES: Harrison Firth, Maxx Manktelow, Luke Reid, Joe Longland, Bailey Gordon.
DARTFORD: Tom Wray, Jude Russell, Kristian Campbell, Luke Allen, Alex Wall, Jamar Loza, Keiran Murtagh ©, Jack Smith, Pierre Fonkeu, Obi Oyeagwara, George Whitefield.
SUBSTITUTES: Dan Wilks, Jayden Boulton, Sam Archibald, Jernade Meade, Malachi Napa.
Referee: Harry Wager, Assists Jack Smith, Daniel Procter.
Report by Chris Palmer
(c) SportShotz Photography