26 December 2023. Dartford win 1:4 in a Christmas Boxing Day derby.
Dartford finished the year in style, after an eleven-minute blitz set them on the way to a massive victory over local rivals Ebbsfleet United at the Kuflink Stadium. To say that the Darts started well is an understatement of epic proportions, such was the intensity with which they kicked-off! And the opening goal went in before anyone was able to put their drinks down, let alone get comfortable! In-form Samir Carruthers out-muscled and fended off Chris Solly (who was determined to take the Dartford midfielder’s shirt), before finding Luke Allen just inside the Ebbsfleet box with a delightful pass. Allen responded by firing a delicious strike beyond goalkeeper Mark Cousins and into the bottom corner to open the scoring within sixty seconds!
With the hosts shell-shocked and all at sea at the back, a rampant Dartford pressed forward with pace and, putting the defence under intense pressure, it soon crumbled once again. And, it was Alex Wall who was involved this time, as he was proving too hot to handle as he dealt with Solly and Haydn Hollis on this occasion, before feeding the ball towards Luke Coulson. The winger didn’t disappoint either, as he sent another excellent strike beyond the hapless Cousins to double the Darts’ lead after just five minutes. Despite their two-goal advantage, Alan Dowson’s side showed absolutely no mercy to their rivals and continued to attack in scintillating fashion. And, by the time we reached the eleventh minute, they had secured a 3-0 lead while the rest of us tried to catch our breath.
After another dangerous attack saw Cousins manage to put the ball behind for a corner, the second clearance resulted in a follow-up corner which virtually secured the points in Dartford’s favour. Failure to deal with the set-piece resulted in severe punishment by the boot of Maxwell Statham, who buried the ball from close range to stretch his side’s lead to 3-0 after just eleven minutes played. The hosts managed to regroup soon afterwards and set about trying to pull themselves back into the game. And, in the 15th minute, they created their first opportunity via top-scorer Dominic Poleon. However, his effort was excellently blocked by defender Connor Essam.
Growing in confidence, Omari Sterling-James and Franklin Domi combined well, before Domi smacked the crossbar with a good effort in the 25th minute. Rakish Bingham soon got involved as well, as he forced Essam into making a late challenge which earned him a yellow card from referee, Miss Kirsty Dowle (35). The resulting free-kick taken by Craig Tanner failed to test goalkeeper Dan Wilks, who was making his return in-between the Dartford sticks after a long period out injured. Three minutes later saw Wilks called into action for the first time proper, as he palmed away a good effort from the impressive Bingham (38). However, the Darts responded to the Ebbsfleet pressure with a brilliantly timed attack of their own, which saw Alex Wall get on the end of a delightful cross to send his header into the back of the net with just five minutes of the half remaining. Ebbsfleet responded instantly and had pulled a goal back within seconds of the restart to peg the Darts back to 4-1. The goal came via Craig Tanner, who’s excellent strike managed to squeeze through a tiny opening in Wilks’ goal (41).
The second-half began in similar fashion, as both sides looked to press forward as often as possible in what was proving to be one of the games of the season. First, Samir Carruthers found Maxwell Statham with a great ball, only to see Mark Cousins keep the latter’s effort out (48), before Carruthers made a superb interception at the other end to prevent Sterling-James from getting a shot on target (52).
Manager, Alan Dowson, was forced into making an early substitution after Sam Odaudu suffered an injury. He was replaced by the returning Jack Smith after 55 minutes. Dowson’s other changes would include Keiran Murtagh for Samir Carruthers (75) and Pierre Fonkeu for Malachi Napa (82).
The hosts, meanwhile, would swap Christian N’Guessan for Toby Edser on the hour, then Shaq Coulthirst for Franklin Domi (68) and Ben Chapman for Greg Cundle (77).
As we return to the action, Alex Wall dragged a shot narrowly wide of Cousins’ upright (63), before Luke Coulson forced the goalkeeper into a good save in the 66th minute as the visitors threatened to stretch their lead once again.
Alex Wall could have wrapped up the result in style when he received the ball during a brilliant 74th minute counter-attack. Unfortunately, Cousins was alert to the situation, rushed out to close the distance between himself and the striker, before making a fine save to keep his team mathematically in the game. When the hosts did venture forwards, they found Dan Wilks in good form at the other end. The Dartford number one saving well from a Sterling-James strike in the 81st minute, as the Darts controlled the remainder of the game to secure a superb victory against their rivals.
The result sees the Darts leapfrog their opponents into first place in the National League South table. And, with a three-point advantage heading into the new year, the return fixture at Bericote Powerhouse Princes Park on New Year’s Day has the potential to be a fierce one indeed.
The return fixture at Bericote Powerhouse Princes Park on New Year’s Day has the potential to be a fierce one indeed.
EBBSFLEET UNITED: Mark Cousins, Luke O’Neill, Omari Sterling-James, Christian N’Guessan, Rakish Bingham, Craig Tanner, Dominic Poleon, Greg Cundle, Franklin Domi, Chris Solly, Haydn Hollis.
SUBSTITUTES: Joe Martin, Sido Jombati, Toby Edser, Ben Chapman, Shaq Coulthirst.
DARTFORD: Dan Wilks, Jordan Wynter, Samir Carruthers, Connor Essam, Tom Bonner (c), Luke Coulson, Luke Allen, Alex Wall, Maxwell Statham, Sam Odaudu, Malachi Napa.
SUBSTITUTES: Keiran Murtagh Davide Rodari, Jack Smith, Pierre Fonkeu, Charlie Sheringham.
Referee: Kirsty Dowle, Assists Kieran Bailey, Peter Dingle.
(c) SportShotz Photography