Created 18-Feb-24
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17 February 2024. Dartford win 1:2 at Dover Athletic.

Dartford returned to winning ways, after goals from Olly Box and Luke Coulson secured a vital three points in the Kent Derby against Dover Athletic. The magnitude of this fixture was obvious for both sides, as the fog hovered around the Crabble Athletic Ground. On top of that, mounting injuries to the Darts meant that Tony Burman had to alter his squad this afternoon. With Sam Odaudu being one of those to suffer injury recently, Tony completed the loan signing of Tom Clifford from King’s Lynn Town. The left-back went straight into the starting eleven, as did young prodigy Olly Box at the expense of Alex Wall. Meanwhile, Maxwell Statham returned to action after Tommy Block suffered an injury on Tuesday night as well.

The Darts started well and came close to taking the lead in the ninth minute. Fumnaya Shomotun found Olly Box with a neat pass, but the youngster’s strike was blocked by Scott Holding. Goalkeeper, Daniel Jinadu, then pulled off an excellent save to prevent Luke Coulson’s long-range drive from flying into the top corner (10), as the visitors looked to take control. A brilliant run by Paul Rooney soon went unrewarded (23), before Olly Box’s pace caught out John Oyenuga on the Dartford left-flank. Box then found Elliott Romain with a teasing pass, but Romain’s effort was smothered by Jinadu (26). The Whites, meanwhile, were seeing a lot of the ball during this half, but couldn’t find any way through the Dartford defence. Yet for all their efforts Dover were soon undone at the back again and, this time, were duly punished. The goal came via a set-piece after an attack was rewarded with a corner. Luke Coulson whipped the ball into the danger area, and the ball was headed towards the edge of the box… where Olly Box was waiting… The youngster struck perfectly to send the ball flying through a crowded box and into the back of the net (35)! Surely a moment Olly (and all of us) will never forget! The goal sparked the hosts into life, and they went on to finish the half strongly. First, Zidan Sutherland saw his 41st minute effort blocked well by the Dartford defence before George Wilkinson fired high over Billy Terrell’s crossbar from distance (43).

The hosts started the second forty-five on the front foot, as they searched for the equaliser. George Nikaj’s dangerous cross flashed across the face of the Dartford goal (51), before the same player then found Wilkinson, who’s fierce drive smacked the crossbar (54)! Jake Leberl was the manager to react first by swapping Luke Baptiste with Ifeanyi Allen (61) and Charles Naylor with Destiny Oladipo (69). Meanwhile, Tony Burman, waited until the 76th minute to make a change in personnel, as the excellent Olly Box made way for Alex Wall. That would then be followed by a double swap with seven minutes remaining, as Manny Adebowale and Taylor Maloney came on to replace Paul Rooney and the excellent Jack Smith respectively. As we return to the action, Jack Smith met Fumnaya Shomotun’s delightful cross, but couldn’t keep his header down (65). Ten minutes later saw Dover score a deserved equaliser. Roman Charles-Cook got the better of Maxwell Statham and managed to find Destiny Oladipo with a dangerous ball inside the Dartford box. The latter then took his opportunity well to level the score (75).

With fifteen minutes remaining, this Kent Derby/relegation six-pointer was perfectly poised as both sides searched for the winning goal. The dice fell the way of the Darts after a brilliant ball into the box was handled by a Dover defender. The referee, Mr Dan England, pointed to the spot and Luke Coulson smashed the ball home to score his tenth goal of the season (8th in the league) to settle the contest once and for all (83). The result means that the Darts have completed the league double over their opponents in the Kent Derby. More importantly though, it means that they move up a place in the National League South table and increase the gap to those clubs occupying the relegation zone.

DOVER ATHLETIC: Daniel Jinadu, Roman Charles-Cook, Freddie Oliver, Zidan Sutherland, George Nikaj George Wilkinson, Charles Naylor, Jacob Mensah (c), Luke Baptiste, John Oyenuga, Scott Holding.
SUBSTITUTES: Peter Ojeman, Destiny Oladipo, Ifeanyi Allen, Henry Young, Nick Dembele.
DARTFORD: Billy Terrell, Jordan Wynter, Jack Smith, Luke Coulson (c), Paul Rooney, Maxwell Statham, Elliott Romain, Fumnaya Shomotun, Joash Nembhard, Olly Box, Tom Clifford.
SUBSTITUTES: Alex Wall, Manny Adebowale, George Whitefield, Taylor Maloney, Jayden Boulton.

Referee: Dan England.
Assists: Daniel Proctor, Marcin Indyk
Att: 794
Report: Chris Palmer

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