Last weekend saw Dartford host St Albans City at Bericote Powerhouse Princes Park. Captain, Tom Bonner, featured in our matchday programme that day. For those who missed that feature, here is the full article:

Some might be physically and mentally exhausted by this stage of the season. Afterall, a majority of players in the National League South have completed between 43-44 games since early August last year… and that’s not including cup fixtures either! But, Tom Bonner is no mere mortal…

I fondly remember our conversation at the beginning of the campaign, whereby the Skipper proudly admitted that practically nothing would ever prevent him from declaring himself unfit for duty (Premier League players take note). And, that’s certainly been the case once again for Tom.

As our conversation takes place soon after the 1-0 victory at Tonbridge Angels, a game which saw a superb performance by the Dartford defensive unit, Tom is in high spirits… “I’m very well thank you. I’m really looking forward to the run in for the end of the season.”

Inspiring words for a so-called veteran defender who has made over forty starting appearances this season. And, having chipped in with three league goals so far, ample proof of how vital Tom is to this Dartford side. Both him and his defensive partner, Connor Essam (who has also surpassed forty starts and scored three league goals), have been mightily consistent throughout the season.

With that important second position in the league almost firmly in our grip, how does the Skipper feel about this campaign? “Overall, I’m pleased with where we currently find ourselves in the table. It would’ve been fantastic to win the league, but we can’t be disappointed with a second or third place finish. However, there have been a number of below par performances from us, but we’ve given it everything in every game, and I think the fans can be proud of how we’ve performed as a team throughout the season.”

Having witnessed the previous incarnation of the squad dismantled after the disappointment of the last campaign, new manager Alan Dowson always had a somewhat difficult task of putting a team together with little preparation time. Yet, Tom expresses nothing but pride for his players and the current coaching staff, having witnessed first-hand the progress the team as a whole has had since last summer… “I feel that there’s been a progression both off and on the pitch this season. Everyone has bought into Dowse’s way and he’s created a fantastic squad. There’s also great guys amongst the staff, which I cannot speak highly enough of them.”

All of us have experienced many highs and a few lows whilst following the Darts this season. That’s just the appeal of being involved with the beautiful game and being in love with a football club. Whether you’re a fan, staff, or player, the experiences are the same and Tom is no different as he proudly claims the wonderful double over Ebbsfleet United during the Christmas period as his favourite moment of the season.

Does he have a favourite goal though? “I don’t get many goals, so I’m going to have to credit my goal at Cheshunt as my favourite. In terms of quality and the fact it was against Welling United, I think Smudger’s (Jack Smith) left-foot lob gets my vote as goal of the season though.” That’s probably one of our favourites too Tom…!

Of course, together with the highs come the lows during a long and difficult campaign, and Tom pulls no punches…”I’m massively disappointed with our performances in both Cup games this season (Beckenham Town and Swindon Supermarine). Losing at home to Beckenham is right up there as a career low for me, not just for this season.”

Yet, I’m sure that all will be forgotten if Dartford can finally take that step into the National League come mid-May, “As always, our aim is to win promotion. I’m relishing the up and coming play-offs. We’ve come close on numerous occasions and, hopefully, we can learn from past mistakes and finally get over the line this season.”

And, we’d all like nothing more than to take a step back and rest at the end of the season while basking in the glory of promotion during the off-season. “Yes, the off-season is all about resting and recharging the batteries on holiday… hopefully on a high after promotion…! Although, I’ve got two kids and a full-time job outside of football, so it’s pretty full on with not much rest! I still try to go to the gym as much as possible to stay in the best possible shape and golf is my other hobby, although I don’t get to play nearly as much as I’d like.”

Whatever does happen during the play-offs, the squad knows that the Dartford faithful will be right behind them supporting until the very end. And, with that being said, Tom finishes our conversation with this… “Thank you for all your support this season. Let’s have one last massive push in the play-offs and let’s see as many of you as possible supporting us in these last few games.”

By Chris Palmer