Report: Dartford 1-1 Concord Rangers – Beach boys’ Beasant keeps Darts at bay
Concord Rangers made the short trip from Canvey Island to face a Dartford side that found themselves just two points behind them in a congested National League south table. The home side were without new signing Billy Crook who has impressed in midfield in recent outings whilst the visitors were dealt a huge blow as 15-goal striker Alex Wall, who scored a stunner against the Darts in the reverse fixture, missed out through suspension.
Much of the opening stages were fought in the midfield as both teams struggled to retain possession to build towards an attacking opportunity. Rangers looked slightly the brighter of the sides particularly from set-pieces and Connor Essam couldn’t quite get into a position to head goalwards at the far post under pressure from the Darts defence.
For most of the first-half the hosts were able to match their physical opponents and whilst there wasn’t much to shout about, the usual niggling kicks and pushes you’d expect from a derby game provided somewhat of a spectacle for the supporters.
Charlie Sheringham, fresh from his cup goal in midweek, was the first to test either ‘keeper as his excellent first touch allowed him to swivel and volley. The effort lacked power, however, and failed to trouble Sam Beasant.
The visitors looked at their best when they worked the ball wide and in one instance when they did so Tosan Popo’s cross managed to evade everyone but Joe Gardner who couldn’t react in time to add to his tally of 11 goals this term.
Lee Noble was the first to add impetus into a Darts attack as he proved to be too sharp for the ball-watching Rangers midfield before laying in Ben Greenhalgh who drove forward to the edge of the box before coolly rifling the ball into the bottom right corner on the half hour mark.
Phil Roberts has looked increasingly bright in recent weeks and his quick turn and run forward under pressure induced a late challenge from Essam who was fortunate not to receive his marching orders for a second yellow of the contest.
Half-time: Dartford 1-0 Concord Rangers
The second-half started and soon stopped again as referee Matty Buonassisi failed to notice Rangers ‘keeper Beasant hadn’t emerged from the tunnel from the interval, leaving boss Sammy Moore less than impressed.
The visitors lacked patience on the ball in the first-half and Moore’s words clearly resonated with his players who started brightly. Danny Green’s dangerous cross was cleared away well by Tom Bonner with Sam Blackman lurking.
Just three minutes into the half disaster struck for the hosts after Fraser Shaw’s cross was adjudged to have struck the hand of a Darts player with the muted reactions of the hosts suggesting referee Buonassisi got it spot on. Blackman took on responsibilities and placed the ball in the bottom right via the hand of ‘keeper Bailey Vose.
The visitors’ journey to ascendency in the game was soon halted as captain Lee Minshull was shown a straight red just after the hour mark for what appeared to be an elbow to the face of Sheringham sparking a coming together of all 20 outfield players.
That moment changed the course of the game and after Rangers’ main attacking source in Green was replaced (presumably in a tactical reshuffle) the majority of the chances fell for Jamie Coyle and Adam Flanagan’s side. Ronnie Vint played a lofted ball into the area that found Roberts who couldn’t squeeze the ball past Beasant who scrambled across his line to make a fine save with his thigh.
Ben Greenhalgh, who’d been unusually quiet since his goal, set off down the left and produced a cross to the far post but Beasant stood firm once more to deny Roberts from a tight angle in the 73rd minute.
Substitute Aron Pollock wasted the best chance of the second-half after he somehow fired well over from no more than two yards out at the far post following a Jack Midson corner before Ryan Hayes, who lined up for the Beach boys in the reverse fixture in August, saw his shot saved by Beasant who then reacted brilliantly to deny Roberts on the re-bound.
Roberts must’ve felt it was going to be one of those days as another surging run forward saw him shrug off two Rangers defenders with ease before seeing his close-range effort saved once more by Beasant.
The game seemed to peter out somewhat with the visitors happy to dig-in but with just two minutes left on the clock Lewis White broke forward on a quick counter-attack. A combination of Vose and Tom Bonner, however, managed to force the young substitute wide allowing Vose to save comfortably.
Full-time: Dartford 1-1 Concord Rangers
It was frustrating afternoon for the hosts who would’ve been keen to respond after late heartbreak at the hands of Chelmsford City last week. Following the sending off of Minshull the Darts probably created enough chances to win the game but were kept at bay by an inspired Beasant.
It is, however, a testament to the progress under Coyle and Flanagan that Dartford managed to compete with their visitors after being well and truly second-best in August.
Dartford: Vose, Wynter, Vint, Bonner, Greenhalgh, Noble, Roberts, Bradbrook, Coker, Johnson, Sheringham.
Concord Rangers: Beasant, Popo, Shaw, Essam, Minshull, Sterling, Green, Luque, Midson, Blackman, Gardner.