Dartford crossed the River Thames in search of a return to winning ways after a disappointing 2-0 defeat to neighbours Welling United on Boxing Day. The hosts, who currently find themselves in the relegation places of the National League south, were looking to get out of a rut that has seen them lose their last three games.
After a pretty dismal display on Boxing Day the Darts would’ve been eager to make a fast start and they did just that. An in-swinging corner from Ben Greenhalgh, so often the creator of Dartford’s goals, was flicked on by Tom Bonner into the path of Charlie Sheringham who made no mistake from 6 yards out.
Despite going a goal down early, Steve Coventry’s side continued to probe and on the half hour mark a mistake by Mark Onyemah nearly gifted the Rocks an equaliser but Steve Sheehan’s shot was deflected wide in the crowd of bodies. From the resulting corner Sheehan had an even better chance to level the scores but he headed wastefully over after some lacklustre Dartford marking.
An early injury to Harry Lee saw Tom Derry enter the pitch much earlier than he probably expected, but his introduction proved to be the catalyst for the hosts. Just past the half hour mark Vose was left stranded by an Alex Osborn cross from the right gifting Derry a header into an almost-empty net to level the score.
Just minutes later a crazy turn of events involving one half of Dartford’s managerial team in Jamie Coyle and referee Dean Skipper saw Coyle given his marching orders, much to the bemusement of most in attendance at Rookery Hill.
Danny Harris had an excellent chance to put the Rocks ahead against his old side but despite a full stretch dive he couldn’t divert the ball in following Sam Higgins’ ball across the box.
Ever since Coyle’s dismissal the game had bubbled underneath the surface but tempers flared just before half-time when midfielder Lee Noble was given his marching orders for leading with his elbow whilst challenging Osborn for a header.
Just when the travelling Dartford contingent didn’t think it could get any worse, it did. A high ball into the area by Sheehan was fumbled by Vose before Derry poked in from close range to double his tally for the afternoon.
Vose soon made up for his error on the stroke of half-time, however, as he produced a wonderful finger-tip save to divert Higgins’s header over from a Reece Prestedge corner.
Half-time: East Thurrock United 2–1 Dartford
Despite the obvious flashpoints, the game had been devoid of much quality and tempo as the Darts struggled to find the killer ball in the final third. The hosts were full of belief they could pull-off an upset and Derry had a great chance to notch his hat-trick but headed straight at Vose after a Sorri Diallo cross.
Rocks ‘keeper Jack Giddens had been relatively quiet until Greenhalgh clipped the ball over the top to send Sheringham through on goal but, after he rounded Giddens, he couldn’t squeeze the ball past Sheehan who had managed to get back to the goal-line.
Despite seeing a lot of the ball, the visitors didn’t look much closer to finding an equaliser; substitute Kudus Oyenuga seeing his effort comfortably collected by Giddens.
The hosts looked very dangerous on the counter-attack with the exceptional hold-up play of Higgins and after a surging run forward by the forward, Osborn had a great chance to head home at the back post but with the freedom of Rookery Hill he headed wide.
Darts knew they needed to produce just one moment of real quality and it should come as no surprise that it came from the left foot of Greenhalgh. His clever free-kick to the back-post found an unmarked Elliot Bradbrook who headed home emphatically.
An audacious 25-yard volley from Prestedge forced Vose into a smart save before Bradbrook was in the right place at the right time to block Derry’s goal-bound header.
The Darts were dismayed when Tom Bonner found himself guilty of hand-ball on the edge of the area and from the resulting free-kick Higgins smashed the left post which would’ve added insult to injury.
It was all one-way traffic from then on as the hosts dug-in deep. A surging run forward by Oyenuga saw him brought down by Harris who received his second yellow to become the third dismissal of the contest but ultimately the winning goal evaded the visitors.
Full-time: East Thurrock United 2–2 Dartford
East Thurrock United: Giddens, Nzengo, Sori Diallo, Lee, Hayes, Sheehan, Prestedge, Scott, Higgins, Osborn, Harris.
Dartford: Vose, Onyemah, Wynter, Vint, Bonner, Greenhalgh, Noble, Philpot, Coker, Johnson, Sheringham.
Written by Henry Clark (@HenryWAClark)