Dartford made the short trip around the M25 to take on Hampton & Richmond Borough in the National League south. Both sides were unsuccessful in the playoffs last season with the visitors final heart-break against Braintree Town perhaps contributing towards them finding themselves languishing in 17th in the table.
It took just two minutes for the visitors to register their first attempt after Ben Greenhalgh fired over from the edge of the area following a knock-down from Jamie Philpot.
Andre Coker, fresh from an impressive performance in the Darts’ 3-2 win against Oxford City last time out, caused the Hampton defence all kinds of problems in the first-half and it was his cross that was met by Charlie Sheringham, who made no mistake from 10 yards to notch his fifth goals in 8 games past Tom Lovelock.
The hosts were second best for much of the early stages as Jamie Coyle and Adam Flanagan’s side controlled possession at the Beveree Stadium. Darts ‘keeper Bailey Vose, who has impressed in his last few outings, produced a wonderful stop low to his right to palm away Rian Bray’s header from Ricky Wellard’s delivery.
Dartford continued to push-on and following another wicked delivery from the boot of Greenhalgh captain Tom Bonner, who was forced off in the first-half with an injury, could only strike the post with his header.
Just before the half-hour mark Sheringham had another good chance to double his and his side’s tally but he could only head over from 10 yards out.
In the closing stages of the half the hosts finally showed some attacking potential as Rhys Murrell-Williamson got the better of Mark Onyemah to find Yado Mambo on the edge of the box whose strike was comfortably collected by Vose.
Their best chance came in injury time as some lovely one-touch football in midfield threaded Tyrell Miller-Rodney through on goal but his scuffed effort trickled wide of Vose’s right post.
Half-time: Hampton & Richmond Borough 0-1 Dartford
Zak Joseph started the half brightly for the Beavers but his goal-bound effort was inadvertently blocked by team-mate Nathan Mavila.
In the 51st minute the Darts had their first chance of the half as Greenhalgh’s ball into the area from the right was met by substitute Elliott Bradbrook at the far post but he could only head wide.
A clever run by Greenhalgh on the left created a crossing opportunity for the visitors and the former Inter Milan trainee found Sheringham who dwelled on the ball for too long before James Hammond produced a good block.
Whatever words Gary McCann exchanged with his players at the break clearly had an effect but while the hosts were far more dangerous in the final third they always seemed susceptible on the counter-attack. On the hour mark Philpot should’ve taken advantage of a golden opportunity but he couldn’t divert his header down past Lovelock from 6 yards after a Greenhalgh cross.
Miller-Rodney was largely responsible for anything the hosts did well going forward and his low drive from 20 yards had Vose scrambling across his line before it clipped his right post.
Mambo cut a frustrated figure after he headed wastefully over from a Jack Connors free-kick before Coker should’ve ensured all three-points were coming back to Princes Park. Jordan Wynter’s ball forward put the winger through on goal but he failed to hit the target with his chipped effort over Lovelock.
Bradbrook produced a fine-performance in the heart of a make-shift Dartford defence and it was his goal-line clearance that prevented Chris Dickson from levelling the score-line.
Some heroic defending by Mavila, covering for Mambo who had slipped following a Tom Murphy cross, somehow managed to stop Coker from all but securing three points as he squirmed the ball wide of Lovelock’s goal.
As the game entered its final stages the Beveree erupted after Miller-Rodney went down in the Dartford area but referee Wayne Cartmel confidently waved away their claims.
Deep into injury time Colchester United loanee Vose flew off his line brilliantly to deny a late chance on goal, a body-on-the-line moment that encapsulated the current spirit in this Dartford side.
Full-time: Hampton & Richmond Borough 0-1 Dartford
The Darts were full value for their win considering their first-half dominance in west London. A makeshift back-line successfully weathered the second-half onslaught whilst maintaining an attacking outlet, the one area both Coyle and Flanagan will agree they struggled with in a similar situation last time out.
Dartford: Vose, Onyemah, Vint, Bonner, Johnson, Greenhalgh, Noble, Wynter, Coker, Philpot, Sheringham.
Hampton & Richmond Borough: Lovelock, Hammond, Mavila, Miller-Rodney, Bray, Mambo, Connors, Wellard, Joseph, Dickson, Murrell-Williamson.
Written by Henry Clark (@HenryWAClark)