Match Preview: Dartford v Bucks

dartford-fcAFC Telford United make the long midweek trip to Dartford on Tuesday in the Blue Square Bet Premier.

Dartford pushed Woking hard for last season’s Blue Square Bet South title but after being forced into the play-offs their elevation was ultimately confirmed courtesy of a 1-0 home win over Kent rivals Welling United. Lee Noble’s powerful 20-yard strike after just four minutes was enough to secure the Darts promotion, the club’s third in the last five years. It also means that the Darts are back in the top tier of the non-league pyramid for the first time in 26 years.

The old Telford United’s last trip to Dartford was on 7th September 1985 when the Lilywhites lost 2-1 in a Gola League encounter. Ken McKenna was on the mark for Telford, whilst Dartford’s second goal was scored by their current manager Tony Burman. The last meeting between the clubs was at the Buck’s Head on 2nd November 1985, John Stringer scoring twice for Telford in a 2-1 win.

Burman further strengthened his promotion-winning squad in the summer with some astute signings. Vastly-experienced defender Mark Arber, 34, signed a one-year deal with the club to bolster the defence and Arber – who began his career as a trainee with Tottenham Hotspur but did not make a senior appearance – may be remembered by Bucks’ fans from his days with Barnet and Dagenham & Redbridge.

Also joining the Darts in the summer were winger Nathan Collier, who played for Hampton and Richmond Borough last season, and defender Richard Rose who had his contract with League Two side Dagenham and Redbridge terminated by mutual consent. Like Arber, Rose is also a defender with experience at a higher level having spent five years with Hereford United prior to joining Dagenham.

Telford fans making the long trek to Kent will be heading to one of the most environmentally-friendly football stadia ever built in the UK. Dartford’s Princes Park Stadium, opened in 2006, is noted for the pitch being sunk two metres below external ground level to reduce noise and light pollution. Furthermore, there are various other distinguishing features including the collection of rain water for use within the stadium, solar panels which generate the stadium’s own electricity, and timber beams to provide insulation.

Like Telford, Dartford are one of the few part-time clubs in the Blue Square Bet Premier and manager Burman has understandably set an initial of aim of securing survival in their first season at the higher level. However, the Darts have belied that goal thanks to a stunning recent run of results which have propelled the Kent club towards the promotion places.

After losing their first three matches of the season to Tamworth, Woking and Macclesfield, Dartford have found some eye-catching form to win eight of their last ten games. There are some big scalps in there too, most notably a 2-1 defeat of table-topping Newport County and a 4-0 demolition of Hereford United at Princes Park. Last week they scored twice in the final five minutes – including a last-minute winner – to overturn a 1-0 deficit and defeat struggling Hyde 2-1, whilst they also secured a superb 2-0 win at high-flying Grimsby on Saturday.

Indeed, so good has been the Darts’ recent form that Burman has been named the Blue Square Bet Premier Manager of the Month for September, an award he is due to receive from Blue Square’s Alan Alger prior to kick-off on Tuesday evening.

It’s a tough away trip for midweek, a point not lost on Bucks’ boss Andy Sinton, but Telford will be going all out to spring a surprise against their in-form hosts. “Dartford is a long way midweek and the fixture hasn’t been kind to us because I’ve got people working that day, but we’ll get on with it,” Sinton said.

Dartford Fact-file:

Address: Princes Park, Grassbanks, Darenth Road, Dartford, Kent, DA1 1RT

Directions: After going over the Dartford Crossing (which costs £1.50 per car, rising to £2 in October), leave the motorway at Junction 1b and take the left hand slip road for A225 Dartford. At the roundabout at the end of the slip road above the motorway turn right onto the A225 towards Dartford. Go straight across the next roundabout, passing a BP garage on the right. At the next set of traffic lights turn left into Darenth Road and then take the second left into Grassbanks for the stadium.

Dartford is the nearest railway station to Princes Park. Exit station straight ahead towards the Orchard Theatre/Shopping Centre. Do not cross the bridge but take the steps/ramp down to the bus stops, then take the Fastrack B service towards Bluewater/Gravesend and alight at the Princes Park stop. Buses run every 10 minutes during the day, with a slightly longer interval in the evenings.

From Ebbsfleet International: exit the station and take the Fastrack B service towards Bluewater/Dartford and alight at the Princes Park stop. Buses run every 10 minutes during the day, with a slightly longer interval in the evenings.

Admission Prices: Adults £15, Concessions £8 (Over-65 and age 12-17), Juniors £3 (aged 5-11) Please note that you will be required to evidence your age for any concessionary ticket on the turnstile.

Parking: There is a free car park at the stadium which has 300 spaces. If this is full then drivers are directed towards the Orchards Shopping Centre Car Park which charges £1.50 – £2 for 3-4 hours.

Facilities: There are two bars at the stadium.