Dartford 2 – 2 Wealdstone
2 - 2
In an incident packed match. The Stones fought out a 2-2 draw against opposition once again reduced to ten men following Jamie Days’ sending off for a dangerous looking lunge on Derek Quaye after just 10 minutes. And once again Wealdstone failed to make numerical superiority pay, although it must be said that The Darts, on this performance at least, looked to be a talented and competitive side.
Despite the sending off it was the home side that took the lead via a delightful Danny Dafter loping header over a stranded Sean Thomas. But within two minutes the Stones were level after Steve Hughes latched on to a loose ball in the penalty area and drilled a low shot past Tony Kessell in the home goal. Despite the sending off the match remained feisty but fair and the home side put Thomas’ goal under sustained pressure with their superiority in the air proving to be a real challenge for the Stones’ youthful defence, shorn as it was of James Gray through injury.
The Stones took the lead when some sloppy home defending following Papali contesting a cross from the right with the keeper, Hughes was the first to react to the loose ball and grab his second with a measured header over Kessell who was still well off his line following the first challenge. But it was no great surprise when The Darts equalised. The outstanding Lee Noble drove in a near post cross that Rob Hawarth flicked on and past a helpless Thomas. The home side now had their tails up and only sound goalkeeping and desperate defending form Carl Martin and Alan Massey kept the score level. And it was Thomas again to the rescue after Gary Burrell allowed the ball to clear him to Steve Butterworth who spanked a first time volley toward the top corner until a wonderful save from Thomas diverted the ball for a corner.
Gordon Bartlett brought on Nick Salapatas for Derek Quaye for the second half and the mercurial youngster added some dash and danger to Wealdstone’s attacking options as the home side began to fall back to defend the draw, understandably so given their lack of numbers in very hot conditions. Gary Burrell was agonisingly close to regaining the lead for the Stones when his thunderous shot struck the post and rebounded into play. Equally Lee Noble, who was to remain elusive and dangerous until his substitution, curled a brilliant first time half volley round Sean Thomas only for the ball to strike the post and bounce across the line and away.
With Dartford visibly tiring manager Bartlett went for broke and brought on Kieron Forbes and Ben Clarke for Burrell and Dean Papali but to no avail. The score remained 2-2.
It was a pleasure to watch the game in Dartford’s wonderful new ground, surely a model for any ambitious non-league side that has either the backing of a far sighted local authority, as has been the case with The Darts, or lucky enough to have secured other significant funding. The game itself was played between two fully committed teams in front of two sets of voluble and enthusiastic supporters. And oh yes….. we could all see why Gordon had tried to sign Rob Haworth. He was a handful all afternoon.
Line up; Seam Thomas, Marvin McCoy, Alan Massey, Carl Martin, Lee Chappell, Derek Quaye, David Hicks, Ryan Ashe, Gary Burrell, Stephen Hughes, Dean Papali.
Subs used Nick Salapatas for Quaye , Kieron Forbes for Burrell & Ben Clarke for Papali