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Division One East
|Stephen McCartney reports from Park View Road|
|Erith & Belvedere||1||Chris Dickson 19|
|Dartford||1||Darren Thomson 9|
Honours even in North Kent derby
IT was a game neither
side could afford to lose but both teams had to share the spoils in this North
Kent derby at Park View Road.
Erith & Belvedere, five points adrift of the Darts and in the relegation zone, twice went close inside the opening two minutes. Chris Dickson's 20-yard hooked shot was comfortably saved by Kevin Hudson before his strike partner Kelechi Opara flashed a shot wide.
In a game that started brightly with so much at stake, the Darts went close minutes later when a run from former Hastings United right-sided midfielder, Steve Hafner, saw the 21-year-old evade challenges before his 22-yard shot whistled just past the foot of the post.
Dartford, however, drew first blood after only nine minutes. Danny Heale's free kick from just outside the box lopped high off the Deres wall. Tostao Kwashi jumped up high challenging Deres goalkeeper Glen Knight and seconds later Darren Thomson fired a low drive from seven yards through a crowded six-yard box, crashing inside the near post to score his first goal of the season.
The Deres were on level terms ten minutes later. Former Margate midfielder Ian Pulman played the ball to Dickson ahead of him on his right. The young striker cut inside the full-back took a few strides inside the box an from 16-yards slotted the ball past Hudson inside the bottom right corner to score his 13th of the season.
Two minutes later Darts midfielder Mark Horan smashed a shot wide of the target from 20-yards.
The game was exciting and end to end without frequent goal mouth incident to talk about.
Erith & Belvedere, playing in front of their highest home crowd of the season, played some good passing football after 38 minutes and instrumental midfielder Pulman struck a fierce 25-yarder which hit Tommy Osborne's chest inside the penalty box.
On the stroke of half time, Hafner appeared to have won the Darts a free kick just outside the Deres box after being kicked on the ankle by Mark Ducket. Referee Gary Johnson, however, waved play on and with the midfielder laid out on the ground as play continued, he was booked by the referee for "diving" after receiving treatment from the Darts physio.
Opara and Dickson linked up well around the Darts box and Opara's 16-yard shot bounced once on its way to the 38-year-old visiting goalkeeper.
Mark Hammond, the 53rd player to pull on the blue and white quartered shirt of the home side this season, was replaced at half-time. Boss Steve Robinson explained why he took off the former Millwall, Welling United, Cray Wanderers, Aldershot Town, Lewes and Bromley winger.
The Darts record holder of 665 appearances explained: "He was struggling a little bit in terms of fitness. He hasn't played a competitive 90 minutes for about a month. Whilst he has trained with us twice this week, he was getting found out by the pace of the game. I felt a change at half-time was fair on him and I am sure he will go from strength to strength."
Dartford, playing three men up front, were brilliantly supported by the best fans in Southern League Division One East football, and they were almost celebrating a goal ten minutes after the interval.
Thomson's cross from the left found Hafner at the far post and from four yards he planted his header wide of the near upright.
The second half finally came to life in the 67th minute. Fans favourite Kwashi, who has netted 17 goals this season, and rejected a move to Nationwide Conference South neighbours Welling United on the eve of the game, showed everyone in the crowd why a higher league club were trying to sign him.
Picking the ball up inside his own half, the 25-year-old Zimbabwean striker went on a run down the left channel, which included some "Ronaldo" step overs before unleashing a curling effort from 30-yards. Knight got a slight touch to the fierce shot and it crashed back down off the crossbar but Heale was unable to steer the rebound home.
Darts director/manager Tony Burman added: "People want Tostao in their team because he works hard. He wasn't doing much and all of a sudden a little bit of brilliance and he hit the bar with a fantastic strike and sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't."
Erith & Belvedere, however, had a couple of chances of their own. Pulman's shot from 25-yards rolled comfortably to Hudson following a penetrative run and Dickson, on the left hand side of the penalty box, flashed a shot wide of the far post.
A good chance was spurned by the home side when defender Marc Cumberbatch joined an attack but headed a Ryan Brigg's cross over from 12-yards.
The game boiled over late on. Paul Abbott, already on a yellow card, handled Hafner's cross just outside the box. The referee went over to his assistant on the Welling stand side of the ground where the vocal Darts fans were. Opara rushed over and bumped into referee Johnson as he was talking to his colleague.
Referee issued Abbott his second yellow card, which turned into a red and Opara was lucky to escape with only a yellow card for his physical approach to the situation.
The Deres almost clinched victory late on but after bringing the ball down with his chest, Pulman blazed over from 30-yards and with the last chance of the game, Dickson's overhead kick went wide.
On this performance both clubs should secure their Southern League status at the end of the campaign.
Erith & Belvedere: Glen Knight, Marc Cumberbatch, Mark Ducket, Darren Williams, Wayne Brown (Capt), Mark Hammond (Scott Hall 46), Ian Pulman, Paul Abbott (sent off 86), Kelechi Opara, Chris Dickson, Ryan Briggs. Subs: Tom Maycock, Sam Frisky, Ricky Hall (GK), Craig Hales
Dartford: Kevin Hudson, Steve Hafner, Tommy Osborne (Capt), Mark Horan, Darren Penfold, Richard Avery, Tostao Kwashi, Tommy Martin, Danny Heale (Chris Arnold 90), Jim Carter (Eddie McClements 79), Darren Thomson. Subs: Tommy Olson, Dominic Elmes, Craig Maguire
Referee: Gary Johnson
Assistants: I Wright & K English