Division One East
|Stephen McCartney reports from Stonebridge Road|
|Dartford||1||Eddie McClements 37|
|Erith & Belvedere||1||Ryan Briggs 74|
Briggs punishes Simpson's costly mistake
Dartford goalkeeper Jimmy Simpson was warned at half-time by his manager Tommy Sampson for not being in line.
However, the 20-year-old former Millwall and Welling United goalkeeper didn't take heed of the warnings and his 74th minute mistake proved costly at a wet and windy Stonebridge Road.
With the Darts 1-0 up through Eddie McClements first half strike, Simpson was penalised by the assistant referee on the stand side for clearing the ball outside the penalty area, and after a conversation with Gravesend referee Buck, the Deres were awarded a direct free kick on the edge of the penalty area, inside the D.
Up stepped Deres midfielder Ryan Briggs and his right-footed free kick found the back of the net via a deflection to give Barry Lakin's side a deserved point.
Sampson admitted: "I don't know whether the linesman was right, I don't really care!
"We told Jimmy Simpson to be careful and he wasn't and I said at half time a professional performance wins this game.
"However, one unprofessional error cost us the three points."
With the game billed as a free scoring classic, both sides in 23 games have seen 89 goals scored at both ends in Southern League Division One East fixtures this season.
However, the first half failed to live up to expectations.
Both sides won early free kicks that failed to trouble both goalkeepers and the visitors survived three Dartford corners in succession but lost Ray Aboyage to injury as he bravely defended the first flag kick.
The Darts were by far the better side in the first half as McClements scuffed his 25-yard shot which goalkeeper Jani Seitsonen saved comfortably after a deflection.
Former Bromley utility man, Kwabena Amaning sparked the Darts into life, hitting a 30-yard effort straight into the grateful hands of Seitsonen, who despite his Finnish sounding name, comes from Orpington.
This sparked a lively spell for the Darts and Amaning played the ball inside to Mark Horan and the strong, central midfield general, flashed a shot wide of the far post from sixteen yards on the left hand side of the penalty box.
However, the 303 fans - the highest gathering in the entire Southern League Division One East this season, were celebrating the games first goal seven minutes before the interval.
McClements' 18-yard drive on the left hand side of the D had Seitsonen picking the ball out of his net to liven up a disappointing first half.
Erith & Belvedere, however, were gifted a chance to claw level on the stroke of half time. Simpson dropped a cross from the right and Steffan Ball blazed the ball over an open net from 16-yards, when it seemed easier to score.
The visitors showed their attacking prowess in the second half and Paul Abbott fired over the bar from 25-yards inside the opening three minutes.
Paul Sykes, back in the Darts front line, despite being unfit, sent an eight-yard header over the bar, after wide-man Tostao Kwashi showed his talents on the right wing, despite being tightly marked, he still managed to find the 27-year-old former Margate man.
Deres boss Lakin issued instructions from the bench for his players to shoot at every opportunity as Abbott (twice) and Dean Standen - making his return from East Thurrock United - listened to their 31-year-old manager but all three chances were off target.
Good play from the left-hand side by Amaning, when he took on Deres' full-back Gary Schallchi, saw them both slid to the ground in the wet conditions, but Amaning got back up before his marker, showed good feet, and sent in a cross for Kwashi but Seitsonen plucked the ball out of the air at his near post to prevent a certain goal.
Erith & Belvedere, however, should have drawn level in the 63rd minute. Abbott, looking to get on the score-sheet at every opportunity, drove a low shot from 25-yards and Simpson was forced to dive and palm the ball away from the far post.
Steffan Ball, however, from 8 yards, unmarked, wasted the chance shooting across the face of goal.
Kwashi should have wrapped up the victory two minutes later flying past three visiting defenders and with only the goalkeeper to beat, Seitsonen rescued the Deres at the second attempt, as the ball, which he blocked, spun towards the goal-line but he pounced on it before the striker, with nine goals to his name this season, could.
Danny Fletcher sent in a cross but Standen from 22 yards, drove a shot narrowly wide of the far post, beating Simpson's despairing dive.
Following Briggs' leveller, the visitors looked the more likely to net the winner.
Former Bromley striker Paul "Charlie" Vines' looping header from 22-yards was comfortably saved by Simpson, who then saw Abbott's effort fly over his bar.
Dartford, however, went agonisingly close when Kwashi, ghosted in at the far post from Graham Knight's powerful header, but the marksman, who Erith & Belvedere wanted earlier in the season, saw his effort bounce inches wide of the far post.
Deres assistant manager Steve Robinson, admitted he was happy with the point.
The man who made nearly 700 appearances for the Darts, said: "The way things turned out in the second half, we've got to be happy with a point.
"The weather conditions weren't the best, and it was probably even stevens. We were probably stronger as the game went on and slightly disappointed but perhaps another ten minutes longer we would have got the winner.
"Dartford is always a difficult place to come to at the best of times - the weather conditions and the way things panned out we've got to be happy with a draw and our unbeaten run continues.
"It was a game of two halves - it was very wet and windy and in the first half we were playing against the wind and had our backs against the wall for long periods.
"Our battling qualities came through in the second half and we've got the point we needed and on a better day we would have taken all three."
Darts boss Sampson added: "I must be honest, I thought we were clumsy in front of goal today.
"I thought we had three or four great moments when we should have scored.
"The wind played a big part in the game. It was swirling about and in the second half it was difficult to get the ball down and play.
"I thought we deserved to win. I really think we played much better than them today and the one thing on our downside today was the physical fitness of three or four of our players.
"When everybody is back physically fit, I think we will be a decent side.
"Erith & Belvedere had a good spell in the second half. We lost Paul Sykes, Graham Knight and Eddie McClements physically and Mark Horan, who I thought dominated the first half with a fantastic performance, had too much to do. We were making substitutions to get unfit players off the pitch."
Dartford: Jimmy Simpson, Darren Brown, Tommy Osborne (Capt), Mark Horan, Richard Avery, Craig Dennis, Tostao Kwashi, Graham Knight (Tommy Martin 87), Paul Sykes (Jim Carter 79), Eddie McClements (Darren Penfold 86), Kwabena Amaning. Subs: Craig Maguire, Jamie Williams (GK)
Erith & Belvedere: Jani Seitsonen, Gary Scallchi, Danny Fletcher, Lewis Tozer (Capt), Marc Cumberbatch, Ray Aboyage (Dean Fenton 20), Ryan Briggs, Paul Abbott, Steffan Ball (Paul Vines 66), Lewis Wood, Dean Standen (Tom Maycock 79). Subs: Craig Hales, Mark Chapman
Referee: D Buck (Gravesend)
Assistants: I Regan (Ashford) & T Slater (Sandhurst)
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