Dartford 0-1 Chester - It's getting very, very difficult for us, admits Dartford boss Tony Burman
DARTFORD 0-1 CHESTER
Friday 7th March 2014
Stephen McCartney reports from Princes Park Stadium
DARTFORD manager Tony Burman says it’s getting very difficult for his side to escape relegation after his side put in a devastating poor performance against fellow part-time relegation candidates Chester.
The Darts failed their screen test live in front of the BT Sport television cameras for the first time, as their 21st league defeat of the season leaves the Kent club rooted in the bottom three in the Skrill (Conference) Premier table with 33 points, four points adrift of safety with ten games remaining.
The uninspiring first half showing from both sides must have had thousands of television viewers grabbing their remote controls to switch channels as both sides battled in the middle of the park.
Thankfully, the game livened up during the second half but only the Chester faithful will be celebrating tonight as Gareth Seddon’s sixth-goal of the season proved to be the only quality of a poor Friday night encounter, which was watched by 1,610 fans inside Princes Park.
“Obviously we’re disappointed in the changing room,” said Burman, the longest serving English manager in the top five divisions of English football.
“I think effort wise the players put it in but the lack of quality in the last third with our deliveries into the box just wasn’t good enough tonight.
“First half I don’t think their keeper has had a save nor has our one, although there was a lot of battling going on in midfield and things like that.
“I just think we’re the home team and it’s up to us to take the game to our opponents and it wasn’t to be.”
It could have been so different had Dartford taken their first chance inside the opening two minutes.
Jim Stevenson released striker Alex Wall down the right and he drilled the ball across the face of goal which evaded Danny Harris, who was ghosting in, but couldn’t make contact to the whipped in centre.
The next chance arrived halfway through the first half when Stevenson cracked a dipping left-footed angled drive towards the far post, which only just cleared the Chester crossbar.
And within two minutes Wall was released down the left before cutting inside to drag his left-footed shot across goal, which rolled out for a Chester throw-in beside the corner flag.
Chester, who seemed content to soak up Dartford’s pressure, created their first opening after 32 minutes, but Seddon’s speculative hooked volley from 35-yards skied high over the crossbar, an example of the lack of quality on show.
Reflecting on the first half no-show from both sides, Burman said: “I don’t think the game was flat. I just don’t think the quality in that respect of the last third.
“We didn’t have a shot on target and we didn’t get any decent crosses in. The free-kicks that we had in the first half were poor and I’m disappointed when you work on that sort of thing and you’ve got to put it into areas that is going to hurt teams. You score lots of goals from set-pieces but we ain’t done too bad from them but tonight it wasn’t to be.”
When asked what he said during the half-time ad breaks, Burman said: “We felt we needed to get better in that last third. I’m not just saying the two guys up front. I’m talking about any deliveries into the box. It just wasn’t good enough.
“We felt Chester were playing a high line and we needed to exploit that and I thought we did at times but the next bit on was not there.
“It’s disappointing again, the last 15 minutes we’ve got two bigger guys up front and we wanted to get crosses into the box and we just didn’t do that.”
However, Chester came out for the second half with more attacking purpose than the first.
And within 93 seconds John Rooney threated a pass in between Mat Mitchel-King and Rory McAuley but goalkeeper Alan Julian rushed off his line to smother at Matty Taylor’s feet.
Chester should have broken the stalemate when they got in behind the Dartford defence for the first time.
Rooney played the ball into Nathan Turner, whose clever reverse pass played Lewis Turner in behind Tyrone Sterling and McAuley, before he floated over a cross from the right which was not cut out by Julian and Seddon looped his header over an open goal from five-yards.
But Seddon recovered from that set-back as he grabbed the only goal of a poor game in the 51st minute.
Ross Killock clipped the ball forward which bounced into the penalty area where Seddon hooked a stunning right-footed half-volley, which looped over the outstretched right arm of the diving Julian to find the far corner from fifteen-yards.
Burman said: “But the best bit of quality was the finish! That’s the bit of quality that you can be talking about.
“The guys struck a good shot and it’s gone in and that happens and we’ve tried to get back into the game but it wasn’t to be.”
Burman added: “We seemed to wait for them to do something and we had to take the game to them. We’re at home. We should be loving playing at home and we have done over recent weeks but it just hasn’t happened for us tonight and that’s what’s disappointing.
“To lose a game, it’s a crucial game and it’s three points at the end of the day that we haven’t got.”
Chester squandered an excellent chance to put the game to bed when Seddon passed to Taylor, who cut along the edge of the Dartford penalty area before Nathan Turner teed up Taylor, who was given time and space to flash his low left-footed drive past the right-hand post from 25-yards.
However, the introduction of substitute Lee Noble sparked Dartford into life after the hour mark, but Chester keeper Aaron Chapman remained a spectator for most of the game.
Burman said: “Once you go a goal down you start to not so much panic but we should have done a lot better.
“I think we got into wide areas and the ball was still being played down the channels rather than get the ball into the box.”
Dartford skipper Elliot Bradbrook – who was playing out wide on the left – curled his shot around the post from the right hand side in the 63rd minute, before Chapman was relieved to see Stevenson’s speculative right-footed drive from 45-yards drift wide after the keeper strayed off his line.
Chapman was forced into making his first save of the game halfway through the second half when he dived low to his right to deny Noble scoring with a right-footed drive after the midfielder penetrated the Chester defence.
Dartford left-back Tyrone Sterling was given space to whip in a cross into the penalty area, but Max Cornhill steered his header wide from inside a crowd of players at the far post.
Chester’s Rooney exchanged passes with Taylor on the edge of the box before drilling a right-footed shot sailing harmlessly across goal and well wide of the far post.
Burman threw on big target-man Mikel Suarez for the final sixteen minutes of the game in the hope that balls would be pumped towards the former Tonbridge Angels target-man.
But Chester adopted this long-ball tactic when left-back Joe Heath pumped a long ball into the penalty area for Seddon to send his header over the crossbar from 12-yards.
Dartford squandered three late chances to grab an equaliser.
They were awarded a free-kick down the left channel which Noble whipped in but McAuley came up from the back to send his header over.
Dartford were then awarded a free-kick just yards outside the corner of the Chester penalty area.
Striker Wall played a short free-kick to Noble, who played teed up the ball for Wall, whose shot was blocked. Moments later the ball came back out to Noble, who took a touch before unleashing a low right-footed drive which forced Chapman to dive low to his right to get a strong hand to the shot to push it behind for a corner.
Burman said: “Their keeper saved the shot that he had. He’s come on to liven things up, which I think he did to be fair to Lee. They’ve had a shot and we haven’t been able to keep it out. We’ve had one and their keeper’s kept it out.”
Dartford’s last chance saw Suarez released through on goal but he stroked a weak left-footed shot which rolled into Chapman’s gloves and the vocal travelling fans were able to celebrate their ninth league win of the season at the final whistle.
“Listen, Mikel’s come on, he’s a big lad and if you bring someone like that there’s no point in keeping on playing balls down the sides of the pitch. When you get into that position you’ve got a couple of bigger lads in there to get the balls in the box and we didn’t do it.”
Burman said he was pleased with the commitment from his side but they just failed to have any quality in the final third.
He said: “I just think they’ve worked hard, they’ve given me a lot of effort but a little bit of intelligence (was missing). I wanted someone to put their foot on it and play it out wide or just put the ball into the box. I can’t tell you why it wasn’t (there) because that sort of thing has been good for us but once you go a goal down you start to not so much panic but we should have done a lot better.”
He said: “It’s another game. It’s three points. We’ve lost. We’re not relegated tomorrow because we’ve lost tonight and you’ve got to carry on and get on with the games.
“You can’t sulk about it and you’ve got to try and turn it round and it’s a thin defining line between winning and losing. We’ve now lost two on the spin and it’s not good. We’re all disappointed in there what’s happened and we’ve got to try again next Saturday.”
Burman takes his side to second-placed Cambridge United next Saturday, a side that are tonight fourteen points behind leaders Luton Town, who arrive at Princes Park for an all-ticket showdown on 1 April.
“That’s the ruthlessness of this league. You’ve got to do your business at home and we have done that recently,” said Burman.
“We’ve taken a little bit of a dip at the moment but you want to do your business at home and when you don’t your next fixture is Cambridge away so they don’t come tougher and we’ve got to go there and pull ourselves together, lift ourselves up and get this right in training this week and hopefully get something from the game.”
Burman insists he wants the club to retain their Conference Premier status at the end of next month so they can be in the television limelight again.
BT Sports took 55 members of staff with them on their first visit to a Kent non-league football stadium – but they do not televise Conference South football.
“Listen when you’re up in this league as ruthless as it is this is the place to be,” said Burman.
“It’s getting very, very difficult for us, the situation that we’re in. We’ve been in it, we’ve tested it, we’ve tasted it and in all fairness I love it so regardless where we are. It’s where we’re trying to be and hopefully I’d like to think we’ve still got an opportunity, which I’m sure that we have to stay in it and we’ll be trying our best to do that.
“The (Conference Premier) League is where I want this club to be.
“It’s very, very disappointing at the moment and we’ll be down. We’ve got to wait for the results (tomorrow). We wanted to put the pressure on the other teams. Chester have done that now and tomorrow night it will all have a different picture again at five o’clock.
“We’re disappointed that we haven’t got the three points from the fixture tonight. A bit of brilliance, if you like, has won the game.
“It’s out of my hands. I can’t do anything. I had an opportunity, the team had an opportunity to do something tonight. We huffed and puffed and we haven’t come away with anything and that’s really disappointing at a home fixture.”
When asked how many points of the 30 available his side must collect to beat the drop, Burman replied: “I don’t know. I haven’t got a clue how many we need. We’ve just got to do our best to get as many as we can.”
Dartford: Alan Julian, Lee Burns, Mat Mitchel-King, Rory McAuley, Tyrone Sterling, Alex Woodyard (Lee Noble 63), Jim Stevenson (Nathan Collier 81), Max Cornhill (Mikel Suarez 74), Elliot Bradbrook, Alex Wall, Danny Harris.
Subs: Kenny Clark, Deren Ibrahim
Chester: Aaron Chapman, Lewis Turner, Ross Killock, Paul Linwood, Joe Heath, Craig Mahon (Craig Lindfield 90), Andy Bond, Nathan Turner, John Rooney, Gareth Seddon, Matty Taylor (Brendan Daniels 90).
Subs: John Danby, Ricky Bridge, Jamie Menagh
Goal: Gareth Seddon 51
Booked: Ross Killock 85
Referee: Mr Kevin Johnson (Weston-super-Mare, Somerset)
Assistants: Mr Lloyd Wood (Dagenham, Essex) & Mr Joshua Smith (Bourne, Lincolnshire)
Fourth Official: Mr Paul Harris (Maidstone)