Wealdstone 1-2 Dartford - We've had to dig deep and the guys have shown why they are where they are, says Dartford boss Tony Burman

Saturday 17th February 2018
Wealdstone 1 – 2 Dartford
Location Grosvenor Vale, Ruislip, Middlesex HA4 6JQ
Kickoff 17/02/2018 15:00

Vanarama National League South
Saturday 17 February 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from Grosvenor Vale

DARTFORD boss Tony Burman says he is facing pressure and criticism despite sitting three points clear at the top of the Vanarama National League South table with 11 games remaining.

Wealdstone had on-loan Bromley winger Iffy Allen sent-off a couple of minutes before the break and Bobby Wilkinson’s side took a lead halfway through the second half through Daniel Fitchett’s glancing header, before the league leaders grabbed two goals in 165 seconds through two headed goals from strikers Danny Mills and super-sub Alfie Pavey late on.

The blue skies and Dartford’s visit to Grosvenor Vale in Ruislip attracted Wealdstone’s second largest crowd of the season as 1,002 fans saw the home side miss a great chance to pull off a shock victory over a Dartford side that had suffering back-to-back defeats to St Albans City (0-4) and Chelmsford City (1-2).

Wealdstone remain in 12th place in the table with 41 points from 28 games as all five of their home defeats have come against sides that are currently in the top six.

“My thoughts are I’m really pleased,” said Burman, following his side’s 16th league win of the season.

“Football’s a strange game. We had to take some steps backwards in results over the last couple of weeks and at one stage today.  I thought in the first half we were excellent and maybe should’ve took the lead but we’ve had to dig deep and the guys have shown why they are where they are.

“Wealdstone’s always a tough game. They’re buzzing at the moment as well because of their FA Trophy run (travelling to Bostik Premier leaders Billericay Town in the Quarter-Finals next Saturday) and their trying to get things in place and it’s a real tough game and the pitch was heavy when we started to play on it but I’m pleased.”

Goalkeeper Deren Ibrahim was dropped to the bench and replaced by German Herbert Schötterl,  23, who has been training with Championship side Fulham since leaving German side Inter Leipzig in January.

Schötter, who was given the number 17 shirt while Ibrahim kept the number one shirt while watching from the bench and he was called into action after only 83 seconds into his debut, getting down low at his near post to turn behind a teasing whipped cross from the right flank by Wealdstone’s winger Marcus Johnson-Schuster.

The Dartford keeper had a big kick on him but he choose to often punch the ball away when he could have caught the ball on numerous occasions during the game.

Burman said:  “He’s been recommended to me by a couple of guys, three guys that I really trust.

“He’s been training with Fulham and he was a pro at Watford earlier on. I spoke to him on Wednesday, we managed to get international clearance at two o’clock on Friday and he’s come in and done ok and gives a little bit of competition in that area.”

When asked how Ibrahim took to being dropped, Burman replied: “As a professional as he is!  I’ve done everything that I could do in the right way. Deren is a top, top keeper. Sometimes people go through a little spell where they could do better and he knows that.  In some games he’s saved us and in some games he could’ve done better in situations.  I said to him a couple of weeks ago that I was probably going to look for someone before the deadline rather than wait until the deadline but it will give competition for places.”

Dartford, who deployed a 4-3-3 formation, went close inside the opening three minutes.

Lee Noble started the move by playing the ball out wide to striker Mills, who kept the ball in play on the flank, cut into the box and central striker Duane Ofori-Acheampong stabbed the ball inside for Noble to hit a left-footed dipping drive just over from 25-yards.

The Darts won the corner count 9-6 and Noble swung in their second corner from the right and Mills rose and hung his header across the face of goal and the home side cleared their lines.

“There were a couple of crosses that we should’ve got on the end of and we didn’t but I was quite happy with the way we were in the first half,” added Burman.

“We changed the system and changed certain players and when you put on a lot of pressure back on to Wealdstone and that’s what we did.”

Noble’s third corner was cleared out to Mark Onyemah, who played the ball to Alex Brown, who floated in a right-footed cross from the left which was knocked back across goal by Andy Pugh but Ofori-Acheampong steered his header past the near post from six-yards.

Both sides cancelled each other out and Wealdstone striker David Pratt was a willing runner down the channels.  He chased down a Nathan Collier back pass towards his new goalkeeper and charged the ball down, the ball rolling towards the corner flag than the Dartford goal in the 24th minute.

Wealdstone right-back Reagan Ogle, who was making his debut while on loan from Accrington Stanley, has a long throw on him.  The ball was knocked down by Edward Oshodi at the near post but all Johnson-Schuster could do was hook the ball past the near post from the corner of the six-yard box.

Ogle hit a free-kick into the Dartford box from the centre circle, the ball was cleared to Johnson-Schuster, whose low ball back into the box deflected off Elliot Bradbrook and was comfortably gathered by Schötterl.

Dartford went close in the 35th minute when Bradbrook swept the ball out to right-back Danny Harris, who skipped past Iffy Allen and played the ball into Noble’s feet, who took a touch, turned and only just cleared the crossbar from 25-yards.

“I think we could’ve possibly had gone in 1-0 up but it wasn’t to be,” added the Dartford manager.

Bromley manager Neil Smith sent former Wrexham winger Allen out on loan to Wealdstone but he failed to impress during the 43 minutes that he was on the pitch out on the left-wing. Harris had him in his pocket and the Dartford full-back made more forward runs than his opponent.

Allen’s bad day at the office was summed up when he was shown a straight red card by referee Ian Fissenden for a lunge on Pugh some 30-yards from the Dartford goal.

“There’s a sending off decision. I mean it was a foul, that’s for sure, it’s a yellow card probably but he’s seen it as a red and it just happened,” came Burman response.

“We just said (at half-time) we felt we done alright.  We said they’re going to have 10 men. Duane (Ofori-Acheampong) was struggling a little bit with a hamstring injury, so we took him off and got Haysie on and hoping he would get it wide and get some crosses in and be the extra man up there.  We still played with a 4-3-3 formation and we felt there was something there and to forget about playing against 10 men and just keep moving on.”

Wealdstone made a tactical switch at the break as Danny Green moved out wide, while Burman brought on right-winger Ryan Hayes at the interval.

Harris played the ball down the line, Wealdstone left-back Jerome Okimo sliced his clearance across the penalty area and Pugh stretched to poke his left-footed shot into Jonathan North’s hands for a comfortable save from 16-yards.

“He was stretching there so I wouldn’t say that it was a great chance or anything like that,” admitted Burman.

“We just needed to get that little bit of belief and it’s a strange thing. If you stop believing and the confidence goes a little bit, you see why players do what they do.”

Burman brought on 22-goal striker Alfie Pavey in the 53rd minute and he almost made an immediate impact – but Assistant referee Craig Barnett raised his flag for offside.

Oshodi was penalised for handball, Noble played the free-kick short to Hayes, who floated in a great cross towards the far post for Pavey to hang in the air to plant his header across North towards the top far corner, only for the ever-present Stones keeper to dive high to his right to claw the ball out.

“It was a good save, again it’s something that we work on and it hasn’t gone in but at the end of the day we got the result that we want,” added Burman.

Wealdstone had their moments too.  Oshodi’s free-kick was brought under control by Fitchett, who turned Brown inside the box but his shot was blocked by Collier for a corner.

Green picked up a loose ball and ran towards the Dartford penalty area before drilling his left-footed drive past the near post as Collier failed to close him down.

The home fans started to pump up the volume but Dartford weathered the storm and called North into making a comfortable save.

Noble played the ball into Onyemah, who slipped the ball to Bradbrook, who played a short hooked pass to Brown, who stroked a low left-footed angled drive towards the bottom near corner from 20-yards, which North held diving low to his right at his near post.

Burman admitted: “It didn’t test them did it? The chance hasn’t tested him but having said that we was still taking the game to them.”

Wealdstone grabbed the lead through Fitchett’s seventh goal of the season with 22 minutes and 5 seconds on the clock.

Green rolled a diagonal pass out to Pratt, who easily cut past Dartford left-back Onyemah to cut into the box and from the right-hand side of the box curled in an quality cross which was glanced into the top far corner by Fitchett’s free-header.

Burman said: “Well, I think Ryan (Hayes) must’ve been thinking is lightening going to strike twice because he’s the one who lost the ball in the middle of the park from what he was trying to do and it’s ended up back out on the right-hand side and maybe Mark could’ve done a little bit better.  They’ve got in behind us and scored a goal and fair play to them but they had to work hard for that and in the end I think the 11 men told.”

When asked how he was feeling at the time as a third defeat on the bounce was on the cards, Burman replied: “You do have to keep believing, there’s no one that sort of gets manager’s back up, you have to do it yourselves and I felt we had to encourage from the line and there was something there and all of a sudden, we scored!”

Dartford kept composed following that set-back and Wealdstone keeper North dropped to the deck whenever he caught balls going into his penalty area at 1-0 up.  However, he was in a hurry when he was leaked two quick-fire goals!

Dartford restored parity with 35 minutes and 11 seconds on the clock as Burman’s faith in Mills was repaid by scoring only his second goal for the club while on loan from their Vanarama National League neighbours Ebbsfleet United.

The Dartford keeper played a free-kick short to Collier, who played the ball inside to Bonner, who played a diagonal to Hayes, who hung over a quality cross from the right towards the far post for Mills to rise to plant his header across the keeper into the far corner from six-yards.

“I’m really pleased for him,” said Burman, who has stuck by the striker during a barren campaign in front of goal.

“He’s worked ever so hard, he’s worked ever so hard in the game. He’s been very fortunate not to have five or six goals for us, maybe seven goals but that’s how football goes sometimes but he’s come in and scored for us and I’m delighted for him.”

Another sublime delivery from Hayes ensured Dartford snatched the victory with the winning goal being timed at 37 minutes and 56 seconds on the clock.

Hayes swung in Dartford’s eighth corner of the game, from the right towards the far post and Pavey powered his header over the keeper’s right-shoulder into the top left-hand corner from four-yards out.

Burman ran down the touchline to celebrate with his out-of-favour striker and the rest of his team.

Burman said: “There’s a lot of pressure on everybody, there was a lot of pressure on the players today, a lot of pressure. I think It has to come onto me rather than the players.  But having said that, they’ve handed that today.  They’ve come back, they were down in the dumps and I’ve given them a lot of encouragement to lift themselves and getting a result at a difficult place.”

When asked why Pavey is out of the starting line-up, Burman explained: “It’s great to have him back on the scoresheet but I’m talking to him, I’m explaining the situation to him. He’s never been a number one striker anywhere in his young career. He’s only ever played five games on a trot, he’s never played five games on the spin and asking him to lead the line is difficult for 90 minutes in some of these games that we play.

“He’s come on and he’s done well. He came on last week (against Chelmsford) and didn’t do well and I’ve had to talk to him in the week and told him how important it is just to be a targetman, which is as important sometimes as scoring goals and he was taking it in because he’s been a targetman today, he’s play was good, very good.”

Dartford created one final chance when Hayes’ corner from the right was knocked down by Paveyv at the far post.  Ogle cleared the ball only as far to substitute Tom Murphy, who struck a half-volley sailing over the Wealdstone crossbar from 20-yards.

Dartford occupy the sole automatic promotion place with 56 points from 31 games but all six play-off contenders have games in hand.

Havant & Waterlooville (53 points from 28 games); Hampton & Richmond Borough (52 points from 30 games); Chelmsford City (49 points from 30 games); Hemel Hempstead Town (48 points from 30 games); St Albans City (47 points from 29 games) and Truro City (46 points from 29 games) are all waiting vying for promotion.

Dartford host Truro City at Princes Park in seven days time but despite being at the summit, Dartford said there are unhappy people within the club.

Dartford didn’t set the world on fire today, but league titles are won by grinding out wins when not playing particularly brilliantly.

“Three points, no one’s worried about last week when we were the best team for 80 minutes and lost the game 2-1.  No one’s going to worry about Wealdstone having 10 men or going 1-0 down, all they’re going to look at is that we won 2-1 and got three points,” said Burman.

“Sometimes you think what do we have to do sometimes? Because there’s a lot of criticism that goes about in this club and it don’t help in all fairness.  You have to put up with it and I just wish that if they want to take it out, take it out on me but it don’t do anyone any good.

“We’ve had a little bit of a difficult couple of weeks on and off the field and I think we should be enjoying being top of the league rather than trying to put pressure on us that we should be walking it.

“Truro is another tough game. They’ve been up there in and around the play-offs. It will be a tough game but this has done us the power of good and has done a lot for us and it’s given us a lift especially inside the changing room and hopefully we can continue with that form.”

Wealdstone: Jonathan North, Reagan Ogle, Jerome Okimo, Danny Green, Edward Oshodi, Ian Gayle, Marcus Johnson-Schuster (Matthew Whichelow 88), Sam Cox (Mustafa Tiryaki 85), David Pratt, Daniel Fitchett, Iffy Allen.
Subs: Harry Goodger, Alfie Bonfield, Glenn Wilson

Goal: Daniel Fitchett 68

Booked: Edward Oshodi 45

Sent Off: Iffy Allen 43

Dartford: Herbert Schötterl, Danny Harris, Mark Onyemah, Alex Brown (Tom Murphy 71), Nathan Collier, Tom Bonner, Lee Noble, Elliot Bradbrook, Duane Ofori-Acheampong (Ryan Hayes 46), Andy Pugh (Alfie Pavey 53), Danny Mills.
Subs: Lyle Della-Verde, Deren Ibrahim

Goals: Danny Mills 81, Alfie Pavey 83

Booked: Mark Onyemah 61

Attendance: 1,002
Referee: Mr Ian Fissenden (Gillingham)
Assistants: Mr Steven Parmenter (Shoeburyness, Essex) & Mr Craig Barnett (Basildon, Essex)

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