Sunday 27th November 2005

We must improve on our travels, admits Hudson

Dartford goalkeeper Kevin Hudson urges the club's fans to continue their "fantastic" support at Kingsmeadow on Tuesday night, writes Stephen McCartney.

The 38-year-old made one fine save in the first half, sticking out his left leg to deny Dwayne Plummer during Saturday's entertaining goalless draw at Stonebridge Road.

This was a game where the Darts created a whole host of chances to knock Ryman Premier League visitors AFC Wimbledon out of the FA Trophy.

And with winger Dave Martin impressing throughout, the introduction of his former Slade Green team-mate Ryan Hayes with fifteen minutes remaining sparked fear into the Dons' defenders, and midfielder Eddie McClements should have sent the Southern Leaguers into the first round proper, but he was denied by Andy Little in the final minute.

Hudson praised his team-mates for their efforts.  They hit AFC Wimbledon on the break several times utilising the pace of Martin as they played with lone striker Ian Pulman, who worked tirelessly for the cause, before he was replaced by Hayes.

Hudson told www.kentishfootball.co.uk after the game: "I thought we played well and to be honest we deserved to nick it as well on chances definitely.  We had seven or eight chances didn't we?  

"They had a couple and I made only one decent save in the first half apart from that (I had a) quiet afternoon"

And Hudson felt Dartford should be joining Gravesend & Northfleet and Welling United in the first round draw instead of going to a replay, just like Cray Wanderers (at Kingstonian on Monday night), and Tonbridge Angels (at East Thurrock United).

"As I say there was one team going to win it," he said.  "Second half I really couldn't see them scoring.

"We've defended really well, credit to the lads at the back and the midfield, they worked their socks off to be honest."

And the experienced stopper praised winger Martin and both sets of supporters, as the Darts played in front of their second highest crowd at Stonebridge Road.

"Dave Martin, the youngest lad in our side had his best game for us today," said Hudson.  "I felt he was outstanding today and I think he's really set his standards now for the future.

"But credit to the Wimbledon supporters as well.  They never stopped singing.  Normally playing in front of that many people behind the goal you normally get some abuse but there was none today so I was quite pleased."

Maybe they're saving it all up for Tuesday?  And Hudson is relishing playing in front of another big crowd.  "It's always nice playing in front of big crowds," he said.

"Let's hope we'll take a couple hundred up there.  Our supporters have been great.  They never stopped singing at Margate and today they backed us all the way and you can't ask for any more than that."

Dartford come back down to reality next Saturday with a trip to Harlow Town.

"I think if you can critisise us at all this season it's been our performances away from home," said Hudson.

"We've been dire in a few of the games and it's down to the young lads, who can get themselves up for the big games but they don't get themselves up to that level of performance for the away games.

"Once we get that sorted we'll go from strength to strength."

And Burman has put their trip to Essex at the back of his mind.  He added: "It will be a different atmosphere at Harlow because they've got a running track around the pitch and there's not a lot of support there, so we'll enjoy ourselves on Tuesday first before we think about Harlow."

What was so pleasing about yesterday's game at Stonebridge Road was the number of Dartford fans watching the game and out singing the visiting supporters.

This can only bode well for their return back to the town following a 13 year exile when they play at their impressive Princes Park Stadium next season.

And playing at a brilliant new stadium - and the support they get - were the main factors for Hudson rejecting a move to Dover Athletic recently.

"I spoke to Tony (Burman) in the summer and to be fair the end of last season I was uncertain whether to play again this season," he said.

"But I spoke to Tony and decided if I was going to play this season it was going to be for two years - if needed.

"Everyone likes playing at new grounds, and this (Princes Park) is going to be superb.

"To get 3-400 when you play at home when we're not in Dartford says a lot for the supporters that have kept the club going over the years.

"I've only been here for about a year and the supporters have been fantastic and to be fair that was a big decision in me staying."

Hudson hasn't ruled out the possibility of playing (Ryman or Southern) Premier League football at their new stadium next term.

Dartford missed out on the chance to go fifth in the table when they were held to a 1-1 draw at Wivenhoe Town last Tuesday night, but they are currently in seventh place and within touching distance of the play-off places.

"Once we get our away form sorted we will stay up there or there abouts," he said.  "Realistically if we can get into the play-off's I think that will be a big achievement for us this season.

"If we do, the young lads can raise their games for the big games it seems.

"We'll get two or three big games in the play-off's so hopefully who knows, hopefully we could go up - the first goal is to get there."

Burman, however, admits his side will need to work just as hard again on Tuesday night - and enjoy themselves.

"It's the same thing, we've got to do it all over again," he said.  "We know its going to be hard work.

"Tuesday night is going to be a very difficult game but we've got to go out and enjoy it.

"We've enjoyed it today, the supporters have enjoyed it.  We're are still the underdogs and we're going to give it our best shot."

Burman's charges have already knocked out Dover Athletic (at home in the replay) and Margate (away) in the competition, so why can't they add AFC Wimbledon to their scalps?

"It's so enjoyable to be playing somebody like Wimbledon," Burman said.  "Everybody wants to meet them in this competition and we're fortunate now that we're going to get two games against them and it's another cup final for us."

Burman's side are keeping the chairman and financial controller very happy, and he added: "It's nice to be involved at this stage of the competition.  It's so enjoyable to be playing somebody like Wimbledon."

Burman will asses the fitness of five-goal striker Jim Carter on Tuesday night after he missed Saturday's game, suffering at home in bed with a bad bout of 'flu.

Dartford goalscorers:
Eddie McClements:   7
Steve Hafner: 6
Jim Carter: 5
Ryan Hayes: 5
Dave Martin: 4
Ryan Briggs: 2
Ian Pulman: 2
Ryan Spriggs: 1
Richard Avery: 1

AFC Wimbledon v Dartford
FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round Replay
Tuesday 29th November 2005
Kick Off 7:45pm
at Kingsmeadow Stadium, Jack Goodchild Way, 422a Kingston Road, Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey KT1 3PB