Thursday 01st September 2005

Darts suffer late Trophy heartbreak

Tuesday 29th
November 2005
FA Trophy
Third Qualifying Round Replay
Stephen McCartney reports from Kingsmeadow
AFC Wimbledon 2 Richard Butler 87
Barry Moore 89
Dartford 0  

Dartford suffered late heartbreak as two goals in the final three minutes sent AFC Wimbledon deservedly through to the first round proper of the FA Trophy, booking a home clash against Nationwide Conference South leaders St Albans City on 17th December, writes Stephen McCartney.

Lethal striker Richard Butler broke the deadlock and Darts hearts when he fired an angled drive past Kevin Hudson, which found the net via the far post and when Barry Moore slotted home, after latching onto Butler's through ball two minutes later, there was no way back for the Southern League Division One East underdogs.

Earlier, Hudson had to be at his best after ten minutes, diving to his left to claw Wayne Finnie's header around the post, following a cross from the left flank from skipper Steve Butler.

But AFC Wimbledon goalkeeper Andy Little almost gifted the Kent side the lead when his clearance struck the onrushing Dave Martin - who impressed throughout Saturday's goal-less draw at Stonebridge Road - but the ball rolled agonisingly wide of the far post.

Steve Butler's 30-yarder in the 32nd minute took a deflection off former Croydon Athletic striker Matt Fowler, which clipped the crossbar and fell into the grateful arms of the 38-year-old Dartford goalkeeper.

And on the stroke of half-time Richard Butler headed just wide of the far post as the home side laid siege on Hudson's goal.

Dartford, however, had a couple of half chances early in the second half, when Ryan Briggs' right-footed shot drifted harmlessly wide and Steve Hafner's left-footed 20-yarder rolled to the Dons goalkeeper.

But the Kent side should have stolen the lead with 16 minutes left.  Substitute Ryan Hayes slipped the ball to Eddie McClements who burst through the home side's defence and like he was in the final minute of Saturday's game, was denied by Andy Little.

His shot ricochet of the goalkeeper's legs and as the ball was rolling towards the corner of the net, Finnie was grateful to clear the ball off the line.

That was the closest the Darts got to AFC Wimbledon's goal throughout the night - and were made to pay late on.

Finnie launched his trade-mark long throw into the Darts penalty area, and following a flick on, Michael Harvey drove wide of the far post.

Then, following Finnie's free-kick from the left, Steve Butler was denied when his glancing header was brilliant held by the diving Hudson, but Dave Anderson's men came through thanks to Richard Butler and Moore.

In the post-match press conference, Dartford manager Tony Burman told that he was pleased with his side's lucrative five-match run in the FA Trophy.

"I'm delighted with what we've achieved in the cup this season," he said.  "The players have lifted the club to be honest with you and everyone's enjoyed every single minute of it."

However, Burman's preparations for tonight's replay were dealt a blow when reserve team manager Bob Pittaway decided to join managerless Kent League basement boys Sevenoaks Town.

Burman revealed in an EXCLUSIVE interview with : "Bob has joined Sevenoaks because he wants to manage at a higher level.

"I understood his feelings on that.  He told me on Saturday that he's resigning from our reserve side.  I have to accept that and all the very best to him."

Burman admitted the timing could have been better and begins his search for a replacement.

"It could have happened at a better time," he said.  "I really wanted to concentrate on this game tonight but I had to see the reserve team players last night to explain the situation.

"I'll be talking to a couple of people.  Hopefully they'll be someone in charge on Saturday to help us out until we find a replacement.

"It's a bit of a blow but to be fair to Bob he's been in the job for about a year.  These opportunities come for you and we've known he's applied for a couple of other jobs and you've got to try and test yourself and I wish him all the very best."

Burman now has to lift his side for their trip to Harlow Town on Saturday, and added: "We're here playing in front of over a thousand people, we've got some very young players and it can only help them through this season.

"We've got a big away game at Harlow, which is a completely different atmosphere believe you me."

Burman admitted his side had chances to progress at Stonebridge Road on Saturday - which attracted more fans than tonight's replay.

He said:  "We've enjoyed this but we probably had our chance at home.  It could have happened for us but it wasn't to be.

"But we've thoroughly enjoyed our effort in this competition and fair play to all the players I'm so proud of them."

After playing Kent rivals Dover Athletic twice, winning at Margate, and playing AFC Wimbledon twice, Dartford have made a few bob and have enjoyed the ride.

"We've all enjoyed it," admitted Burman.  "It's given the place a lift, with the new ground coming up.

"We've got to take that extra effort into our league games and be a little bit more consistent."

And one final note.  Well done to all the travelling Darts fans that gave their heroes fantastic support throughout the entire game - and even at 2-0 down.  They were a credit to their club on such a proud night.

AFC Wimbledon:  Andy Little, Anthony Howard, Michael Harvey, Wayne Finnie, Steve Butler (Capt), Barry Moore, Chris Gell, Wes Daly, Richard Butler, Matt Fowler (Niall Connery 90), Dwayne Plummer (Sonny Farr 83).  Subs: Mark King, John Boswell, Josh Lennie (GK)

Dartford:  Kevin Hudson, Gary Carter, Tommy Osborne (Capt), Anthony Henry, Richard Avery, Kevin Spriggs, Ryan Briggs, Steve Hafner, Jim Carter (Ryan Hayes 71), Eddie McClements, Dave Martin.  Subs: Lee Craig, Ian Pulman, Brad Potter, Craig Maguire

Attendance:  1068
Referee:  Mr John Lodge (Colchester)
Assistants:  Mr Dave Raval (Walthamstow) & Mr Ronald Albert (Catford)