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Stephen McCartney
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Monday 3rd 
January 2005
Southern League
Division One East
Stephen McCartney reports from Stonebridge Road
Dartford 0  
Uxbridge 0  

Sampson pleased with a point

DARTFORD manager Tommy Sampson admitted he was happy with a point after his side held second placed Uxbridge to a goal less draw at Stonebridge Road today.

The Darts, however, have now drawn eight of their 13 home league games and sit fourth from bottom in the Southern League Division One East table sandwiched by two of their Kent rivals.

Sampson's side are two points ahead of Erith & Belvedere and find Sittingbourne in a berth above them but they are four points better off.

Sittingbourne face Erith & Belvedere at Bourne Park next Saturday whilst Harlow Town visit Stonebridge Road.  

Darren Thomson - a former Dartford youth team player - made a return to the club, having signed from Go Travel Kent League neighbours VCD Athletic, and the left sided midfielder made a good impression on Sampson on his debut.

Speaking about the 24-year-old, Sampson said: "I thought an excellent debut.  He was in the youth side here five years ago and was allowed to drift into the Kent League.

"I've been trying to get Darren to sign here since August.

"I've finally got him and I like him. I thought it was a sound debut, there's a lot more to come from him.

"He shouldn't have been allowed to leave the club."

Dartford started the game very well and after two minutes came close to open the scoring.

Tostao Kwashi piled pressure on visiting skipper Stuart Bamford close to the corner flag and the defender rolled the ball to Thomson on the left wing.  He played the ball to Danny Heale who was closely marked inside the box and he cut the ball back to Mark Horan but his right footed 22 yard drive went wide.

Uxbridge goalkeeper Ray Francis was called into action after ten minutes when he caught Ted Ansell's right-footed volley from 26-yards above his head.

The first real chance from the visitors came fourteen minutes later when Jamie Cleary whipped in a deep cross but Mick Swaisland's downward header was comfortably collected by Darts goalkeeper Kevin Hudson.

Darts' full-back Steve Hafner almost embarrassed Francis when his shot from 40-yards on the right flank flew narrowly over the crossbar.

The tall and strong Uxbridge side finished the half well with Stuart Lake firing a right-footed shot from the edge of the penalty area narrowly wide of the near post and Hudson saved comfortably from Chris O'Leary's shot from outside the box and a Cleary header inside stoppage time.

The visitors twice issued warnings to the home side in the first eight minutes of the second half.

Slack defending from the home side allowed Lake to receive Gavin Bamford's throw in space inside the Darts penalty area on the left hand side but luckily his shot sailed over.  O'Leary then tried his luck from 20-yards but he blazed his shot high over Hudson's crossbar.

After 62 minutes Hafner played a short free kick to Horan 35-yards from goal and the midfielder took the ball on another ten yards before his left-footed effort sailed over.

With 16 minutes left, Francis got down low to his left to push Ansell's left-footed 35-yarder around the post.

The later the game went on, Dartford remained solid to earn a clean sheet and a valuable point.

They almost grabbed victory with five minutes to go when Eddie McClements' right-footed 30-yard shot whistled narrowly wide of the post.

Sampson was pleased his side bounced back from Saturday's 3-2 loss at Maldon Town - they were 2-0 up with a minute to go before half-time thanks to Kwashi's brace but went on to lose 3-2.

"Having played so well as we did Saturday, to give away a two goal lead and still unlucky to come out of the game nothing, today was vital," said Sampson.

"I didn't think there was a difference between the two sides.  

"One or two lads, like me, have a bit of a cold but I thought it was an outstanding performance.

"Kevin Hudson has had nothing to do.  I am obviously delighted with that.  We didn't have a lot of chances either."

Sampson revealed he will be contacting Football League clubs to bring in young players on work experience to bolster his young squad.

"I am hoping to move a couple of players in the club.

"I'm trying to deal with a Football League club about some work experience players.

"We are a bit thin, the bench was very young - the next six weeks are going to be vital to us.

"We want to play well, work hard and games like today - Uxbridge beat us 5-0 six weeks ago -  but that's virtually my best team today.

"I thought if anyone was going to win it today it would have been us.

"These are the type of games we do lose and here at home, we've had four to five draws recently and 3-4 of them we should have nicked the points but were not far away."

Sampson, however, is fully focused to helping his side climb the table, and isn't even thinking about relegation.

"I am just looking at picking points up - I am not looking at a relegation battle.

"I am looking to be a midtable team.  I think we are, but we've made lots of mistakes we've made individual errors and I think we are 8-9 points off from where we should be."

A motivating team-talk before kick off from Sampson and his assistant Paul Sawyer put the confidence back into the side after their disappointing defeat on Saturday.

"It would have been easier to have lost today after the disappointment of Saturday and Uxbridge sitting second in the league," Sampson said.

"We didn't do that and that speaks volumes to them and Paul Sawyer and myself.

"We worked really hard for the players today since half past one to try and put in their minds a positive frame of mind to believe."

Dartford: Kevin Hudson, Steve Hafner, Tommy Osborne (Capt), Mark Horan, Craig Dennis, Richard Avery, Tostao Kwashi, Ted Ansell, Danny Heale, Eddie McClements, Darren Thomson.  Subs: Tommy Martin, Tommy Olson, Dominic Elmes, Keith Jackson, Jimmy Simpson (GK)

Uxbridge: Ray Francis, John Swift, Mark Weedon, Kevin Swift, Stuart Bamford (Capt), Gavin Bamford, Jamie Cleary, Chris O'Leary, Lee Tunnell, Mick Swaisland (Liam Chambers 85), Stuart Lake (Steve Walters 77).  Subs: Harry Howell, Melvyn Baptiste

Attendance: 283
Referee: Gavin Hoare (Strood)
Assistants: Paul Andrews (Rochester) & Ian Cooper (Rochester)