Dartford 1-2 Chelmsford City - They want to get into a battle with you and they try to wear you down and in the end they have, says Dartford boss Tony Burman

Sunday 07th May 2017
Dartford 1 – 2 Chelmsford City
Location Princes Park Stadium, Grassbanks, Darenth Road, Dartford, Kent DA1 1RT
Kickoff 07/05/2017 15:00

(Chelmsford City win 2-1 on aggregate)
Vanarama National League South Play-Off Semi-Final Second Leg
Sunday 7th May 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Princes Park Stadium

DARTFORD manager Tony Burman says his side lost their battle against a direct Chelmsford City side.

Rod Stringer’s men booked their place in Saturday’s Vanarama National League South Promotion Final at Ebbsfleet United, the league runners-up, who beat seventh-placed finishers Hampton & Richmond Borough 4-2 on aggregate.

Dartford came away from Melbourne Park with a goal-less draw in last Wednesday’s First Leg, but they couldn’t find the quality to beat a Chelmsford City side that spent most of the game hitting the ball in the air, grabbing shirts and performing dark arts.

It took 160 minutes of football in the tie for Chelmsford City to smash the deadlock when former Bromley striker Louie Theopahnous buried his free header to score his ninth goal of the season for the Essex club.

Hundreds of vocal travelling fans were celebrating when Chris Dickson, 32, drilled home the clinching goal on the break with five minutes remaining, before Dartford scored a late consolation through striker Duane Ofori-Acheampong’s tenth goal of the campaign.

“We’re disappointed with the result, yes, but I’ve got to remember we’ve done brilliantly to get where we are and the players’ have done brilliantly to get where we are,” said Burman, after his side finished in third-place with 84 points in the bag from their 42 games.

“I thought it was a better game than what it was in the first leg for both sides.  They play in a way where you’ve to try to match it but once you’ve matched it you’ve got to hope your quality comes through.

“First half, I thought we did in spells but that elusive goal didn’t come for us and that’s what we needed.  I wanted us to take the lead against Chelmsford because I think it would’ve been a different type of game, we would’ve got our just rewards if we would’ve done.”

A crowd of 2,622 flocked through the turnstiles at Princes Park Stadium and they were treated to an awful game of football.  The pitch was in pristine condition but both sides failed to keep the ball on the deck and utilise it.

Dartford midfielder Alex Brown fed recalled right-back Danny Harris, who got in behind down by the by-line and his low first time cross was gathered by visiting keeper Ross Fitzsimons, who grabbed hold of the ball as Ofori-Acheampong slid in at the near post after 64 seconds.

But clear cut goalscoring chances were at a premium, despite Dartford starting the game on the front foot.

Ryan Hayes whipped a trademark left-footed free-kick around the top of the far post after he was pulled down by Chelmsford left-back Luke Daley, who kept on grabbing the Dartford winger’s white shirt on numerous occasions in an attempt to keep Dartford’s threat quiet.

Chelmsford City were keen to hit long balls out of defence to hit the right channel often, with most balls going behind for goal-kicks.

And Chelmsford central defender Chris Bush went up to deliver nine long throws into the Dartford penalty area during this uninspiring game.

Bush launched his third long throw into the box, which was cleared out and Robbie Willmott smashed his shot from the edge of the penalty area which crashed against the roof of the stand behind the goal.

Dartford’s best chance of the first half, however, arrived in the 34th minute.

They won a free-kick 35-yards from goal after Bush pushed Ofori-Acheampong and Hayes chipped the resulting free-kick into a crowded box. 

Brown ghosted into the box and his looping header was pushed up by Fitzsimons, high to his right, and the ball dipped down at the far post and Elliot Bradbrook kicked Harris in the face before Harris nodded the ball against the near post from on the line.  Harris ended up strangled in the goal-net.  Sadly, the ball didn’t.

“The deliveries into the box from corners and set-pieces were decent enough and we should’ve taken the lead but we didn’t,” said Burman, 58, who took over from Tommy Sampson back in 2005.

“Danny got kicked in the face from Elliot. It’s irrelevant. They’re the chances that have got to go in and they haven’t.  I think we needed to take the lead against Chelmsford, that’s for sure!”

Former Bromley midfielder Max Porter easily went down from Andy Pugh’s challenge 30-yards from goal and Deren Ibrahim made a brilliant save from the resulting free-kick in the 39th minute.

Willmott powered a right-footed swerving free-kick over the wall and Ibrahim had stepped to his right but reacted superbly to move to his left to use his left hand to prevent the moving ball from crashing into the back of the net.

“We know what he can do and Deren’s done his bit, he’s saved it.  There weren’t a load of chances,” added Burman.

Dartford were more likely to score from a set-piece as Bush and Joshua Hill kept Ofori-Acheampong and Pugh, who was playing behind him, quiet.

Hayes chipped in another free-kick into the box and Ronnie Vint came up from the back to glance his header across goal and past the far post from 12-yards.

When asked about his thoughts at the break, Burman said: “I thought we done ever so well in the first half and we still had to match their effort and have still got to match what they do.  What we didn’t want to happen is for someone, all off a sudden, to make a mistake.”

The second half had to improve and Chelmsford City came out the better side during a vastly improved performance from Stringer’s men.

Bush lobbed in his eighth long throw, Harris headed the ball away to Dickson, who rolled the ball back out to Bush, who cut into the box before drilling his left-footed shot against the base of the near post from 12-yards.

“I think we’ve handled their aerial power and their throw-ins and the balls into the box,” said Burman.

“I’m not knocking it, that’s what we have to do and we’ve done it but we’ve matched Chelmsford for effort and we’ve matched Chelmsford in all (six games).”

On the post and bar saving his side, Burman admitted: “That’s when they were on top in the second half. They got on top and when they got on top put us under a hell of a lot of pressure and they hit the post. It’s still 0-0 then and it gave them a little bit of a lift at that time.”

Bush’s final throw was met by Dickson’s rising near-post header from 10-yards, which skimmed the top of the crossbar before going behind for a goal-kick.

Burman was left frustrated when Ofori-Acheampong’s pass released Pugh through on goal and the striker dragged his angled shot across the keeper and past the far post in the 58th minute of this uninspiring stalemate.

“Pughie’s gone through as well, that’s a chance and he’s not hit the target,” said Burman.

“We needed to score and we didn’t.  I’m just thinking we had the chances to go in the lead and I think we needed to take the lead against Chelmsford.”

Nothing was falling for Dartford in front of goal.  Substitute Lee Noble laid the ball inside to Bradbrook, who smacked his first time 30-yard drive high over the bar and hitting the roof of the stand.

But the Dartford captain, who was starting his 351st game for the club, had a glorious chance to change the outcome of the game.

Hayes whipped in a deep cross from the right which sailed towards the far post for left-winger Luke Wanadio to head back across the face of goal and Bradbrook hooked a weak shot into Fitzsimons hands for a comfortable save.

“They’re all the half chances that we’ve had but to win games you’ve got to put the ball in to the back of the net and we haven’t done that,” added Burman.

But a mistake from Dartford defender Tom Bonner gifted Chelmsford City the lead, the goal timed at 24:24 on the clock.

Chelmsford played the ball down the right channel and Dickson chased a lost cause.  Bonner came across and failed to clear the ball away and Dickson cut inside him and from the by-line he floated in a great cross into the centre of the goal where an unmarked Theophanous buried his header into the centre of the goal from six-yards.

Burman said: “It was our throw-on and it’s come to a couple of our players and we haven’t held on to it and once we haven’t held onto it it’s gone down to the corner and the fella’s turned Tom and you can go on and on.  At the end of the day they’ve had a chance and they’ve scored.

“As much as Tom got turned, we lost the ball previous to when Tom got turned and if I want to question it and be critical, who was marking (Theophanous) and where’s our defence?

“They want to get into a battle with you and they try to wear you down and in the end they have.”

Burman made a double substitution by bringing on Tom Murphy and Alfie Pavey to flank central striker Ofori-Acheampong with 13 minutes remaining, changing formation to 4-3-3, but they offered nothing.

Chelmsford City hit Dartford with a clinical breakaway goal, timed at 39 minutes and 9 seconds on the clock.

Rees, from inside the centre circle, released Dickson, who raced from the halfway line, cut into the box and drilled his right-footed shot across Ibrahim into the far corner from 12-yards when he only had the keeper to beat.

“He (Dickson) played well today, he played every so well for them but I think we’ve handled him in the games we’ve played but I think we’ve handled him reasonably well. He was quiet on Wednesday.

“It was a great finish! We’ve lost possession again of the ball up front, one of our players has lost it, miss-controlled it and it’s given them a goal, while we’re trying to press forward.”

Ofori-Acheampong was put through on goal but lashed his shot over the crossbar when he only had Fitzsimons to beat.

But Dartford scored a consolation goal, three minutes and 31 seconds into time added on, which proved to be too little too late on this disappointing day.

Vint put a cross into the box, the ball was knocked down by Bradbrook and Ofori-Acheampong drove his right-footed shot across the keeper, the ball nestling into the bottom far corner of the net.

“It’s a good finish but it’s too late,” admitted Burman. 

“We needed to take the lead from Chelmsford and that’s it.”

Dartford finished 14 points adrift of promoted champions Maidenhead United and 12 adrift of Ebbsfleet United, who will be favourites against Chelmsford City at Stonebridge Road on Saturday.

Dartford keeper Ibrahim, 26, was a dejected figure afterwards.

“My thoughts? How long have you got? As I said to the lads it is one of those things.  I could be sitting here absolutely over the moon and going into a Play-Off Final on Saturday, we’re not!

“Devastated. The club’s devastated. Everyone’s devastated. It is part and parcel of football. One team’s got to win and to be fair the two games weren’t the best game of football.  You can’t say we popped it, they popped it. It was a game of two affective teams and unfortunately they’ve come out on top yet again.”

Chelmsford City have now come away from Dartford with three wins from their three visits in all competitions this season.  This was the two club’s sixth meeting this season.

“Of course, it’s hard to lose a play-off. It’s gutting for the club.  You’ve seen how hard everyone works in the league leading up to it but it’s one of those things, it really is,” added the Gibraltar International.

“We could’ve scored early on when we were on top in the first half. I thought we were on top in the first half and it could’ve bene a totally different story.  We never and they got the first goal. We knew the first goal would be important.”

Reflecting on his first half save from Willmott’s free-kick, Ibrahim added: “That’s what I’m there to do, try to make saves, try to come for crosses and try to set up some attacks but that save, yes, it was nice but we lost the game.”

On being beaten by Theophanous’ bullet header, Ibrahim said: “It’s just a fella in the six-yard box!  There’s nothing, you’re not going to look back.  We should’ve dealt with the first ball. We should’ve really held it up and then we should’ve probably been tighter in the box. He’s taken the goal well.

“It (their second goal) was on the break. We’re chasing the game and he’s one-v-one and then he’s put it in the corner of the goal.  There’s not a lot you can do.  What do you do? Keep the 10 men behind the ball and keep it tight for the last minute? We had to go for it. It’s disappointing to concede on the break but that’s football.”

Speaking about Ofori-Acheampong’s late consolation, Ibrahim said: “He had one just before that when he’s hit it over and he’s in a similar position so from a personal point of view for Duane it’s great for him to score in another big game. He's been outstanding for us this year.”

Play-offs are cruel when you lose in one but Ibrahim is proud that Dartford have met their targets in the Vanarama National League South this season.

“We hit the target Tony set and that was 84 points over the course of the season,” said the keeper.

“If you look back at it we should’ve really got more points.  If we’re being totally upfront and honest with ourselves, probably a couple of draws where we might’ve (won).  Oxford away, Concord away, we should’ve got three points there.  You never know what could’ve happened but third place was outstanding for us but we felt we were capable of winning this play-off. We didn’t come here just to make up numbers. We’re coming here to give it a right good push but unfortunately we just fell short.

“This club has got the makings to go on, look around it, the stadium, the fans.  I thought the fans were excellent, they got behind us as much as we needed.”

Chelmsford skipper Bush taunted the home fans at the final whistle and one lowlife chav in a grey tracksuit and black baseball cap jumped over the perimeter fencing to confront him.

“Listen, it’s very, very emotional and it’s very, very stressful being involved in play-off’s…,” said Burman.

“One or two people on both sides should’ve conducted themselves better and supporters. I think it was a supporter if anything else.  It’s not turned into a nasty scene, I think it was just some verbal that went on but it’s very difficult for people to control their feelings when your team has lost, especially in a play-off.  Overall, it was played in the right spirit.”

Dartford: Deren Ibrahim, Danny Harris, Tom Wynter, Elliot Bradbrook, Ronnie Vint, Tom Bonner, Ryan Hayes, Alex Brown (Lee Noble 55), Duane Ofori-Acheampong, Andy Pugh (Alfie Pavey 77), Luke Wanadio (Tom Murphy 77).
Subs: Keaton Wood, Louis Wells

Goal: Duane Ofori-Acheampong 90

Booked: Tom Bonner 90

Chelmsford City: Ross Fitzsimons, Mark Haines, Luke Daley (Bagasan Graham 46), Max Porter, Chris Bush, Joshua Hill, Robbie Willmott, Josh Rees, Shaun Jeffers, Chris Dickson, Louie Theophanous (Kane Haysman 86).
Subs: Ashley Miller, Max Cornhill, Lemar Johnson

Goals: Louie Theophanous 70, Chris Dickson 85

Booked: Max Porter 36, Josh Rees 61

Attendance: 2,622
Referee: Mr Gary Parsons (Lymington, Hampshire)
Assistants: Mr Robin Cox (Banbury, Oxfordshire) & Mr Philip Staynings (Swindon, Wiltshire)
Fourth Official: Mr Andrew Laver (Portsmouth, Hampshire)

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