Dartford 1-2 Kidderminster Harriers - We shouldn't be throwing in the towel, says Tony Burman

Sunday 04th January 2015

Vanarama Conference
Sunday 4th January 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Princes Park Stadium

DARTFORD boss Tony Burman says he wants to get the club back on track after throwing away a chance of improving their slim chances of beating the drop.

The Darts were on course of claiming their sixth league win of the season after winger Ryan Hayes, 29, scored his third goal of the season after only 45 seconds on the clock.

But Kidderminster Harriers climbed up a couple of places into fifth-place in the Vanarama Conference table after midfielder Marvin Johnson, 24, scored twice in six minutes to win it for Gary Whild’s side.

Dartford’s fifteenth league defeat of the season saw them drop one place to third-from-bottom on 23 points from 28 games, seven points adrift of safety, with eighteen league games left.

“It was disappointing, very disappointing,” admitted Burman, who is Dartford’s leading career goalscorer with 159 goals.

“In all fairness to the players, we’ve lost with a fight and that’s what we’ve got to try to get back into our game.

“I think in the first half there was one or two chances that possibly could have happened for us – but it didn’t!

“But I thought we were well-organised.  I thought the lads worked really hard, really hard and that work-rate in the first half I think it caused us problems in the second half with their fitness levels weren’t quite up to what they should be for not playing or injuries.”

The Darts, who went into the game on the back of a 3-0 defeat away to Braintree Town on New Year’s Day, got off to a dream start in front of a crowd of 902 fans at a chilly Princes Park.

Hayes swung in a corner from the right with his left-foot and the ball crept inside the bottom near corner, via the hand of Kidderminster Harriers’ keeper Danny Lewis, to score their 27th league goal of the season.

“We got a good start to the game. It was a great ball in and it gave us a lift and it was nice to have that,” said Burman.

“We’ve taken the lead, albeit with a little bit of a fluke because it’s come from the corner, but I thought we was decent first half and suffered the consequences in the second half with the fitness levels.”

Dartford started the game on the front foot and they created chances to improve their slim chances of survival.

Hayes cut in from the right to whip in a cross towards the far post where striker Tom Bradbrook guided his downward header into Lewis’ gloves for a comfortable catch.

Kidderminster Harriers’ opening chance arrived in the 18th minute when left-back Kevin Nicholson swung in a free-kick from the right towards the far post where central midfielder Kyle Storer saw his header sail into Deren Ibrahim’s gloves from four-yards.

Dartford squandered an excellent chance to double their lead just a couple of minutes later.

Hayes floated in an excellent cross from the right towards the far post but Tom Bradbrook held his head in his hands in agony after seeing his free header sail past the near post from six-yards.

Six-goal striker Bradbrook, who won a fair share of headers during the first half, had to take that chance against full-time opposition.

Burman said: “In all fairness to Tom, he’s a player we’ve brought in from lower leagues (Leatherhead). I signed him to play in the Conference South and he’s playing in the Conference Premier.  He’s probably had a lot more games because of our injury situation.

“I wanted to give him (his chance) at this stage but he’s getting into positions where he might score, which is good.  He knows he’s got to work really hard and I think he’s attempting to do that. I think he’s done alright.”

Tom Bradbrook released Harry Crawford in behind the Kidderminster defence but the striker steered his left-footed shot across the keeper and the ball agonisingly rolled along the line and Kidderminster should have been 3-0 down at this point.

Ibrahim, who was playing his second successive game with Jason Brown on the side-lines through injury, made a great save to deny Johnson.

Johnson was given aces of space to drill a left-footed drive from 25-yards, which whistled towards goal, but Leatherhead’s Ryman League Division One South play-off penalty hero and Dartford’s Academy coach, dived to his left to push the ball away to safety.

“Listen, Del’s been with us, I’ve known Del since he was eight years’ old and he’s been with us a long time,” said Burman.

“If I go back a year and think if I would play him or not, I think I wouldn’t have played him.  He’s played two games now and I’m quite happy with what he’s done and it puts a little bit of competition in that area.

“Jason Brown felt he might be ok (to play today). He could’ve gone in the warm-up but he’s got a slight back/hip flex problem and he’s ok but for a sake of another week.

“I think Del done well enough on Thursday (at Braintree) and we gave Jason that bit of rest and more time.”

Burman handed former Bromley and Tonbridge Angels’ midfielder Nathan Green, 23, his debut today, having signed the left-sided midfielder on a free transfer from League Two side Dagenham & Redbridge.

Burman hopes to use the January transfer window to bring in more players, but defender Tom Bender, 21, has been released.

“Tom Bender’s contract was up. He had a short-term contract with us, which was up until today and I haven’t renewed that contract so Tom has left us and I wish him well,” said the manager.

“He done what he could do for us, a time again that was tough for us but I’ve got to do a bit. If someone comes in, it might mean someone has to go out.

“I’ve got some money to play with but I appreciate the help that he’s given us and I wish him well for the future.”

Burman added: “I’ve made a number of phone calls. I’ve made a seven-day approach for someone as well.  I’m trying to get someone in on loan.

“I’d love to have people permanently until the end of the season and that’s what I’ll do. I can’t make those players come here but I have made enquiries, like every other manager in the area. They have to do the same.

“I want to try get us back on track and that’s what we’ll endeavour to do.”

Hayes’ dinked pass released Elliot Bradbrook down the right and his cross was cleared out to Green, who cut into the box and flashed his left-footed angled drive across goal and past the far post from fifteen-yards.

Jamie Grimes clipped the ball out of Kidderminster’s defence and Mat Mitchel-King jumped in an attempt to head the ball clear, but missed the ball and Callum Gittings almost punished that mistake by cracking his volley wide from 30-yards.

Dartford deserved their lead at the break, but they were pressed into defensive duties for large chunks of the second half.

“I don’t want to blame (being part-time), but they’re a decent side and they got stronger in the second half,” admitted Burman.

“I felt we didn’t cause them problems in the second half as we did in the first and I thought that was how they played.

“I think fatigue came into the game for a number of our players.”

Kidderminster Harriers created the first chance of the second half in the 52nd minute when Nicholson swing in a corner from the right towards the far post where Jordan Tunnicliffe came up from the back to send his downward header past the near post.

Hayes was once again released down the right but his speculative cross-come-shot was gathered by Lewis at his near post.

Hayes’ corner from the left in the 64th minute was headed away towards Elliot Bradbrook, who drilled his left-footed volley screaming past the right-hand post from 25-yards.

A fine crossfield run on the break from the impressive Johnson saw him drill his left-footed shot into Ibrahim’s gloves from 30-yards.

You sensed it was going to be Dartford’s day when they survived a goalmouth scramble.

Johnson powered over a cross from the right towards the far post where substitute Jamie Spencer rose to plant his header towards goal.  Ibrahim pushed the ball onto the crossbar, which dropped at Akwasi Asante’s feet but the Kidderminster striker could not steer the ball over the line.

But Dartford shot themselves in the foot when Lee Noble replaced the injured Crawford and Danny Harris was played as a lone striker, leaving five in midfield and four at the back.

It proved to be a disaster for the Kent side because Kidderminster Harriers inevitably equalised in the 79th minute.

Spencer’s sublime through ball cut open Dartford’s two central defenders to put Johnson through on goal and his right-footed chip sailed over the advancing Ibrahim and a goal was awarded despite Mitchel-King’s desire to get back on the line and attempt to acrobatically hook the ball off the line.

Burman said: “Listen, I think we’ve defended really well today.

“The lad’s got a flick on and we shouldn’t be expecting our player to lose it for that split second. 

“He’s gone through the middle hasn’t he? To be fair to Kingy he still tried to get it off the line, which is the effort that I want to see, but it wasn’t to be.

“It’s very difficult especially when I think we have defended well. We have lacked a little bit in fitness and maybe before that we should have put the ball in to a different area rather than give the ball to their keeper but it happens.”

Dartford went agonisingly close to winning the game when Noble played the ball inside to central midfielder Max Cornhill, who unleashed a deflected right-footed drive from 30-yards, which looped up and dipped for Lewis to push the ball over the bar.

Burman added: “Listen, we’ve had some fair chances what we created.

“I think from set-pieces we looked a danger.  The keeper saved at the end where he’s made a great save.

“Listen, the guys have put in a good shift and they’re putting in some work-rate. They’ve created some chances for themselves and unfortunately it still hasn’t gone our way but I don’t think it was through a lack of effort.”

Kidderminster Harriers sealed their thirteenth league win of the season through Johnson’s ninth goal of the season in the final five minutes.

Spencer’s pass was dummied by Jack Byrne and flashed into Johnson’s path, who drilled his left-footed drive past a hapless Ibrahim into the right-hand corner.

“He’s a decent player. He’s come in.  Listen, he looked quick. It’s a good finish and that’s the quality you’re facing every week. 

“I generally, honestly hope that we can continue facing that sort of quality and that’s why it’s imperative for me that we try to stay in this league.”

Dartford almost grabbed a last-gasp equaliser when Hayes swung in the ball from the left and Mitchel-King’s near post header was expertly pushed away by Lewis, high to his left.

Burman revealed his players were showing their disappointment in the dressing room after the game.

He said: “Today the guys have had a go. I’ve questioned them about do they hurt if their losing? It’s got to mean something! They’re upset when their losing but it’s got to hurt them more. They’re down in there today because they know they’ve put in a decent effort.

“I want them to hurt as much as we hurt and as much as the supporters’ hurt as well.

“It’s tough at the moment, it’s really tough but if I have performances like that in terms of the work-rate, then that’s what we have to do and that’s what, in all fairness, I think that’s what my teams have all been about.

“If that’s what we have to go back to then fine, let’s do it. Let’s go and have a go and doing it and hopefully we’ll end up with more points than just sitting back and not doing anything.

“There’s a way to lose and if you have had a battle and you’re being in the game for a long period of time then if you lose you have to accept that happens in this league.

“When you lose and you don’t think there was effort or things like that – we shouldn’t be throwing in the towel.

“At least even when it was 2-1 we were still battling away to try to get an equaliser and that’s a positive.”

When asked what his side must do to retain their Conference status for a fourth season, Burman replied: “By trying to win as many games as we can in the next eighteen games.

“There’s 54 points to play for. That’s what we hope we can try and do.   Whether we do we’ll do it by the rules and we won’t be putting any of the club in any jeopardy whatsoever and we’ll continue to try and do our best to stay up.”

Dartford: Deren Ibrahim, Lee Burns, Callum Driver, Max Cornhill, Mat Mitchel-King, Rory McAuley, Ryan Hayes, Elliot Bradbrook, Harry Crawford (Lee Noble 77), Tom Bradbrook (Danny Harris 65), Nathan Green.
Subs: Luke Daley, Nathan Collier, Peter Sweeney

Goal: Ryan Hayes 1

Booked: Callum Driver 17, Elliot Bradbrook 33

Kidderminster Harriers: Danny Lewis, Jared Hodgkiss, Kevin Nicholson, Kyle Storer, Jamie Grimes, Jordan Tunnicliffe, Jack Byrne, Marvin Johnson (Reece Styche 89), Akwasi Asante (Jake Green 79), Craig Reid (Jamie Spencer 57), Callum Gittings.
Subs: Ahmed Obeng, Luke Maxwell

Goals: Marvin Johnson 79, 85

Booked: Reece Styche 90

Attendance: 902
Referee: Mr Daniel Cook (Braintree, Essex)
Assistants: Mr Benjamin Knight (Waterlooville, Hampshire) & Mr Samuel Ogles (Eastleigh, Hampshire)
Fourth Official: Mr Adrian Waters (Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire)