FORMER Aston Villa star Lee Hendrie broke Dartford’s hearts with an 88th minute strike to wrap up a late victory for Tamworth on Saturday.
Darts had battled away for 30 minutes with 10-men following Tom Bonner’s dismissal but returned to Kent empty handed.
Tamworth, most famous for ginger pigs and a manifesto, added theatrics to the town’s list of achievements.
The game got off to a steady start with the home side, prompted by Adriano Moke, setting the early pace.
But it was Dartford who took the lead after 12 minutes when a high ball into the Tamworth area was headed firmly past James Severn by Semi Ajayi.
In the space of a game and a bit the Charlton loanee has conceded a penalty at Kingstonian and opened his account for Darts at Tamworth.
Not bad for a 19-year-old!
Dartford, probably still suffering from a midweek virus, took a while to get into the game but were clearly in control by the interval.
Things took a downturn for Darts in the second period.
Just before the hour Moke hit a fierce drive which struck Bonner on the hand as he stood on the goal-line, with Marcus Bettenelli beaten.
The referee deemed it hand to ball, which it probably was, and Bonner was asked to take an early bath.
Scott Barrow scored from the penalty spot.
The home side took control and peppered the 10-man Dartford’s goal with shots, bringing a series of fine saves from Bettenelli.
Despite this, Danny Harris embarked on a long run up the left flank, cut inside to the edge of the Tamworth area and angled a drive past Severn and into the far corner of the net on 70 minutes.
This gave Darts breathing space and with Tamworth more often than not snatching at their chances, an away win was looking likely.
Sadly Marcus Kelly turned matters irrevocably Tamworth’s way.
With just five minutes remaining Kelly went down as though poleaxed, starting outside the penalty area and ending marginally inside.
It scored 8.2 on the Richter scale and 6.6 for artistic merit.
There was another chance for Barrow to get on the score-sheet from 12 yards, which he did.
Then came substitute Hendrie’s 88th minute winner, a shot on the turn from Moke’s delivery, to send the home fans into ecstasy and break Dartford’s resistance.
There was late controversy as players from both sides clashed near the Dartford dug-out, details of which were not clear from the press box area, although the Non-League Paper reported afterwards FA action against the two sides is now likely.
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Dartford: Bettinelli, Burns, Ajayi, Rose, Hayes (Collier 58), Bonner, Noble (Rogers 88), Bradbrook, Harris, Erskine (Crawford 74). Subs not used: Wallis, Green. Att: 842.