DARTFORD edged a step closer to Wembley with a Princes Park victory over FC Halifax Town in the FA Trophy quarter-final.
Last night’s replay turned out to be a nerve-tingling encounter.
For only the second time this season Darts were required to attack the Car Park End in the first half and that shock was compounded in the second minute when classy Town striker Dan Gardener hit home the opening goal from the edge of the six-yard box.
Naturally Darts were a little put out and took a while to get to grips with the game, although Lee Noble was immediately into his stride, feeding Danny Harris at every opportunity.
A good Harris run at goal drew out visiting keeper Matty Glennon, who managed to smother the winger’s shot.
Soon after a foul on Noble saw a Darts free-kick blocked, but even at this early stage the visitors were finding their players with that extra bit of accuracy to mount more incisive attacks, keeping Marcus Bettinelli busy.
They just about deserved their interval lead but Darts boss Tony Burman made one or two half-time adjustments and it paid off.
Two goals in two minutes turned the game Dartford's way.
Firstly, Noble struck a typical shot through a forest of legs to level the scores.
And two minutes later, a great Harris run set up Elliot Bradbrook, whose powerful shot put Darts in front.
It all seemed cut and dried for Darts when Ryan Hayes cut in from the right to score a cracking goal – a la Mansfield Town - with 10 minutes to go.
Then that Gardner fella made it 3-2 with still enough time on the clock to take the game into extra-time before Darts were awarded a penalty and Bradbrook almost broke the bar with his spot-kick.
Fortunately for Darts, the clock ran down and now face a lengthy trek to Grimsby Town in the club's fifth-ever FA Trophy semi-final, first leg at Cleethorpes on February 16.
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Dartford: Bettinelli: Burns, Champion, Arber, Rose: Hayes, Noble, Bonner, Bradbrook: Harris, Erskine (Collier 76). Subs not used: Wells, Wallis, Rogers, Green. Att: 805.