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Dartford 3-3 Cambridge United
DARTFORD shared the honours with high-flying Cambridge United in a six-goal thriller at Princes Park.
Ryan Bird struck twice inside the opening 16 minutes to put the title-chasing visitors in command, but Darts fought back gallantly through Elliot Bradbrook (penalty) and Max Cornhill to go in level at the interval.
Danny Harris gave Dartford a 69th minute lead and although Cambridge’s Ashley Chambers missed a penalty, substitute Luke Berry rescued a point with a 79th minute equaliser.
The Darts may have been second bottom in the table going into the game but they kicked off full of confidence following a surprise midweek 2-1 success at Kidderminster, their first Conference success in three months.
Visitors Cambridge arrived at Princes Park sitting second and just a point behind leaders Luton and they made the perfect start by taking the lead inside two minutes as Bird capitalised after they ball came off Kenny Clark and fired past Alan Julian.
They almost quickly doubled their advantage when Tom Elliott hit the woodwork and the big striker caused more chaos in the home goalmouth four minutes later by heading the ball down, although fortunately there was nobody to get on the end of it.
Elliott sent a looping header just over a minute later before Darts created their first opening, Harris bursting into the box only for a visiting defender to clear.
Alex Wall’s 25-yard free-kick forced former Millwall and Charlton keeper John Sullivan to tip it behind for a corner.
But it was Cambridge who went further ahead on 16 minutes when the ball came to Bird and he smacked a curling volley from the edge of the area beyond Julian and into the bottom corner of the net.
Bradbrook tried to get a shell-shocked Darts straight back into contention with a long range effort which flew about a foot over Sullivan’s bar and minutes later Wall hit a spectacular 25-yard free kick which cannoned off the woodwork.
However, they didn’t have to wait too long to get their lifeline as Alex Woodyard was bundled over in the box by Gregg Taylor and Bradbrook made no mistake with the spot-kick.
Bradbrook will have been disappointed not to have at least tested Sullivan with a 20-yard free-kick, while Harris saw his shot from inside the area go just off target.
Max Cornhill’s blushes were spared when his woeful clearance went straight to Elliott who fired just over.
However, it was Cornhill who popped up at the other end deep into first half stoppage time to head home Woodyard’s cross and ensure the two sides went in level at the break.
Cambridge were forced into a change seven minutes into the second half when double goal hero Bird made way for Nathan Arnold.
Wall headed just wide three minutes later moments before Taylor saw an attempt at the other end fly wide.
On 64 minutes Wall did well to create an opening but his shot from outside of the box was poor and he really should have done a lot better after doing the hard part.
Substitute Josh Gillies came agonisingly close to restoring Cambridge’s lead but he dragged his low shot just wide.
But it was Dartford who got their noses in front for the first time on 69 minutes with a Harris volley that hit the back off the net via bar and post to turn the game on its head.
The visitors were gifted the opportunity to draw level five minutes later after Gillies was bundled over by Cornhill, only for Chambers’ poorly taken penalty to be easily gathered by Julian.
However, there was nothing he could do to keep out Berry’s glancing header after the Cambridge substitute restored parity on 79 minute when he met Gillies’ free-kick.
Wall saw a free-kick easily gathered and in stoppage time Julian did excellently to keep out Gillies as both sides went in search of a winner.
But a draw was probably a fair result and no mean feat for a Dartford team battling for their lives at the wrong end of the table.
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Dartford: Julian, Burns, Clark, Mitchel-King, Sterling, Conrhill, Woodyard (Noble 83), Bradbrook, Stevenson, Harris, Wall. Subs not used: Wellham, Collier, Swallow, Kamara. Att: 2,023.
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