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Forest Green Rovers 1-1 Dartford
DARTFORD face a replay tomorrow night with Forest Green Rovers in the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup after an increasingly exciting and nail-biting tie on Saturday.
Tony Burman welcomed keeper Louis Wells back after a long recovery from a nasty hip injury sustained at Woking and skipper Elliot Bradbrook returned to the fold following Best Man duty the previous weekend.
The first half saw Dartford kick down the slight slope towards the Town End Stand. Forest Green started positively with the pacy James Norwood showing prominently from the start and he opened the scoring after twelve minutes with a 25-yarder from wide on the right.
This should have inspired the home side and, indeed, Norwood was prominent in everything they did in the half.
By contrast Darts were a little behind the early pace, although Ryan Hayes along the right and Lee Noble and skipper Bradbrook through the left, initiated many a counter. Up front Jacob Erskine was double-marked but he stuck to his task with great determination.
Darts were content to run the clock down to half-time and hold the scoreline unchanged.
The interval talk resulted in Darts tightening up and denying Rovers more than the occasional fleeting chance, although Norwood still managed to be a threat.
Eight minutes into the second half a slack Rovers clearance was gathered by Hayes and his astute pass into the home penalty area was swept home by Erskine.
Being a cup tie to be won, both sides increasingly threw caution to the wind in search of a decisive second goal.
It became more and more entraining for the spectators and nerve racking for viewers and performers alike.
There were goalmouth incidents galore at each end right up to and including three minutes of time added on.
In those minutes Rovers missed an open goal from all of two feet, while Lee Noble shaved the near post after a dash up the left and two further Dartford efforts were turned away for corners by home keeper Sam Russell.
Referee Declan Ford received numerous appeals in goalmouth incidents but he was consistency itself. Defenders always got the verdicts.
Sunday’s televised first round draw pitted the winners a home tie against Port Vale.
Darts are due a result against the men from the Potteries after going out at the same stage of the competition in a 4-0 replay defeat two years ago, so the incentive is there for tomorrow.
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Dartford: Wells, Burns, Arber, Rose: Hayes (Harris 83), Rogers, Wallis (Champion 63), Bradbrook, Noble: Erskine (Crawford 75). Subs not used: Green, Collier, Sutton. Att: 891.