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Dartford 1-0 Luton
DARTFORD warmed up a chilly Princes Park evening with a battling victory over a Luton Town side who have cut a swath through FA Cup opposition this season.
Next up for the Hatters are Millwall at Kenilworth Road on Saturday lunchtime, but whether the watching lions boss Kenny Jackett learnt much remains to be seen.
Darts were without Lee Burns, who suffered a cut leg at work and received treatment in the dressing room before the game.
A reshuffle saw Richard Rose at right back and Adam Green, who had an excellent evening, at left back.
Behind the back four Marcus Bettinelli had an immaculate evening, which drew zero votes in the website poll.
Luton included ex-Dart Dave Martin in their starting line-up and this allowed comparison with his former Slade Green colleague, Ryan Hayes.
The former was subbed off while the latter scored the only goal of the game in true Ryno fashion.
Both teams put the emphasis on attack and both found the defences difficult to break down.
It was exciting stuff for the chilly crowd of 1,802, although chances were few and far between and it needed something special to separate the sides.
Or, perhaps, a defensive slip.
With Bradders back in full flow, and Nathan Collier combining with Lee Noble’s industry and Danny Harris’ pace, Luton were forced to work the harder.
For most of the game Hayes had two men on him and just once he was one-on-one.
Then with a drop of the shoulder, shuffle inside, and a clean pair of heels came a curler beyond visiting keeper Mark Tyler’s reach and into the top corner of the net.
The visitors were deflated and, to be honest, couldn't get back into a game which was excellently controlled by referee Wayne Barrett.
Suffice to say, you only appreciate a referee when you don’t know he’s there.
Darts made a flurry of late substitutions including bringing on Jacob Erskine, who had a great run on goal, only to be thwarted when his shot was saved by Tyler.
What of the large contingent of Luton supporters?
As at Kenilworth Road earlier this season, they applauded Darts but were cool to their own players.
As for the alleged post-match damage, like Mark Twain’s death it was greatly exaggerated.
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Dartford: Bettinelli: Rose, Champion, Arber, Green, Bonner, Hayes (Wallis 87), Noble, Bradbrook, Harris (Rogers 86), Collier (Erskine 90). Subs not used: Wells, Evans. Att: 1,802.