Dover Athletic 4-2 Dartford

AFTER a rain-sodden, cross-county trek, Darts emerged onto Dover’s Crabble Ground to find a comparatively meagre crowd of 1,208 to greet them.

The sloping and tilting pitch was in tip-top condition as Darts kicked off defending the Port of Dover End and, after the customary skirmishes, they took the lead on nine minutes when Rob Haworth was left all alone to head home their opener.

Surprisingly, Darts had already created two good chances by this point. Firstly, Haworth headed over a Jamie Day cross and the Lee Noble had a shot kicked off the line with Whitehouse well beaten.

Thereafter Dover enjoyed plenty of possession but rather tended to over-elaborate, pass loosely or be shunted off the ball by Dartford’s rearguard. It was therefore a bit of a shock when Jon Wallis found space to plonk a shot past an otherwise untroubled Andrew Young. That it wasn’t to be Darts’ day become obvious when Jamie Coyle headed over from a far post corner in the dying seconds of the half.

Backed by a capricious wind Dover got in front for the first time when a well-practiced Wallis free-kick was headed home by Lawrence Ball 10 minutes into the second half. Darts should have levelled immediately, but a Haworth shot struck the base of Whitehouse’s left post and came back into the keeper’s thankful arms. The let-off encouraged Dover and player-manager Andy Hessenthaler began to get the room to run the show creating space for his front runners. With 20 minutes to go, Haworth levelled when he got the last touch in a goalmouth melee following a Hayes corner.

Sadly, Darts were caught out almost immediately when James Rogers shot past Young to restore Dover’s slender lead. With time running out an injudicious foul gave Dover a free-kick, which Ollie Schulz squeezed home to wrap up the points for the home side. Darts did more than give Dover a run for their money.

They matched the home side for more than 70 minutes, scored two goals, hit the post and had three kicked off the line. Not bad for day’s work.

Dartford: Young, Osborne, Gross, Flanagan, Coyle, Dafter (Butterworth 55), Hayes, Day, Haworth, McDonald, Noble (White 81) Subs not used: Cass, Eferakorho, Ibrahim. Att: 1,208.