Canvey Island 2-3 Dartford

A BLOOD-FREEZING, chilly day and a gruesome grey sky gave way to a few fleeting moments of blissful magic either side of half time during which Cody McDonald executed an exquisite hat-trick.

The Canvey bar was also twice struck and goalkeeper Ricky Wiseman made a vital save, otherwise it could have been 6-0 to Darts on the hour.

As it was, Canvey hit back and the chilled-to-the-bone public was treated to a match, a Boxing Day thriller served up a day late. There were few doubts Dartford deserved the points for, in key areas, they had more than the edge.

With suspensions and the odd injury doubts, Darts drafted in Scott Holding and Danny Baigent for starting debuts and Robert Whitnell for a first bench outing.

The teams were fairly evenly matched for possession and minor free-kicks until half-time approached and then Dartford fashioned two blitheful goals from the magic feet of McDonald.

Firstly, Rob Haworth broke along the left and knocked a neat pass inside for the striker to gather, work the ball into the box and defeat Wiseman with an oblique strike into the far corner.

Within sixty seconds McDonald latched on to a through ball out of defence and over the top to plant home Darts’ second with assurance.

It was 15 minutes into the second half before McDonald’s hat-trick was secured with consummate adroitness. Canvey refused to concede the points and, on 64 minutes, opened their account when Ryan Oliva headed home past a limping Andrew Young from a well worked free-kick. Seven minutes later the deficit was further reduced when the referee waved on the flowing Gulls, allowing Tarkan Mustafa to find Gabriel Fanibuyan at the far post to score Canvey’s second.

It was hereabouts that Darts’ all-round better performers chipped in with key performances and the renaissance of recent weeks continued into injury time as the points were transported south of the river.

Ex-Dart and local resident Peter Taylor who, at half time said McDonald’s first goal was "a good ‘un", left early to avoid the traffic. Sadly for Darts, McDonald managed to garner two yellow cards to incur a future one-match ban.

Dartford: Young, Eferakorho, Osborne, Holding, Guest, Noble, Hayes, Day, Haworth, McDonald, Baigent. Subs not used: Cass, Isa, Whitnell, Butterworth, Ibrahim. Att: 785.