RYAN Hayes’ dramatic late penalty rescued a point for newly-promoted Dartford when they entertained title favourites Havant & Waterlooville on Saturday.

It was the first time the Darts had performed at this level in 18 years and Hayes’ 93rd minute equaliser ensured most of the 1,302 Princes Park crowd went home happy.

The kick-off was delayed by a one- minute clap for two Dartford supporters who died during the summer break before the action got under way.

Havant defended the Academy End and were soon under pressure, with on-loan keeper Richard Martin making three vital saves in the opening 10 minutes. Dartford were able to exert the pressure thanks, partly, to a series of free-kicks conceded by Havant as they found their feet. Havant did have their moments, orchestrated mainly by the experienced Bobby Hopkinson, but the home back four were in good form and keeper Andrew Young wasn’t really troubled.

Even Joe McDonald’s howitzer long throws were no match for Darts’ rearguard.

Dartford deservedly took the lead on 26 minutes when Danny Harris forced his way into a packed goalmouth to head firmly home a Hayes free-kick from the right corner flag.

Havant showed why they are promotion favourites by working their way back into the game.

But Darts held firm until referee Venamore spotted a hand ball and Bobby Hopkinson calmly sent Young the wrong way to level the scores from the penalty spot.

With their tails now up, Havant piled on the pressure but couldn’t prise open Darts’ rearguard. As in the first half, the team under pressure worked hard to get back in the game and the introduction of Carl Rook for Ollie Berquez altered Darts’ approach.

Havant thought they had the points wrapped up when Sammy Igoo found enough room to fire a twisting shot past Young to snatch an 88th minute lead. There followed a long delay as Sam Pearce was treated for a nasty cut following a clash with Rook and Matt Ruby came on to see out the final moments.

What happened next turned an interesting game into a five-star matter.

Dartford were striving for a late leveller and Rook won an important header, which ended up in the visiting penalty area. Mr Venamore spotted Harris being held and awarded Darts a penalty.

Hayes took the kick and placed the ball left of the right-diving Martin to grab Darts a well-deserved point.

Dartford: Young, Burgess, Bonner (Birchell 87), Bruce, Goodacre, Shinn, Hayes, White (Noble 45), Berquez (Rook 72), Burns, Harris. Subs not used: Gross, Ibrahim. Att:1,302.