NOTHING could separate Dartford and Ebbsfleet in the first contest between the two sides for 18 years, which was watched by more than 2,700 fans at Princes Park on Saturday.

No doubt Darts fans were hoping for a repeat of the 5-0 thrashing on New Year’s Day 1992 when Dartford overcame Gravesend & Northfleet, who have since been renamed Ebbsfleet United.

The contest started brightly with Ebbsfleet hitting the post inside of a minute through Craig Stone’s half volley at the far post.

Callum Willock scampered through the home side’s defence after latching onto Michael West’s clever chip but the striker was adjudged to be off side.

Charlie Sheringham grabbed Dartford’s first chance when he controlled Ryan Hayes’ centre and then swivelled before shooting wide.

Lee Burns was also wayward moments later when he latched on to John Whitehouse’s free-kick but the winger’s effort flew wide of the left-hand post.

Willock must have thought he had given Ebbsfleet the lead but his shot was hacked off the line by Billy Burgess at the expense of a corner, although the visiting Fleet fans were angry referee Paul Harris failed to award a penalty for handball.

Dartford hit back when Danny Harris’ shot was deflected for a corner but the set piece was headed clear by Paul Lorraine.

The hosts piled on more pressure as Sheringham managed to control the ball as it bobbled around the Ebbsfleet box like a pinball but fired wide.

Sheringham blocked a Derek Duncan free-kick, which rebounded to Ashley Carew, but his effort was also blocked before West fired over.

Dartford could have taken the lead had Sheringham managed to latch on to Hayes’ cross, which drifted wide of the right-hand post.

Midway through the first-half, Whitehouse blocked Dean Pooley’s effort from point blank range.

Referee Harris then booked both Michael Shinn and Pooley for an altercation following the Dartford midfielder’s challenge on Duncan.

Lee Burns missed a gilt-edged chance just before half-time when he failed to reach Harris’ ball.

Pooley denied Dartford after the restart when his sliding tackle on Hayes prevented the winger from scoring.

But it was Ebbsfleet who broke the deadlock just after the hour when West headed home past Whitehouse.

Dartford were clearly rattled by the setback and went close to getting back on terms when Preston Edwards blocked Sheringham’s shot and then Burns fired wide.

But Dartford did equalise on 73 minutes when Lorraine hauled down Danny Harris in the box and Sheringham converted the penalty.

Tom Bonner could have given the home side the points in the closing stages but his header from a Michael Shinn free-kick was wide.

Dartford: Whitehouse, Burgess, Bonner, Bruce, Goodacre, Shinn, Hayes (Noble 85), Champion, Sheringham (Rook 81), Burns (Bradbrook 73). Subs not used: Berquez, Gross.

Ebbsfleet: Edwards, Henry, Duncan, Carew, Pooley (Easton 72), Lorraine, West, Marwa, Willock, Phipp (Benjamin 81), Stone. Subs not used: Sealey, Sherlock, Hagan. Att: 2,781.