DANGEROUS DARTS NEXT ON THE HAMLET HORIZON
The big games come thick and fast for the Hamlet as the 2006-2007 season enters its final throes with the battle for the championship still wide open after Maidstone surprising succumbed to struggling Kent rivals, Chatham Town, in midweek. The gap of the 8 points to the summit may yet prove too much but Wayne Burnett and his Dulwich charges will go into today's clash with third placed Dartford determined to close that gap whilst keeping a wary eye on the chasing pack behind them. The bonus prize of a place in the play-offs awaits but with games against Fleet Town (6th) and eternal rivals Tooting (7th) to follow in quick succession even that cannot yet be taken for granted.
Before all that comes the trip down the Thames estuary to Dartford and Princes Park. Acclaimed both architecturally and ecologically, the Darts new home has rightful claims to be football's first "green" stadium, boasting impressive facilities, the envy of many. To long-suffering Darts fans though the stadium means just one thing, after many years in exile after the loss of their beloved Watling Street their heroes have at last come home, that joyous moment celebrated on November 11th last year with a 4-2 victory over Horsham YMCA. Contributing with a double that day was Darts leading scorer Brendan Cass, a summer signing from Chatham, and a lethal sharpshooter in front of goal who overtook Dulwich's Chris Dickson in the scoring charts with his 21st league goal of the season in last Saturday's 4-0 demolition of relegation-doomed Corinthian-Casuals. However that day the Darts' deadliest weapon had to play second fiddle to his strike partner Jay May who took his league tally for the season to 17 with a hat-trick. That victory was the third in four games, helping the Darts back into the promotion hunt after a dismal run of results that had seen Dartford register just one win in eight outings including a 4-1 capitulation to table-toppers Maidstone. Recent weeks assuaged that poor run, the Casuals triumph complemented by victories at home to Croydon Athletic (3-0), away to Godalming Town (3-1) and a scoreless draw at Ashford Town's Homelands.
Revenge too will be on the minds of the Darts for when last the two combatants came face to face on a late autumn evening at Champion Hill, victory for the Darts had seemed assured 'ere half an hour had elapsed. Both sides had come into the game on the back of disappointing FA Cup exits the previous Saturday but it was the Darts who started at full throttle taking the lead after 13 minutes when Dulwich dozed at a Dartford corner and Eddie McClements the flag kick with a crisp volley that gave 'keeper James Pullen not a ghost of a chance. 24 minutes and confusion reigned in the Hamlet area as David Martin's shot on the run was parried by Pullen. A clumsy challenge on Cass, a spot kick and Martin dispatched the ball into the bottom despite the best efforts of the giant Pullen to reach it. Rampant Darts looked set to overwhelm a doddery Hamlet but with 6 minutes to the break, Luke Cornwall round Dartford custodian Kevin Hudson to roll the ball home from 10 yards. Three minutes later and the wizardry of Phil Williams had the crowd and the Darts' defence spellbound as he waltzed through umpteen challenges before slotting the ball past the powerless Hudson. Martin threatened early on but the second half belonged to the Hamlet, but a winner eluded them until three minutes from time when Dickson took advantage of a reshuffle in the visitors defence after Richard Avery was forced off with a cut eye. A long punt forward, a defenders stab that stranded Hudson and left Dickson with the simplest of finishes and victory belonged to the Hamlet. Neither Dickson nor Martin will play a part this afternoon for their talents have been recognised by those at a higher level, Chris Dickson joining Premiership Charlton Athletic whilst David Martin put pen to paper with Championship side Crystal Palace in a £25,000 deal back in January, subsequently making 3 first team appearances from the subs bench, a far cry form his days at Kent League Slade Green.
However goals threaten to be in abundance this afternoon if the two sides' league records are anything to go by, combined the teams have scored 148 goals in 70 games, whilst conceding 99! In other words a goal every 25 minutes, certainly value for money. And with both sides reporting no injury scares, no miscreants sitting the game out under suspension, let battle commence!
Image of Princes Park Courtesy of www.propertymall.com©