Dartford FA Trophy Match Preview

City welcome old rivals and friends Dartford to Twerton Park on Saturday at the start of what we hope will be a long run in the FA Trophy.

It is six seasons since our appearance in the semi final and a repeat of at least that achievement would be most welcome, especially after the disappointment of the defeat to Peterborough Sports in last season’s competition and our recent exit in the FA Cup.

One of the pre-season favourites for promotion, Dartford made a fine start and still top the National League South table, with 28 points from their 14 matches, but other clubs, including local rivals Ebbsfleet and Maidstone, are now following closely on their heels.

Of course, this will be the Kent club’s second visit to Twerton this season. They inflicted a defeat on City back in early September, while maintaining their 100% start. Two down at half time, we fought back well courtesy of an Alex Fletcher goal but it proved to be a consolation in a 3-1 defeat which incredibly was the 9th to Dartford in our last ten meetings!

However, home supporters will be encouraged by a recent slump in form by Steve King’s team. There was certainly no indicator of this after an excellent 3-0 defeat of Maidstone United in the FA Cup but in the next round they were humbled by Ryman League Sudbury, a club from two levels below.

This was an even bigger shock than ours at Banbury on the same afternoon and the Darts then endured a winless run in the League, including four matches without scoring, before Saturday’s 3-2 win at Hemel Hempstead.

Their manager Steve King will need no introduction to City fans as Dartford will be the fourth club he has managed against us and has suffered only two defeats.

He has certainly seen a revival in fortunes since taking the job at Princes Park, initially hauling the Darts away from the lower reaches of the division after his mid-season arrival and then finishing second in the 20/21 curtailed season.

After Chippenham, Dartford are in fact our oldest opponents in this division with over 90 fixtures played in various competitions, the very first played way back in 1930. The City romped home 7-0 and 6-0 in two encounters played around sixty years ago and we were probably seen as the Darts’ bogey team in the 80s and 90s with City unbeaten in 13 matches.

However, our paths have only crossed once in the FA Trophy and that was back in 1980. A 1-1 draw at the old Watling Street ground was followed by an emphatic 6-1 win for City in the replay featuring a hat trick for Steve Summers with Jimmy Jenkins and Wayne Powell also appearing on the score sheet.

City then went on to defeat Merthyr Tydfil before going down to Dulwich Hamlet in the 3rd round – a run which turned out to be one of our longest in the next 35 years.

Dartford’s record in this competition is equally modest although they can boast of one Wembley appearance in 1974 when they went down 2-1 to Morecambe. After knocking out Slough on penalties twelve months ago they went out limply to Haringey Borough.

So Saturday’s match will see two teams taking a break from league action and hoping to start the long journey to play under the Wembley Arch. We hope to see you there and that it will be Jerry Gill’s team in the hat for the following Monday’s draw!

Match tickets can be bought online here.