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STONEBRIDGE SHOWDOWN: Darts want to follow in the Fleet's footsteps - EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 27 January 2008

THE KENT Senior Cup is brought back to life when local rivals Ebbsfleet United and Dartford lock horns in a mouth-watering quarter-final clash at Stonebridge Road on Tuesday night, writes Stephen McCartney.

This will be the first time that Dartford’s first team have played at Stonebridge Road since vacating the ground in May 2006.

www.kentishfootball.co.uk brings you a special preview to the BIG MATCH as we bring you the views from the two camps - separated by three divisions - and 4.6 miles.



DARTFORD stretched their unbeaten run to ten league games their 1-0 win over Arlesey Town at Princes Park sees them four points clear of AFC Sudbury at the top of the Ryman League Division One North table, writes Stephen McCartney.

Defender Adam Flanagan headed home his sixth goal of the season, following Ryan Hayes’ corner during the early stages of the game.

The Darts defence have kept four successive clean-sheets and picking up the odd 1-0 win is crucial if the Darts are to clinch the title.

“Obviously it was three points that mattered and not the scoreline,” said Darts boss Tony Burman, when speaking EXCLUSIVELY to www.kentishfootball.co.uk.

“To be fair, I don’t think it was a very entertaining game but Arlesey came to stop us playing and I don’t think they were worried if they scored or not - but they would have been happy with a point.

“I’d have liked to have scored a second goal before half-time but it wasn’t too be. I didn’t feel it was an enjoyable game to watch but nevertheless we got three points.”

With Brendon Cass (28 goals) and Jay May (13) forming the best strike partnership here in Kent - as well as the rest of the Ryman League - players all round the park are chipping in.

Defenders Jamie Coyle (7), Flanagan (6), Steve Norman (4) and John Guest (3) can all cause problems when they come up from set-pieces.

And that is exactly what former Folkestone Invicta defender Flanagan did against Arlesey Town to seal the Darts’ 17th league win of the season.

“The set-pieces are very important and we have a belief in the changing room and on the pitch that if we have a set-piece we will score from it,” explained Burman.

“Some of the balls that Ryan (Hayes) put in, especially from corners, are so difficult to defend against.

“And with the number of big lads’ that we’ve got in the side now, we just believe we’re going to score from a set piece.”


DARTFORD make their first visit to Stonebridge Road since vacating in May 2006 - and the club are now a forced to be reckoned with.

“Obviously we’re grateful to Gravesend for letting us share the ground,” said Burman.

“When we came back from Essex and Purfleet, Gravesend let us share their ground, which was nice.

“I must say the pitch is lovely there, it’s excellent and the position that Ebbsfleet are in, in the Conference League, that’s where we want to aim for.”


TONY BURMAN gave his views on fans’ website My Football Club taking over Ebbsfleet United.

“I think everyone is going to sit back and see what happens,” he said.

“It must be in a strange position to be in but it’s brought in money into the club, which is a good thing but as I say everyone’s going to sit back and see what happens and see if it’s a good move or not in the future.”

With My Football Club subscribers expected to pick the Fleet side in March, Burman feels that Liam Daish will still pick his side, adding: “I think the manager will pick the side inevitably.”


DARTFORD insist that they’re trying to emulate Ebbsfleet United and climb through the Ryman League into the top-flight of non-league football.

“I hope there in the Football League,” said the Darts boss. “We would like to be in the level that Ebbsfleet are in.

“They’ve done fantastically well to get to that level and fair play to them. There expectations are that they want to get into the League and they might do that with the injection from money coming in from the takeover.”


DARTS BOSS Tony Burman revealed that although he’s going to make changes to his side, the game is worth watching as the players’ on show are familiar.

“Unfortunately we have got to make changes,” he revealed. “We have got to give players who sat on the bench and are good enough to play in my (starting) eleven. We’ve got to give them 90 minutes of football when it arises.

“The lads that were on the bench, they will play 90 minutes - Junior Lewis, Yohance Lewis, Tom Bradbrook, Tommy Osborne, Mark Green, Richard Avery and Dave Moore will play Tuesday night.

“They’re first team players and good enough to get into the eleven but it’s not gone their way at the moment.”

But Burman revealed that he’ll keep his actual team selection close to his chest right up to the last minute.

He added: “Everybody is reporting to the game. Whether it will be the lads from the under 21’s or who played Saturday, I will leave that to the last moment.”

It promises to be a cracking game off football, with CONTROLLED passion both on and off the pitch.

And Burman said: “This is a competition that we want to stay in. We don’t want to downgrade the competition.

“But I’ve got a squad of eighteen players I want to keep fit. It’s a catch 22 situation. I’ve got players on a number of bookings and I don’t want them to get booked on Tuesday night - and I feel the team we put out will be a strong side anyway.”


DARTFORD CHAIRMAN Mr David Skinner is looking forward to meeting some old faces as the club play at Stonebridge Road for the first time since ending their groundsharing agreement in May 2006, writes Stephen McCartney.

The Darts go into Tuesday night’s Kent Senior Cup quarter-final showdown sitting proudly at the top of the Ryman League Division One North table.

Whilst clinching promotion into the Ryman Premier League is number one priority for the Princes Park outfit this season, Mr Skinner would like the Darts to get one over their previous landlords.

“The importance of this year is the League but Cup games are always a nice distraction,” he said EXCLUSIVELY to www.kentishfootball.co.uk.

“We did make some good friends when we were at Stonebridge Road so it’s nice to see them again.”

Mr Skinner expects Darts’ fans’ to flock through the turnstiles at Stonebridge Road, but did explain why both sets of fans’ will be segregated.

“It’s not a decision from either club,” he said. “Both clubs would like a normal friendly game, like a non-league game (but) Ebbsfleet United have had instructions to do it so they can’t refuse.”

Dartford went through many dark days during it’s fourteen-year exile away from their home-town, playing at Oxford Road, Park View, Stonebridge Road and Ship Lane.

“There was many a time when I used to wonder myself if we could continue,” the chairman recalled.

“Times were hard financially and all the rest of it. It’s a nice thing to look back on and not having to go through again.

“We relied on the youth team and players’ just being picked up and tried out as well as we did do with the players we were able to use and I think great credit has got to go to those players, who put their heart and sole into playing for the club.”

But the club did have players like Eddie McClements and Ryan Hayes, dazzling in midfield nowadays, Zimbabwean entertainer, striker Tostao Kwashi, and winger Dave Martin, during their time at Stonebridge Road.

Now at Princes Park, attracting an average gate of 962, Dartford have retained their place as a giant of the non-league game here in the Garden of England.

“Let’s put it we can compete with anyone in the league both on the pitch and off the pitch,” said Mr Skinner.

A 1-0 win over Arlesey Town puts the club in a tremendous position to clinch promotion - a four point lead over AFC Sudbury at the top - and the Darts travel to the Suffolk club on 9th February.

“If we win the next eighteen games, we’d win the league,” said the chairman. “If we win the next 18 we deserve to be champions.

“We keep winning and picking up points, most of the top clubs will have to play each other and will drop points. Losing a few games shouldn’t prove disastrous.”

But the club have already put in place plans ahead of next season - the Ryman Premier League (Kent branch).

The Darts could be playing lucrative games against Welling United, Dover Athletic, Margate, Ramsgate, Maidstone United, Folkestone Invicta and Tonbridge Angels next season.

“The proper Kent Premier League,” the chairman said. “It will be nice to see some of the old faces from the old days and playing against teams of great quality and playing many Kent derbies again.

“You have got to remain positive and not negative. It may tempt fate on most people’s parts but you have to remain positive.”

But Darts would like to emulate the Fleet and climb the football pyramid into the Blue Square Premier - and above.

“Give it a few years and it will be there,” said Mr Skinner. “Let’s just say we’ll be playing Ebbsfleet in the next few years, whether we come up or they come down, whatever, or we meet somewhere in the middle.”

And let’s face it, Dartford are fully equipped, with Princes Park ready to entertain the likes of Oxford United, Ebbsfleet United and Stevenage Borough.

“When your winning and top of the league you always get more fans,” said Mr Skinner. “Last year getting 1,200 was the exception with an all new ground and people to experience it.

“I actually expected crowds to dip down more than it did. We’re playing good football, scoring lots of goals and people are enjoying it.

“People who support Millwall and Charlton have come with their mates and enjoying themselves - hopefully they’ll come back.”

But with local bragging rights at stake on Tuesday night, the Darts chairman believes his club will come out on top.

“I don’t think they (Ebbsfleet) can afford to put out a weakened side as we’ll give them a thrashing they won’t be able to live it down - especially by our supporters,” he said.

Mr Skinner, meanwhile, gave his views of Ebbsfleet United’s takeover - and name change from Gravesend & Northfleet - a club that Dartford have yet beaten at four attempts since their re-formation.

“Whatever form of funding you get is useful but my question is are you selling your sole for a quick financial gain?

“If they’re confident that it won’t affect the running of their club, good luck to them but it’s not the type of thing we’ll get involved in, but we’ll quite accept £700,000 if someone will give it to us.”

But Dartford will NOT change the name of their club, as Mr Skinner explained: “I don’t think we’ll be allowed to because basically it would have to go to the shareholders.

“We’ve got a large shareholder base. What the board of directors say, shareholder wise, is only the small total. If we liked it and others didn’t, then it wouldn’t go ahead.”

But he added: “Our long-term aim is to be in the Conference in the next five to ten years. Our aim this year is to get promotion and we’ll take it from there.”

And on full-time football, he said: “It’s shown this year you can go part-time in the first couple of seasons but ultimately you have to go full-time to make any sort of mark on the Conference.

“When you do go full-time you have to generate lots and lots of money and that’s why we’re improving our commercial side now so when we do get there, we’ll be ready for it.”




8 Stacy Long
7 Luke Moore
7 John Akinde
5 Chukki Erribenne
5 Chris McPhee
5 George Purcell
3 Mark De Bolla (now AFC Wimbledon)
3 Michael Bostwick
3 Rapheal Nade
2 Neil Barrett
1 Luke Coleman



28 Brendon Cass
13 Jay May
10 Eddie McClements
9 Ryan Hayes
7 Jamie Coyle
6 Adam Flanagan
6 Tom Bradbrook
4 Steve Norman
3 John Guest
2 Junior Kadi
2 Yohance Lewis



14 Blue Square Premier Games at Stonebridge Road:

Total: 14,654
Average: 1,046

Games that have attracted four-figure crowds:
Northwich Victoria (1,045)
Stevenage Borough (1,201)
Torquay United (1,368)
Stafford Rangers (1,055)
Grays Athletic (1,396)
Burton Albion (1,385)


14 Ryman League Division One North games at Princes Park

Total: 13,466
Average: 962

Games that have attracted four-figure crowds:
Waltham Abbey (1,402)
Enfield Town (1,004)
Canvey Island (1,291)
Ilford (1,213)
Arlesey Town (1,159)

The Darts are the giants of their division. Their closest rivals in the crowd pulling ranks are AFC Sudbury, who they travel to for a title-decider on Saturday, 9th February.Stats for the Suffolk side:

13 Games
Total: 3,656
Average: 281

Admission prices have been reduced to £6 (adults) and £3 (concessions) and as mentioned above, segregation has been put in place with Dartford fans allocated the open terrace at the Swanscombe End of the ground.

If you cannot attend the match due to work commitments - then please visit www.kentishfootball.co.uk as we’ll be providing LIVE SCORE UPDATES.

The game will be settled on the night, with extra time and penalties required if needed.

Visit club websites:


www.dartfordfc.co.uk & www.dartfordfootballclub.co.uk

Ebbsfleet United v Dartford
Kent Senior Cup Quarter-Final
Tuesday 29th January 2008
Kick Off 7:45pm
At Stonebridge Road, Northfleet, Kent DA11 9BA

Last Updated ( Sunday, 27 January 2008 )
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