National LeaguesNews

Dartford pay the penalty in Play-Off Final

Dartford lost to Weymouth in the National League South play-off final after missing three penalties in a shoot-out for promotion.

Neither team could produce a goal in normal time, following a close-fought contest in the promotion final, and the Darts put all of their kicks high and wide of the mark when the match went to penalties.

The Darts began their league campaign on August 3, 2019, starting out with a 4-1 defeat. King took over in October with the task of avoiding a relegation scrap after replacing the departing management team of Jamie Coyle and Adam Flanagan.

King, who had lost his three previous play-off finals, including last year’s game while as manager of Welling, led the Darts on a fantastic run. It ended with the club finishing inside the play-off places when the league was halted because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately once again it wasn’t to be King’s day.

There had been doubts that the play-offs would even take place, with debate over whether the likes of part-time Dartford could be classed as elite level. King was adamant they should return to action and with help from others, he got his way.

Dartford emerged from a four-month enforced break and returned to beat Slough Town in the play-off eliminator and Havant & Waterlooville in the semi-finals, both wins earned after improved second half displays, booking themselves a place in the final at the Bob Lucas Stadium.

Striker Charlie Sheringham, who struck twice at Slough, was one of two changes for the Darts, returning as the focal point of their attack. Tyrique Hyde was also named to start as Matthew Briggs and Sanchez Ming dropped to the bench.

Jordan Ngalo had an early shot blocked after Jaidon Anthony broke for the Terras while it needed a good instinctive save low down from home keeper Calum Ward to deny joint golden-boot winner Darren McQueen.

Weymouth had appeals for a penalty quite rightly turned down when Calvin Brooks went down easily in the box under pressure from Craig Braham-Barrett.

Ward made a couple of important blocks towards the end of the opening half, denying Hyde and Sheringham, as Dartford edged the first 45 minutes.

The home goalie had to hold onto Josh Hill’s header from a corner in the second half. It took an hour for Dartford keeper Alhaji Sesay to be called into action, clutching Josh Wakefield’s driven effort after a corner had been cleared to the edge of the box.

Moments later Sesay made an even better stop to save low from substitute Ben Thomson, stretching out to prevent the ball creeping into the bottom corner.

Jack Jebb fired a shot wide for the Darts late on which turned out to be the last effort of the game. With no extra-time, the match went straight to penalties.

Weymouth had seen five of their last seven penalties saved while the Darts went into the game having beaten Boreham Wood in a practice shoot-out as part of their play-off preparations.

But while Jebb, McQueen and Noor Husin all fired wide for Dartford, goals from Tom Whelan, Jake McCarthy and Anthony sent Weymouth into the National League.

Main Photo: Keith Gillard

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