Dartford 1 (Dinanga 96) Hemel Hempstead Town 1 Scott-Morriss 37)
Vanarama National League South
Match Report by Mitch
After an impressive all-round performance for 95 minutes, it was heartbreak in the end for the Tudors as Dartford found an equaliser with just 30 seconds left on the clock.
This season, Dartford are unbeaten at home and are very much in the hunt for a top-three place.
Hemel had yet to beat them at Princes Park, so the Tudor Army would have gladly taken a point before the game, but in the end, the result felt like a defeat as the home side nicked a rather fortuitous draw.
After a very quiet start with neither side creating anything of note in the first 15 minutes, Hemel stepped up and started to fancy their chances, with Dartford looking very lacklustre, which seemed to affect the crowd, who were also very flat.
Sam Mantom had the Tudors’ first effort on goal, his long-range effort curling wide, and he had a second chance moments later, but he failed to find the target again.
Hemel thought they had taken the lead on 25 minutes after Cole Kpekawa smashed a header onto the crossbar, the rebound fell to Mantom, who drove it home, but the linesman had already raised his flag for an offside.
Dartford finally managed their first effort on goal in the 29th minute when Ody Alfa broke down the left, but Craig King easily dealt with his shot.
The visitors took a deserved lead in the 37th minute when a corner was met by Kpekawa, who headed it across goal where Gus Scott-Morriss intercepted it and flicked it home.
Charlee Hughes had a decent opportunity just before the break when Kpekawa met a long throw and knocked it to the back post, but Hughes couldn’t keep his header down, and it went high and wide.
The second half saw The Darts force a series of corners as they came out with a bit more purpose, and they came close to an equaliser just 2 minutes in when they were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box.
The ball was fired in, and Kpekawa deflected it away for a corner. Craig King punched it clear as it came in, but it went straight to Tyrique Hyde, who drove it goalwards, but King saved well.
After this initial burst, Hemel settled again and looked in control with Dartford running out of ideas. Hughes had a shot deflected away for a corner, and it looked as though the Tudors would be the more likely to score again.
A mix up at the back almost let Pierre Fonkeu in, his close-range shot was blocked but fell to Mantom, who drove it back in, but Dan Wilks saved it well down low to his right.
Scott-Morriss almost repeated his first-half effort when he met a corner, but this time his header went over the bar and shortly after, a Fonkeu shot appeared to strike a hand in the box, but the official waved away the heated appeals.
With the clock ticking down, Dartford offered little, and it looked like a case of Hemel just managing the game out.
Craig Fasanmade did superbly well to chase down the ball on the left, and with most Tudors fans begging for him just to take it into the corner, he saw an opportunity to cut inside and get a shot away; as it went goalwards, it struck a Dartford defender and could have gone anywhere, but it dropped kindly into Wilks’s hands.
He wasted no time in launching it forward, and for the first time in the game, Jake Robinson managed to get in behind Hemel’s backline; as King closed down the angle, he slid the ball across the six-yard box where Marcus Dinanga was waiting, and he had something of a tap in, making no mistake to the delight and relief of the Dartford fans behind the goal who celebrated like it was the winner.
It was incredibly harsh on Hemel, who looked as though they would be taking the three points back to Vauxhall Road and speaking to home supporters after they would have had few complaints if they’d lost the game.
Mark Jones was delighted with his side after, saying it was the best they’d played as a team since he’s been in charge and however frustrating it was at the end, it was still an excellent all-round performance.
It’s three games unbeaten now, and we have two matches over the Easter period that could potentially put us into contention for that final play-off place.
Hemel: King, Scott-Morriss, Wishart, Westbrook, Kpekawa, Morgan-Griffiths, (Gardiner-Smith), Paul, Mantom ©, Castiglione, Hughes (Fasanmade), Fonkeu, (Cerulli) Subs not used: Bunga, Saunders (gk)
Attendance 1076 Tudors Man of the Match: Pierre Fonkeu (with everyone else a close second)