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Dartford 3 FC Halifax Town 2

By Luke Cawdell

Dartford are into the FA Trophy semi-finals after emerging victorious from a dramatic replay against Halifax at Princes Park on Wednesday night.

Having been fortunate to escape with a 1-1 draw from the original quarter-final in West Yorkshire a week earlier, the Darts found themselves behind after just two minutes.

Two goals in as many minutes put them in front after the break and when Ryan Hayes curled in a third goal, 11 minutes from time, the tie looked as good as over.

However, Dan Gardner’s long-range thunderbolt made it 3-2 and the last few minutes were a nervy affair after Elliot Bradbrook (pictured) drilled a penalty kick against the crossbar.

Dartford manager Tony Burman made four changes from the side beaten 5-0 at Mansfield on Saturday. Bradbrook returned after missing four games through injury and there were also recalls for Hayes, Richard Rose and Jacob Erskine.

The visitors had started strongly at The Shay and they repeated the trick in north Kent. Just two minutes had elapsed when Darts keeper Marcus Bettinelli allowed Gardner’s soft effort to creep past him and nestle in the bottom corner.

At the other end, Danny Harris ran through only to be denied by Halifax stopper Matt Glennon. Erskine then hit the bar with a header and referee Charles Breakspear awarded a penalty for the foul which followed, only to see the flag had already been raised for offside.

It should have been 2-0 to the Shaymen midway through the half but Lee Gregory was guilty of a bad miss from inside the six-yard box. When Bradbrook failed to connect with a bicycle kick, the ball dropped to Harris and his stabbed shot was gathered by Glennon.

The game was turned on its head when Dartford scored two quickfire goals early in the second-half.

First, Erskine intelligently laid the ball off to Lee Noble, who planted a precise shot into the bottom corner. Then Bradbrook stormed into the box and beat Glennon with a neat left-footed finish to mark his return in style.

Gardner and Gareth Seddon had shots saved by Bettinelli but Town’s race looked to be run when Hayes dropped his shoulder and found the bottom corner with a delightful effort on 79 minutes.

The drama was far from over, though. Gardner unleashed a powerful long-range shot which struck the far post and bounced in to the delight of the hardy travelling fans.

Straight from the kick-off, Dartford went on the attack and Harris was brought down inside the box. Bradbrook took the spot-kick but the ball cannoned off the bar and away to safety.

The home side survived a frantic finale and they now go through to a two-legged semi-final with Blue Square Bet Premier leaders Grimsby Town.

Burman’s side travel to Blundell Park for the first leg on February 16 before coming back to Princes Park for the return on February 23.

Dartford: Bettinelli, Burns, Bonner, Arber, Rose, Hayes, Champion, Bradbrook, Noble, Harris, Erskine (Collier 76mins). Subs not used: Wells, Wallis, Rogers, D Green.

Attendance: 805.

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