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Home Dartford Sport Article
There was high drama at Princes Park when Dartford came from 2-0 down to draw 3-3 with Cambridge United in a Skrill Premier classic.
Darts conceded inside two minutes and again 14 minutes later to hand Richard Money's title chasers complete control.
And with the visitors having only conceded 11 league goals all season, that looked to be that.
But Dartford rallied, dragged themselves level by half-time and then took the lead courtesy of a Danny Harris wonder strike.
When Alan Julian saved a Cambridge penalty at 3-2, the home fans were daring to dream of a remarkable win, only for the U's to snatch a late equaliser.
But this was a performance which showed the Darts have the character required to escape relegation, even if they do remain five points from safety.
There were two enforced changes to the Dartford starting line-up. Rory McAuley and Andy Pugh, both on loan from Cambridge, were ineligible for the game against their parent club, so Kenny Clark - returning from a groin injury - and Harris replaced them.
Tom Champion started against his former side in the U's midfield and the visitors handed a debut to on-loan Portsmouth forward Ryan Bird.
And Bird surely couldn't have dreamed of making a better start.
With only 90 seconds on the clock, a high ball forward caught Clark in two minds. He thought about leaving it but the ball hit him on the back and completely wrong-footed Julian, allowing Bird to slide it into the empty net.
The huge travelling contingent rejoiced and Darts boss Tony Burman was left scratching his head.
Cambridge could smell blood and they poured forward in search of a second goal. Tom Elliott powered two headers wide and the Darts defence looked shaky every time it came under pressure.
And then it was 2-0. Bird's first goal had been a gift but he created the second through sheer strength and persistence. Lee Burns and Mat Mitchel-King allowed themselves to be bullied off the ball but Bird still had lots to do with the finish. No problem. He arrowed a shot with the outside of his right boot into the far top corner, giving Julian no chance.
Dartford could have caved in at this point but to their credit, they fought back.
Wall had already seen one free-kick clawed out of the bottom corner by U's keeper John Sullivan when he crashed a second squarely against the crossbar from all of 30 yards.
Then the home side were thrown a lifeline when referee Rob Whitton interpreted Alex Woodyard's tumble in the box as the result of a foul challenge. He pointed immediately to the spot and Elliot Bradbrook slammed the penalty straight down the middle to make it 2-1.
The men in white shirts were throwing themselves into tackles and putting Cambridge under increasing pressure as the half drew to a close.
And their probing paid off in the third minute of added time. Woodyard swung over a hanging cross from the right and Max Cornhill showed great desire to get to the ball first and power a header low past Sullivan.
Cambridge boss Richard Money sent his players out early after half-time and the visitors started to monopolise possession at the start of the second half with some very slick play.
That said, it was Dartford who had the next chance, Wall heading Woodyard's corner over.
Cambridge kept coming but Wall gave the Darts a real outlet on the break. He collected one ball wide on the right and side-stepped two defenders, although his shot cleared the stand.
But then, out of nowhere, came a moment of magic. Harris connected sweetly with a bouncing ball on the angle of the 18-yard box, driving a magnificent half-volley over Sullivan's head and into the top corner via the crossbar and post.
Dartford had turned the game on its head and Princes Park was in tumult.
Cambridge, though, were bound to respond. And they duly did when substitute Josh Gillies burst into the box and was brought down by Cornhill.
Ashley Chambers took the penalty, arrowing it towards the bottom corner, only for Julian to guess right and claw the ball out. The home crowd roared even louder.
But the game wasn't won. Gillies whipped in a dangerous free-kick with 11 minutes left and fellow sub Luke Berry applied a glancing touch which carried the ball into the net. 3-3.
An already dramatic game ended against a backdrop of thunder and lightning, with rain lashing down and swirling around the stadium.
Gillies almost scored a winner in stoppage-time, Julian diving to palm out his goalbound free-kick, before Mr Whitton brought proceedings to a close.
The quality of the contest deserved a standing ovation from all four sides of the ground but the appalling weather conditions meant everyone simply ran for cover.
Dartford: Julian, Burns, Clark, Mitchel-King, Sterling, Woodyard (Noble 83mins), Cornhill, Bradbrook, Stevenson, Harris, Wall. Subs not used: Collier, Swallow, Wellham, Kamara.
Cambridge: Sullivan,Tait, Coulson, Miller, Taylor, Hughes (Gillies 62mins), Donaldson (Berry 70mins), Champion, Chambers, Elliott, Bird (Arnold 52mins). Subs not used: Roberts, Norris, Berry.
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