Published: 16:45, 05 August 2017 |
Updated: 17:41, 05 August 2017
Much-faniced Dartford were held to a draw on the first day of the National League South season.
Joint-favourites for the title, Darts will have to improve significantly on this showing against Hungerford if they're to live up to that billing.
A disappointing result was compounded by an injury to centre-half Ronnie Vint.
Dartford began the season without a recognised striker on the pitch.
Duane Ofori-Acheampong and Andy Pugh missed the game through injury and new signing Warren Mfula was named among the substitutes so Danny Harris, who was used primarily at right-back last season, partnered Tom Murphy up front.
New signings Mark Onyemah and Lyle Della-Verde got the nod down the Dartford left but Ryan Hayes was left out of the starting XI with Lee Noble preferred on the right wing.
Hungerford handed debuts to Paul Stonehouse, Matt Partridge, Callum Willmoth and Stephane Ngamvoulou.
The home side edged a tight first half but, perhaps unsurprisingly given their shortage of attacking options, lacked quality in the final third.
Murphy lashed a shot over and then forced a good low save from Lewis Ward after linking with Della-Verde.
Noble's curling free-kick from wide on the right was headed wide at the far post as Dartford continued to probe without managing to get in behind the Hungerford backline.
Hungerford captain Matt Day was lucky to escape a booking when he tripped Elliot Bradbrook near the touchline and then kicked out at Harris. That incident roused the home crowd briefly and Bradbrook tried his luck with two shots, one of which deflected behind for a corner.
Hungerford had a good spell of possession just before half-time and Stefan Brown saw his stabbed effort trickle just wide of the far post.
Ward comfortably held a long-range Bradbrook strike before Murphy turned well on the edge of the box although the visitors blocked his shot on the stroke of 45 minutes.
Deren Ibrahim got right behind a curling Luke Williams shot at the start of the second half and Bradbrook then headed over from a deep Della-Verde corner.
Harris rifled a half-volley just past the angle of post and bar but there was bad news for the home side moments later when centre-half Ronnie Vint came off injured.
That saw Mfula sent on for his debut with Harris reverting to right-back and Keaton Wood stepping inside.
Darts began to build some pressure, Harris heading over from a Della-Verde corner after Onyemah's long shot had taken a deflection.
But boss Tony Burman was screaming at his players moments later when slack defending at a free-kick allowed Louie Soares a shot which he drilled into the side netting.
Tom Bonner headed over from a corner when another Murphy strike deflected behind but it was now Hungerford seeing more of the ball and Dartford looking pretty disorganised.
On came Hayes for Della-Verde but still it was Hungerford who were quicker to the tackle and crisper with their passing. Dartford's play was laboured and the visitors always seemed to have time and space on the ball.
Academy graduate Alfie Cue came on for the last 12 minutes and looked bright.
His long throw was flicked on by Bradbrook and almost forced over the line by Wood but Hungerford survived the scramble.
The last chance fell to Cue but, on the stretch, he couldn't keep his header from a Hayes cross down.
Dartford: Ibrahim, Wood, Vint (Mfula 52mins), Bonner, Onyemah, Noble, Brown (Cue 78mins), Bradbrook, Della-Verde (Hayes 66mins), Harris, Murphy. Subs not used: Eweka, Coxall.
Hungerford: Ward, Tyler, Stonehouse, Partridge, Day, Williams, Willmoth (Herring 85mins), Rusby, Brown, Ngamvoulou (Clark 85mins), Soares (Meecham 69mins). Subs not used: Bentley, Rees.
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