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Dartford 0 St Albans 2 match report

By Matthew Panting

Dartford's unbeaten home record in National League South was ended by St Albans on Tuesday night.

The Darts started brightly but two goals at the end of the first half proved decisive as they missed the chance to go joint-second in the table. Instead, St Albans took second spot above Ebbsfleet.

The second goal came in controversial circumstances but Darts never looked like getting back into the game after the break.

Luke Wanadio went close early on. Picture Andy Payton

Luke Wanadio went close early on. Picture: Andy Payton

 

Dartford were the better team in the opening half-hour. Wingers Luke Wanadio and Ryan Hayes went forward at every opportunity and they were keen to test keeper James Russell from distance.

A wayward square pass by Louie Theophanous - he was not the only visiting player guilty of giving the ball away cheaply early on - set up Dartford's Wanadio but his low drive was turned behind by Russell.

Persistence by Duane Ofori-Acheampong created a good opening on 20 minutes but Hayes' deep cross was volleyed over by Wanadio.

Another counter attack from the Darts ended with Danny Harris, who got forward well from right-back, seeing his low shot blocked.

The game turned on 34 minutes when St Albans went ahead. There appeared little danger as Ben Herd delivered a long free-kick but Sam Merson - son of former Arsenal and England man Paul - rose brilliantly to head beyond keeper Bailey Vose.

With Deren Ibrahim on international duty with Gibraltar, it was a Darts debut for Vose, who looked confident and assured early on but had no chance with the goal.

The controversial second goal arrived a minute into stoppage time, again giving Vose no chance.

Referee Elliot Kaye decided a challenge on Wanadio was not worthy of a free-kick - much to everyone's amazement inside Princes Park - but within seconds he penalised Dartford. Herd delivered another free-kick into the box and the ball fell kindly for Tom Bender to turn home.

Dartford's Wanadio was booked for his protests after the half-time whistle and the official left the field to a torrent of abuse from the home fans, upset at the perceived injustice.

St Albans had three chances in four minutes early in the second half to wrap the points up.

Shaun Lucien fired wide of the near post, Theophanous' shot was beaten away by Vose and then Merson's 20-yard volley lacked sufficient power.

Darts made a double change just after the hour mark - both Hayes and Wanadio faded in the second half - and it nearly had an immediate impact when the ball was worked down the right but Ofori-Acheampong's shot was turned over by Russell. 

There was a seven-minute delay as referee Kaye went off injured - the official might have been happy to see his evening end early after a below-par display in the middle - and assistant Michael Heavey took over in the middle.

Darts went close as Elliot Bradbrook's header hit the woodwork in the 90th minute but that was the closest they came on a bitterly cold evening at Princes Park.

Dartford: Vose, Harris, Gardiner, Bonner, Wynter, A Brown, Bradbrook, Hayes (Noble 62mins), Wanadio (E Brown 62mins), Pugh, Ofori-Acheampong. Subs not used: Wood, Vint, Dembele. Attendance: 652.

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