Published: 16:52, 04 February 2017
Dartford closed the gap at the top of National League South to four points with a 3-1 win over Whitehawk at Princes Park on Saturday.
With leaders Maidenhead snatching a late equaliser to draw 1-1 against Poole, third Darts narrowed the gap to the top courtesy of three well-taken goals, first-half strikes from Ryan Hayes and Tom Murphy and Andy Pugh's effort on the hour, which came after Glen Southam had pulled one back from the penalty spot.
With Alex Brown suspended, Lee Noble still nursing a foot injury and Duane Ofori-Acheampong unavailable, boss Tony Burman's only change was to bring in Tom Bonner after illness with academy prospect Richard Seixas dropping to the bench.
Ex-Newcastle and Palace keeper coach Andy Woodman took charge of his first game at the Hawks helm but will have work to do, especially at the back, if his side are to avoid the drop. The onslaught continued after the break and Wanadio lofted a cross onto the roof of the net and after some champagne build-up play saw a cross into the sliding Pugh deflected straight at Stewart.Howlett-Mundle headed against the bar from a deep Hawks corner on 53 minutes with the rebound somehow nodded onto the roof of the net.The visitors were handed a lifeline just before the hour however as Bradbrook was controversially penalised for a lunge on sub Brian Howard in the box which gave Glen Southam the chance to smash the subsequent penalty down the middle to half the deficit.The goal gave the visitors some impetus and they continued to threaten from set-pieces but Dartford grabbed the crucial fourth goal of the game with 19 minutes remaining when Pugh swept home from close range to complete a beautiful move with a low Hayes cross from the right back-heeled by Murphy into his path.Pugh was denied his second by the feet of Stewart moments later and then seconds after that was left unmarked at the far post but could only head a fierce cross straight into the body of the keeper when it looked easier to score.The goal all-but killed off the threat of the visitors while Dartford didn't really look like adding to their tally in the closing stages.Attendance: 875.
The visitors actually began the brighter and Dan Harding saw a 20-yard free-kick deflected over after an early Danny Harris foul while they won three corners in the opening 12 minutes, all to no avail.
On 14 minute Hayes swung in a free-kick from the touchline near half-way and bent his cross inches past the far post.
Hayes was clearly in the mood and brought out a couple of familiar tricks and it was no surprise when it was he that broke the deadlock on 20 minutes when he controlled a searching crossfield ball on the right of the box, pushed inside and bought a yard before curling a high shot which keeper Tom Stewart could only help into the net under his own bar.
Hawks mustered their only half-chance of the half three minutes later when the ball broke to Alex Osborn on the left of the box but his angled shot was blocked by the chest of Deren Ibrahim who stood up well.
Hayes pulled out a Ronaldinho-esque touch to win a corner and saw his effort from the subsequent set-piece crowded out at the far post, but the second goal arrived just after the half-hour.
This time Ibrahim turned provider, launching a monster clearance which the Hawks' defence fatally failed to prevent bouncing, allowing the ball to break to Murphy who lobbed Stewart from the edge of the box with the ball hitting the roof off the net after kissing the underside of the bar and bouncing up off the line.
Luke Wanadio almost made it three on 34 minutes when he was played through, he turned Marvin Hamilton one way and the other but sent a fierce drive straight at the chest of Stewart.
The purple patch continued and Hayes cut in from the right before pinging a left-foot shot which hit the near-post side-netting on 37 minutes and after Murphy was crowded out in the box, Andy Pugh saw his low shot on the spin blocked by Jamal Howlett-Mundle.
Stewart was grateful for ref Gary Parsons' whistle after dropping a high cross under little pressure on 42 minutes but redeemed himself somewhat with a low save from a 20-yard Wanadio dipper.
The pressure continued into stoppage-time as Elliot Bradbrook superbly freed Hayes whose right-wing cross was headed inches wide of his own post by Howlett-Mundle.
Dartford: Ibrahim; Wynter, Vint, Bonner, Wood, Wanadio, Bradbrook, Hayes (Seixas 86mins), Harris, Pugh (Thorley-Porter 90mins), Murphy (Dembele 88mins). Subs: Habte, Coxall.
Whitehawk: Stewart, Hamilton, Harding, Southam, Aldavert, Howlett-Mundle, West, Abdulla Favarel 82mins), Mills, Rodrigues (Howard 56mins), Osborn. Subs not used: Covolan, M'Boungou, Lengka.
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