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Dartford FC beaten to the league title by Havant & Waterlooville - reaction from boss Tony Burman

By Steve Tervet

Tony Burman insisted missing out on the league title did not diminish the pride he has for his Dartford players.

In a thrilling climax to the National League South season, Darts were five minutes from being crowned champions on Saturday.

But a late goal for Havant meant they clinched automatic promotion on goal-difference after one of the closest title races for years.

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Dartford manager Tony Burman Picture: Andy Payton
Dartford manager Tony Burman Picture: Andy Payton

Speaking after their 2-1 win at Bognor Regis, manager Burman said: "We’re disappointed we haven’t won the league but I’m delighted with the effort everyone’s put in. We couldn’t have asked for more.

"That’s nine wins on the spin and I know it’s over 42 games but we’re equal on points, we’re the highest goalscorers in the league and our defensive record is third-best so what more can you ask?

"Having said that, credit where credit's due. Havant have won some decent games away from home and it's the goals which have counted.

"They've done their bit and in the end they’ve scored in the 89th minute and it’s taken all the joy away - but it’s not taken all the pride away.

"I’m absolutely delighted with what we’ve achieved so far this year and it’s not finished yet. We have to move on."

At half-time on Saturday the ribbons were probably already on the trophy. Havant were winning 2-0 at home to Concord while it was goalless at Bognor.

Dartford would have needed six goals to overtake the Hawks if things had stayed the same at Westleigh Park had stayed the same but the real drama started to unfold after the restart.

Danny Mills and Ronnie Vint put Darts 2-0 up while Concord were fighting back to make it 2-2 at Havant.

That sparked a huge roar from the massed Dartford contingent at Nyewood Lane only for Jason Prior's last-gasp winner to send the Hawks up as champions.

Burman said: "It's very difficult to say to your players 'you've got to get six goals' and to me, it shows no respect for the opposition but we knew we had to do that.

"But also football can be a strange game and Concord have gone there and obviously had a go. At 2-2, it's given us a lift.

"I selected a team to have a go at Bognor and I think it backfired on me a little bit. I don't think the first half was that great and the tempo wasn't as high as I wanted.

"But we got them in at half-time and we had to go and do what we had to do.

"Once we got the goal, we knew we had to get four when we heard it was 2-1 and that's what we were trying to do. It didn't quite come off but all of a sudden, it's 2-2 and there's a buzz.

"We got the second goal but I don't think it was about how many goals we got.

"We still had some more chances and I think we cleared the ball off the line a couple of times in the second half.

"It happens and that's football and you have to take it."

Dartford were top for much of the season but never opened up a big lead and that ultimately cost them.

"I will look at it once the season's finished," Burman said. "We had a great Christmas spell, a reasonable January and it was February where we dropped some points.

"We had two defeats when I wanted to kick on. That's what I like to do, to make that gap a bit bigger but we didn't and Havant caught us up.

"To be fair, Havant didn't take the bull by the horns then either. Nine wins on the trot in the last couple of months has been brilliant but you've got to give Havant credit.

"They've gone to places like Chelmsford and Welling and got a result where I was probably thinking they might have dropped points."

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