by Steve Tervet at The Shay
Dartford’s dreams of an FA Trophy Final at Wembley remain intact after they came from behind to draw with 10-man Halifax on Wednesday night.
Despite Chris Worsley being sent-off midway through the first-half, the Darts were second-best and they fell behind to a Lee Gregory goal on 27 minutes.
However, substitute Danny Harris (pictured) headed home an equaliser after the break and the sides will reconvene at Princes Park on Wednesday for a replay.
The quarter-final had been postponed twice but play finally began on a heavy Shay pitch which cut up even during the warm-up.
Halifax, chasing promotion from Blue Square Bet North, flew out of the traps against a Dartford side who seemed to be feeling the effects of their six-hour coach journey.
Gregory, Dan Gardner and Gareth Seddon formed a dangerous attacking trio for the Shaymen and all three had efforts on goal early on.
The game’s big talking point arrived on 17 minutes. As Dartford’s defence opened up, Chris Worsley lunged into a challenge with Mark Arber but he caught the defender late and was shown a straight red card.
Halifax fans howled their disapproval but they need not have worried. Unbowed by the dismissal, Town surged forward and deservedly took the lead when Gregory collected Seddon’s pass and clipped his shot beyond Marcus Bettinelli into the far corner.
By contrast, Dartford were toothless in attack and half-time arrived with Halifax in control.
Seddon curled a delightful shot into the far corner after the restart but the Darts were saved by an offside flag. Gardner thundered a shot just over from 30 yards and Tony Burman responded by bringing Harris and Lee Noble off the bench.
The changes were desperately needed and they worked. Harris had already seen one effort cleared off the line before he headed a Ryan Hayes corner into the net on 67 minutes.
Suddenly, the home fans, so raucous earlier, were hushed and nervous. Nathan Collier had a header saved by Matt Glennon – he was offside anyway – while Bettinelli held onto a Needham chip at the other end.
Full-time signalled an extension to this already drawn-out tie but Dartford will be relieved to wake up still in the competition.
The replay will take place at Princes Park next Wednesday with the winners going through to a two-legged semi-final against Grimsby - who overcame FA Cup giant-killers Luton 3-0 on Tuesday.
The first leg of the semi-final will take place at Blundell Park on February 16 with the return a week later.
Dartford: Bettinelli, Burns, Arber, Bonner, Rose, Hayes, Champion, Wallis (Noble 59mins), Green (Rogers 87mins), Collier, Erskine (Harris 59mins). Subs not used: Evans, Wells.
Do you think Darts can overcome the Shayman second time around? Have your say below.
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