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Dartford captain Tom Bonner reacts to National League South play-off eliminator defeat to Chippenham Town


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Dartford captain Tom Bonner cut a devastated figure after their play-off exit on penalties.

The Darts lost a shoot-out 3-2 to Chippenham at Princes Park following a goalless draw after extra-time on Thursday night.

Danny Leonard shoots just wide in stoppage time for Dartford. Picture: Keith Gillard
Danny Leonard shoots just wide in stoppage time for Dartford. Picture: Keith Gillard

Bonner wears his heart on the sleeve and the exit was tough for him to take emotionally.

“I’m more desperate than anyone to get out of this league and bring a bit of success to this club,” said Bonner. “I’m absolutely gutted for everyone.

“Without sounding corny or cheesy, the reason I do all this is for the fans. I’m absolutely gutted for them.

“They’ve stuck with us this year, they’ve been phenomenal. Dartford have always had great support.

“You don’t get a second leg or another bite at the cherry. When you look back at all the hard work you put in, all the hours on the training field and the travelling, to lose on penalties is a really tough one to take.

“It’s the worst way to go out. I’m absolutely devastated. It’s a bit emotional at the moment as it’s a hard one to take.

“To have a season with all those games come down to a penalty shoot-out is a hard one to take.”

Tom Bonner wins his header for Dartford against Chippenham. Picture: Keith Gillard
Tom Bonner wins his header for Dartford against Chippenham. Picture: Keith Gillard

Bonner felt Dartford edged the game but lacked a clinical touch.

Instead, it’s Chippenham who progress to visit Ebbsfleet in Sunday’s semi-final clash.

“Fair play to Chippenham, they made it hard for us,” added Bonner. “Everyone knows they were in a game.

“I just don’t think we were clinical enough in front of goal. We had enough of the ball and got into decent areas without making it count and, ultimately, we’ve paid the price.

“We had some, what could have been, decent chances that we’ve either put over the bar or didn’t make the goalie work. That goes for crosses as well, we did get in good areas.”

Dartford's Marcus Dinanga battles for possession against Chippenham. Picture: Keith Gillard
Dartford's Marcus Dinanga battles for possession against Chippenham. Picture: Keith Gillard

Dartford lost the 2019/20 play-off final at Weymouth on penalties. But they enjoyed a perfect shoot-out record this term - in the FA Trophy at Bath and against Welling in the Kent Senior Cup.

“I’ve been at clubs where we’ve worked on penalties during the week and I’ve been at clubs where we haven’t,” reflected Bonner. “For me personally, I don’t think it matters.

“It’s all about the occasion, you can’t replicate it. Cookie made two saves, he nearly made three. The boys have stepped up, I’ve been there before and stepped up. We’ve had two penalty shoot-outs this year and haven’t missed, we’ve scored 10 out of 10, but it’s a different kettle of fish when it’s the play-offs and so much is riding on it.”

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