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Dartford 2 Eastleigh 2 match report


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Dartford striker Harry Crawford Picture: Steve Crispe
Dartford striker Harry Crawford Picture: Steve Crispe

Harry Crawford struck in the 91st minute to earn Dartford a dramatic draw against Eastleigh.

The home side turned in a rotten first-half display and were perhaps fortunate to only go in 2-0 down.

But they showed terrific spirit in the second half and after Elliot Bradbrook had halved the deficit, Crawford grabbed the headlines with a late, late strike.

Darts boss Tony Burman described his team's performance at Altrincham on Saturday as "lethargic" and he made four changes to the starting line-up for this game.

Lee Burns, having missed five matches with a rib injury, returned in place of Nathan Collier at right-back, while Ryan Hayes was drafted in for Lee Noble on the right wing.

Up front, Crawford came in for only his second start of the season and there was also a recall for Tom Bradbrook. Danny Harris dropped to the bench and Andy Pugh wasn't involved at all.

Eastleigh were unchanged from their 2-1 win over Southport, although their reserve goalkeeper Lewis Noice injured himself during the warm-up and had to be stretchered off.

The visitors had things all their own way in the first half. In front of a hushed crowd, Dartford were listless, rudderless and totally wasteful in possession. There was no energy to their play, no snap in the tackle and almost no creativity in the final third.

Jai Reason fired a warning shot across their bows when his curling shot flashed just wide early on. Jack Midson did likewise, drawing a smart save from goalkeeper Jason Brown.

But those warnings went unheeded.

Elliot Bradbrook gave the ball away on the edge of his own penalty area and as James Constable stormed through the open door, he was brought down by the sprawling Brown. Referee John Brooks pointed to the spot and Jamie Collins sent Brown the wrong way from 12 yards.

Jamie Collins (4) puts Eastleigh 2-0 up from the penalty spot Picture: Steve Crispe
Jamie Collins (4) puts Eastleigh 2-0 up from the penalty spot Picture: Steve Crispe

The Spitfires were being allowed to dictate play all over the pitch.

Brown held a powerful Ben Strevens effort and when Dartford did get forward, Ryan Hayes' floated cross had just too much on it for Tom Bradbrook.

It was 2-0 in the 22nd minute. Brown got down brilliantly to keep out Reason's low shot but he could only push the ball out as far as Constable, who finished with aplomb.

Eastleigh were almost gifted a bizarre third goal when Adam Green headed Michael Green's left-wing cross against Craig McAllister, the ball dropping just wide of the post.

Dan Spence was allowed to run unchallenged towards the Darts penalty area and he lashed a shot wide as the men in white shirts stood off.

The pattern continued at the start of the second half, with Eastleigh straight on the attack. Dean Beckwith and Reason both had shots charged down - the latter by Mat Mitchel-King, who the travelling fans felt had handled the ball.

But between those chances, Noble came on for Hayes - and his first meaningful contribution set up Dartford's first goal. Noble swung in a corner from the left and Elliot Bradbrook rose highest to power a header past Ross Flitney in the Spitfires goal.

Suddenly there was a different feel to the game. Dartford, urged on by Burman from the technical area, began to win loose balls and pressurise the men in blue shirts.

Still the visitors were bossing possession but now the Darts were battling to stay in the game.

Elliot Bradbrook drove a shot over the crossbar, although chances were at a premium.

Eastleigh might have grabbed a third goal when substitute Stuart Fleetwood played in Reason, but his low shot was grabbed by Brown at the second attempt.

Time looked to have beaten Dartford - but then came Crawford, latching onto Danny Harris' header and sneaking a low shot past Flitney in stoppage-time to get the home fans jumping.

Dartford: Brown, Burns, McAuley, Mitchel-King, Green (Collier 55mins), Hayes (Noble 52mins), E Bradbrook, Sweeney, Daley, Crawford, T Bradbrook (Harris 77mins). Subs not used: Anidugbe, Ibrahim.

Eastleigh: Flitney, Spence, Green, Collins, Beckwith (Todd 81mins), Constable, Reason, McAllister (Lee 76mins), Midson (Fleetwood 65mins), Strevens, Reid. Subs not used: Odubade, Evans.

Attendance: 806.

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