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Dartford FC begin the National League South season at home to Hungerford Town

By Steve Tervet

Tony Burman sees National League South being a much more open division this season.

The bookmakers have Burman’s Dartford joint-favourites for the title alongside Chelmsford, both sides having made the play-offs in 2016/17.

Maidenhead and Ebbsfleet dominated last season but it looks like being a wider promotion race this time, particularly with the play-offs now going down to seventh.

Dartford's squad for the 2017/18 season Picture: Andy Payton
Dartford's squad for the 2017/18 season Picture: Andy Payton

Burman said: "There’s a lot of good teams in there and not so many local teams for us now.

"Teams will go to away games and they’ll be tough games, where we’re not all on top of one another.

"The league has opened up a little bit where there’s not someone who’s got the finances way and beyond everybody else.

"It could be a fair but tough league. Because of where we finished last year and because we’ve kept most of the squad together, that’s one of their (bookies) reasons for thinking that.

"We know we’ve got a lot of hard work to do but our aim is to get promoted, whichever way it comes."

Dartford start their campaign on Saturday at home to Hungerford Town, who finished sixth last season.

Goalkeeper Deren Ibrahim scored in a 2-0 win at Princes Park last August but Darts lost by the same scoreline in Berkshire on Good Friday.

Burman said: "Last year they came up and did ever so well. They had a great season. Teams do that when they’re promoted.

"The test will be there for them this year as well and people will know how they play, know
more about them and their players.

"It’s a tough game for us and hopefully we can get the result we want."

Dartford will definitely be without Duane Ofori-Acheampong on Saturday and fellow striker Andy Pugh is also a doubt. Ofori-Acheampong (knee) missed the whole of pre-season and isn’t expected back until the end of August, while Pugh is trying to shake off a heel injury.

Burman’s squad is largely unchanged after the manager tied most of his players down to new deals back in May.

"The summer’s gone well," he said. "We’ve signed a lot of the players from last season, added three and with the academy boys as well, I’ve been pleased the way it’s gone.

"I’m always going to still be looking maybe to bring one or two in if possible but, at
this moment in time, we’ve done our signings and we look forward to the start of the season."

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