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Dartford coach Alan McLeary says patience pays off as players buy into methods with impressive run in National League South

Alan McLeary believes Dartford know what to expect from their players now.

The Darts are keeping pace with the leading lights in National League South, their impressive 3-1 win at Havant last Wednesday ensuring they sit second at Christmas.

Dartford’s consistency this season has taken them to second in National League South ahead of back-to-back games with Ebbsfleet. Picture: Keith Gillard
Dartford’s consistency this season has taken them to second in National League South ahead of back-to-back games with Ebbsfleet. Picture: Keith Gillard

That’s down to a greater level of consistency according to the former Millwall defender and manager, who has been coaching at the club this season.

“We’ve seen a general improvement in the consistency in the level of performance,” stated McLeary.

“Instead of big highs and lows, we’ve generally had consistent performances and our players have played to the standard we want them at more often than not.

“That all helps when you can half-guarantee on a standard of performance.

“After a difficult start, we’d generally admit the first few games were not what we wanted them to be - that was as much getting our ideas into the players - since then we’ve had a good run of form.

“When we first started working with them, the whole team, but certainly the back four, were used to playing a certain way of football. It just goes to show there are all different ways of playing.

“They’ve been happy to listen and try to implement the things Dowse [boss Alan Dowson] wants to play, the different ways of coaching. It’s been good that they’ve been willing to take it on board and I believe it has worked so far.”

McLeary was a fine centre-back in his day and his knowledge has been put to good use on the training ground by Darts boss Alan Dowson.

He’s worked closely with the Dartford back four, which has largely been experienced centre-backs Tom Bonner and Connor Essam, along with full-backs Maxwell Statham and Sam Odaudu.

“They’ve got a good understanding, the two centre-backs are pretty experienced at this level of football,” added McLeary.

“I’ve worked with two young full-backs as well in the majority, in Sam and Maxwell, but with Kristian Campbell as well.

“It’s nice to have a couple of leaders in terms of the way they perform on the pitch. They are often our solid go-to centre-halves who play to a good standard every week.

“Then you’ve got two full-backs who are learning their way in the game and have responded to the information we’ve tried to put into them.

“They are eager to learn and that’s a good sign. We’re playing to a good standard and get good results but there’s still room for improvement as well.

“When I originally went in, it was just the back four and I worked with them, Dowse felt that I could be of benefit there and add to that.

“That evolved to the team, working defensively and what we can ask of not just the back four, but midfielders and forwards as well in terms of team defending.

“I have a little bit of input in that but generally the main focus is the back four and also the goalkeeper in terms of communication.”

Dartford’s promotion credentials will face a stern examination over the festive period with a double header against leaders Ebbsfleet.

The two sides meet at Stonebridge Road on Boxing Day before the return clash at Princes Park on New Year’s Day.

“They’ve been big stand-out games along with the Havant one before Christmas and the New Year,” noted McLeary.

“Everyone was looking forward to them, we’ve had one great result away to Havant so far, that was a result that keeps us in there and keeps us excited ahead of the two games against Ebbsfleet.

“They’ve had a great start to the season, it’s a local derby as well. They are probably a bit surprised that we’re up there still in terms of our resources matching against theirs, they’ve got a big budget, big plans and big ambitions at their club, which is great for them.

“But we’ll be concentrating on ourselves and believe that we can go into both of those games and feel we can get results to keep us in there and set us up for the New Year.”

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