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Dartford manager Steve King ahead of National League South game against bottom side Billericay Town

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Dartford manager Steve King has insisted this Saturday’s clash with Billericay is not a forgone conclusion.

Long-time National League South leaders Dartford are hot favourites to bag maximum points when they host bottom side Billericay at Princes Park.

Dartford manager Steve King. Picture: Keith Gillard
Dartford manager Steve King. Picture: Keith Gillard

But King warned the Essex outfit are showings signs of improvement under new boss Jody Brown, who is slowly putting his mark on their squad.

New faces include former Gills midfielder Josh Wright, forward Shaquile Coulthirst and keeper Clark Masters, who has returned to the game after a number of seasons away.

They led for a long time at Maidstone in the FA Trophy last weekend and their previous league outing saw a narrow 1-0 defeat to Hampton.

King warned: “100%, we can’t be complacent.

“We’ve got to turn up and do the job. I know what it’s like to take over a team mid-season and it can take time to change players around.

“They’ve got good players in, they’ve got capabilities in the group there and have drawn with Maidstone and only lost 1-0 to Hampton.

“It’s important we are on our game because there are big games elsewhere in the league this week.

“Everyone is going to say it’s top versus bottom but the gap between the two teams is not that big with the signings they’ve made.

“They’ve really improved their team and that’s shown in the last two weeks.”

Dartford will again include right-back Josh Clarke, who has previously featured for Brentford and Wigan.

He looked set for a move to League 2 in the summer but that fell through and King fielded him in the FA Trophy at Bath last weekend after giving him game time in the matches against Cockfosters and Whitstable.

“He is a permanent signing,” said King. “His pedigree speaks for itself.

“He’s played 80-plus games for Brentford in the Championship and League 1, and has been with Wigan.

“He was going to get a deal in the summer but that didn’t happen. I know his agent and we’ve had a look at him.”

Darts set up a FA Trophy third round trip to Isthmian Premier Cray Wanderers after winning at Bath on penalties last Saturday following a goalless draw.

Having missed out on promotion to the National League in 2020 following a shoot-out defeat at Weymouth, Dartford produced five perfect spot-kicks despite not doing any practice beforehand.

“There was no point,” claimed King. “You can’t recreate what goes on out there when you are taking penalties in front of 700-800 fans.

“Before the Weymouth game we practised penalties and all three went out of the stadium!”

On the tie at Cray, which takes place on December 18, King added: “It’s going to be a tough game as they’ve shown what they are capable of.

“They’ve got the likes of Chris Dickson, Adam Coombes and Anthony Cook so they’ve got capabilities in their squad that if we drop our guard then we will get beaten.”

Skipper Tom Bonner suffered a suspected broken nose at Bath.

It was, as King anticipated, a close affair with keeper Dan Wilks’ penalty save the difference in the shoot-out.

King said: “Bath are better than their league position suggests. They’ve given us two really tough games now and there was nothing in it, if anything they had the better chances, although we did have chances as well.

“They were outstanding penalties from us in the shoot-out, to be fair. I said before, ‘These are the five in this order, pick your spot and don’t change your mind, and hit it with power’.”

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