Published: 05:00, 07 April 2022
| Updated: 05:45, 07 April 2022
Dartford’s Connor Essam is waiting to find out if his season has been cut short by injury.
The 29-year-old has been a cornerstone of Dartford’s success in National League South alongside captain Tom Bonner in defence.
But the centre-back spent last Tuesday night at Darent Valley Hospital after picking up an ankle injury at training.
“It was a bit of a freak one,” explained Essam. “No one was anywhere near me, I planted my foot to turn direction and my ankle gave way.
“You think of the physical battles I’ve had in the league this season on the pitch and there’s not a scratch on me - and then that happens.
“We don’t know how bad it is yet, to be honest.
“I did it last Tuesday and there’s nothing we can do until the swelling goes down.
“It ballooned up immediately and I went straight to A&E for an X-ray but there’s no break which is a good thing.
“Now I’m resting and putting ice on it constantly to get the swelling down, and hopefully I can get a scan done later this week.”
Essam, who has started 30 games for Dartford this season, doesn’t yet know if his campaign is over.
At the back of his mind is the concern that it’s the same ankle he damaged in 2015, but he’s remaining positive until someone tells him otherwise.
“I’m as much in the dark as everyone else,” said Essam, when asked about a potential timeframe.
“I’m trying to stay positive so I don’t want to rule myself out for the season but you have to be realistic.
“I’ll be doing everything that I can in terms of recovery and rehab if there is a chance I can get back.
“I had an injury on the ankle in 2015 when I ruptured my ligament but the diagnosis then was not to have surgery.
“I want to get back as quickly as possible but you don’t know the potential damage you could be doing for later in life and that’s a bit of a concern as well.
“But of course I’d love to be back for the play-offs, if that is where we end up.”
For now, Essam faces a period on the sidelines, starting with Saturday’s home match against Hemel Hempstead.
It’s not a prospect the defender is looking forward to.
“Like any footballer you feel helpless when you are watching and you can’t play to help the team,” said Essam. “It’s incredibly frustrating.
“I’ll be backing the boys all the time I’m out.
“I wasn’t at Oxford but to draw 1-1 last Saturday is a good result and it sounds like we gave a good account of ourselves. Oxford was always going to be a tough game so it’s a decent point.”
Essam’s injury is the latest in a long list of disruptions Dartford have suffered this season.
Keeper Dan Wilks (groin) also missed the Oxford game while the likes of Jordan Wynter, Jernade Meade, Jake Robinson, Josh Hill and Luke Allen have all missed large chunks of the campaign.
“It’s been a constant disruption to the team selection,” reflected Essam. “We’ve had players out pretty much through the whole season, and they’ve been important players.
“Josh Hill, Jake Robinson, then Jernade Meade, who I thought was excellent. We lost Jordan Wynter who has been consistent at right-back, put Kory Roberts in there for three games and then he had to move again to cover for me last weekend.
“The gaffer had to shuffle the pack and it’s been square pegs in round holes.
“It’s just one of those things, we’ve dealt with it well - to still be third in the table with the injuries we’ve had to important players.
“It’s part and parcel of football, though, and every team has their issues throughout the season. It’s not training a particular way - my one was a complete freak - or a case of doing too much or too little.”
Dartford trail leaders Maidstone by 11 points but have a game in hand - as well as hosting the Stones on Easter Monday.
Anything can still happen in the promotion race, but Essam knows every point can still count even if Darts end up in the play-offs again.
“We can only look after our results, even though it’s natural to look at how the other teams have got on every Saturday,” said Essam.
“We’ve got 21 points to play for and you never know what might happen.
“It’s important that if we can’t get automatic promotion - and we can’t rule that out yet - that we get as many points as possible, particularly in this league.
“In the league above there is a neutral venue for the final but for us it’s home or away and that can be a big advantage so we’ve got to finish as high as we can.”
Dartford won 4-2 at Margate in the Kent Senior Cup on Tuesday night.