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Dartford manager Steve King urges big players to turn up for play-off eliminator against Chippenham

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Dartford manager Steve King has warned his players now is the time to deliver.

The Darts host Chippenham in the National League South play-off eliminator on Thursday at Princes Park.

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

After scoring 13 goals in their last two away games, Dartford will not be short of confidence. But they come up against a Chippenham side who will play without the burden of expectation after an impressive late surge of form saw them claim seventh place on the final day of the season.

Their 2-0 win at Havant last weekend underlined just how dangerous an opponent Chippenham can be on their day.

“We’ve got players that can win matches but they have to turn up, otherwise our season is over,” warned King.

“There’s certain players who have a little bit more and when they’re on it then they are hard to stop.

“If we play the way we can, and they all turn up then we’re capable of beating anyone in the division.

“We’re in a good place but so are Chippenham, I’ve looked at their form and they’ve done well.

“They’ve got one of the best forwards in the league [in Jordan Young]. They paid £5,000 for him in February, he scored twice at Havant on Saturday and twice in the game against us earlier in the season when I wasn’t there.

“They are going to be a threat. They are well grounded and since they changed the manager [last month], they’ve had some fantastic results under Gary Horgan. They are the unexpected team in the play-offs if you like, so there’s no pressure on them.

“They’ve gone to Havant, who just needed a point on the final day, and beaten them.”

Dartford lost 4-2 at Chippenham in March but King missed that game due to an operation. The sides also drew 3-3 at Princes Park earlier in the campaign, with Chippenham claiming a 94th-minute equaliser.

But neither match has any bearing on the play-off showdown, according to King.

“It’s a one-off game,” said the Darts boss. “There were players in those games that won’t feature this week and they’ve changed players in their side, too.

“They’ve got a new manager, we’ve got someone like Marcus Dinanga who didn’t play against them.”

The winners will travel to Ebbsfleet on Sunday in the play-off semi-final but King isn’t giving the prospect of a derby against their rivals a second thought.

“There’s no point looking ahead,” he warned. “If you don’t beat Chippenham, then it’s irrelevant.”

King made a host of changes for Dartford’s trip to Eastbourne on Saturday.

The likes of Dan Roberts and Kalvin Kalala both scored during a stunning 7-2 win. It left many looking at the previous home defeat to Braintree and wondering what might have been.

Those dropped points meant Dartford finished fourth rather than third, and means they play in the eliminator instead of hosting Sunday’s semi-final.

King responded: “I don’t dwell on what could have been, what should have been. We can all look back and think of moments in the season but I don’t look back at Braintree, for example. We lost and we moved on - that’s it.

“We had a poor performance but you have to credit the opposition. Braintree were good and a handful, it’s not just about us, give credit to them as well.

“It’s about right where we finished. We were playing for the championship until the last month and have fallen just a little bit short.

“I’m a realist. I remember saying to you back then that we wouldn’t get carried away and it was only the start of the season, there was still a middle and an end to come.

“I said that I knew there would be times when we’d be first, second, third, fourth or fifth and that’s the way it has happened.

“You can point to a lot of things but I don’t want to make excuses.”

On the Eastbourne win, King added: “It was really good. To go to a play-off team and play against their full side and get a victory like that was excellent.

“Our finishing was outstanding. We could have scored more but that’s being greedy I suppose. To give that kind of performance last game of the season was very pleasing.

“Football is a funny game. We won 6-0, lost 1-0 to Braintree and then won 7-2 away from home - you can’t write it, can you?”

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