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Poor form and home defeat to Braintree combine to leave Dartford boss Steve King with selection headache ahead of National League South play-offs

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Dartford manager Steve King conceded he’s got more questions than answers on his mind ahead of next week’s play-offs.

The Darts lost their grip on third place in National League South with a 1-0 home defeat to Braintree on Bank Holiday Monday.

Dartford manager Steve King has food for thought with the play-offs looming fast. Picture: Mecha Morton
Dartford manager Steve King has food for thought with the play-offs looming fast. Picture: Mecha Morton

Keiran Murtagh was the latest player added to Dartford’s seemingly never-ending injury list during Saturday’s 6-0 win at Slough.

Having made five changes from that team for the visit of Braintree, King also felt it could be that some players have played their way out of contention.

“I have [more questions than answers] in certain areas of the pitch, in other areas it has made my mind up,” responded the Dartford boss.

“Is Jernade Meade going to get enough minutes in his legs to get back to the level he needs to be at?

“Is Jordan Wynter going to be fit? Is Connor Essam going to be back?

“We’ve got a few problems with the injuries at the moment.”

Dartford now head to Eastbourne this Saturday knowing they need a point to secure fourth spot as Oxford City in fifth could yet go above them on goal difference if they win at Bath.

Ebbsfleet sit third again but they need to win at home to Chelmsford, and any slip-up could open the door for Dartford to regain third spot.

The team who finish third will go straight into a play-off semi-final, with home advantage, on Sunday, May 15. The team who finishes fourth will host a play-off eliminator on Thursday, May 12 with the team who finishes fifth hosting a play-off eliminator on Wednesday, May 11.

Dartford’s fate will be decided at sixth-placed Eastbourne, who themselves might be resting players ahead of the play-offs.

Fans will have their eye on other scores but King is only worried about what Dartford do on the day.

“Eastbourne have got a fantastic home record,” he noted. “I’m disappointed that going into next week we’ve put ourselves into a position we shouldn’t be in.

“All we can do is take care of ourselves and what will be, will be. But we didn’t take care of ourselves on Monday, which is really disappointing.

“We’ve just got to win our game. We can’t control anything else and that will be it for me. It’s only one other team (Chelmsford) that we need to do us a favour if we take care of ourselves.”

King also has to decide which goalkeeper to go with, given the excellent form of Reice Charles-Cook who has stood in for the injured Dan Wilks in recent weeks.

Charles-Cook produced an outstanding save on Monday while Wilks was voted player-of-the-year.

It’s a decision that King has to make, but not one that is going to give him sleepless nights.

“What we do know is we’ve got two adequate keepers for the level and they are both as good as each other,” he said.

“When Dan was playing really well there was no need to change anything but Reice has come in and played really well.

“Whatever one gets chosen is not going to be the defining factor of what happens with us as they are both equally as good.

“Dan has come in and saved a penalty against Maidstone, Reice saved some penalties in the Kent Cup at Welling.

“They’re both very good keepers for this league and Reice pulled off a world-class save against Braintree.

“That’s not my worry, I’ve got no worry there. We’ve got two centre-halves at the football club, injuries stacking up [that’s my worry].

“Jernade came back against Braintree but looked very rusty, he’s going to take time - have we got that time? It’s a tough one.”

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