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Dartford FC boss Tony Burman on the 1-0 win over Hampton & Richmond Borough

By Steve Tervet

Only the intervention of both captains stopped Dartford's game against Hampton & Richmond on Good Friday being abandoned.

Heavy rain turned parts of the Princes Park pitch into a quagmire with mud and standing water in some areas stopping the ball rolling properly.

Referee Josh Smith was happy for the game to start but as conditions worsened in the second half he started to become concerned.

Dartford's ground staff work on the pitch during half-time Picture: Steve Crispe
Dartford's ground staff work on the pitch during half-time Picture: Steve Crispe

Twice he stopped play and came across to speak with the managers and it looked certain to be game over.

But when Darts skipper Elliot Bradbrook and his counterpart Josh Casey said the players wanted to carry on, Mr Smith listened.

Dartford manager Tony Burman said: "The ground staff did excellent to get the game on. It was playable before the game. The rain did come earlier than we thought but it was right to start.

"The pitch did make a difference and you had to play a certain way.

"When the ball went back to Berti (Schotterl, the Dartford keeper) and it stopped in the mud, that's when (the ref) came over and said 'look, I'm going to give it another five.'

"I'll be honest, we thought someone was going to make a mistake and all of a sudden, either side would be 1-0 down.

"But that's when the two skippers came over. They were more than happy to carry on so the referee felt he would go with it."

The part of the pitch in front of the dugouts became a complete mudbath and both goalmouths cut up badly too.

"Yesterday, it was absolutely perfect," Burman said. "They aerated it and it was perfect.

"We knew the rain was going to come but it was just when it was going to happen. It was definitely the right decision to start the game but it did deteriorate at the end.

Andy Pugh plays the ball forward against Hampton & Richmond Picture: Steve Crispe
Andy Pugh plays the ball forward against Hampton & Richmond Picture: Steve Crispe

"Both teams played the conditions. You had to get the ball behind defenders and get them turning.

"A couple of times the ball was played back to the keeper and you're thinking 'wow, that's taking a chance' but we got away with it today.

"I thought we thoroughly deserved to win the game because we had the better chances."

Alfie Pavey scored a dramatic winner in the last of four added minutes at the end of the game - his 23rd goal of the season.

Burman said: "The boot's on the other foot now. We've had enough times when teams have scored against us and it evens itself out during the course of the season.

"I'm just delighted we've come away from the first game of the Easter period with three points.

"If either side had gone (a goal) down 20 minutes before (the end), the other side would have been wanting the game off.

"It was a good time for it to happen because there was no time to call it off. At the end, the pitch was probably unplayable but you've just got to get on with it and I'm pleased that we did."

Dartford remain two points behind leaders Havant, who beat Weston 2-0 on Friday.

"A little bit of belief has come back," said Burman. "We've had some words said on and off the field but the support the guys got today was how it should be.

Alfie Pavey and Max Kretzschmar go flying Picture: Steve Crispe
Alfie Pavey and Max Kretzschmar go flying Picture: Steve Crispe

"They were the 12th man today and I can't thank them enough for that. We need that, especially at this stage of the season.

"I mentioned after the Poole game about desire and not getting out of slow gear. We can't fault the last three games because the desire has been back in the side. We've done that together in the changing-room - yes, we've had to have a few words but hopefully it's sorted it out.

"By getting that goal late on, it means everything but the atmosphere was there today. People didn't want to see the game called off because they were enjoying the way things were going.

"There will still be some more twists and turns but that's our fifth win in six games and those are good stats. I know that if you go back more, it's not quite so good but we've got over it.

"To come back after the Poole game, with the disappointment of that, and to win the way we have, I'm really pleased about that.

"I think the players have learned a lesson. That lesson is that we had an opportunity to pull away and we've let some points slip.

"Make no mistake about this, it's what we've done, not what other teams have done, and we've had that pressure since November.

"It hasn't come off for us, the way it should have done, where we wanted to kick on, but they've been given a second bite of the cherry by Havant and hopefully we can close that gap.

"It's going to be an interesting April."

Dartford begin the month by making the short trip to East Thurrock on Easter Monday (3pm).

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