Published: 16:45, 02 May 2022
| Updated: 23:36, 02 May 2022
An 87th-minute winner saw Dartford drop down to fourth in National League South after losing at home for just the second time this season.
It was no more than Braintree deserved at Princes Park as the Darts lacked ideas and creativity against a stubborn, physical outfit.
With Ebbsfleet snatching a late win at relegated Billericay, it meant Dartford now trail the Fleet by two points with just one game remaining. Darts visit Eastbourne on Saturday while the Fleet host Chelmsford.
A goalless first half gradually deteriorated as the half went on. Dartford had made a decent enough start, Ade Azeez’s shot was deflected wide, George Porter shot wide and Tom Bonner missed the best chance of the half, volleying wide from a Jack Jebb free-kick.
Braintree, for all their long throws and direct balls, had chances of their own. Simon Mbonkwi’s shot was pushed out by keeper Reice Charles-Cook, Bonner had to make a last-ditch tackle to deny Dejon Noel-Williams while Shae Hitchinson’s long-range attempt was straight at the keeper.
Braintree had strong claims for a penalty turned down before the half-hour for a clear shirt pull in the box while Noel-Williams’ follow-up was cleared off the line.
A Jebb free-kick from 30 yards hit the roof of the net before Azeez turned his marker but shot wide from distance.
Referee Steven Hughes, never one to rush for the cards, came in for some stick towards the break as he twice allowed Braintree’s Alfred Payne to escape without caution for handball when diving on the ball in a bid to win a free-kick.
The visitors settled quickest after the break, Hitchinson going through on the counter attack before Bonner’s last-ditch block deflected his right-foot shot over the bar. The resulting corner was turned in by Mbonkwi - but not before the referee had blown for a foul on the keeper.
Charles-Cook came to Dartford’s rescue on 66 minutes, brilliantly tipping over Stefan Ilic’s header from a deep cross by substitute Gianni Crichlow.
Jebb’s long-range free-kick called Braintree keeper William Johnson into action two minutes later before George Porter created space for himself space and forced Johnson to push behind his long-range curler.
There was one final twist left in the tale, though as skipper Matthew Johnson crossed from the right and substitute Harry Lodovika nodded in from close range at the far post just two minutes after coming on.
Dartford had five minutes of stoppages to force an equaliser as news of an Ebbsfleet winner at Billericay filtered through, but the closest they came was substitute Kalvin Kalala’s low drive which was well saved low down.
Dartford: Charles-Cook, Durojaiye, Meade (Campbell 66mins), Allen, K Roberts, Bonner, Leonard (Kalala 75mins), Robinson (Dinanga 70mins), Porter, Jebb, Azeez. Subs not used Carruthers, Greenidge.
Braintree: W Johnson, Maloney, Porter, M Johnson, Clements, Pennell, Hutchinson (Crichlow 61mins), Payne, Noel-Williamson (Holness 71mins), Mbonkwi, Ilic (Lodovika 85mins). Subs not used: Jones, Johnson-Schuster.
Referee: Steven Hughes.