Dartford ended a run of four straight defeats with a National League South derby success over Tonbridge Angels on Saturday.
Paul Rooney’s first-half strike proved the difference and was enough to lift the Darts above the visitors in the table.
Dartford made four changes from the FA Cup defeat to Welling last weekend. Charlie Sheringham was not involved while James Golding, Jordan Wynter, and Archie Woods all dropped to the bench with starts for Luke Coulson, Brandon Barzey, Harvey Bradbury and Tyrell Miller-Rodney.
Tonbridge make one change from the team that lost at Haringey with Ben Swift coming into the starting XI for Ruben Soares-Junior.
The Angels were forced into an early switch when Jeremy Santos went down with a knee injury inside the second minute and was replaced by Lewis Gard shortly after.
A cagey opening probably reflected the confidence in each camp after those early cup exits. When Tonbridge keeper Jon Henly failed to deal with a high right-wing cross under pressure from Lewis Manor, his defence was on hand to head away a goalbound follow-up before Manor headed wide a tough chance from a Baris Altintop cross.
Angels captain Scott Wagstaff was fired up, clashing with Tyrell Miller-Rodney off the ball before Dartford’s Barzey was booked after an incident with Wagstaff when the ball went out for a Darts throw-in.
The deadlock was broken on 32 minutes as Coulson weaved his way in from the right and had his left-foot shot blocked. The ball fell perfectly for the onrushing Rooney, who drilled it low and hard into the bottom corner.
Rooney was involved at the other end six minutes later, getting back to head behind a Wagstaff cross after he’d been played on by Altintop.
Tonbridge finished the half strongly, trying to probe a way through the Darts defence. Joe Turner turned his marker and let fly from 25 yards, keeper Mitchell Beeney gathering at the second attempt.
Jordan Higgs then lacked power with his 20-yard effort and Turner shot over after Jernade Meade’s deflected cross from the left fell to him in the penalty area.
Meade, featuring against his former club, was booked within a minute of the restart for picking the ball up to prevent a quick Dartford free-kick and he was swiftly followed into the notepad by Jamie Fielding, who clattered into the back of Bradbury.
In between, a lovely backheel by Manor nearly set up a second goal for Dartford but Coulson’s shot was blocked in the box.
Dartford keeper Beeney then came out of his penalty area to foul Wagstaff, picking up a yellow card as the ball headed towards the corner flag but Meade wasted the resulting free-kick, delivering the ball over the crossbar.
It was Dartford that looked the more likely to score. Coulson fed Barzey who ran at his man before seeing Henly keep out his near-post drive. Then Barzey crossed to the far post where Manor’s downward header was saved by Henly.
Manor created a chance of his own with some clever footwork in the box, shooting just wide, before Bradbury’s 20-yard free-kick was turned over by Henly.
Coulson’s corner was met by Manor and then Moussa Diarra but Henly and his defenders somehow kept it out.
That Dartford’s lead was still a slender one was underlined moments later as Beeney raced out to clear but missed the ball and it needed a last-gasp intervention to deny Jordan Greenidge a clear run at an empty net. Turner then volleyed wide from Wagstaff’s cross.
Tonbridge were incensed that Higgs was booked after a challenge with Miller-Rodney, the visitors thinking it was the Dartford man who had committed the foul.
With 10 minutes left, Bradbury was back in his own penalty area to make a vital block as Higgs delivered a goalbound shot.
Dartford, having conceded a number of late goals already this season, were approaching their own danger zone and without the cushion of a second goal, but one shot from substitute Gianni Crichlow apart they were able to collect the points with little alarm despite more than six minutes of stoppage time.
Dartford: Beeney, Altintop, Diarra, Nembhard, Oduadu (Golding 89mins), Miller-Rodney, Rooney, Coulson, Barzey (Woods 79mins), Bradbury (Allen 83mins), Manor. Subs not used: Wray, Wynter.
Tonbridge: Henly, Fielding, Lyons-Foster, Swift, Higgs, Hinds (Crichlow 85mins), Santos (Gard 6mins, Boachie 69mins), Turner, Greenidge, Meade, Wagstaff. Subs not used: Parkinson, Wood.
Referee: Lewis Sandoe.