Published: 22:41, 12 May 2022
| Updated: 22:42, 12 May 2022
Dartford suffered penalty shoot-out agony in the National League South play-off eliminator on Thursday night.
The Darts failed to find a way through Chippenham in 120 minutes and then saw three penalties saved in the shoot-out as the visitors advanced to Sunday's play-off semi-final at Ebbsfleet.
Chippenham came into the game with no expectation or pressure after clinching their play-off berth on the final day of the regular season. But that only served to make them dangerous opponents to face.
They should have taken a second-minute lead but Joe Hanks, afforded a free header six yards out, could only direct Jordan Young’s right-wing corner straight at Darts keeper Reice Charles-Cook, who was selected ahead of player-of-the-year Dan Wilks.
The visitors settled quickly, winning another corner before Dartford had their first chance on 12 minutes. Samir Carruthers closed the ball down in midfield and it fell nicely for Dan Roberts, who beat the offside trap. But the forward hesitated as he lined up a shot on goal and Will Richards blocked his attempt before keeper Will Henry pounced on the loose ball.
Chippenham should have led just 60 seconds later but the unfortunate Hanks blocked Alefe Santos’s goalbound shot on the line.
Dartford were without the injured Jordan Wynter (hamstring) so boss Steve King fielded left-sided Kristian Campbell at right-back and Olu Durojaiye started in central midfield after impressing there at Eastbourne last weekend.
Campbell cut in and had a left-foot shot blocked behind for a corner to rouse an otherwise quiet home crowd.
Too often the Darts overhit forward passes, but give credit to Chippenham, whose exceptional form showed no sign of fading after a goalless first half.
The lively Santos turned on the edge of the box but Charles-Cook was equal to his 54th-minute shot.
When Dartford did get a good spell of possession, with forward intent, together they carved out a chance but keeper Henry turned over Marcus Dinanga's left-foot effort.
Darts had to be careful not to be caught on the break, Santos's snapshot was straight at Charles-Cook as the home side left themselves short at the back following a corner.
Dan Roberts was more a threat after the break and Dinanga started to ask questions of centre-backs Richards and Kieran Parselle.
Despite not playing particularly well as an attacking force, Dartford were compact in defence as has largely been the norm for skipper Tom Bonner throughout the campaign.
Midway through the half, Kalvin Kalala got away from Danny Greenslade but, having exchanged passes with Dinanga, was only able to fire high over the bar from the edge of the box.
Chippenham hit the bar with eight minutes left when Santos was given too much time and space from 30 yards. Spencer Hamilton then dragged the rebound wide from the edge of the box with Charles-Cook not back in his goal, taking a first-time shot when he could have had a touch and moved into the box.
Substitute Danny Leonard nearly won the game for Dartford in the second minute of stoppage time but having collected a long ball over the top he lifted his left-foot shot just wide of the upright.
The two league meetings produced 12 goals so a goalless 90 minutes was, perhaps, predictable and the tie went to extra-time.
Kalvin Kalala nearly out Darts ahead three minutes into extra-time. He exchanged passes with Jernade Meade deep inside his own half before running at the full-back, advancing into the Chippenham half before cutting inside and sending a 25-yard right-foot shot inches wide of the far post.
Ade Azeez came on late in extra-time as Darts went two up front, the striker firing at Henry from 25 yards with five minutes remaining and penalties looming. But spot-kicks were not on Dartford's minds as they replaced penalty taker Dinanga with Jordan Greenidge late on in a bid to force a winner.
Both teams saw their first penalties saved. Henry denied Luke Allen before Reice Charles-Cook brilliantly kept out Jordan Young's spot-kick.
Azeez went low and to the keeper's left but Henry again was at full stretch to save. Tom Mehew went straight down the middle to put Chippenham ahead.
Campbell found the roof of the net to get Dartford off the mark before Charles-Cook went to his right to deny Greenslade and with three penalties taken apiece it was 1-1.
Greenidge put Darts ahead for the first time but Noah Coppin levelled it up, despite Charles-Cook getting a hand to his spot-kick.
Durojaiye saw his spot-kick to the keeper's right saved by Henry and gave Santos the chance to win the tie, which he did by sending the Charles-Cook the wrong way.
Dartford: Charles-Cook, Campbell, K Roberts, Bonner, Meade, Kalala (Azeez 109mins), Carruthers (Allen 90mins), Durojaiye, Jebb, D Roberts (Leonard 86mins), Dinanga (Greenidge 117mins). Sub not used: Wilks.
Chippenham: Henry, Hamilton, Richards, Parselle, Greenslade, Santos, Russe, Mehew, Dabre (Coppin 120mins), Hanks (Bradbury 73mins), Young. Subs not used: Al-Husaini, King, Lawal.
Referee: Callum Walchester.