Dartford boss Steve King said the touchline antics against Havant on Saturday were ‘never personal’.
Referee Callum Walchester certainly had his work cut out in National League South as he handed out eight yellow cards – including two to Havant’s Billy Clifford – and had to speak to both benches as tensions threatened to overboil at times.
It was good to see a referee stand up to dissent on the pitch with a number of cautions being dished out for players who failed to keep their mouth shut.
King knew his team had been in a fiery contest. He said: “You’ve got two experienced sides out there. You look at their side and our side, they’re similar make-ups. Experienced centre-halves, younger ones through the middle and younger ones up top.
“The benches - I’ve been around a long time, Paul Doswell and Ian Baird have been around a long time. We sat and had a right old chat in the dugout before the game laughing and joking.
“We know what it’s like when we play against each other. We know it’s going to be just as fiery on the bench as it is on the pitch. We always laugh and joke and have a hug at the end of it – it’s never personal, it’s just wanting your team to do well.
“They want their team to win, I want my team to win. Never have we fallen out, it’s always been good camaraderie.”
When asked that the teams didn’t make it easy for the referee, King responded: “No (they didn’t). But that’s what you’re going to get. You’ve got experienced players on the pitch. You’ve probably got 500 League games on that pitch.
“Experienced players are always trying to get the extra bit and we’re no different. I won’t set them up any different, I know what it’s like when you play them. They are always looking for the extra edge. If you can get any advantage then I’d be exactly the same. It’s a game on and off the pitch.”
Lowestoft official Walchester was excellent, however. Although Dartford felt he could have handed Moussa Diarra a second yellow card in stoppage time for a foul on keeper Craig King.
“They had one sent-off, they should have had another one sent-off,” added King.
“Diarra, the centre-half, should have gone, he was already on a yellow. I think the referee, it doesn’t matter if it was 95th minute, he has to go off the pitch.
“He was a threat, they were smashing the balls into him, he is 6ft 7in and winning headers and they could score from that which would have been unfair. I don’t know how the referee could justify that.”
On the pitch, two goals from Jack Barham were the ultimate difference between the teams as Dartford ran out 2-1 winners, the first a penalty, the second a brilliant header from Jack Jebb’s precise free-kick.
“I felt 2-0 would have been the right result,” said King. “They got a lot of approach play without hurting us and didn’t really have a shot on goal, apart from the one they scored from 25 yards – a great strike.
“We looked quite solid in the first half. They were switching the game and it looked like they had so much space.
“When it was going to the left, they didn’t really create anything, when it went to the right, they created a bit with Josh Taylor who is a very good player. But everything was up to the 18-yard box.
“Their two potent centre-forwards, who are going to get 40 goals between them without a shadow of a doubt, didn’t hurt us. I thought Bonner and Vinty were outstanding against them.
“From that point of view, second half we lifted our game a little bit more and took the game to them more. Jack’s header was a fantastic header, what a ball in from Jebby, flick header a great finish.
“Elliott Romain has come on and won us the penalty, and penalties are a worry for us as we didn’t know who was going to take them, who was going to score them. We said Jack can have it and he scored.
“We adjusted the shape on the pitch (in the second half). We told full-backs to go and mark the wing-backs and it shut them down a little bit.
“In the second half, they didn’t really have that threat and they changed their shape to 4-4-2 with two wingers but in Craig Braham-Barrett and Jazzi Barnum-Bobb not many people are going to run them two, are they?”