Published: 06:00, 29 July 2021
Dartford boss Steve King has been impressed by his team's performances in pre-season.
The Darts beat League 1 AFC Wimbledon 1-0 last weekend thanks to George Porter's long-range strike and were narrowly beaten by two of that division's big guns, Charlton and Ipswich.
They followed that up with some scintillating football in a 3-1 success over Football League newboys Sutton on Tuesday night at Princes Park.
"We can hold our heads high with how we've performed against Football League teams," said King.
"The guys have come back in magnificent shape and we're in good form. We've beaten one League 1 side and run the other two very close. It shows how thin the levels are.
"Pre-season has gone well, we're looking good. It's been a really tough programme, I didn't want easy games and we've held our own.
"It's a very competitive squad, there's strong competition for places. We've used different shapes and formation, we haven't decided what we are going to go with yet."
King's enthusiasm for the new campaign in National League South has been slightly dampened by a lengthy injury list.
Keeper Dan Wilks (finger), Danny Leonard (knee), Luke Wanadio, Tyrique Hyde (both Achilles), Keiran Murtagh (dead leg) have all missed periods of pre-season while Jake Robinson has now returned after a period of self-isolation.
Ade Azeez is King's main concern, however, as he faces three weeks out with a hamstring issue.
"They've all come at once," bemoaned King. "It's disappointing to lose people so early but the good thing is they are not long-term injuries. Apart from Ade, the rest are just more niggles than anything else."
Despite a busy schedule of training and pre-season matches, King is still clocking up the miles to keep tabs on other teams at National League South.
The Darts manager watches more matches than most, he saw Hampton on Friday, Ebbsfleet before his own team played on Saturday, was at Chelmsford on Monday night, watched Ebbsfleet face QPR on Wednesday and had another game lined up for Thursday.
It means plenty of travelling, and the occasional traffic jam, but King believes his hard work will pay off.
"It's important," he stated. "I like to see what the opposition are doing. I think every team has signed five to 10 players, some even more.
"It's good to see what they are doing, even in these games.
"It's something I've always done. I put the hard yards in and I think it pays off by being successful - knowledge is powerful."
Dartford host National League Southend at Princes Park this Saturday, kick-off 3pm.