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Dartford are planning for a National League South play-off match against Slough Town

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It’s all systems go at Dartford following an announcement that the National South play-offs will be taking place.

The Darts finished the season in sixth place after National League clubs in all three divisions agreed to finalise positions on unweighted points per game.

Dartford manager Steve King has a big game to plan for Picture: Keith Gillard
Dartford manager Steve King has a big game to plan for Picture: Keith Gillard

Dartford will now have to satisfy the league that they can compete in a play-off campaign within the guidelines but that shouldn’t be a problem. For manager Steve King, his job is to now prepare a team.

He is due to meet with club officials tomorrow (Friday) to talk about preparations for the play-offs. They will be playing for a place in the top-level of non-league football.

King will need to have discussion with the parent clubs of loan players Tyrique Hyde, who was at the Darts from Colchester United, and Amrit Bansal-McNulty, from QPR.

“Both have said they want to be involved and we have to have discussions with their clubs,” said King, who hasn’t ruled out the possibility of making more additions.

He said: “We just have to find out all the details. When it all broke out on March 23 we still had the transfer window for another seven days and we would have strengthened our squad. They may say we are allowed to sign. We are just waiting for guidance on that.”

The Darts are likely to recall their players for training at the start of July with the play-offs taking place in the latter part of the month.

Just last week the Darts had their hopes dashed when the play-offs looked to be off the table. Only elite level sports are able to return at present and the league’s original end-of-season plan was to rule play-offs out in North and South because ot it.

Clubs like Dartford protested, MPs became involved, and the National League made a u-turn. On Wednesday there was a majority decision to play them in all three divisions of the National League.

King said the process to get this far has been “one hell of a draining experience.”

Describing the last few days, he said: “We have campaigned non-stop, it’s knocked the stuffing out of me, and that’s before they have even been played.

“What we have gone through in the last seven weeks is something else in football terms. They’re on, then they’re not, then they are, then they’re not and now after eight weeks they are back on and truly that is the right outcome.

“If you finish in the play-offs you deserve to play them. It’s a hard slog all season to achieve that.

“This whole fiasco has been nothing short of a farce but we got there in the end.”

All six of the clubs in the National League South play-off places have initially said they are committed to playing for a promotion place. Costs will be factored in but King doesn't see that as an issue.

Dartford would have to win three games to claim promotion to the National League but, prior to the suspension of football, they were a form team.

King had taken over a team fifth bottom when he replaced Jamie Coyle and Adam Flanagan in October and transformed the club’s fortunes. They were going for a top-three finish before coronavirus came along. They beat Chelmsford City 3-0 in their last game on March 14.

If they beat Slough Town they would face another away game in a play-off semi-final against second placed side Havant & Waterlooville.

Bath City and Dorking Wanderers are set to meet in the other play-off match and the winners of that game will face third placed Weymouth.

The final will be played at the ground of the highest place finisher. Dartford would only then be at home in a final if they faced Dorking.

With no crowd inside the stadiums, there would be little home advantage to be gained. Clubs will now liaise with the league to put their plans in place and await a definite date to get going again.

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