“It was a tricky start for Adam Flanagan and Jamie Coyle, but as the season has gone on the two have found their rhythm”
Dartford FC supporter Steven Kennedy is next up for the TorquayTalk Q&A, as he discusses ‘the Darts’ ahead of Saturday’s game at Plainmoor:
Hi Steven thanks for talking to us, before we discuss your team – tell us a bit about yourself and how long have you supported The Darts?
I grew up in Kent but it’s only been in the past six years that I’ve lived in Dartford and really followed them properly. I always kept an eye open for Kent sides’ scores but since moving to Dartford and taking a first trip to Princes Park to see them play Southport in the National League I’ve been hooked. I then got into a position where I was able to give the club a hand and was its match-day programme editor for a couple of years, which was a joy thanks to the great management and players we had. Was a great feeling being part of the club in my own small way. However, work commitments have meant I’ve had to just return to being a fan, but still loving going to Princes Park on a Saturday afternoon or Tuesday night to see some real football.
Torquay triumphed 2-0 at Princes Park back in December, what are your memories of that encounter?
It was probably one of those games that we never really looked like winning to be honest. Torquay bossed us from start to finish and, for me, have easily been the best side down at Princes Park this season. You could see the quality in your side and we ran out of ideas on the day and never really threatened. Two well-worked goals from Ruairi Keating and Jamie Reid late in the second half killed us off.
How would you summarise Dartford’s season so far?
It’s been a mixed bag to be honest. We started the season pretty slowly and there were a lot of new players (some of whom just didn’t quite fit into the side) finding their feet in a very competitive division. However, our form has picked up in recent months and we’re now putting ourselves in a great position to make a play-off place.
Our strength is our defence. When the likes of Ronnie Vint, Tom Bonner, Mark Oneymah, Callum Driver, Daniel Johnson and Jordan Wynter are on form, most attacks in this league struggle to get past them. Thought we may have struggled as well when we lost our Gibraltar international goalkeeper Deren Ibrahim (who scored two goals for us from his own half in the past two seasons!) when he joined Charlton Athletic’s goalkeeping coaching team, but young Bailey Vose (on loan from Colchester United) has been immense between the sticks.
Our slight problem has been putting the ball in the back of the net and while both Phil Roberts and Charlie Sheringham have eight goals apiece (our joint top scorers) we’ve not put as many chances away as perhaps we should have done. Yet given the change in management at the start of the season after club legend Tony Burman stepped down and the huge number of new players and loanees we’ve had in this year, we’re in a great place to mount a promotion push this campaign.
What have been the highlights for you?
Easily the recent 2-0 home win over Woking (you’re welcome Torquay fans). For a side that should have been of equal quality to Torquay given the two sides’ league positions they didn’t look like any real threat and our side gave a class performance that day in front of a bumper crowd at Princes Park. Every single player from front to back gave a massive performance that day and it was then I really started to think we could be on the verge of something again.
How’s your recent form been heading into Saturday’s match?
As mentioned, we’ve been really good in recent weeks. In 2019 we’ve won seven, drawn three and lost just two games. In that time we’ve scored 19 goals and conceded just 11 which is pretty good going. We’ve finally started to see some stability in the team selection also with a real emphasis being put onto a strong core of players in the middle of the park. We break well, and if our forwards are on form then we could cause Torquay some problems.
Which Darts players should we be looking out for and why?
Phil Roberts has been on fire in recent weeks. He’s got five goals in his last six games so he’s a real threat. Also despite all the changes in personnel this season, two of our strongest players have been from the old-guard. Elliot Bradbrook and Lee Noble have been immense. Both know how to get stuck in, in midfield. Bradders is also someone who knows how to put the ball in the back of the net (141 goals for the club and counting) and Lee Noble isn’t shy when putting in a tackle. In fact if there are a few things that are certain in life is that a) day is followed by night b) water is wet and c) Lee Noble will get booked.
You have joint-managers in charge at the club, how is that working out and what sort of tactics do they employ?
It was a tricky start for Adam Flanagan and Jamie Coyle but as the season has gone on the two have found their rhythm. They like to have a solid back-line and a midfield made up of pace and power. If he plays Ryan Hayes will be looking to ping balls into the box for our strikers to get on the end of. He’s one of those players who either is unplayable or causes us more problems than the opposition. Fortunately it’s the former more often. I’d imagine given it’s Torquay away we may look to pack the midfield and try and stifle your creativity. I’d guess they’ll either go for a 4-5-1 or 4-4-1-1 formation. The longer we can frustrate you, the better chance we’ll have of popping up at the right end to punish you.
How do you rate your promotion chances and could the club cope with a step up to the National League?
Promotion chances are good. If we can continue our form into the play-offs we’ll be in with a decent shout. Last season was so frustrating as we lost the league title on goal difference and then fluffed our lines in the play-offs. Hopefully things can go better this time around.
It’s a tricky one however should we go up. The last time we were in the National League we had one amazing season (our first when we finished eighth in 2012/13) followed by two disasters. The first we got relegated but then reprieved when Salisbury and Hereford went bust and then we dropped out of the division properly the following season (2014/15) and have not made it back since.
Our issue then – as it is at this moment in time – is that we are a part-time side so we just struggle to cope with the full-time professionals. A lot of our players have day jobs and juggle the club with their livelihood. Should we go up I’d expect a number of the lads (some of whom did amazing jobs for us last time we were in the National League) would pack it in as they can’t be expected to drop work for a wet, cold December night in Gateshead. However, I understand that should we go up, plans are in place to take the club full-time so that would be an interesting development and one that could help stabilise us at that level as a regular side in the National League.
What sort of travelling support do ‘the Darts’ have and how many will make the trip this weekend?
We’ve been pretty good this season and have boosted a lot of sides crowds when we’ve travelled. You only have to look at Dulwich Hamlet’s attendance the other week (2,779) to see that we are a bit of a draw in this league and travel in good numbers. I’d imagine a couple of hundred may make the weekend of it down on the coast at your place, although from what I understand the weather is going to be disgusting that day.
And finally, give us a score prediction for Saturday afternoon?
It’s going to be really tough for us to get anything from this one I’m sorry to say. Torquay are head and shoulders the best side I’ve seen play Dartford this season and given it’s the final run in for you to get to that National League South title all the odds suggest a home win is on the cards. However, if we can frustrate you and maybe nick a goal, then a score draw is not beyond reasonable doubt. I don’t think it will be a high scoring game given our tight defence, so I’ll go for a 1-1 draw and be happy with taking a point back to Kent with us. Come on you Darts! – After our loss against WSM in the last game at Plainmoor, I would expect our lads to be up for this one (weather permitting) Steven but we shall see, safe travels to the Darts fans who are making the journey and good luck for the rest of your season – Dom