A late, deflected Darren McQueen goal rescued a point for Dartford who suffered somewhat of a blow to their promotion charge in a 2-2 draw against low-lying Hampton & Richmond Borough at Princes Park.
The visitors have relied heavily on the 15 league goals of Chris Dickson this season but it was defender Oliver Sprague who got them off to the perfect start as he was on hand at the far post to convert Ricky Wellard’s deep corner with just 7 minutes played.
The early reminder of the visitors’ capabilities, despite what their league position suggests, still didn’t kick-start the home side who were relieved to see an expert piece of control by Dickson culminate in a volley that whistled just past Bailey Vose’s post.
Dartford struggled to move the ball with any sort of impetus for much of the half and it took 21 minutes for Phil Roberts to force the first save from Ashley Maynard-Brewer, a comfortable one for the ‘keeper after some nice interchange play between Ben Greenhalgh and Charlie Sheringham.
Dickson worked tirelessly with little quality service to feed on and it was only an excellent sliding block from Tom Bonner that prevented the striker from laying it on a plate to teammate Zak Joseph.
Vose showed good awareness to rush off his line and smother another effort from Dickson with his legs after he profited from some more slack marking by the hosts down the left before Roberts produced a fine overhead kick in the visitors box to finally raise the volume at Princes Park just past the half hour mark.
The Beavers should’ve doubled their lead after a dangerous ball by Tyrell Miller-Rodney found fellow full-back Jack Connors at the far post but, with just Vose to beat, the defender headed just over from 10 yards.
Half-time: Dartford 0-1 Hampton & Richmond Borough
The only way was up after the hosts’ first-half performance but the second-half started and continued in the same vain.
It took until the hour mark for Lee Noble to squeeze in front of and then go down under the challenge of goalscorer Sprague after he met a Jordan Wynter cross in the box. Referee Tom Bishop had no hesitation in pointing to the spot to allow Sheringham to coolly slot the ball down the middle past the despairing Maynard-Brewer.
Both teams struggled to show any sort of attacking threat for much of the half but the game finally found the spark it needed as Joseph had the ball in the back of the net. His celebrations were cut short though, much to the fury of the visitors’ bench, as the referee’s assistant had already raised his flag for offside.
The visitors looked the more likely team to regain the lead as a Wellard corner was met by Dickson but somehow he fired over from no more than 10 yards out with the goal at his mercy. Roberts finally tested Maynard-Brewer in the Beavers goal with an audacious, swerving 30 yard strike that the ‘keeper was forced to parry away.
With 10 minutes to play the game was still well and truly in the balance before some smart play by Joseph on the right saw him link-up with Dickson once more. Dickson produced a moment of magic to swivel away from Ronnie Vint before lashing an unstoppable effort across goal into the top corner past Vose.
The writing looked on the wall for the hosts in what would’ve been their first home defeat since December, a run that has kept them in and around the congested playoff spots. Darren McQueen looked lively after he was introduced for Greenhalgh and as the game heading into stoppage time his effort was cruelly diverted past the helpless Maynard-Brewer off the leg of Luke Ruddick to rescue a point for the hosts.
The hosts went close several times deep into stoppage time with Charlie Sheringham controlling a Billy Crook pass before firing a volley first-time that was pushed over by the fingertips of Maynard-Brewer.
Ultimately for Jamie Coyle and Adam Flanagan’s side it was too little too late in what was a blow for the hosts’ playoff charge but one softened by the saviour of a solitary point.
Full-time: Dartford 2-2 Hampton & Richmond Borough
Dartford: Vose, Onyemah, Wynter, Vint, Bonner, Greenhalgh, Noble, Crook, Roberts, Hayes, Sheringham.
Hampton & Richmond Borough: Maynard-Brewer, Miller-Rodney, Connors, Ruddick, Bray, Sprague, Simpson, Wellard, Joseph, Dickson, Maclaren.
Man of the match: Charlie Sheringham
Written by Henry Clark (@HenryWAClark) for Dartford FC