Josh Hill’s first goal on his return to Dartford wasn’t enough to ensure his new side took local bragging rights as Dartford drew 1-1 in their pre-season friendly against Ebbsfleet United at Princes Park.
Both Fleet boss Gary Hill and Darts managerial duo Adam Flanagan and Jamie Coyle would’ve been keen for their players to get minutes in the legs as well as look at the numerous trialists on show with the 847 fans treated to a decent game of football too.
Although the game is officially a friendly, Dartford’s Sam Blackman didn’t hold anything back and produced a heavy challenge on Ayo Obileye just minutes into the contest that the midfielder was fortunate to go unpunished for by referee Isaac Searle.
Ebbsfleet had the first chance of the game as Mark Smith, on his home debut between the posts for the Darts, produced a fine stop with his legs to deny Sean Shields following a corner.
The hosts nearly profited from a miscommunication between United’s Jamie Grimes and Trialist 1 as Luke Wanadio, on his return to Princes Park, picked up the loose ball before sliding in Charlie Sheringham whose chip over the onrushing Ashmore landed on the roof of the net.
The left foot of Ryan Hayes continued to supply chances for the hosts who looked the brighter of the two sides in the first period, Ashmore scrambling off his line well to claim before the ball could reach the head of Sheringham.
Shields then tested Smith again with a low rasping drive before a cute dummy by Hayes from a Tom Bonner pass set Jordan Wynter free down the right. The right-back managed to find Darren McQueen in the box and he forced a good save from Ashmore on the half-hour mark.
From the resulting corner Ashmore saved well with his legs to deny Josh Hill’s half-volley from close range but was helpless to stop the former Welling United defender putting the Darts ahead just minutes later as the defender towered over the Fleet defence to head home.
Then a moment of madness ensued just before half-time as Ashmore rushed off his line to clear a Dartford long ball, only to hammer the ball into the back of Grimes. Ashmore was able to see the funny side of it, though, as the ball slowly trickled past the post of the empty net.
Half-time: Dartford 1-0 Ebbsfleet United
The second-half began at a markedly slower pace than the first ended but the Darts eventually worked an opening through the tricky Wanadio. His delivery into the box saw second-half captain Ronnie Vint head over from 12 yards.
Both sides struggled to string more than a couple of passes together in an attacking sense but midway through the half some good hold-up play by Alex Flischer presented the ball to Ben Greenhalgh.
The former Concord Rangers man, who was occupying a more central position to what Darts fans had seen of him last season, threaded a lovely ball through to Wanadio down the left before he pulled the ball back to the edge of the box where Sam Blackman’s side-footed effort sailed well over.
Fleet showed very little attacking promise for much of the night although Lawrie Wilson should’ve done better to pick out a cross to Trialist 4 at the far post when afforded the freedom of Princes Park.
Then a flurry of half-chances for the home side culminated in Luke Allen horribly miscuing wide before the visitors capitalised on a mistake to level the score. Dartford’s goalscorer Hill had a moment to forget as he miscontrolled a routine long ball over the Darts defence, allowing Tahjae Anderson to knock the ball past Smith and into an empty net.
That seemed to rattle the Darts defence a little as Smith was then found wanting under a deep free-kick from Wilson before Jamie Grimes’ header from a corner whistled just past the post in the 79thminute.
One positive to take for the Darts was more match minutes for some of the club’s academy prospects. Midfielder Cameron Brodie was teed up by Wanadio but failed to really trouble Fleet’s Trialist ‘keeper.
Then in the final action of the match, Jedd Smith, fresh from scoring in the 1-0 friendly win over Sevenoaks Town on Saturday, surged at the visitor’s defence but failed to keep his shot down and trouble the goalkeeper.
Full-time: Dartford 1-1 Ebbsfleet United
Dartford: Smith, Trialist 1, Bonner, Hill, Wynter, Blackman, Allen, Hayes, Wanadio, McQueen, Sheringham
Ebbsfleet:Ashmore, King, Thomas, Lawless, Obileye, Grimes, Weston, Ugwu, Wilson, Shields, Trialist
Written by Henry Clark (@HenryWAClark) for Dartford FC