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4 Dartford
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Darts fly past the K’s

Mark Hams' prediction that Ks had, "Next to no chance" against Dartford was, one would hope, part of the management team's love of reverse psychology rather than a genuine prediction.

Nonetheless, his worst fears came to pass as The Darts once again hammered Ks, powering them out of the FA Trophy by four goals to nil.

Much of the management's frustration will surely come though from how self-inflicted Ks' problems were. A dream start when Matt Pattison won a penalty was squandered by Andre McCollin's poor spot-kick, while the 28th minute dismissal of Simon Huckle effectively ended Ks' chances against their Conference National opposition.

With memories of two maulings when Dartford were on their way up through the Ryman League still weighing on the club's mind, a good start was imperative. That good start was on the cards in just the third minute when Pattison was felled in the penalty box, but McCollin never stepped forward with conviction.

He hoped to force goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli to commit to a direction with his stuttering run-up, but Bettinelli called his bluff and was left with a simple save from the side-footed effort.

Ks would not trouble Bettinelli again in the half and increasingly came under pressure themselves with the visitors dominating possession. The breakthrough came on 20 minutes when Danny Harris crossed low for Jacob Erskine to tap in from close range.

Elliot Bradbrook came close on 25 minutes before the game was over as a contest on 28. Simon Huckle lost control of the ball in midfield and in his desperation to recover the situation he caught Bradbrook with a two-footed lunge.

The resulting red card saw Ks' ten men over-run for the rest of the game, with Tom Champion, Ryan Hayes and Bradbrook all coming close before the break, although for Ks McCollin was only just off target from 20 yards.

Wade Small gave Ks a glimmer of hope just after the break, pouncing on a loose ball with a fine volley, only for Bettinelli to make a remarkable reflex save. On 52 minutes though Bradbrook struck after Ks failed to clear a corner, powering a header that Rob Tolfrey was unable to keep out.

Ks only once again threatened Bettinelli, when he was equal to a Tom Hutchinson header, and as they tired the visitors ran rampant. Harris broke free down the left and found the far corner of Tolfrey's goal for 3-0, while Nathan Collier got in behind the defence to make it four.

Things might have been even worse for Ks but Tolfrey made a number of good saves while Harris and Richard Rose were narrowly off target. Ks were outclassed, and whether a scored penalty and keeping Huckle on the pitch would have made any difference to who won is debateable. It did mean though that the defeat ended up being as severe as all at Ks feared, and Alan Dowson will now have to pick his side's confidence up to resume their league campaign.

Report: Simon Grier

Published Wednesday 12th September 2018