It was 14th vs 24th at the start of the day as Steve King returned to Princes Park as the Hawks made their return to league action after a 2 week break. Reice Charles-Cook and new signing on matchday Sion Spence made their debuts with Michael Kedman making his first start. Returning from injury, Devante Stanley, Joe McNerney and Yoan Zouma all took their places in the defensive line. A wet and rainy Princes Park would await and another tough test for King’s Hawks.
The Hawks started the brighter of the two teams but it would be the Darts who would strike first early on in the game. Not long after former Dart Jack Jebb had tested Mitchell Beeney in the Dartford goal, the hosts would take the lead up the other end when they had an opportunity from a set-piece to load the penalty area. Charles-Cook came out to claim a high ball but was challenged by Diarra who collided with the Grenadian Goalkeeper, causing the ball to become loose, but despite appeals Referee George Warren deemed the challenge legal and former Hawk Joash Nembhard was on hand to smash the loose ball into an empty net, much against the run of play and to put the Hawks a goal down early on.
The Hawks would have a chance to get back into the game almost instantly as Michael Kedman combined with James Roberts down the Hawks left, a feat we saw often throughout the first period of the game but unfortunately when picked out in the middle Faal couldn’t find the target with his effort. The new man Sion Spence, who was announced before the game having joined from Vanarama National League North side Kings Lynn Town, looked bright in the midfield. His link up with Kedman saw the latter fire a ball into the area that wasn’t quite able to pick out a man in yellow, giving the hosts some restbite as they would look to create chances of their own.
The Hawks’ biggest chance of the first half came the way of Faal, he was slipped in behind the Darts defensive line but he wasn’t able to force Beeney to make a save as he put his effort wide of the target as the Darts keeper closed the angle. The hosts would have a couple of opportunities with Bradbury but Charles-Cook keeping him out would give the Hawks another chance to control the game.
Another spell of dominant play from the Hawks almost ended in a goal on a couple of occasions. The first chance saw a Jebb corner was collected at the far post by Roberts who struck his effort just wide of the post. Just before the interval Devante Stanley would collect and clip a ball into the area with options in the centre, Faal attempted an acrobatic effort but was unable to cleanly connect with the ball falling to Jebb with a chance to strike but he was unable to find the target. A tough way to end the first period with the Hawks creating plenty of chances but controversially a goal down at the break.
HALF TIME: DARTFORD 1-0 HAVANT AND WATERLOOVILLE
The Hawks would continue how they left of the end of the first half, applying the pressure to the hosts in search of an equaliser. Faal would come close just a few minutes after the restart having driven the attack forward before cutting inside and striking at goal. Beeney, who appeared unsighted, would deny him at the last with a reflex fingertip save to prevent the strike from Faal from nestling in the bottom corner.
Both sides would continue to create opportunities, the hosts through Coulson and Bradbury and the Hawks through Faal, Roberts and the midfield, but both Beeney and Charles-Cook would keep the scoreline level. Jebb would have a chance to level the game as Faal carried the ball forward, evading a couple of challenges before feeding Jebb who would force Beeney into a save.
The hosts would double their advantage through Nembhard as a bouncing ball from a set piece was struck goalwards before deflecting over Charles-Cook and in to give the hosts some breathing space with their advantage over the Hawks.
The Hawks continued their hunt for a goal and almost had it just after Nembhard’s second. Substitute Billy Stedman picking out the run into the area of Jebb but his looping header ending up just over the bar. The pressure continued from the Hawks but nobody was able to test Beeney.
Into stoppage time the Hawks would see their best chance of the second half, Jebb was picked out by McCarthy which sent the former through on goal. Beeney off his line and Jebb bearing down on goal the Hawks midfielder lifted his effort over Beeney but just over the bar. Agonisingly close to being within 1 in the dying embers of the game. With what was basically the last play of the game, Berkeley-Agyepong almost found the back of the net after latching onto a loose ball in the area. He managed to poke the ball at goal, past Beeney who had come well off his line but was denied by the recovery of Sam Oduadu who cleared off the line.
The referee would shortly after bring the game to a close which spelled back-to-back defeats for the Hawks on paper but again an improved performance that could’ve easily ended differently. The chances were there for the Hawks and the back line kept the Dartford chances limited but the Nembhard brace would be the difference between the two sides. While not the result the Hawks will have wanted by any stretch but a pair of chances to put it right at Westleigh Park later in the week with the visit of Aveley on Wednesday night which would come before hosting Weymouth on Saturday afternoon.
FULL TIME: DARTFORD 2-0 HAVANT AND WATERLOOVILLE
Dartford: Beeney (GK), Wynter, Oduadu, Miller-Rodney, Altintop, Coulson (C), Rooney (Allen 84’), Barzey (Woods 72’), Nembhard, Bradbury, Diarra
Unused Substitutes: Manor, Statham, Lewington (GK)
Goals: Nembhard 8’, 77’
Yellow Cards: Miller-Rodney 42’, Diarra 58’
Havant and Waterlooville: Charles-Cook (GK), Stanley, McNerney (Willson 60’), McCarthy (C), Faal, Kedman (Stedman 60’), Berkeley-Agyepong, Jebb, Zouma, Roberts, Spence (Jewitt-White 88’)
Unused Substitutes: Worner (GK), Mehew