Heartbreak for the Hawks as Dartford come from behind to book their place in the Play-off final
It was a disappointing day for the Hawks at a wet and windy Westleigh Park as their Play-off dreams came to an end.
Two goals from Dartford’s Darren McQueen cancelled out Jonah Ayunga’s early opener to send the away side through to next week’s final.
The Hawks returned to competitive action after a four month break against Dartford and it was a fiery affair from the get go, with both teams involved in a 20 man bust up, just two minutes in.
Dartford started the game the brighter, having the majority of possession. This was expected after the away side had taken part in a competitive match last week, as they booked their place in this semi-final after overcoming Slough.
The first real chance of the game led to the first goal just 14 minutes in. And it was the Hawks who struck first, top scorer Jonah Ayunga with a tap in at the back post after a long throw in from Josh Taylor was flicked towards the 23-year-old who prodded it in off the post.
After the goal, Dartford responded well and almost levelled five minutes later. A firm low effort from just inside the area by Noor Husin was deflected narrowly wide, with Ross Worner left rooted between the sticks.
Doswell’s men shortly regained control of the game and almost doubled their lead just before the drinks break. Ayunga won the ball high up the pitch and Roarie Deacon nipped in to drive forward. After taking on his man, he let fly only for his shot to be deflected into the arms of Alhaji Sesay in the Dartford goal.
A moment of madness ensued moments after the water break as Wes Fodgen set Ayunga off down the left. Dartford goalkeeper Sesay came rushing out and missed the ball completely, taking down the Hawks striker in the process. The advantage was played by the referee as the ball fell back to Fogden who’s first time effort was cleared off the line.
It was becoming a real end-to-end affair at Westleigh park. The next big chance came just three minutes later, for the away side this time. Right-back Sanchez Ming found himself in plenty of space inside of the area, but the defender fired the ball just over the crossbar.
With the whistle seconds from being blown for half-time. Hawks’ Josh Taylor appeared to kick out at Dartford’s Ming off the ball, giving the referee an easy decision to send him off. The home side led at the break but after being reduced to 10 men, this would only give Dartford even more hope of getting themselves back in it.
Half-Time: Hawks 1-0 Dartford
Manager Paul Doswell made three changes at the break in an attempt to freshen up his side, as they were to play the next 45 minutes with only 10 men. Danny Kedwell, Benny Read and Roarie Deacon made way for Andy Drury, Bedsente Gomis and Chris Paul.
Despite being down to 10, the Hawks started the second-half well, pinning Dartford back inside their own half for the first five minutes. But the Darts reacted well after that and came close to levelling when Elliott Romain dragged his shot just wide of the Hawks goal after good work from Ky Marsh-Brown.
Moments later, Hawks striker Ayunga almost doubled his tally for the day after taking on the Dartford defence on his own through the middle. After getting his shot away from just outside the area, it whistled past the post and left Sesay scrambling down to his right.
This turned out to be costly for the Hawks as Dartford had their equaliser soon after. Just before the hour mark, substitute Marsh-Brown did well to wriggle away from a number of Havant defenders before feeding McQueen who squirmed his shot underneath Worner to draw the away side level.
After getting themselves back in it, Dartford showed no sign of remorse and quickly went for their second. Marsh-Brown caused makeshift right-back Nicky Bailey a great deal of problems down the left before eventually being halted at the expense of a corner, which was eventually headed harmlessly over the crossbar.
Five minutes later Dartford completed the turn-around, again Marsh-Brown got away from Bailey down the left before driving into the penalty area, only to be tripped by the backtracking Chris Paul. McQueen doubled his side’s lead from the spot leaving the Hawks with it all to do, as they went into the second drinks break of the game.
The game should have been wrapped up for the away side just inside the final 20 minutes, as the Hawks were caught out at the back. Striker Romain ventured into the box before sending a low effort across goal which Worner did well to get down to and push to safety.
Heading into the last 10 minutes, the home side started to push for the goal which would take it to penalties. They almost got it when Ayunga picked up the ball on the edge of the area following a short corner. The striker showed off some brilliant footwork to get away from the defender, before cannoning his effort over the bar.
With both sets of players looking weary in the final stages, Dartford made it difficult for the Hawks to really gather any momentum as they sat back ready for the counter-attack. This forced Doswell’s men to just pump the ball into the Dartford penalty area, and there was one last opportunity for salvation as Ayunga got free from his marker, but the striker put his header wide of the target.
A heart-breaking result for the Hawks who will be competing in the National League South again next season.
Full-Time: Hawks 1-2 Dartford
Starting XI: Worner, Read, Magri, Beckwith, Straker, Bailey, Fogden, Deacon, Taylor, Kedwell, Ayunga
Subs on: Drury, Gomis, Paul, Tarbuck
Subs not used: Tupper, Robson
By Ryan Honey