Vanarama National League South
Concord 2 (Taaffe 2mins, 60mins)
Dartford 3 (Pugh 67mins, 85mins, Tom Bradbrook 91mins)
On a damp August evening, Concord Rangers and Dartford played out a tough encounter in front of a healthy crowd at the Aspect Arena. The evening started in great fashion for the Beachboys, but the players and home fans alike were stunned with the last ten minutes of the game.
As in our last home game against Weston Super Mare, the lads got off to great start. Lewis Taaffe in his first start of the season, found space in the Dartford box and latched onto a deflected through ball by Steve Cawley. Taaffe 12 yards out buried his shot in the bottom corner, before Ibrahim in the Dartford goal could even move. Concord were 1-0 up after 2 minutes.
Unfortunately just like the Weston Super Mare game, Concord suffered another serious injury to their left back. After 17 minutes Tom Stephen was brought down from behind and his fall led to him crashing against the hoardings, this led to Tom being stretchered off with a badly gashed knee, and he was taken to hospital. The number 3 shirt for Concord so far this season is certainly not bringing the wearer much luck! James Hammond replaced the Tom, and this led to a re-jig of positions in the Concord defence for the 2nd home game running.
The game was played with intensity in the first half, and the challenges were flying in. The wet surface certainly led to some meaty slide tackles and neither side were giving an inch in the middle battle. Nothing epitomised this more, than James White and Elliott Bradbrook’s numerous tussles in centre midfield. As the half wore on Dartford were an increasing threat from set pieces, and the delivery from Ryan Hayes was causing concern in the Concord penalty area. The crosses were being dealt with, but not with ease. On 40mins another teasing cross was pinged into the Concord box and as six players attacked the ball, it was flicked towards goal and Ben McNamara making his Concord debut in goal somehow kept the ball out. It was a stunning save.
As the half drew to a close, Concord were in front, but there was no doubting this was a tough game.
Concord 1 Dartford 0
The second half began and it was Concord who again started the strongest. The wide play of Joe Gardner and Ben Greenhalgh was really stretching the Dartford defence. Gardner and Greenhalgh equally adept of cutting in or staying wide kept their full backs on their toes, but chances were at a premium. At this stage in the game it was either going to take a great bit of play, or a mistake for the score to change. On the hour the Dartford left back under pressure from Gardner passed back to his keeper…but it was short, Lewis Taaffe picked up the gift and lashed the ball home from inside the penalty area. It was predatory from Lewis.
Immediately Dartford made a change, one which had a major factor in the outcome of the game. Jet-heeled winger Becka-Kah Dembele was brought on and his pace and trickery was vital in the closing stages of the game. Dartford threw caution to the wind, and changed to a 4/2/4 formation, they had nothing to lose. On 67 minutes the deficit was halved. Ryan Hayes again put in another great cross, Andy Pugh pulled down the cross and stabbed it at goal, the shot deflected off James Hammond and trickled over the line. That goal galvanised Dartford and the lively Dembele tested McNamara twice, but Ben made two great saves to keep Concord in front.
Into the last ten minutes and with Dartford going for the jugular, there were chances for Concord on the break, but the final ball was just lacking. It was that man Pugh again on 85 minutes who levelled matters for Dartford. A long ball was played into the Concord box, and he brought the ball down with one touch with his left foot, cut in onto his right and curled home from 16 yards. It was a great goal.
As the game edged into injury time both sides were determined to find the winner. Concord had changed their front players and had the experience of Brayley and Stokes trying to make that one last chance. However that one last chance fell to Tom Bradbrook of Dartford in the 91st minute. A long ball over a tiring Concord defence found the Dartford centre forward in space and he won the game with a powerful shot which McNamara had no chance with. Dartford had scored three times in the last twenty minutes to win the game.
The final result took the gloss off Lewis Taaffe’s first goals of the season “When you score you always want it to be the goal that wins you the match and at 2-0 with looked comfortable. But we need to be a bit more intelligent in managing the game as we let them back in and paid the price for it” Lewis explained to us after the game, however he and the team are determined to bounce back on Saturday at home to Hemel Hempstead “Well we’re all bitterly disappointed with the last two results, to be leading in both games and throwing it all away. We haven’t played anywhere near our best yet and we could have arguably won all four games, as we have led in all of them. However Saturday can’t come soon enough for us, so we can put this result behind us and get a positive one at the weekend.”
Concord 2 Dartford 3
Concord line up
McNamara, Fox, Stephen (off 17mins), King(capt), Lee; Doyle, White, Gardner, Greenhalgh; Cawley (off 78mins), Taaffe (off 86mins)
Subs – Hammond (on 17mins), Brayley (on 78mins) Stokes (on 86mins)
Gough, Bantick – Not used.