Dartford 3-1 Bognor Regis Town
Dartford 3-1 Bognor Regis Town

Dartford stayed in touch at the top of National League South with a comfortable 3-1 win over Bognor Regis Town.

Alfie Pavey, Elliot Bradbrook and Andy Pugh were on the scoresheet on a day when almost all of the teams around them in the congested table won.

Pavey got the ball rolling against opposition who were shaky at the back but decent going forward – not least when Kristian Campbell – on loan from Bromley – waltzed through to level.

It somehow remained 1-1 at the break despite the home side creating a host of chances, but Bradbrook restored the lead from the spot early in the second half.

The excellent Ryan Hayes – who before the game had received a presentation to mark his 400 games for the club – set up Pugh to seal the win, and the only disappointment for the Darts was that they didn’t score more.

Bognor had the first sight of goal but Ollie Pearce’s free-kick from out on the left flank was over the top – and the Darts soon had a great chance of their own.

Ryan Hayes swung in a corner from the left which was met by in-form Pavey, but his header was straight at Dan Lincoln – although he still had to push the ball away, such was the power in the effort.

But in the seventh minute, Lincoln was beaten – and it was no shock that Pavey was the man who netted.

Bognor tied themselves in knots and conceded a throw, which was taken quickly by Hayes and found its way to Pavey, who took a touch and rifled a left-footed shot into the bottom corner.

The visitors were definitely better going forward than they were at the back in the opening exchanges, but Jimmy Muitt’s shot was blocked on its way through to Jordan Carey.

Carey – in the team in place of Deren Ibrahim who was on international duty with Gibraltar – was soon called into action but Calvin Davies’ well-struck effort from 25 yards out was straight at him.

Hayes curled an effort high and wide after Darts carved their visitors open again, but on 16 minutes, the scores were level.

Campbell, undoubtedly one of the shakiest in the Rocks’ backline, was the scorer, twisting and turning in the box, getting onto his left foot and blasting a low shot past Carey.

Darts should have retaken the lead in the 25th minute when another flowing move – Hayes played a raking ball out to Murphy who crossed – ended with Andy Pugh’s close-range effort being stopped pretty much on the line by the appropriately named Tommy Block.

Pearce then curled another free-kick – this one from a central position – over the top after Mark Onyemah had brought down Muitt.

Almost everything good about the Darts involved Hayes, and he had a shot deflected behind before sending the resulting corner in for Pavey, but the striker headed just wide.

Richard Sho-Silva’s long throw was a weapon for the home side and one fell to Lee Noble on the edge of the box, but his shot was blocked by Davies.

The Darts were straight on the front foot after the break and were awarded a penalty when Davies was penalised for a high foot in the box which caught Onyemah.

Bradbrook made no mistake, firing hard into the top left-hand corner and even though Lincoln went the right way, he had no chance.

The visitors responded and Chad Field headed over, but the Darts still looked dangerous, although Keaton Wood’s shot was more dangerous to the fans behind the goal than Lincoln.

It wasn’t too long until Darts extended their advantage and it was no surprise that Hayes was involved, standing up a cross to the far post where Pugh couldn’t miss.

That killed the game as a contest and boss Tony Burman removed both Pavey and Hayes – to fine ovations from the crowd of 1,126.

Hayes’ replacement Lyle Della-Verde almost made it four but was denied by a good save from Lincoln, before an even better one saw the keeper push Noble’s 30-yard free-kick around the post.

Bradbrook headed the resulting corner over, and it was pretty much one-way traffic as the free-scoring Darts looked to add yet more to their tally.

But in the end they had to settle for three, and a win that left them fourth in the table ahead of their FA Cup excursion to Burgess Hill next weekend.

Dartford: Carey, Wood, Onyemah, Bonner, Sho-Silva (Harris 84), Noble, Hayes (Della-Verde 76), Bradbrook, Pavey (Ofori-Acheampong 74), Pugh, Murphy. Unused subs: Brown, Mfula

Bognor: Lincoln, Davies, Campbell, Block, Heath, Field, Muitt, Beck, White, Pearce (Suraci 78), Swallow (Wild 72). Unused subs: Lee, Scott.

Images courtesy of Edmund Boyden