Dartford v Braintree Town preview
Dartford v Braintree Town preview

After last Saturday’s late heartbreak, Dartford look to put it behind them when they entertain Braintree Town in the Vanarama National League South play-offs.

Last Saturday, they went into the final match of the season in second place in the table, behind Havant and Waterlooville on goal difference. The Darts travelled to bottom of the league Bognor Regis Town whilst Havant entertained Concord Rangers.

At half time, the Hawks were in the driving seat with a 2-0 lead whist Tony Burman’s team were being held in a goal-less first half. However, Concord pulled one back six minutes after the break and, at Bognor, Danny Mills put Dartford ahead.

Ronnie Vint gave them some breathing space before Concord levelled with ten minues remaining in Hampshire. Had the two matches finished with those score-lines, Dartford would have been promoted as champions.

However, with one minute remaining, Havant scored again to break Dartford’s hearts however finishing second guaranteed them home advantage and a bye in the play-offs.

It was harsh on the Darts who were completing their ninth consecutive victory but they will go into the play-offs with all the momentum.

While they have had a week’s rest, Braintree have come through a tough match at Hemel Hempstead Town. Neither side managed a breakthrough in ninety minutes and extra time also finished in dead-lock. It went to penalties where Braintree prevailed 3-2.

It was just the second game of the season when Dartford visited Braintree and the points were shared in a 2-2 draw.. The hosts burst into a two goal first half lead. Karl Olyide put them ahead in the 35th minute before a controversial penalty for a perceived hand-ball by Elliot Bradbrook was converted by Bill Crook.

That was two minutes before the break and could have deflated the Darts but they kept faith and pulled one back through Tom Murphy on 65 minutes. They kept pushing and Bradbrook earned them a good point with five minutes remaining.

In the return game, just before Christmas, the teams could still not be separated and they played out a 1-1 draw. On this occasion, it was Dartford who scored first when Andy Pugh scored after sixteen minutes however Braintree again scored two minutes before the break, this time through Marcel Barrington. Neither side could find a second half winner and the spoils were shared.

This time around there has to be a victor even if it takes extra time and penalties to divide the teams. Whoever prevails will play the winners of the Chelmsford City v Hampton and Richmond game with a place in the Vanarama National League being the prize.