We had been led to believe, by people who should know better, that Dartford was a chav hell hole. Rubbish. A chav hell hole does not deliver three quality boozers, a cafe with a young ‘host’ more at home in Madame Jo Jo’,s or Brechtian discussions with the local youths?! This is a town with apparent diversity in its sense of self and a slightly tenacious attitude to make things better.
It fits, therefore, that the local council have essentially given the football team superb eco-ground (left) that is Princes Park. A wooden man (below right) holds aloft the roof of not only the north facing stand but, as it is a continuous oval wooden lid, effectively the whole ground.
Given the size of the ground (allegedly 4,000 capacity) the bar is dwarfed by Dulwich Hamlet’s behemoth of alcohol but it’s nice enough, if a little soulless.
As we suggested in our preview, this match was eagerly anticipated and would be very close. Correct on both counts, except the scoreline probably flattered Chelmsford a little.
This game mirrored, almost exactly, the game we saw at the 4th Qualifying Round stage last season, AFC Wimbledon 1 Wycombe W 4. A very similar pattern of play, not much happened during the even start, the higher team the more clinical with the few chances they had, the home side coming into it in the second half but getting suckered on the break at inopportune moments.
The main difference between these teams was that Chelmsford had a very solid defence that gave little away and they had goal poachers in abundance, with one glaring exception.
Before we ventured far we popped into small world Kent for some Shepherd Neame and then from the correctly titled ‘All Day Cafe’. The cafe was rammed to the gills and bubbling with atmosphere. It was either going to be cheap, good or cheap and good.
There was a hubbub in the middle of the cafe, the waiter was rooting around in some woman’s bag. He found a white polka dot bikini and asked the diners if he should try it on. “YES” was the response, so he did, and catwalked up and down the caff from door to kitchen. Already not what we were expecting from Dartford.
The Dartford fans were equally as loud, although not as camp, often enquiring if they could knock out a tune for their opposite numbers. The Darts fans must have been hard of hearing because the Clarets fans were making much noise too, reminding their opponents that they were top of the league.
In the first half, there were four shots of note and one header. The opening goal came from a corner, Murray (celebrating, left) taking two shots to score after the ball fell to him in the 6 yard box. The third shot resulted in the Dartford keeper tipping over a free kick and the fourth saw the Clarets go in at the break 2 nil up, Ricky Holmes shooting neatly in to the corner from the edge of the box.
The first half of the second half was almost entirely Dartford but they had very few sightings of goal. Chelmsford got a free kick about 25 yards out and Dave Rainford swept it over the wall and in to the corner. 3-0. Clinical. “3 nil and you still won’t sing”, sing the Darts fans. “Top of the league, you’re having a laugh” retort the Claret faithful. It was fair comment, bar one draw, Dartford have won all of their league games this season but, on this evidence, they are going to have to up their game somewhat if they are to compete in the league above.
The ref was very indecisive, there were 3 or 4 drop balls in this game for no apparent reason. You very rarely even see one and the crowd started shouting for them at every stoppage.
With around 15 left Dartford did finally get a great chance to get back in the game but Tait blasted over from 4 yards. Five minutes later another went begging when May headed wide when well placed. They also smacked the woodwork. We thought that was probably it but then Dartford got a freekick and captain Flanagan sneaked in to plant one firmly past the keeper.
Game on? The Darts fans thought so, “Bouncy, Bouncy, Bouncy”. Chelmsford threatened to pop the optimism when the Dartford keeper made a hash of some edge-of-the-box control and Chelmsford’s own ‘Crouchy’ found himself on the penalty spot with the keeper on the floor behind him and no defenders within 20 yards. He sidefooted the ball a foot past the post. The crowd were incredulous, that was probably the worst miss any of us has ever seen.
Seconds later ‘Crouchy’ does some twinkle toes down the left and crossed perfectly for Murray to touch home. ‘Crouchy’s’ miss was somewhat special, so much so that we’ve devoted a whole story to him. And apologies, ‘Crouchy’ is in real life Robert Edmans and he had a very tidy game otherwise.
Dartford 1 Chelmsford City 4
Overall not the greatest game of FA Cup football but a fair bit of interest, incident and 5 goals so what more could you ask for? We retired to the Stage Door for a few and were accosted by a hooded youth in the beer garden. Was the Dartford experience about to take the type of turn we were led to expect? The youth enquired if we were involved with the next door theatre and informed us of his involvement in a production of ‘The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui’. Nope, we weren’t expecting that either.