Staines Town 2 Dartford 0
Steve Cordery successfully restored his men to winning ways after last week’s poor performance at St Albans, bouncing back with a deserved and welcome three points against a Dartford side that had started the day two places above them.
Danny Gordon failed a pre-match fitness test, and Richard Butler started another two match suspension, but in came Dwane Lee after a knock, and Elliot Onochie, making his return after 11 weeks in which he was unavailable due to work.
On a mild, sunny afternoon, Staines began by attacking the Penton Hook Road end.
Ground staff Graham Gould, Jesse Richards, John Hanson, and Michael ‘Tevez’ Burgess had left the pitch in very good condition before belatedly taking up the offer to attend a game at Old Trafford, made when Sir Alex Ferguson visited Wheatsheaf Park a couple of seasons back.
With a decent contingent of visiting fans sporting two enormous flags, the omens were good for an entertaining afternoon.
Staines made a blistering start, with Onochie looking as though he had never been away, and it was his industry that started the move from which the home side took a fifth minute lead.
He sent the ball cleverly out to Warren Harris, who deceived defender Goodacre and square-passed invitingly across the six yard box where captain-for-the-day André Scarlett to sidefoot home the opening goal.
Just four minutes later, and it could have been all over, as Onochie intercepted a square Dartford pass and raced away from the two shadowing defenders, only to be hauled down on the 18 yard line.
Astonishingly, neither the referee nor his assistant saw fit to even halt the play.
But Staines kept their composure, and continued to carve out chances with another great pass by Harris setting up Darty Brown who fired just over, and then Simon Jackson curling a long range effort just outside the ‘angle’.
A foul on Bradbrook brought Lee Swans’ only caution of the game; the visiting skipper was already carrying a knock before kick-off, and looked sluggish both before and after this challenge, being subbed 10 minutes before the interval, having limped out of the action a couple of minutes beforehand.
Louis Wells had a relatively untroubled day in the Staines goal, but when the ball did come his way, he was faultless in his handling. His first real test came when a free kick was met by a snappy Burns header, but he rose to claim it without fuss.
The bookings tally was levelled on 27 minutes, Main having his name taken as Lee was this time the victim.
Swans fans had a further ‘gripe’ with the officials as a very swift whistle for a home free kick denied them what was shaping up to be a good advantage on the flank, and when a loud obscenity went unpunished in contrast to recent red cards for Scarlett and Butler for far quieter examples.
Perhaps Dartford’s best chance of a response came in the 38th minute, but a header whipped free kick by Hayes was glanced just wide, and Staines doubled their lead just three minutes later.
Onochie was instrumental once more, turning the defence one way and then the other before delivering the ball for Scott Taylor to beat Young.
Staines ended the half in inspired form, Young making a great one-handed save from a Jackson strike following more great work by Harris, and then Brown’s swerving shot beating the diving keeper but zooming just past the post.
The second half was somewhat quieter, as Dartford rarely showed enough quality to suggest that they would erode the two goal lead, despite fielding two feared marksmen in Jon Main and Charlie Sheringham (son of Teddy).
The visitors did enjoy an improved spell either side of the withdrawal of Hayes, with his replacement, Noble, providing a corner from which Goodacre flashed a header just too high.
At the other end, Young again excelled himself, turning away a low Taylor drive following Scarlett’s no-nonsense winning of possession in midfield and accurate diagonal pass. A minute later, and Scarlett himself was denied by Yo
ung, just before the final yellow card (70 mins) was shown to Darts’ Champion for dissent.
Duffy saw another decent strike diverted for a corner, and Staines moved serenely towards the three points during the remaining time, including three extra minutes.
It was a victory that moved the home side back up to 12th – ahead of Dartford – and reflects Steve Cordery’s reminder to his players that, although a play-off place is effectively out of reach this term, they are playing for their places in the longer term.
One player who made an excellent impression on Saturday was Warren Harris, who duly collected the Supporters’ Club Man of the Match ‘bubbly’ from Göran Seger, President of the Swedish Massive who were in attendance at this match.
Staines: Wells; Jackson, Steer, Sterling, Orlu, Scarlett ©, Onochie, D Brown, D Lee (D Thomas 73), Taylor, W Harris (Duffy 83); unused Perring, Quiassaca, Allaway (gk).
Dartford: Young, Jones, Bonner, Bruce, Goodacre, Champion, Hayes (Noble 54), Burns, Sheringham, Main (Burchell 73), Bradbrook © (D Harris 35); unused White, Burgess.
Ref: MP Webb (Knaphill, Surrey); ARs: D Sotimirin (Lambeth, London), M Carmichael (Frimley Green, Surrey).