FT: Dartford 1-2 Chelmsford City.
Chelmsford City came from behind to earn an important three points out of a feisty, fraught match at Princes Park on Tuesday night. The Darts led with half an hour gone, but Samir Carruthers’ penalty on the cusp of half time, followed by Charlie Ruff’s goal early in the second half, proved to be enough to secure the comeback which sent the travelling fans home happy.
Robbie Simpson’s side came closest to scoring first, when Jermaine Francis’ goal-bound effort was cleared on the goal-line by Darts defender Maxwell Statham in the 12th minute.
Statham was involved at both ends of the pitch early on, playing a role in the hosts’ only goal of the evening. Referee Nick Dunn awarded the Darts a free kick after Finley Barbrook was judged to have fouled Lewis Manor on the left-flank. Dartford captain Luke Coulson delivered the subsequent free-kick from a wide position, sparking celebrations from Statham who claimed a goal after the cross was prodded on target and past Josh Oluwayemi in the 23rd minute. However, it’s believed City midfielder Charlie Ruff inadvertently got the crucial touch on Coulson’s delivery.
The Clarets ended the half strongly and responded well to going a goal down. Zech Obiero and Freddie Hockey forced saves out of Darts keeper Mitchell Beeney, as City pushed to equalise before the break.
Simpson’s men got rewarded for their positive play in the 45th minute, when referee Dunn pointed to the spot after the hands of Dartford defender Joash Nembhard prevented a goal-bound Clarets shot from hitting the net.
Samir Carruthers stepped up from 12-yards against his former club, and found the back of the net despite Beeney diving the right way, scoring his first goal as a City player to send his side in level at half time.
City started the second half positively and were unlucky not to lead even sooner, with alert goalkeeping from Beeney denying Hockey the chance to put his side ahead, after the forward was well picked out by teammates having made dangerous runs in-behind the Darts’ defence.
In the 55th minute, the Clarets got rewarded once again for their positive play. Zech Obiero’s dangerous cross from the right-hand side just eluded Hockey in the penalty box, but not Charlie Ruff, who was well positioned to finish from close-range. Ruff made no mistake, putting his side into the lead.
A manic 10 minutes or so followed Ruff’s eventual winner. A break in play following a nasty clash of heads between two Dartford players sparked a manic confrontation between both sets of players, caused by an elbow on Luke Jenkins from Darts forward Harvey Bradbury prior to the clash of heads. Bradbury was handed a straight red card for this offence, and play eventually resumed.
Despite going a man down, the hosts probed for a late leveller and made City fight for the win. Josh Oluwayemi produced a world class save in the 80th minute, as the Portsmouth loanee impressively tipped Maxwell Statham’s header from a wide Coulson free-kick over the crossbar.
Coulson’s dangerous set pieces continued to cause the Clarets problems when a punch from Oluwayemi on another Coulson delivery landed at the feet of Darts substitute Brandon Barzey, whose effort went wide of the gaping City goal.
Playmaker Coulson wasn’t done there, with another one of the no.7’s free-kicks finding the head of centre back Moussa Diarra in the first of the eight added minutes. Diarra’s header came crashing off the crossbar, allowing City to clear their lines.
The Clarets smartly saw the remainder of the game out, and held firm to extend their unbeaten run in the National League South to six games. City have climbed to 7th in the table after collecting four points from a possible six in the last week during visits to Kent, and return to home action on Saturday against Chippenham.
Dartford XI: Beeney (GK), Wynter, Miller-Rodney (Barzey 56), Altintop, Coulson ©, Rooney, Manor (Allen 56), Statham, Nembhard (Woods 64), Bradbury, Diarra.
Unused subs: Wray, Boulton.
Yellow cards: Nembhard, Coulson, Allen.
Red cards: Bradbury.
Chelmsford City FC XI: Oluwayemi (GK), James ©, Jenkins, Barbrook, Francis, Castiglione, Ochieng, Carruthers, Obiero (Alfa 82), Ruff (Wordsworth 80), Hockey (Coker 75).
Unused subs: Barnum-Bobb, Jones.
Yellow cards: Ochieng, Coker, Wordsworth.
Cover image by Roger Robinson Photography
Words by Jake Dixon.