A determined performance from the Peacocks produced their first ever victory in the National League against the much-fancied Kent side. The deserved win also saw the Peacocks net their first goals of the season as they recovered in the second half to overhaul the visitor’s lead gifted to them just before the break by a defensive clanger.
The Peacocks made only one change from the midweek outing at Farnborough, Nick McCootie replacing Dave Sims-Burgess up front, as they made a bright start. Joe Guest was pushed, conceding a free kick after five minutes which Lloyd James floated to the far post, Nick Grimes headed back across and Dan Ball volleyed over, a chance which on another day might have gone in. A loose pass then put the visitors in trouble, McCootie colliding with Darts’ keeper Dan Wilks after challenging for a 50/50 ball. With Wilks grounded, Guest tapped home the loose ball into an empty net, however the ’goal’ was chalked out as McCootie’s challenge was deemed a foul which produced a yellow card for him and treatment for the keeper.
Dartford had their first real spell of possession, with Samir Carruthers making ground into the box to find Luke Allen whose shot was blocked before McCootie limped off soon after on the 20 minute mark, being replaced by Sims-Burgess. The visitors then forced Jack Bycroft into his first save of the afternoon when he parried away an angled strike from Davide Rodari after a quickly taken free kick and Nat Jarvis failed to get enough on Sims-Burgess’ square pass to test Wilks at the other end.
Play became scrappy as both sides tended to concede possession too easily, leaving the game pretty even with neither side able to gain the upper hand. Sims-Burgess appeared to be pulled down from behind in the box by Darts’ skipper Tom Bonner, but referee Corbett wasn’t interested while Luke Allen’s crossfield ball found Rodari who cut inside to fire in an effort which was held by Bycroft and Carruthers’ shot was blocked as Darts looked for the breakthrough which they found six minutes before half time thanks to a mix-up at the back. Sam Oduadu’s ball forward should have been bread and butter for Town to deal with, however Ball and Bycroft dithered on who was dealing with it, allowing Rodari to nick the ball, round the keeper and slot into the unguarded net.
The Peacocks went back on the offensive looking to right the defensive wrong in the time left before the interval. A great run from Ollie Chamberlain laid on a shooting chance for Jake Wannell who drilled his strike wide of the target and Joe Budd volleyed wide from outside the area after Jay Foulston’s corner had been headed clear, with some neat approach play just breaking down at the final hurdle.
Dartford made the better start to second half proceedings. A cross from Dan Roberts, a half time sub for Rodari, was recycled for Pierre Fonkeu to fire wide and Luke Coulson saw a shot held safely by Bycroft, but the complexion of the game began to change with the arrival of Ross Stearn off the bench for Budd eight minutes in. Stearn was soon involved, space opening up for him as he raced forward but his effort was blocked off before another strong penalty appeal was ignored when Jarvis was pulled down, the Dartford defence massing to prevent Stearn from profiting as he rounded the keeper close in but he could not get a shot away and the ball was eventually scrambled clear.
The visitors threatened through Luke Allen who first had a strike well held by Bycroft, then attempted an audacious lob over the Town keeper from the halfway line but the Southampton loanee backtracked to clutch the ball at full stretch before trying his luck again with a shot which proved a routine stop for Bycroft. The Peacocks though were now playing at a much better tempo and a big cheer was raised on 68 minutes when striker Harry Warwick, scorer of six pre-season goals, came off the bench to replace Jarvis. Warwick immediately won two successive corners which proved unfruitful, but Bycroft again had to be alert when Coulson found Roberts on the left side of the box, the Town keeper saving the effort from a narrow angle and then catching the follow-up cross.
The 2022-23 goal account for the Peacocks finally opened after 76 minutes. James’ pass over the top found Sims-Burgess who still had work to do. The summer signing from Bath City was up to the task though, getting ahead of Bonner and drilling past Wilks into the far corner. The relief was palpable, and the reaction of the players, management and fans alike said it all 😊 Then three minutes later Town grabbed the lead with what proved to be the decisive goal. James’ diagonal pass reached Chamberlain on the right and his low cross into the mix looked perfect for Stearn to convert until Kieran Murtagh diverted the ball into his own net desperately trying to cut the danger out.
The Peacocks saw out the remaining ten minutes or so plus four minutes of stoppage time fairly comfortably with no further chances arising at either end. Dartford did win a corner at the death which Bycroft confidently punched clear, and Town had done enough against a full-time side and one of the promotion favourites although overall they failed to live up to the billing. It was the Peacocks’ day though as they finally got off the mark, a victory which is sure to give them confidence for the marathon campaign ahead.
Taunton: Jack Bycroft, Joe Budd (Ross Stearn 53), Jay Foulston, Nick Grimes (captain), Dan Ball, Jake Wannell, Ollie Chamberlain, Lloyd James, Nat Jarvis (Harry Warwick 68), Nick McCootie (Dave Sims-Burgess 20), Joe Guest. Unused subs: Dylan Morgan, Lee Lucas
Dartford: Dan Wilks, Jordan Wynter (Kristian Campbell 80), Samir Carruthers, Connor Essam, Tom Bonner (captain), Luke Coulson (Alex Wall 76), Luke Allen, Kieran Murtagh, Davide Rodari (Dan Roberts 45), Pierre Fonkeu, Sam Odaudu. Unused subs: Maxwell Statham, Tom Wray
Referee: Liam Corbett (Dudley)
Referee’s Assistant 1: Andrew Dunn (Portsmouth)
Referee’s Assistant 2: Jake Woolley (Bristol)
” I thought we were absolutely magnificent, and thoroughly deserved……….” watch Rob Dray’s Match Reaction on Peacocks TV HERE
Match highlights can be seen on Peacocks TV HERE
Mind In Somerset MOM
Ollie Chamberlain receives the Taunton Town Man Of The Match award from Peacocks supporter Dave Webster