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Dartford progress as sloppy second half kills off Slough Town's promotion hopes

Ryan Bird

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Slough Town 0, Dartford 3

Slough Town’s dreams of promotion to the National League died after a slack start to the second half gave Dartford the impetus to go on and claim a comfortable play-off win this afternoon.

Both sides had gone more than four months without a competitive fixture, so form went out of the window for this National League South play-off eliminator at Arbour Park. And, although the Rebels found the ‘intensity’ their joint managers had been calling for in the first half, they crucially lost their focus at the start of the second half and then allowed their levels to drop.

Charlie Sheringham was the man who killed off the home side’s hopes, making the most of some lax marking to steal in at the far post to turn home Jordan Wynter’s low cross a minute after the restart.

Things then quickly spiralled for the Rebels. Sheringham’s second goal in the 55th minute owed a lot to fortune, but the striker was in the right place at the right time to make it 2-0. Elliott Romain’s shot from the edge of the box took a big deflection off Ryan Bird before striking the post and rolling kindly for the striker to tap home.

There may not have been a crowd at Arbour Park but the goal seemed to, almost audibly, suck the life from Slough’s play-off challenge. Neil Baker and Jon Underwood told the side that ‘there was plenty of time left’ and ‘that one goal would change things’, but you sensed the belief was gone and the game was only going one way.

A third goal followed for Dartford substitute Luke Wanadio when the Rebels were throwing caution to the wind with five minutes to go. But it simply rubbed salt in the wounds. To give Wanadio his due it was the game’s best goal, the winger cutting in from the left and beating his man before thumping the ball low and hard inside Turner’s near post.

The final whistle sounded a few minutes later – just after Tyrique Hyde lifted a presentable chance for a fourth over the bar - and Slough trudged off the park well beaten.

This game was a reminder of how quickly things can change in football. At half-time Baker and Underwood would have been the happier of the two management teams. While they didn’t exactly boss the first half they were certainly the brighter side and created by far the better chances. In fact the Darts created nothing of note as they made a sluggish return to competitive football.

The Rebels were winning most of their individual battles in the early stages and it felt like they were the team that had hit the ground running. Had they scored first this tie might well have gone their way, but, they couldn’t take the ones which fell their way. In the 19th minute Josh Jackman sent a free header over the bar when well placed after a good cross from Matt Lench. In the context of the game it felt like a good opportunity.

But they created an even better one two minutes later. Again Lench was involved, swinging over a corner from the left and good movement from Bird saw him steal a march on the Darts’ defence. With the keeper Sesay flapping at the ball Bird headed inches over. Underwood and Baker’s exasperated reaction said everything. He had to score. Slough threatened again 10 minutes before the interval when Lee Togwell hooked in a great cross from the left touchline and Warren Harris managed to get in front of his marker and scuff the ball goalwards. Unfortunately his connection wasn’t a great one and Sesay comfortable gathered in.

As the sides came off for the break you’d have made Slough favourites to go through, but it felt like a game where the first goal would be decisive. Unfortunately for the hosts that goal came just a minute after the restart and their hopes imploded pretty quickly thereafter.

Slough have put a lot of money and effort into trying to seize this chance of promotion and it unravelled in 90 minutes. As Underwood said afterwards ‘that’s play-off football’. He and Baker will now reflect on what's been and reassess what's needed to put the Rebels in the hunt for promotion again next season.

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Slough Town: Turner, Jackman, Wells, S Togwell (Kuhl 67’), Hollis, L Togwell (Roberts 56’), Worsfold (Hodges 76’), Lench (Davies 67’), B Harris, W Harris, Bird.

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