08:26PM, Saturday 01 October 2016
Slough Town 2, Dartford 3
The full time score doesn't tell the full story of an absorbing FA Cup qualifier between two in form teams, but after 90 breathless minutes Slough Town were dumped out of the competition, leaving them to, forgive the cliche, concentrate on the league.
This was one of the ties of the third qualifying round as Slough put their nine game winning streak on the line against opponents from the league above who were themselves unbeaten since the end of August.
Slough are keen to show they can live with teams from the National League South - somewhere they hope to be in the coming seasons - and in the first 20 minutes they achieved this and then some.
Gav James was an early casualty for the Rebels, removed from the fray after aggravating an injury he picked up in the pre match warm up. He was replaced by Charlie Moone, himself returning to first team action after missing the last few weeks through injury, and he was barely on the field a minute when Slough edged in front. James Dobson, a scorer of six goals for the Rebels already this term, was the provider when his un-defendable ball into the six-yard-box was inadvertently turned past keeper Deren Ibrahim by Darts' captain Elliot Bradbrook.
The football that followed from the home side was exceptional. Crisp passing led to countless openings down both flanks. Warren Harris went close with a shot on the turn in the area that was blocked away for a corner and Paul Stonehouse - bombing forward from left back - collected Dobson's low cross and thumped a volley just past the upright.
The Darts were shellshocked, but they have quality in their side and created the odd opening to worry the 733 crowd inside Arbour Park. Mark Scott saved with his legs to deny Dan Harris, who then misfired when presented with an even better chance midway through the period. But the better opportunities continued to fall the home side's way and Harris sent a dipping volley over the bar just before half-time.
One of the game's defining periods came at the start of the second half. Slough missed the chance to score a killer second when Dobson lashed Harris' low cross just wide in the 48th minute and within 60 seconds the visitors were back on level terms when Ryan Hayes' corner was headed home at close range by Bradbrook - now a scorer at both ends of the field.
But, if anything, the period that followed illustrated Slough's strength of character, composure and quality. They didn't allow the equaliser upset their rhythm and, after Dunn stabbed a weak effort at Ibrahim in the 54th minute, they retook the lead from the penalty spot. There was no questioning the referee's decision as Ibrahim - set to play for Gibraltar this week - clambered over the back of Moone who fell to the floor - a stonewaller. From the spot Dobson drilled the ball low to Ibrahim's left to make it 2-1 in the 57th minute.
The Rebels might have added more goals as they controlled the next 10 minutes but Dartford couldn't be counted out. The visitors thought they'd scored a legitimate goal when substitute Duane Ofori-Acheampong turned in Harris' cross but the linesman's flag went up. Harris claimed, a little too vehemently, his ball did not go forward and was booked for his protestations.
It proved a temporary let off as the hosts conceded a penalty when Lee Togwell went in too aggressively on the surging Andy Pugh. Bradbrook's penalty was diverted onto the underside of the crossbar by Scott but went in to make it 2-2 in the 83rd minute and gave the Darts' skipper his third goal of the game.
Slough continued to chase the game, clearly keen to win it without the tie going to a replay, but they lost their way in the closing stages. Pugh sent a long-range effort flying just over but the choker came in the final minute. Pugh skipped through, nipped the ball over the outstretched toe of Guy Hollis then rolled the ball past Scott.
It was tough on the Rebels, who'd more than played their part in an entertaining tie, but the visitors go on to the fourth qualifying round and Slough return to league action against Cambridge next weekend, after taking part in the league cup in midweek. Promotion remains their priority and Neil Baker and Jon Underwood's team proved against Dartford they wouldn't look out of place in the National League South.
Other local results:
Royston Town 4, Marlow 2
Windsor 2, Horley 1
Ardley Utd 5, Ascot Utd 0
Burnham 3, Longlevens 6
Tuffley Rovers 4, Flackwell Heath 0
AFC Aldermaston 5, Holyport 2
Reading YMCA 1, Marlow Utd 0
Unity 0, Cookham Dean 0
Newbury FC 4, Hurst 0
Rotherfield Utd 0, Taplow Utd 5
Reading 1, Derby 1
Wycombe Wdrs 1, Exeter 0
Fixtures (Tues, Oct 4):
Maidenhead Utd v Aylesbury Utd (B&B Cup)
The Magpies, who did not have a match on Saturday, host Aylesbury in the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup quarter-final on Tuesday.
The winners play Marlow in the semis.
Wycombe Wdrs v West Ham (EFL Trophy)
Wanderers were drawn together with Northampton Town, Coventry City and a West Ham side which must feature six or more players aged 21 or under.
The EFL Trophy has been renamed the Checkatrade Trophy with immediate effect as clubs from Sky Bet League One and League Two get ready to compete with 16 Category 1 Academy teams from the Premier League and the Sky Bet Championship for the first time.
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