Hayes & Yeading threw away a two goal lead against play-off contenders Dartford, who fought back well to earn a share of the spoils. All four goals were scored in an exciting first half, with Hayes & Yeading going two up thanks to strikes from Elliot Benyon and Shepherd Murombedzi. Soon afterwards, Dartford ensured they went into the interval level with goals from brothers, Elliot and Tom Bradbrook. The second half failed to see either side make the breakthrough, although Benyon hit the post for the hosts in the dying embers of the game, in a half dominated by the hosts.
Dartford were the ones to muster the first opportunity on goal in just the second minute, but Tom Bradbrook could only guide a heading straight into the clutches of Hayes & Yeading keeper, James Hamon. The opening exchanges were fairly even with both sides showing attacking intent, although Dartford forged the next opportunity on goal this time courtesy of Elliot Bradbrook. The Dartford captain failed to find the target though, as he saw his strike from fully 25 yards fizz narrowly over the crossbar.
The visiting side then threatened the Hayes goal twice more before the twenty minute mark, with the hosts’ defenders having to remain alert after Dartford found space in behind on both occasions. Firstly, Ryan Hayes played an exceptional through ball down the line for right-back, Tom Gardiner, to run onto, and his low cross forced Darren Purse to turn the ball behind into the side netting. Then a couple of minutes later, Tom Bradbrook saw an effort from close range cleared off the line by Jordaan Brown.
Brown’s goal-line clearance proved to be pivotal for his side, as they managed to take the lead in the 21st minute. Ashley Lodge found himself in open space down the right, and his low cross failed to encourage a successful clearance from the Dartford defence. The ball instead found it’s way to Luke Williams just inside the area, who struck an effort towards goal via a deflection. Dartford goalkeeper, Deren Ibrahim did well to react to the shot to produce a save, but Benyon was on hand to fire the rebound into the roof of the net from inside the six-yard box.
Shepherd Murombedzi was making his debut for the club, and he gained his reward for his lively opening to the game down the left wing with a goal in the 28th minute. Lodge was instrumental in the build-up once more as he evaded a challenge from Danny Harris inside the box, to play the ball towards the far post. His pass ricocheted into the path of Murombedzi, who scored at the second bite of the cherry, after he initial effort was blocked by Gardiner.
Dartford refused to be shellshocked by going two goals down in quick succession, as they set about pulling a goal back with plenty of endeavour. They duly gained their reward in the 39th minute when Hayes & Yeading conceded after some poor overall defending. Andy Pugh controlled the ball on the byline from a throw in under the close attention of two Hayes & Yeading players, but he still managed to flick to ball into the path of Tom Bradbrook. The forward advanced to the ball ahead of Darren Purse in the centre of the box, to then volley the ball straight at the experienced defender, with the deflection taking it past a helpless Hamon at his near post.
Elliot Bradbrook tried his luck from range once again shortly after the goal, but the ball flew over the crossbar much like his first attempt. He was the man to complete Dartford’s fightback however, as he powered in a header after some brilliant work by Ryan Hayes. Emmanuel Monthe lost possession of the ball just inside his own half, as he was tackled by the determined Hayes, who ran forward before cutting inside to deliver a wonderful in-swinging cross. Then there was Elliot Bradbrook, who ran onto the cross to steer his header into the far corner with seconds remaining in the first half.
Dartford produced the first meaningful effort of the second half, with Tom Bradbrook placing a shot wide of the far post after some good control on the edge of the box. That turned out to be Dartford’s only real foray on goal for the ramainder of the contest, as Hayes & Yeading dominated the game in terms of chances in the second period. Olumide Durojaiye was a key component in stopping Dartford at the source throughout the match, as he intercepted passes on numerous occasions, and he enjoyed a fruitful second half to prevent the away side building momentum.
The introduction of Justin Nwogu for the hosts in the 55th minute was another encouraging sign for them, as he worried the Dartford backline with his pace in the second half. He also nearly found the net in the 65th minute after Benyon’s cross from the right found it’s way to the substitute, but his effort was cleared off the line by Gardiner. Nwogu then returned the favour for Benyon in the final ten minutes. He raced his way through the guard of two defenders to play the ball back to Benyon, but he could only win a corner after he shot was deflected behind.
Dartford can count themselves extremely fortunate to have survived with a point from this encounter, considering Hayes & Yeading came agonisingly close to finding the winner twice in stoppage time. Lodge saw an effort brilliantly turned behind by Ibrahim at his near post, before Benyon came even closer to scoring. Eliott Simpson showed plenty of fight to run forward with the ball after he found himself on the floor, to play an inch perfect through-ball to Benyon. The former Torquay United forward had the angle against him, but still managed to smash his effort against the near post, with the ball somehow evading a final touch as it flew across the box.
It was a thoroughly entertaining affair between these two, but the result does little for either side’s league position. Hayes & Yeading finished the night in 18th, still looking down below at the relegation places, which they are five points clear off. Dartford meanwhile are in the 5th and final play-off spot, but will see this result as a missed opportunity, with Truro City breathing down their necks for the final berth. Dartford have played two games more than Truro, so two lost points here could be vital as the season draws to a close.
Hayes & Yeading: Hamon, Fenlon (Simpson 25), Brown, Everitt (c), Purse, Monthe, Williams (Nwogu 55), Lodge, Benyon, Durojaiye, Murombedzi
Dartford: Ibrahim, Gardiner, Onyemah, Vint (Dembele 32), McNaughton, Wynter, Hayes, E. Bradbrook (c), Pugh, T. Bradbrook (Noble 79), Harris
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