Name: Dartford FC
Stadium: Princes Park
Capacity: 4,100 (642 seated)
Last season: 3rd in National League South
Dartford will be looking to avenge last season’s play-off semi final defeat to Chelmsford City, with the Kent side being one of the early favourites for the title.
The Darts finished last season in 3rd place in the National League South, but lost to Chelmsford City in the play-off semi-final.
Having spent very little time in the National League South, the club will be hoping that they can improve on last year’s finish and go one better this season and achieve promotion.
Dartford, established in 1888, were formed by members of the Dartford Working Men’s Club, initially playing just friendlies.
The club soon joined cup competitions, reaching the final of the Kent Senior Cup in 1894. Following this, the club became founding members of the Kent League for the 1894/95 season, and entered the FA Cup for the first time the season after.
Two seasons later, the Darts became founding members of the Southern League Division Two, winning the Championship at the first attempt. The club moved between the Southern and Kent Leagues several times over the following seasons, dropping to the West Kent League in the 1900s, following financial difficulties. In 1913 Dartford undertook a short tour of Norway culminating in a 6–1 win over a Norway XI.
Post-1918, Dartford gained a reputation nationally by becoming the first club outside the Football League to reach the FA Cup Third Round Proper in successive seasons. In 1935–36 Dartford lost 3-2 to a star-studded Derby County having at one time led by 2–0. The following season saw Dartford lose 0–1 at home to Darlington at the same stage.
In the early 1970s Dartford appeared in four successive Kent Senior Cup finals, winning the first and the last. The Darts won the Southern League Championship in 1973–74, though they failed to gain election to the Football League. The same season, the Darts made it to Wembley for the FA Trophy final.
In the wake of the Bradford City stadium fire and the Hillsborough disaster, Dartford, like so many clubs, needed to either relocate or upgrade their current facilities with the Board going for the latter option. Large sums of money were spent on planning and design fees, which burdened a manageable financial deficit with crippling interest charges. At the beginning of the 1988/89 season, Dartford began a ground share with Maidstone United, but financial issues that saw Maidstone go bankrupt forced more debt onto Dartford, who had to sell off their ground to creditors and saw them withdraw from the Southern League after just four games in 1992/93.
Dartford continued to ground share with other clubs, including with Welling United from 1994/95, with Purfleet from 1998/99 after Welling’s ground fell victim to a disastrous fire, and with Gravesend & Northfleet (now Ebbsfleet United) from 2000/01.
Near the end of the 2003/04 season, the Dartford Borough Council announced it would provide funding and a site for the building of a new stadium in Dartford in time for the 2006/07 season, allowing Dartford to come home. The club played their first game at Princes Park in November 2006 less than 12 months after building work began.
Dartford were promoted via the play-offs to the Conference Premier for the 2012/13, but were relegated in 2013/14. However, due to financial issues crippling both Hereford United and Salisbury City, both of whom were expelled from non-league’s top flight, Dartford became just the second team (alongside Chester to be reprieved form relegation. However, they were relegated the following year.
We have met The Darts 46 times in the past but it has been 25 years since we faced the Kent side.
P W D L GF GA GD
46 12 10 24 63 91 -28