James Meir takes an in-depth look at Barnet's 2014/15 Conference Premier rivals...Dartford
Dartford gained promotion to the Conference after winning the Conference South Play-Off final in 2011/2012. In their first season back Tony Burman’s side finished eighth but a disappointing campaign saw them finish 22nd last season. However, due to Salisbury’s inability to meet the deadline of their debt payments, they were also given a reprieve back into the league.
Dartford’s summer signings include former Gillingham and Blackburn goalkeeper Jason Brown. The 32-year-old has moved from Sutton United and will provide a wealth of experience between the sticks. Meanwhile, forward Danny Harris, midfielders Ryan Hayes, Lee Noble and Max Cornhill as well as defender Lee Burns have all signed contract extensions which will see them extend their stay with the Darts for the foreseeable future.
Barnet fared well against Dartford last season, winning 2-0 at Prince’s Park thanks to first-half goals from Keanu Marsh Brown and Luisma Villa. The home encounter saw Edgar Davids sent off with ten minutes remaining, but the Bees still managed to hold on to a 1-0 victory following Jon Nurse’s goal after half an hour.
The Whites were formed in 1983 after the dissolution of the town’s previous club, Dover, replacing the old club in the Southern League. They spent five seasons in the Conference South, coming close to promotion on numerous occasions and reaching the play-offs three times. Last season they finally won the play-offs by defeating Ebbsfleet United, allowing Chris Kinnear’s men to return to the Conference after a twelve year absence.
In the summer transfer window, Dover have signed Stefan Payne from AFC Hornchurch on a free transfer. The 22-year-old scored 31 goals in 46 appearances. Payne used to play for Gillingham, where he played 37 times and scored twice. Goalkeeper Mitch Walker, defenders Richard Orlu, Sean Raggett and Tom Wynter, midfielders Chris Kinnear Jr, Ricky Modeste and Tom Murphy and striker Jeff Goulding are all still under contract for next season’s campaign.
Barnet have only ever played three competitive matches against Dover, winning two and drawing once. Two of these matches were in the Conference, the other in the FA Trophy. The last encounter in the Conference between the two sides was a 2-2 draw in the 2001/2002 season at the Crabble Ground.
The Spitfires were promoted to the Conference Premier for the very first time last season following their successful 2013/14 season, after they sealed the Conference South title with a 2-1 victory over Basingstoke Town in front of 1,500 fans.
Eastleigh have certainly been active in the transfer market, with Richard Hill signing two proven strikers in James Constable and former Bee Jack Midson. 29-year-old Constable played 280 times for Oxford, scoring 106 goals in five years. Midson meanwhile scored 42 goals in 140 appearances during a three year stay at Kingsmeadow, having previously made five loan appearances at Barnet. Next season will see Barnet play Eastleigh in a competitive match for the very first time.