The Non-League Football Paper - - NATIONAL LEAGUE SOUTH - By Dan English

DARTFORD seized the ini­tia­tive in the Na­tional League South ti­tle race by beat­ing pro­mo­tion ri­vals Ha­vant & Water­looville in a cagey top-of-the-ta­ble clash.

The Darts are two points clear thanks to an early firsthalf strike from Tom Mur­phy from what was Dartford’s sole shot on tar­get of the af­ter­noon.

It also brought an end to Ha­vant’s 11-match un­beaten league run that stretches back to Septem­ber.

Dartford man­ager Tony Bur­man said: “I am very pleased that we have got the three points and that we kept the clean sheet. It was a bat­tling per­for­mance rather than a foot­balling one.”

The hosts started brightly and led af­ter just two min­utes when Mur­phy fired past Ryan Young from a good flick on by Al­fie Pavey.

Yet de­spite trail­ing, the Hawks had much of the first half pos­ses­sion but they could not con­vert it into an equaliser, with their clos­est op­por­tu­nity be­ing a Rory Wil­liams shot on 43 min­utes which fizzed across the six yard box.

Af­ter the first half chill, the sec­ond half pro­vided a thaw in a cagey at­mos­phere as both sides at­tacked with a lit­tle more pur­pose – Lee Brad­bury’s Ha­vant con­tin­u­ing to en­joy most of the pos­ses­sion.

But Dartford nearly dou­bled their ad­van­tage on 51 min­utes, when tal­is­man Ryan Hayes floated a cross to Pavey who rose well but headed wide.

Ha­vant al­most lev­elled on 59 min­utes through Jor­dan Rose, whose shot was fired wide af­ter the de­fender al­luded the Darts’ de­fence.

Dartford pushed back and should have gone close through Andy Pugh on 64 min­utes but the for­ward scuffed his shot wide.

The vis­i­tors, who had only lost once on the road be­fore Satur­day’s game, should have equalised on 70 min­utes through Ja­son Prior, but the former Dartford man could only head over from close range.

Ha­vant’s big­gest chance of the af­ter­noon came on 83 min­utes, when Jor­dan Rose’s ef­fort was well saved by Deren Ibrahim. The re­sult­ing scram­ble should have been tucked away by Prior, but the for­ward could only put his ef­fort over the bar.

On 90 min­utes sub­sti­tute Matt Tubbs’ ef­fort went just wide as the Hawks laid siege to the Dartford goal in the dy­ing min­utes.

Hawks boss Brad­bury felt that they should have taken some­thing from the gamem, say­ing: “I am pleased with the way the lads played. We have had a real go. We had bet­ter chances and dom­i­nated for long spells. I am proud.” STAR MAN: Tom Mur­phy (Dartford) EN­TER­TAIN­MENT: ★★★★★

PIC­TURES: Tony Fowles

COOLLY DONE: Mur­phy nets what proves to be the win­ner DREAM START: Dartford cel­e­brate af­ter Tom Mur­phy scores the only goal of the game in the sec­ond minute

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