Dartford 3 Sutton United 6
A breathless and thrilling Emirates FA Cup tie ended with Sutton celebrating a place in the second round of the competition after scoring six in a game for the first time since February 2013, the first time in any competition other than the Surrey Senior Cup since Paul Doswell took over as manager, and the first time in the FA Cup since a 7-2 defeat of Eastbourne United fifty years ago.
From the first minute, when Max Biamou gave U’s the lead, to the last, when Ross Stearn curled in a delightful shot to cap the afternoon’s entertainment, it was a game that few will forget in a hurry, and it took until the last twenty minutes for Sutton to finally see off a Dartford side who hauled themselves level three times and came very close to managing a fourth equaliser moments before Roarie Deacon, one of the afternoon’s outstanding performers, opened up a two goal lead for the first time.
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Rivalling Deacon for the star man honours was Max Biamou, who had given a hint of a return to his early season form when coming on at York last week, and who now proved almost unplayable at times, and it was these two who combined to give U’s a dream start after just 43 seconds. Craig Eastmond put Dan Fitchett through on the right and his neat backheel allowed Deacon to cut in along the right by-line before pulling the ball back for Biamou to stab past goalkeeper Deren Ibrahim, not the last occasion on which the Dartford goalkeeper will feel he might have done better.
Against a side looking to equal a club record ten wins in a row it was the perfect way to start, but if U’s hoped it would dent Dartford’s confidence they were to be disappointed. Ross Worner had to scramble to his left to keep out one effort from Elliott Bradbrook, but then Jamie Collins opted to clear a long ball rather than knock it back to Worner, only to find Bradbrook who returned the ball in to the unguarded net with Worner still trying to regain his position. Dartford might have been ahead soon afterwards when Bradbrook helped on Andy Pugh’s cross but Danny Harris could only direct the ball back across goal when it seemed easier to score, but it was Sutton who regained the lead when Collins and Fitchett guided a long Amankwaah throw in to the path of Deacon, who drilled a low shot past Ibrahim from just inside the penalty area.
This time the lead lasted just two minutes, as Eastmond blocked Luke Wanadio’s cross with his hand, and although Eastmond was very close to the Dartford winger referee Samuel Allison decided that it merited a penalty. Collins disputed the decision sufficiently to be booked, and Bradbrook netted from the spot. Already threatening to be a classic, the game had its fifth goal before entering its second quarter, and this was arguably the best. Deacon and Amankwaah combined on the right, Deacon guided the ball in to Biamou, and his first time shot flew past Ibrahim in to the roof of the net.
The powerful French striker was causing mayhem in the home defence, and Tom Bonner was booked for his efforts to halt one rampaging run even though Biamou shook him off and the referee allowed the attack to develop before going back to show the yellow card. Goals still threatened at both ends, though, as Deacon shot just wide from twenty yards after a fine run from the halfway line, and Worner went full stretch to hold Bradbrook’s glancing header and then tipped a Ryan Hayes corner on to the crossbar to enable U’s to go in ahead at the break.
Most Sutton supporters would have accepted a far less exciting second half in return for a guaranteed victory, but there was no let up in the action and Biamou should have had his hat trick when Eastmond’s shot was diverted in to his path but with just Ibrahim to beat he shot straight at the keeper. For all Biamou’s excellence it was a bad miss, and threatened to be an expensive one as within a minute Hayes crossed to the far post, Wanadio’s header came back off the post and Duane Ofori-Acheampong, a handful all afternoon for the Sutton defence, hammered the rebound in to the roof of the net. If U’s were frustrated at seeing the lead wiped out for a third time they didn’t show it, and six minutes later they were in front again. Deacon was again the creator, cutting in from the right and hitting a low shot which was fumbled by Ibrahim in to the path of Ross Stearn, who made no mistake.
U’s immediately replaced George McLennan, who had earlier been booked for a heavy challenge on Harris, and this time there would be no Dartford comeback. There should have been, though, when U’s switched off as Hayes chipped in a free kick and Bradbrook, in yards of space, failed to make adequate contact with an ambitious overhead kick and Worner saved comfortably. Again it was a costly miss, as U’s countered and Fitchett laid the ball off to Deacon, who again came in from the right and again hit a low shot which this time beat Ibrahim at his near post. Dartford’s resistance was finally broken, and substitute Ryan Burge almost scored within a minute of coming on to replace Biamou, arriving late to receive Fitchett’s pass and only denied by a good save. In the end it was Stearn who provided the final flourish an exhilarating game deserved, curling a shot in from the corner of the penalty area after good battling by the third substitute, Chris Dickson.
Dartford: D Ibrahim, D Harris, T Wynter(sub K Wood 79), T Bonner, T Gardiner, A Brown, R Hayes, E Bradbrook, D Ofori-Acheampong(sub E Brown 83), A Pugh, L Wanadio(sub L Noble 83). Subs n/u R Vint, T Coxall, L Rosenfield, J Ufuah. Booked: Wanadio, Bonner, Brown, Ofori-Acheampong.