Darts strengthen grip at the top of the table
Dartmouth AFC 4
Dartmouth claimed an important three points in the league after defeating Stoke Gabriel reserves 4-2 at Broadley Lane.
Gary Lobb made two changes to the side that beat Watcombe Wanderers, with Richie and Karl Baker replacing reserve team player Ben Greeno and Freddie Smith, but his side made the worst possible start to the game.
The match was barely 30 seconds old when the home midfielder struck a volley against the chest of the unfortunate Mark Forrester, which looped past Ryan Walton and into the back of the net.
Dartmouth looked to respond immediately, and the next real attack of the game saw Ryan Frost pick out striker Liam McAuley, who was blatantly taken out by the home goalkeeper to give the visitors a penalty kick.
A yellow card was awarded to the Stoke 'keeper, and up stepped McAuley who finished well to level the game.
Despite a frantic start to the game, both sides began to tighten up in defence resulting in little goalmouth action, although Dartmouth looked the more likely to get their noses in front for the first time in the game.
That said Stoke came close to regaining the lead when an audacious long-range effort threatened to loop over Walton in the Dartmouth net, but his outstretched hand ensured the ball clipped over the top of the crossbar.
On the half-hour mark the visitors edged in front when superb play from young central midfielder Charlie Smith saw Karl Baker released through on goal, and he finished excellently across the 'keeper and into the far corner of the net.
Looking to extend their lead, Josh Webber on the left wing began to see more of the ball and his fizzing crosses started to cause panic in the Stoke penalty area.
Dartmouth had a glorious chance to make the score 3-1 just before the break, but after good build-up play between Danny Acinas Mena and Forrester, McAuley struck over the bar from close range.
The second half started much the same as the first had ended, with the visitors pressing for the elusive third goal.
Ten minutes into the second half Webber was pulled back in the area to give the visitors their second penalty kick.
Once again McAuley did the honours and sent the home 'keeper the wrong way to double his individual tally and extend his side's advantage.
Adam Shobbrook and Freddie Smith were introduced shortly afterwards, but it was striker Karl Baker who looked to have sealed the game when he flicked the ball delicately into the back of the net after being played in by Webber.
As expected, Richie Baker, Jordan Frost, Daniel Drury and Ryan Frost in the Dartmouth defence were being put under pressure from the Stoke frontline as they looked for a route back into the match, and an excellent header from the home striker left 'keeper Walton stranded as the ball nestled into the net.
All was set for a grandstand finish when the Stoke defender headed unmarked into the back of the net following a free kick, but the offside flag was raised, much to the frustration of the home supporters.
The visitors held on for another important three points that sees them strengthen their position at the top of the league after East Allington were without a game.
Dartmouth reserves have not lost since October 25 after they drew 1-1 at home to Teign Village in division three.
An early Ed Armitage strike was cancelled out midway through the second half to give the Darts a share of the spoils.
This weekend the first team host Waldon Athletic in the league at Longcross, while the reserves travel away to face Upton Athletic reserves.
Both games kick off at 2.30pm.
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