FT: Dartford 2 Imps 4

Four first half goals saw the Imps secure maximum spoils at Dartford on Saturday afternoon

With manager David Holdsworth making seven changes to his starting line-up, it was Dan Gray who broke the deadlock with a near post header from a corner with the game just seven minutes old.

It was then the turn of Colin Larkin to take centre stage as the experienced striker, in for the suspended Jamie Taylor, helped himself to a first half hat-trick which put the game beyond the reach of the home side.

Larkin's first came after Tom Miller had flicked on a Gray throw into his path 24 minutes in whilst his second came shortly after the half-hour mark when he got on the end of an Adam Smith centre. His hat-trick goal came in first half added time when he was first to react after Dartford 'keeper Marcus Bettinelli could only parry a Gary Mills free-kick into his path.

Although the game was all but over at the break, City were made to work for the points with two Harry Crawford goals reducing the hosts' arrears, but the first half showing was more than enough to see the Imps through to victory.

Match report:-

There was a plethora of changes to the City starting line-up for this Blue Square Bet Premier game against Dartford at Princes Park, most notably in goal where new signing David Preece came in for his debut in place of Paul Farman.

The hosts kicked off in chilly conditions and it was a cagey start of the game with both sides taking their time to get settled into proceedings and six minutes had elapsed before City broke forward with Colin Larkin doing well to win a corner.

The aforementioned corner routine worked perfectly as there the near post was Dan Gray who saw his flicked header fly past Marcus Bettinelli for his first goal in Imps' colours.

Dartford looked for a quick reponse and when Tom Miller went in hard on Danny Harris it gave the hosts a chance from a set-piece in a dangerous position just outside the box. Harris received lengthy treatment before the free-kick could be taken and when it was Lee Noble drilled straight at the City wall.

City weathered the brief Dartford storm, although a late offside flag against Harry Crawford caused a few hearts to flutter before Harris prodded wide following a cross from the left. A great challenge by Miller on Harris somehow saw referee Justin Amey award the Darts a free-kick but justice was done when Noble wasted the opportunity from the set-piece

The Imps' response saw them win a couple of corners in quick succession but it was from a long throw that saw them double the advantage in the 24th minute; Gray's delivery being flicked on by Miller and there was Larkin to fire home from six yards.

Dartford's reponse saw Noble drag a low shot a foot wide whilst at the other end Bettinelli was at full stretch to tip over an Oliver header following a great Adam Smith centre. Nothing, however, came from the resultant corner.

It wasn't long though before the Imps were pushing forward again and in the 32nd minute they made it 3-0 with Larkin on the end of a Smith cross to bag his second and City's third of the half.

Two more City corners followed four minutes later with the second seeing Larkin fire an overhead kick into the side netting, Nicolau then had a shot deflect over but the referee awarded a goal-kick, much to the annoyance of Smith who picked up a booking for being too strong in his comments to Mr Amey.

City continued to dominate and in the first of three added minutes Semi Ajayi picked up a deserved caution for a trip on Larkin. The resultant free-kick was fired goalwards by Mills and when Bettinelli palmed the ball away there was Larkin to complete his hat-trick with another poacher's finish.

HT: Dartford 0 Imps 4

Whilst City emerged unchanged for the second half, the hosts made a switch with the burly Jacob Erskine coming on for Danny Harris.

City started the half brightly as they looked to increase their lead but it was the hosts who added to the scoreline when Harry Crawford picked up a loose ball before drilling low past Preece to give his side a glimmer of hope.

The Imps rallied, but ony after Mills had cleared an effort off the line before Erskine fired straight at a team mate, with the advancing Gray having a shot deflect over but after the corner was cleared, Preece was called into action, saving low to his left after Erskine headed goalwards.

At the other end Smith did well to win a corner which was flicked behind for another by defender Ajayi; this one was taken by Nicolau and headed on by Miller but Bettinelli claimed under his bar.

As the half reached its midway point, Preece blocked well for a corner which was easily dealt with before Gilbert was booked for delaying the taking of a throw-in.

It wasn't long before the home side were pushing forward again and when Crawford was released through the middle by Erskine, the offside flag stayed down and the Dartford man slotted past the advancing Preece to reduce the arrears further.

Jon Wallis replaced Semi Ajayi for the hosts a couple of minutes later before Conner Robinson came on for Adam Smith for the Imps.

As the clock ticked into its last 10 minutes Mills was barged off the ball on the edge of the box only for the referee to award the home side a free-kick; Nicolau picking up a booking in the process after drilling the loose ball goalwards after the whistle blew.

With the Darts pressing for a third, Preece was forced to claim a low Noble effort whilst City's reply saw Robinson advance forward before seeing Bettinelli hold his effort under his bar. A poor cross from Noble then gave Preece the chance to calm things down with a goal-kick.

Fofana became the fourth Imp in the book for an 88th minute block in midfield whilst a couple of minutes later the Fourth Official indicated that there would be a minimum of four additional minutes.

City stood firm throughout the extra stages, although Preece was forced to tip a Champion effort behind for a corner but once this was taken and cleared, referee Amey brought things to a close with the Imps' first half showing earning them a valuable maximum haul.

FT: Dartford 2 Imps 4

City: David Preece, Paul Robson, Dan Gray, Tom Miller, Peter Gilbert, Mamadou Fofana, Gary Mills, Nicky Nicolau, Adam Smith, Colin Larkin, Vadaine Oliver.

subs: Geoffrey Gouveia, David Morgan, Adam Boyd, Conner Robinson (for Smith 74), Paul Farman.

goals: Gray (7), Larkin (24, 32, 45+2)

bookings: Smith (40), Gilbert (71), Nicolau (81), Fofana (88)

Dartford: Marcus Bettinelli, Richard Rose, Tom Champion, Semi Ajayi, Tom Bonner, Elliot Bradbrook, Danny Harris, James Rogers, Lee Noble, Lee Burns, Harry Crawford.

subs: Adam Green, Ryan Hayes, Jon Wallis (for Ajayi 73), Jacob Erskine (for Harris h/t), Nathan Collier.

goals: Crawford (50, 72)

bookings: Ajayi (45+1)

Referee: Justin Amey
Assistants: Graham Kane & Simeon Potter
Fourth Official: Matt Eva

Attendance: 1,466