My eight year old son has, all of a sudden, discovered Polos. Round, minty, hole in the middle. Not that he leads a particularly deprived life, but he tried one last week for the first time when we visited relatives in South Wales. And he now loves them.
For some time my son has been asking if we can go back down to Princes Park, home of Dartford FC. Regular readers will know the circumstances surrounding my son's first ever visit to the home of the Darts. It was back in September when I was faced with a difficult decision; do I stay at home and tend to my wife after she had recently ruptured her ligaments in her right ankle, or do I go to the FA Cup Second Qualifying Round game between Dartford and Camberley Town? You know what I chose, and I took my son with me. He loved it, and has been nagging me ever since to return.
So yesterday I took him back. Some Dartford fans have kept in touch and have been encouraging me to visit again anyway, so we set off for yesterday's Ryman League Division One North game against Brentwood Town with my son shouting "Come on you Darts" as he clung on to a large packet of Polos.
Dartford fans were hoping for a record attendance at Princes Park. Saturday morning they sat top of the league, nine points ahead of AFC Sudbury and favourites to win the league. The previous best turn out this season had been 1579 for the encounter with Ware but yesterday a lower than expected crowd of 1309 braved the rain and the wind to see a surprise 1-0 win for Brentwood Town.
Those that did show up must have left feeling rather disappointed with the result. The game was by no means a classic. Little happened in a rain drenched first half in which Dartford resorted to long balls, and struggled with only one player up front. Any attempts to use the full width of the pitch were nullified by Brentwood's full backs, who both had very good games. Dartford hit the bar with a fine header from Jamie Coyle but that was their only real chance in a poor first forty five minutes.
By half time, by son was on his sixth Polo and enjoying the banter of the crowd more so than the match itself. He also learnt a new word, which I really hope he forgets by the time my wife reads this.
In the second half, with the introduction of the Dartford sub Phil Williams, the home team applied a lot more pressure and had some opportunities to score. These included a couple of sliding attempts to make contact with decent crosses, another header that struck the bar - this time form Jay May - and strong shouts for a penalty when Brendon Cass was tripped in the box. But once again, as in the first half, the Dartford midfield simply did not get into the game and the match bypassed them. That final bit of quality where it mattered most was lacking, and Brentwood took full advantage.
The only goal of the game with eight minutes remaining. The diminutive Brentwood midfielder Lee Noble picked up the ball just inside the centre circle with not a soul around him. With the Dartford midfield AWOL, he sprinted at the heart of the Dartford back line. This guy was like a whippet and before any Dartford defender could react he unleashed a screaming shot from outside the area that gave Tony Kessell in goal no chance. It really was an effort that deserved to win any match; local press described it as a "wonder goal".
As I recall, in Dartford's FA cup game back in September, Camberley's equaliser that day was from a wonderful long range effort, another goal where a midfielder had been given the freedom of Princes Park. Significant or just coincidence?
The Dartford fans were somewhat subdued yesterday. Maybe the weather, but quite likely the below par performance. Dartford have a cracking home record this season, and had not lost a league game since November, so I guess they were due for a dodgy result. Just my luck to choose this game. Brentwood deserved their win. The twenty or so travelling Brentwood fans, with their single light blue and dark blue flag, and drum, were in fine voice all the way through the game. They would have enjoyed their trip back to Essex.
This defeat has now reduced the margin between Dartford and AFC Sudbury to only six points; the chasing team have two games in hand so it will be a tense season's climax.
I think my son enjoyed the trip, although he did admit later that the game was a little boring. He brought home with him some Dartford tattoos from the club shop, but what he had enjoyed most were his Polos. And yesterday both the Polos and the Dartford team had one thing in common. Both had big holes in the middle.