*BS*WHITES face in-form Metropolitan Police at Crabble on Saturday – as Clive Walker’s men aim to extend their unbeaten league run to 11 matches.*BF*
The last time the two sides met was in May at Imber Court, when a Craig Wilkins goal won the Ryman One Play-Off Semi-Final for Dover in front of a nearly all Dover crowd. A win tomorrow would be a significant three points for Athletic.
Both sides were amongst those tipped for promotion this season after coming so close last term but Met Police’s sluggish start has left them languishing behind the front-runners.
A lack of fire-power in the first two months of the season lead to a string of low scoring matches where draws and narrow losses lead to a tally of just eight points from their opening nine games, culminating in a 3-0 loss at Chatham.
However, 10 points from their last four games has propelled the Met up the table and given them a strong chance of mounting a promotion challenge. Goals from former Woking striker Ben Abbey secured wins against Ashford and Horsham YMCA but it was last Saturday’s victory that made the league stand up and take notice of their recent resurgence.
Title-chasing Fleet were the visitors to Imber Court last week and were duly thumped 4-1 by the Police (though I doubt there was a policeman in sight) thanks partly to a brace from debutant Luke Cornwall.
Cornwall, a former Bradford City striker, has been on the books of league leaders Dulwich Hamlet this season, scoring four goals in eight games. Will Hamlet come to rue the decision to release their 2nd highest goal-scorer? Possibly not if Chris Dickson keeps up his record of a goal a game but a strange decision it seems, nonetheless.
*Lpic1*With leaders Dulwich and Fleet hitting a bad patch at present, courtesy of our friends at Hastings mainly, Athletic have a chance to grab this league by the scruff of the neck over the course of the next few weeks. Remaining unbeaten against Met Police and Dartford would put Whites in a very strong position in the league prior to the Christmas period. However, defeats in those games would throw everything wide open again.
One game at a time, as they say, and Dover will be wise not to look beyond tomorrow’s stern test at Crabble. It will represent a test of Met Police’s promotion credentials more so than Dover’s, perhaps, but Whites know how costly dropped points at Crabble were last season.
The winter period of November to March that proved so difficult for Dover last term has started promisingly well this year. There is a long way to go yet but consistency appears much more likely this time round. The return of Glen Knight and Danny Chapman from injury in the next month or so should help the cause.
The extension of Jon Wallis’ loan spell at Crabble is a timely boost for Clive Walker, with Nicky Humphrey suspended for the next four games. The availability of Wallis keeps the defensive options open for the Dover boss and the presence of John Keister at sweeper has not been a coincidence in Whites recent run of clean-sheets.
The return of Keister from his five-game ban has not only shored up the back line. It has enabled Walker to push Craig Wilkins into attack once more. This should be of significance to Dover, particularly at Crabble where Wilkins is at his most influential. The gradual return to fitness of Chris Chase will also boost Whites’ potency in attack, with livewire Byron Walker likely to be missing until Christmas.
*Lpic2*Should two more clean sheets be earned against Met Police and Dartford, Dover will have put themselves in a very strong position, however many goals they score themselves.
The Dover squad has been able to cope with the injuries and suspensions thrown at them so far and a consistent ability to do so will undoubtedly be crucial once again.
Dover have dropped five points at home this season, failing to unlock the Fleet defence in a 1-0 loss and conceding a dubious late penalty to draw 2-2 against Kingstonian. Whites will be hoping to avoid those two pitfalls when Luke Cornwall, Ben Abbey and co. stand in their way tomorrow.
Whites certainly got a boost with the news that *BS*JON WALLIS *BF*was staying for another month.
He told doverathletic.com: “I am enjoying myself at Dover Athletic. It’s nice to be getting some games under my belt – because I wasn’t getting much football at Hereford.
“I plan to return to Hereford in the New Year and try to impress enough to get back into the team. I am desperate to stay a professional football, because it’s a great living.
“It’s great to stay here for another month and be around my family and girlfriend, who all live in Kent, and help Clive Walker and the boys out in the meantime.”
There is a 10-minute interview with Jon, available on WhitesLive on Demand.