Dover Athletic will be aiming to start 2004 with their eighth consecutive victory when they travel to Billericay to take on Chelmsford City on New Year’s Day.
Confidence will be high in the Dover camp following recent performances but Chelmsford will be no push-over despite their lowly league position. Recent games between the two teams have been close encounters and this match is likely to be just as tight. City will include two former Crabble favourites in their starting XI and they will be keen to get one over on their old club.
All the stats point to another Dover win. The Whites are sitting in second place in the form table, behind leaders Weymouth, thanks to four straight victories without conceding a goal. In contrast Chelmsford’s last league win was five matches ago and they have lost their last three. And while Dover’s away form has not been the best this season, Chelmsford’s home form is no better with just a single win and a mere seven goals in ten matches in the league at their temporary Billericay home.
The Whites are currently in seventh place in the league, albeit with the benefit of having played more matches than their rivals, and could climb as high as third if they win and other results go their way. Chelmsford are currently just one point off the bottom of the division in 20th place.
Recent encounters between the two teams have always been closely fought. At the Hoverspeed Stadium in October Craig Wilkins twice gave the Whites the lead and Chelmsford twice equalised to take a point in a 2-2 draw.
Last season the teams met three times. Athletic won both league encounters by a single goal to nil with Nicky Dent scoring in the home match and Andy Arnott scoring away. City had some revenge in the League Cup at Crabble with Danny Slatter scoring the only goal of the game to put Dover out of the competition.
Whites manager Richard Langley is unlikely to change a winning team so Darren Davies will continue at left wing-back. Lee Spiller and Danny Chapman will be making their last starts before their suspensions take effect whilst injuries continue to rule out Dean Readings and Simon Glover. Nicky Humphrey should again be on the bench, eager for a first run-out in 14 months following his career-threatening ankle injury.
First team coach Mark Patterson will be alongside him and one or both of them may be called in to action in the second half, if circumstances allow, as Richard Langley evaluates options for dealing without Spiller and Chapman in upcoming matches.
Chelmsford will include two ex-Dover regulars in their starting line-up. Versatile left-sided player Steve Norman, who left Crabble in the summer, will be joined by defender Iain O’Connell, who will be making his home debut having signed from Margate last week.
Striker Dale Watkins, who is not the most popular player among Dover supporters, will not be involved as he as gone on loan to Kings Lynn following the completion of his loan at Grantham Town.