*BS*Saturday’s fixture at Crabble will see the return of former River End favourite Matt Carruthers, playing for Ashford against his home town club in an intriguing local derby.*BF*
Much will be spoken about Carruthers around Crabble about his past glory days and recent problems tomorrow (Saturday) but he will undoubtedly be keen to put all that aside in the 90 minutes on the pitch and land a blow to the club he grew up with and played his best football for.
Following on from Whites’ frustrating 1-1 draw at Whyteleafe, a game that could have ended up 5-3 to Dover had both sides taken their most straightforward chances, Crabble plays host to a Kent derby for the second time in the league this season.
Ashford lost 1-0 in the corresponding fixture last season in a game completely dominated by the home side but a sterner test should be expected this time round.
Despite their low position in the table Ashford look a decent side this season, at least on paper. Wins recently against Kingstonian in the league and Folkestone in the Kent Senior Cup showed potential.
A 2-1 loss at Met Police last Saturday has been described as a set-back but the Police are starting to wake-up after a slow start and several postponed games, with the experienced former Woking hotshot Ben Abbey beating Ashford with his 11th and 12th goals of the season in all competitions.
Looking from afar, the biggest positive this season at Homelands has been the goals from George Fenwick, signed from Dover Athletic. The 23 year-old impressed for Whites’ reserve team last season but opted to sign for Ashford in search of first team football.
The move seems to have paid off for the tall striker, as Fenwick has taken the mantle of ‘main threat’ away from Joby Thorogood, the joint-manager’s son. Joby, brother of another Ashford player Jonathan (who, like former Dover striker Vansittart, prefers to be known as Joff), has seemingly been moved to the right wing where his small frame may be more advantageous.
*Lpic1*Aside from Carruthers and Fenwick, Ashford possess two more ex-Dover players. Winger Simon Glover, best known at Crabble for having a terrible hair-cut and scoring an unbelievable chip that was either genius or a complete fluke, has gone back to Homelands after a fruitless spell at Heybridge Swifts – who are said to have paid several thousand pounds for the skilful but frustrating 24 year-old.
Marc Cumberbatch completes the foursome of ex-Whites. His spell at Crabble last season tailed off badly after a good start, scoring two goals in two games against Corinthian-Casuals and Burgess Hill. The Thierry Henry (don’t call him Mikael Silvestre) professional look-a-like was perhaps unfortunate to come to Crabble at the time he did, when Dover’s squad was ravaged by injuries and confidence was at its lowest ebb. A talented player no doubt but let down by a lack of concentration at times. I doubt that will be a problem tomorrow though!
Other names that should register with Dover fans in the Ashford line-up are former Margate defender Anthony Allman, who plays in midfield for Ashford and wears the captain’s armband, and Drew Watkins, formerly of Tonbridge Angels.
This Ashford side could be described as the best they have had in a long time on paper. Whether this potential can be turned into results is yet to be seen but Saturday’s game will be a good indicator of how they are progressing.
Manager Tim Thorogood told the KM Newspaper this week: “We are a Jekyll and Hyde side. On our day we can beat most sides.”
A warning to Clive Walker’s men that they can expect another tough local derby. Whites will be hoping to keep up their 100% record in Kent derbies this season, after three wins out of three against Sittingbourne, Chatham and Cray.
*Q1*Whilst Ashford are said to have a full-strength squad to pick from, Dover are still without goalkeeper Glen Knight and experienced midfielder Danny Chapman. Knight is expected to be back in action during December, after having an operation on his hand in October.
Also missing from Whites’ line-up tomorrow will be left wing-back James Rogers, suspended for one game after picking up five yellow cards this season. Tony Browne and loanee Jon Wallis are likely to take up the wing-back roles, with John Keister back in league action in either defence or midfield following his five-match ban for red cards at Ramsgate and Heybridge.
Upcoming suspensions for Dover are: Lee Spiller will be banned for the game against Maidstone next Saturday for his double-booking sending off at Whyteleafe. Nicky Humphrey is likely to miss four games, starting in 10 days time, after receiving a straight red card on Tuesday in the Westview Cup, the second time he has seen red this season.
It is testament to Walker’s summer transfer activity that despite three players missing for the Ashford game, the Dover boss still has a healthy selection problem. The impressive form of Bradley Spice poses questions about who the front two or three will be for Dover on Saturday, with pacey wingers Chris Chase and Byron Walker looking ready for action again.
The return of John Keister is excellent timing due to the ban for Rogers and future suspensions for Spiller and Humphrey. The Dover manager has a dilemma over who to play in attack on Saturday. The pace of Chase and Walker cannot be ignored for long, despite the presence of Wilkins, Dryden, Tyne and Spice.
Wilkins is likely to find himself in defence again, with Keister in midfield alongside Spiller. The main issue is whether pace is injected up front and if so, who misses out. Spice and Dryden would be hugely unfortunate to be dropped after scoring Whites’ last two goals on Saturday and Tuesday respectively. Perhaps it’s time to give Tommy Tyne a well-deserved rest?
*Lpic2*Whatever the team selection, the games are coming thick and fast now, with two important league matches in the next four days. The two 1-1 away draws in the last two weeks have not hurt Dover that badly in the league table and a win against Ashford will keep up the present two points a game average that, if held until the end of April, would almost certainly see Athletic claim the title.
Looking through Ramsgate’s results from last season, when the Thanet side won Ryman Division One, they often dropped points in consecutive games but rarely went more than two or three games without winning and lost only six times in the league campaign. In fact, they drew the same number of games as Whites did last season.
The challenge for Clive Walker’s men is to climb back on that winning wagon, as all successful teams do after a minor blip. It is worth remembering that Whites have not lost in the league since August and their only other losses this season were in the cups away to Southern Premier side Maidenhead and Conference South promotion-chasing Bishop’s Stortford.