*BS*We all got a bit ahead of ourselves last week, didn’t we?! The fat lady was simply gargling, not singing, after all. An easy mistake to make.*BF*
“Where is the victory party going to be?” we cried, forgetting that to celebrate you first have to win. And then to lose, I mean, what is going on there?
Worthing had the temerity not only to put our defence under pressure for longer than five minutes but to score against us as well… and beat us! I nearly fainted on the spot.
Joking aside, it was a bit of a wake-up call. Our old pal ‘reality’ had bitten us on the bum. We’d almost forgotten the losing feeling. Chatham may have won 3-1 in January but the refereeing fiasco that day tended to cover up the feeling of losing the game.
It probably shouldn’t have come as any surprise, however. It’s very rare for any side to go more than a few months without losing, after all. Also, it had been coming. Whites have been struggling to find the net since Frannie Collin and Lee Browning’s injuries at Corinthian-Casuals. Defensive solidity kept all at bay from Tooting through to Ashford, with Shaun Welford knocking in enough goals up front to keep winning.
However, at Worthing the team was perhaps a victim of its own confidence. The first half rattled by at a pace, as Whites had three or four sustained periods of pressure and dominated possession. Craig Cloke buzzed around, Jon Wallis caressed in some great crosses and Shaun Welford held the ball up well in attack.
As the chances came and went though, mainly thanks to ‘keeper Rikki Banks pulling off a couple of quality stops, Worthing’s seemingly fragile belief remained unbroken. This belief can only have been enhanced when Banks came to the rescue twice more in an even second half and the home side started to see more of the ball.
*Lpic1*Whites’ substitutions probably weakened their cause also. Cloke was out on his feet and needed to be replaced but the withdrawal of both Jimmy Dryden and Collin left only Shaun Welford very likely to score.
Fairplay to Worthing and their skipper Ben Andrews for snatching it at the last, sending the home crowd in somewhat of a frenzy. Dover manager Andy Hessenthaler is expecting his side to bounce back from this disappointment though, just as they did after the two losses against Chatham.
Hess said: “The last time we let ourselves down, at Chatham, we bounced back and went on a 14-game unbeaten run so let’s hope we do the same again now and win our last four games.”
It was, after all, only the third time Dover had lost and only the third time they had failed to score in the league this season. Hess’s men should have more than enough about them to get the job done, despite some tough fixtures remaining.
Hopefully the loss at Worthing and Tooting’s last minute win against Chatham on Tuesday will provide the necessary reminder that nothing is won yet. Plus, the fact that Saturday’s opponents Burgess Hill are top of the form table should ensure the players know that they’re in for a fight.
The Hillians have won six of their last eight matches, drawing the other two. They have tightened up at the back in recent weeks after a run of high-scoring games in February. Their opponents have been lower in the division, however, so this Saturday will provide a big test for the Sussex outfit.
Their player-manager, Jamie Howell, won manager of the month for March and striker Steve Harper has regularly been getting on the scoresheet. Harper, in his second spell at the club, is a natural goalscorer and earned the Hillians a four-figure fee when moving to Thurrock a few years ago. He went on to play for Welling and Tonbridge Angels before returning to Leylands Park earlier this season.
*Ppic1*Another Ryman League award winner for March was Dover goalkeeper John Whitehouse, winning the ‘Safe Hands’ accolade for conceding just twice (one a handball) in six matches. Worthing won the Ryman South performance of the month award for beating us, which is perhaps as much of a compliment to us as it is to them.
Going into Saturday’s home game, Whites could be strengthened by the return of Alan Pouton and Andy Hessenthaler. At Worthing, Dover had a very young line-up – an average age of about 24 of the 15 players involved – and they may need the steadying influence of the experienced ex-professionals to see them through.
Hessenthaler should have plenty of options to select from, with new signing Marvin Hamilton in contention, plus Craig Cloke and James Simmonds back from injury. It will be interesting to see what personnel the boss opts for this weekend with most of his squad available for selection.
Not getting ahead of ourselves this time, let’s hope for a good game against the Hillians and three points for the Whites – and then see where that leaves us!