MAIDSTONE 2-2 DOVER
(Wraight 69) (Ilesanmi 27)
(Anderson 90) (Nortey 76)
SUBSTITUTE Joe Anderson’s injury-time strike denied Whites a winning start to the New Year in a Kent thriller at the Gallagher Stadium.
The right-back collected fellow sub Jack Paxman’s clever through ball and slotted past visiting stopper Mitch Walker to ensure the scoreline matched that of the reverse fixture on Boxing Day.
Femi Ilesanmi had stunned the home crowd midway the first half with an unbelievable 30-yard strike, only for Tom Wraight to head in an equaliser after the break.
Nortei Nortey’s brilliant solo goal seemed to have won the match for Athletic, but Anderson struck late on to make it four consecutive draws for Dover.
The hosts fashioned the first chance early on as Walker parried behind Wraight’s swirling free-kick.
From the resulting corner, Joe Pigott powered Wraight’s ball towards goal, but Walker was able to pluck the ball out from underneath his own crossbar.
On ten minutes, Giancarlo Gallifouco headed Dover’s first chance wide from Mitch Pinnock’s set piece.
All the chances were coming from free-kicks and one from Piggot flew into the side-netting.
But the best Stones chance of the half fell the way of Jamar Loza.
Josh Hare’s delivery found the attacker in space, but Walker was equal to his effort and collected the ball at the second attempt.
The home pressure continued as Wraight curled wide via a deflection off Mitch Brundle.
A lightning counter-attack by the away side ended with Pinnock finding Kadell Daniel at the back post, but the home defence were able to block his effort.
Ryan Bird went close to adding to his 12 National League goals this campaign, but headed wide from Pinnock’s accurate cross.
Instead it was a player yet to register for Whites that opened the scoring with a sensational strike midway though the first half
Ilesanmi picked up a loose ball and after striding forward, unleashed an unstoppable 30-yard effort into the top corner.
There was mayhem in the other box as Pigott’s header from Wraight’s corner was cleared first off the line by Daniel, but rebounded off Piggot and rolled back towards goal, only for the well-placed Connor Essam to hoof clear.
Pinnock tried his luck with a long range shot soon after, but Lee Worgan punched his effort clear for a throw in.
And Manny Parry was inches away from doubling the visitors lead, however Reece Prestedge flicked away Daniel’s ball before the defender could score.
Walker confirmed Dover’s lead at the break, diving low to turn Stuart Lewis’ firm header around the post.
Following a quiet fifteen minutes after the restart, Loza almost lit up the game with a curling effort that flew wide of Walker’s far post.
But Maidstone did not have to wait long for their leveller.
Pigott swung in a ball from the right for the unmarked Wraight to bury a header past Walker.
Substitute Liam Bellamy almost had Athletic back in control. The midfielder smashed well wide from Bird’s header back across the goalface.
However fellow midfielder Nortey did put Dover ahead with a fine individual finish.
Starting from his own half, some great skill saw the 23-year old beat three defenders before firing in off the post from the edge of the area.
Parity was almost restored instantly, but sub Delano-Yorke flicked Loza’s driven pass wide from a mere inches out.
But Anderson had the final say, rounding off a slick Maidstone move.
The drama was not over just yet as Whites almost won the game at the death.
Worgan reacted well to stop Parry’s point-blank header from Pinnock’s ball and then tipped behind a downward header from the centre back moments later.
But neither side were unable to force a late winner and the result keeps Athletic fourth in the standings, one point behind third-placed Sutton.
Earlier, boss Kinnear made one change to the side that started against Halifax. Daniel replaced the injured Anthony Jeffrey, with the fit-again Kane Richards amongst the substitutes.
Dover next host Aldershot on Saturday 6th January, kick off 3pm.
Maidstone: Worgan (c), Twumasi, Wynter, Okuonghae, Hare (Anderson 81), Wraight (Paxman 81), Lewis, Prestedge, Ter Horst (Sam-Yorke 64), Pigott, Loza.
Subs not used: Reason, McKorkell.
Dover: Walker, Passley, Essam, Gallifuoco, Parry, Ilesanmi, Brundle (c), Nortey, Pinnock, Bird (Alabi 86), Daniel (Bellamy 68).
Subs not used: Richards, Deen-Conteh, Fazakerley.
Referee: David Rock