*BS*TWO WON, many more to go! Dover have started the season with full points but face another testing Saturday-Monday fixture double in the next three days.*BF*
Horsham YMCA and Cray wasn’t an easy opening for Whites but both sides let themselves down defensively, with costly errors giving Dover players opportunities in front of goal.
Having said that, Andy Hessenthaler’s team capitalised well on those mistakes and created problems themselves with their increasingly penetrative style of football.
The first two goals against Cray on Monday were prime examples of Dover creating problems for the opposition in the most dangerous area of the pitch, the penalty box, and capitalising on errors (those times by Glen Knight and Colin Luckett) to hit the back of the net. The third goal, resulting from a defensive slip by Ryan Royston, was the result of some incisive passing.
Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of Dover’s performances so far this season is the number of chances being created. A quick glance at the DAFCtv highlights will show that up to eight goals could have been netted in both games for Athletic. Last season, Dover struggled to create clear-cut chances in many games, often relying on set pieces and inspired goals by Jon Wallis or Jimmy Dryden.
*BS*Saturday – Leatherhead at Crabble (3pm)*BF*
Hess’s men will need to keep up their creativity in the next two matches. First up are Leatherhead, a side with a penchant for the offside trap that Dover have usually found hard to breach. They could be more effective defensively than YMCA or Cray.
The Tanners have started their league campaign with a win and a loss. A hard team to beat on their own patch, Leatherhead beat Met Police 1-0 last Saturday. Their good start looked set to continue at Sittingbourne on Tuesday but they let a 1-0 lead slip in the 2nd half as the impressive ‘Bourne ran-out 2-1 winners.
*Ppic1*One man who won’t be facing Dover for Leatherhead this season is everyone’s, or at least me and my friend’s, favourite Leatherhead striker Dave Stevens. The round but skilful forward, who missed a penalty against Whites last season, has moved on to Met Police.
Tanners will miss their stocky talisman but not nearly as much as Marc-Charles Smith, who was prolific at the start of last season but has since departed. Up front this season they have actor Scott Forrester, star of Sky’s ‘Dream Team’ and non-league veteran Joe Sheerin. Sheerin scored by the bucket-load for AFC Wimbledon in the Combined Counties League before injuries marred his recent years. He didn’t take part in either of the Tanner’s first two games.
Leatherhead’s star man remains right-winger Steve Sargent, who is recently back from injury. He impressed in all three games against Dover last season. His delivery from wide areas should test Whites’ defence on Saturday. Also look out for tough-tackling midfielder Gavin Bolger, formerly of AFC Wimbledon.
*BS*Monday – Whitstable away (3pm)*BF*
Andy Hessenthaler’s new side will get their first taste of an away Kent derby this Monday, in front of another four-figure crowd. Newly-promoted Whitstable are expecting an attendance larger than the 1,144 that watched their FA Cup tie against Margate last season.
Whitstable chairman Tony Rouse told Stephen McCartney of kentishfootball.co.uk: “We’re looking at 1,200 plus. I think the Hessenthaler factor will be a big draw. There will be a lot of people that would have followed Hessenthaler at Gillingham, local people that won’t have seen Whitstable Town play – or Dover – and will be interested to come down.
“I think it’s going to be absolutely fantastic day for the football club and Whitstable, like every other club that Dover will be playing this year, will be looking to maximise that game to their benefit.”
Whitstable haven’t started the season as they would have hoped but they have experience of big games in their camp. Manager Marc Seager and experienced forward Steve Marshall both played in the Deal team that won the FA Vase at Wembley in 2000.
Also on Whitstable’s books are former Dover midfielder Micky Lane and ex-Gravesend and Sittingbourne midfielder Clint Gooding. The Oystermen’s strikers are talented youngster Stuart King and Andy Constable, who has played over 150 games for the Belmont club.
The much-anticipated Bank Holiday fixture will be the first time that Whitstable and Dover have faced each other in a league match since the last season of the former Kent League in 1958/59.
The final league table that season was as follows:*Ppic2*
2. Folkestone Town
3. Tunbridge Wells
4. Bexleyheath & Welling
6. Canterbury City
8. Gillingham Reserves
9. Ashford Town
10. Snowdown CW
11. Ramsgate Athletic
12. Herne Bay
13. Betteshanger CW
14. Chatham Town
15. Faversham Town
16. Sheppey United
18. Deal Town
That season is fondly remembered by my family as my father played in the last ever game of that former Kent League, his first appearance for Whitstable’s first-team. He has lived in Whitstable ever since.
Therefore, this Monday’s match is a bit different for my clan of Dover-supporting Whitstable residents. A normal home game for us consists of a 30-minute drive to Crabble. On Monday, for an away game, we will have just a 15-minute walk. (I’d advise getting there early if you want a space in the car park – accessed via Grimshill Road.)
Suffice to say we shall be there in our black-and-white shirts, cheering on Hess and co. Hopefully Whites’ players will perform as a certain Peter Clements did back in 1959, according to the Whitstable Times, “right in the top class”.
*BS*DAFC Team News for this weekend:*BF*
*Lpic1*Andy Hessenthaler is reportedly looking to sign a central defender on loan as cover for the injured Matt Bourne, who has suffered a recurrence of a groin strain.
Hess told the KM Dover Mercury: “We’re light in defensive areas. I think we might need a bit of extra height in there. We’re looking and hopefully we’ll get somebody in – budget permitting.”
Positive news for Dover is that left back Sam Gore is close to a return to the squad. John Keister looks set to continue in midfield, after returning from a suspension incurred last season.