RICKY Modeste’s injury-time winner completed an impressive comeback as Dover ensured National League safety at the Furness Building Society Stadium.
Having been two goals down following a goal either side of the break from John Rooney and Lewis Hardcastle strikes from Mitch Brundle and substitutes Anthony Jeffrey and Modeste in the final 17 minutes sealed a memorable comeback for Andy Hessenthaler’s side.
The victory assures Athletic’s place in the top tier of non-league football with three National League games remaining of the current campaign.
It was almost a nightmare start for Whites when Rhys Norrington-Davies escaped out wide, however visiting stopper Lee Worgan saved the midfielder’s initial shot from the angle, before recovering quickly to block the rebound from the same player.
And Norrington-Davies was not finished there.
The left-sided player was quickest to react to Jack Hindle’s deflected shot, only for Worgan to deny the wideman for a third time, bravely blocking his shot from point-blank range with Rooney clattering the rebound against the post from yards out.
Inih Effiong, on the hunt for his ninth National League goal of the campaign, latched onto Brundle’s long ball, chipped the ball over home goalie Joel Dixon’s head, but as the forward was about to pull the trigger, recovering defender Sam Hird was able to make a crucial interception and turn the ball away for a corner.
A scramble in the visitor’s box almost resulted in the opening goal, however, Jai Reason, Alfie Pavey and Effiong were unable to find a route to goal, with the latter denied by spectacular block on the goalline by Dixon.
Minutes later and Athletic were on the attack again. Effiong sent Reason clear and with just one defender between himself and the goal, opted to play in Pavey, however, the striker’s first-time shot flew inches wide of the post.
The opening goal did arrive two minutes prior to the break courtesy of Rooney.
Hindle found Rooney in space on the edge of the penalty area and the Bluebirds’ playmaker made no mistake, curling the ball into the top corner.
Effiong almost levelled just before the half-time whistle, however, was unable to beat Dixon at his near post following a darting run.
Brundle took aim from 30 yards shortly after the restart, with the ball flying just over the crossbar.
At the other end, James Philpot saw a close-range effort hacked off the line by the away defence.
Hird was almost left red-faced as he volleyed Brundle’s cross over his own bar.
Philpot then saw an effort deflect just off target, however, fortune favoured Barrow’s next attempt on 69 minutes as Ian Evatt’s Barrow went two goals ahead.
Lewis Hardcastle took aim from the edge of the box and the ball struck the chest of the unfortunate Kevin Lokko and past the already diving Worgan to double the home side’s advantage.
But Athletic were back in the game four minutes later through their captain.
Sub Jeffrey crossed low from the left for the onrushing Brundle to fire into the bottom corner of the net.
The assister then turned goalscorer nine minutes from time as Dover levelled.
Bobby-Joe Taylor’s through ball was seized upon by Jeffrey who smashed the ball into the bottom corner out of reach of Dixon.
And the turnaround was sealed as the clock moved into injury-time.
Taylor crossed for Modeste to stab in the winner and cause wild celebrations among the 25 travelling supporters.
There were more jubilant celebrations at the full-time whistle as Dover’s win, coupled with a defeat for Havant & Waterlooville and a draw for Aldershot, was more significant than just the three points.
Earlier, boss Hessenthaler made one change to the side that drew with Chesterfield last week. Nortey replaced the injured Bedsente Gomis and Jamie Allen returned from injury to take his place among the substitutes.
Whites next host Aldershot Town in the National League on Good Friday 19th April, kick-off 3 pm.
DOVER ATHLETIC REACTION
Photo Credit: Barrow AFC
WHITES extended their unbeaten National League run with a goalless draw at struggling Barrow.
In a game of few chances, sub Anthony Jeffrey almost won the match late on after sprinting clear but was unable to keep his poked shot on target.
Luke James struck the first effort of the game, hitting the roof of visiting keeper Mitch Walker’s net with a lobbed volley from just inside the area.
Giancarlo Gallifuoco headed Mitch Brundle’s free-kick wide and Mitch Pinnock curled a shot past the wrong side of the post as Whites created two chances midway through the half.
Captain Brundle then strode forward and fired an effort straight down the throat of home stopper Steve Arnold.
The home side also went close with Ollie Cook inches away from connecting to Moussa Diarra’s flick-on as the first half ended goalless.
Following the restart, Bedsente Gomis headed Calum MacDonald’s cross into Walker’s arms.
And the home fans were almost cheering after Luke James won a free kick 25-yards from goal.
Calum MacDonald’s curling set-piece beat Walker, but not the upright with the ball bouncing out for a grateful Kevin Lokko to head clear.
Arnold easily caught Lokko’s audacious back heel as Athletic registered their first shot of the second half and at the other end Asa Hall was unable to direct his volley from Diarra’s flick on target.
The draw sees Dover remain seventh in the standings, five points clear of eighth-placed Fylde.
Earlier, boss Kinnear made kept with the same side that won against Macclesfield last weekend. Ejiro Okosieme replaced Nortei Nortey on the bench.
Whites next travel to Eastleigh on Tuesday 27th March. Kick off 7:45 pm.
DOVER ATHLETIC REACTION
RICKY Miller scored a match-winning hat-trick as Dover’s hopes of reaching the National League playoffs ended at Barrow AFC on Saturday.
Miller showed why he was named the league’s Player-of-the-Year after taking his tally to 40 goals as Whites finished sixth, three points behind fifth-placed Aldershot Town.
The striker’s treble included a stoppage-time winner as boss Chris Kinnear’s side came from behind to finish the season with three points at Holker Street.
Jordan Williams put the Bluebirds ahead in the 20th minute before Miller levelled two minutes later with a sublime finish.
That’s the way it stayed until two minutes after half-time when Miller fired home from the penalty spot.
A Moussa Diarra header pulled the hosts level before Miller won it two minutes into time added on.
After a scrappy start to the game, Kinnear’s side found themselves behind after a lightning Barrow counter attack.
Joe Healy’s corner was cleared and reached Williams on the half-way line.
He raced towards Mitch Walker’s goal, beat Sam Magri’s last-ditch tackle before firing past the Dover keeper.
Miller ensured the reply was swift and stunning.
He controlled James Hurst’s pass before unleashing an unstoppable half-volley past goalkeeper Jon Flatt from outside the box.
The finish was so good that the Barrow fans applauded it.
No sooner had Dover scored, they should have been behind again when Williams fluffed his lines from inside the six-yard box and Walker saved his scuffed shot.
Dover then had a double let off in the space of a matter of seconds.
Richie Bennett’s 20-yard shot rattled the bar before Williams’ headed rebound struck the bar and bounced behind.
That man Miller then forced Flatt into acrobatically tipping over his shot before the keeper bravely caught Aswad Thomas’ looping header while under pressure from Ross Lafayette.
Dover were the first team out for the second half – and the first to score.
Miller’s probing run into the Barrow box was ended after he was sent tumbling by captain Danny Livesey.
The hit-man got up to take the penalty and fired well beyond the reach of Flatt much to the joy of the travelling 38 Dover fans just to the right of the goal.
The home fans thought Bennett had equalised not long after his bullet header from Williams’ cross appeared to have nestled in the back of Walker’s net – it hadn’t.
It had whistled inches wide and ended up behind the goal, though it appeared to be in it.
But there was no illusion two minutes later when Diarra headed Shaun Beeley’s cross home from close range, giving Walker no chance.
Flatt almost gifted Dover the lead after he fumbled Hurst’s curling effort into the post and away for a corner.
But there was to be no denying Miller or Dover.
Miller pounced on Livesey’s weak attempted back header to his keeper and kept to his composure to beat Flatt and complete his fifth league hat-trick of a prolific season.
Earlier, Kinnear had to make one enforced change to his starting side following Tuesday’s draw with Bondz N’Gala replacing injured Tyrone Sterling.
Ricky Modeste was also unavailable through injury.
DOVER ATHLETIC REACTION