By Alex Hoad
A solitary second-half strike proved the difference as Southend edged a narrow win at Crabble in Vanarama National League on Saturday.
Buoyed by their first win of the season, and first in 364 days, against Eastleigh on Tuesday night, Whites caused Southend problems all afternoon and felt they deserved at least a point from a pretty uninspiring encounter in front of a bumper crowd of more than 2,600.
Dover manager Andy Hessenthaler made three changes with Sam Wood returning at the back in place of Seth Twumasi while there were full debuts for former Braintree midfielder Arjanit Krasniqi, who signed on Friday night, and on loan Kings Lynn forward Michael Gyasi, who had made an impact off the bench against Eastleigh.
Southend boss Kevin Maher brought Jason Demetriou back in as captain with Norwich loanee Matt Dennis returning upfront after missing their midweek draw at Aldershot.
Southend forward Harry Cardwell saw appeals for a penalty dismissed inside three minutes as keeper Adam Parkes raced out to gather a back-header from Jake Goodman.
Chances were at a premium in the opening stages but around 20 minutes in Harry Ransom rose highest to head a curling Koby Arthur corner goalwards, only for his effort to be blocked on the line, while Gyasi skewed an effort wide of Steve Arnold’s post after a poor clearance from the former Whites stopper.
New arrival from Dartford, Noor Husin saw a volley from a half-cleared Tom Clifford corner blocked by Parkes at the other end while on the stroke of half-time Matt Dennis got his angles wrong and nodded a header from a Will Atkinson cross past the post with Parkes stranded.
Michael Gyasi caused the Blues plenty of problems after the break, using quick feet and direct running to good effect, though he blazed well over the bar from the centre of goal after one of his mazy runs ended with the ball bobbling at the crucial time.
The deadlock was eventually broken 17 minutes from time from Southend’s first real chance of the half, Sam Dalby saw a header from a corner blocked on the line but the ball broke towards the edge of the area where Husin leapt two-footed into the air before using expert technique to guide the ball into the top corner with his left-foot, though Parkes was claiming he was impeded.
Dover almost found a response within three minutes as more good work down the left from Gyasi led to Arthur darting across the area before hooking a low shot past the flat-footed Arnold, only to see the ball thud the inside of the post and roll along the line before being cleared.
Dover threw everything at Southend in the closing stages, winning a string of set-pieces, but were unable to call Arnold into action, and it was Dalby who came closest to adding a second goal in stoppage-time, with Ryan Hanson needed to clear the ball off the line after the striker forced the ball past Parkes on the break.
Victory took United 13 points clear of the relegation zone, to the delight of Southend’s travelling army of more than 1,900 fans at the Town End, while Dover remain on -5 points and 30 points from safety, with just 18 games remaining.
Hessenthaler said: “It’s the crazy world of football – we probably played better today than we did on Tuesday when we won. There wasn’t much in the game first half but second half we had a few chances. They never looked like scoring but one lapse of concentration and we got punished.
“If the shot that hit the post went in I think it would have been a fair reflection of the game, a point each. We deserved something.”