By Alex Hoad
Whites produced another battling display but were unable to avoid a 2-0 home defeat to Dagenham & Redbridge on Boxing Day.
Dover boss Andy Hessenthaler rang the changes with 17-year-old Academy forward Noah Carney handed his first start, fresh from his England Schoolboys selection, while Alfie Pavey and Ben Williamson returned in attack, and Seth Twumasi and Danny Collinge were named in the backline.
Leading scorer Aaron Cosgrave missed out due to Covid while Koby Arthur, Khale Da Costa, Sam Wood, and James Caton dropped to the bench following the 1-0 FA Trophy defeat to Bromley last time out.
Despite playing the Daggers at Crabble on Boxing Day for the second time in as many seasons, Whites became Purples for the day as they donned their away strip as part of the national #NoHomeKit campaign in aid of the homeless charity Shelter.
Twumasi was in the thick of the action within three minutes as he was beaten to a ball over the top by one-time Gillingham and Ebbsfleet man Myles Weston who dragged an angled shot past Josh Bexon but also inches wide of the far post.
Dover bounced back and Henry Woods sent a dipping volley narrowly over the bar from the edge of the box following a long throw but the hosts fell behind after 10 minutes when Will Wright’s corner sparked a scramble amid which the ball rolled agonisingly inside the post with the final touch seemingly between Danny Collinge and Daggers midfielder Matt Robinson who was credited with the goal.
Junior Morais was denied by Bexon but Dover grew in stature and Carney came close on 35 minutes when he controlled in the box and shot on the turn only to see his effort deflect past the post.
It was from the resultant corner that the visitors landed a killer blow on the counter, breaking clear from their own area before Mo Sagaf spread the ball wide to the left where Robinson outstripped the covering Williamson for pace and slotted past Bexon to double the advantage.
Jake Goodman headed narrowly over before the interval and nine minutes after the break he nodded a deep cross back into the middle for Collinge who could only nod his own effort just over Elliot Justham’s crossbar.
At the other end, Wright curled a long-range free-kick wide of the post while Bexon produced perhaps the save of the season to instinctively claw Goodman’s sliced clearance from a low Morais cross off his own goalline.
Whites were enjoying more of the ball and playing some attractive football, despite the persistent rain and heavy pitch – which had passed a 2.30pm pitch inspection. Arthur and Da Costa were introduced from the bench to liven things up and Callum Reynolds had his heart in his mouth after clipping Da Costa as he raced through, only for referee Sunny Gill to issue only a yellow card.
Arthur saw a shot blocked after some nice approach play while Da Costa took a heavy touch in the box after robbing a defender and also swung a free-kick straight at Justham as time wore on.
One final half-chance saw Pavey mis-time a header from a corner to glance off-target as Dover’s winless run in Vanarama National League extended to 20 games, 15 of them now defeats.
Whites are on the road at Woking on Tuesday (December 28) before heading to Victoria Park for the rematch with the Daggers on Sunday (January 2).