By Alex Hoad
Dover’s eight-year stay in the National League came to an end at Crabble on Saturday after the defeat against the Somerset visitors.
With 11 games remaining and 12 points deducted by the National League on the eve of the season, Whites can no longer overhaul Aldershot in 20th, despite Shots losing at home to Kings Lynn on Saturday.
Manager Andy Hessenthaler named an unchanged XI from the narrow defeat at Halifax but replaced the unwell Henry Woods on the bench with 16-year-old Academy prospect Kieron Agbebi.
The game kicked-off following an emotional minute’s silence in memory of beloved Dover fan and club photographer Simon Harris who passed away on Friday at the age of just 66.
Dover had taken just one point from the seven-game since the memorable win over Eastleigh but the visitors arrived at Crabble in less-than-stellar form themselves, having taken only three points from their previous seven games and won one in 16 in all competitions.
Town did however start brightly and goalkeeper Adam Parkes had to drop to his left to hold a low drive from 20 yards from Tom Knowles early on.
At the other end on-loan West Brom keeper Ted Cann, making his second debut for the Glovers after a previous loan spell, made a meal of saving Alfie Pavey’s speculative 25-yard shot on 15 minutes while Dover won several free-kicks in good positions but were unable to test the keeper after curling left-footed deliveries from Arjanit Krasniqi.
The deadlock was broken in the 19th minute when Jordan Barnett’s lofted free-kick was flicked on by Adi Yussuf and bounced through the Dover defence to Ben Barclay, who guided an expert half-volley into the top corner giving Parkes no chance.
It was one-way traffic for a spell and Knowles flashed a low cross across the face of goal with Charlie Wakefield unable to turn in at the back post.
Hessenthaler shuffled his pack at the interval and brought on Koby Arthur, with Michael Gyasi joining Alfie Pavey up top,
Myles Judd reverting to right wing-back and Will Moses joining George Wilkinson in holding midfield with three at the back.
The hosts enjoyed a blistering start to the half and Gyasi fired over while a scrambling Cann had to tip over a curling Wilkinson cross.
The clinching goal arrived against the run of play 10 minutes after the break when Knowles broke from midfield and was controversially adjudged to have been fouled by Jake Goodman on the edge of the box.
Dale Gorman stepped up to fire a curling right-footed free-kick around the wall which beat Parkes into the top-corner. It was the first time the Glovers had scored more than once in a game since November.
The lively Gyasi swung a free-kick past the post at the other end and sub Agbebi – the latest debutant from our Academy – caused Town’s defence some problems, but the game was up when Cann missed the ball allowing Gyasi to roll the ball into the empty net, only for the goal to be ruled out for an offside with protests from Gyasi and Pavey falling on deaf ears.
Danny Collinge looped a header from an Arthur corner well over the bar and Gyasi saw appeals for a penalty waved away in the closing stages while at the other end a block from Krasniqi thwarted Knowles from close range and Parkes dived to his left to deny Barnett before sub Olofela Olomola dragged a shot past the upright in stoppage time.
After the game chairman Jim Parmenter confirmed Hessenthaler will return next season to spearhead Dover’s challenge in National League South.