By Alex Hoad

After 364 days without a win, Alfie Pavey’s goal earned Dover Athletic a 1-0 win over Eastleigh on a night which will go down in Crabble folklore.

Whites’ first victory of the National League campaign came at the 25th attempt and ended a run of eight straight defeats and a streak of 16 losses in the past 17 league games.

The last time Dover had tasted victory in any competition was a 3-1 success against Barnet at a soggy Crabble on January 26, 2021.

Dover’s withdrawal from the 2020/21 campaign meant the result was expunged by the league so the club’s last official win came against AFC Fylde 703 days ago, on February 22, 2020.

Hosting his former club – who had beaten Dover 4-1 in Hampshire in September – Dover manager Andy Hessenthaler made two changes from the side which had lost 5-0 at Solihull Moors on Saturday with Jake Goodman returning at the back in the place of Sam Wood while Khale Da Costa replaced Ben Williamson, who was not named in the 16.

The captain’s armband was taken by hometown lad Ryan Hanson, who turned 21 last month.

The first-half was a scrappy affair, despite a bright start from Dover who saw Seth Twumasi fizz a low cross across the six yard box untouched, in the opening moments.

Eastleigh grew into the game and won a string of set-pieces, one of which on 13 minutes was only half-cleared to Ryan Hill who whipped a left-footed shot off the crossbar from the right of the penalty area.

Another in-swinging corner from the left was glanced goalward by Spitfires forward Dan Smith, only for Whites keeper Adam Parkes to fling himself low to his left and pull off an instinctive save before the ball was hacked clear.

Goodman and Harry Ransom dealt with the visitors’ aerial threat well for almost the entire game but eight minutes before the break the dangerous Tyrone Barnett peeled off to the back post to nod a deep cross back into the centre where Smith could only hook an acrobatic volley past Parkes’ upright.

At the other end Dover enjoyed a rare spell of possession which led to 17-year-old George Wilkinson battling to win possession on the edge of the penalty area and work himself some space before swinging in a swerving shot which Eastleigh keeper Joe McDonnell had to turn around the post.

Tom Whelan lashed a 20-yard effort over the River End in first-half stoppage-time and the visitors had the better of the start of the second period too, with Parkes holding a close-range Smith header at the far post on 49 minutes, shortly after a speculative effort off target from Andrew Boyce.

Parkes got his body behind a swerving drive on 52 minutes before a rare foray forward from Whites as Da Costa drove forward before sending in a low shot from the edge of the box which was held by McDonnell.

The visitors struck the woodwork for the second time on 57 minutes as a deep corner was nodded tamely down and into the post before being gathered by the grateful Parkes.

The turning point came just before the hour and owed much to the tenacity of Koby Arthur.

Firstly Arthur dispossessed a defender before sliding the ball clean through for Pavey who saw a low shot blocked by the legs of McDonnell.

With Pavey’s head still in his hands Arthur raced out to the right flank and again hassled a defender into a mistake before squaring the ball low for Pavey to make amends, clipping home at the near post to send the home fans into rapture.

Pavey’s fourth goal of the campaign gave Dover their first lead of the season at Crabble and ended his side’s run of 5 hours and 56 minutes without a home goal.

New arrival on loan from King’s Lynn, Micheal Gyasi, was introduced off the bench to replace Wilkinson and made an immediate impression, firing one angled shot past the post after a lung-busting and Beckenbauer-esque run forward from Ransom and seeing another rasping effort tipped over the bar by McDonnell.

Smith got in the way of a thunderous shot from his own teammate Jake Hesketh at the other end while Wood, who came on for Twumasi, needed to time a challenge in the area to perfection to avoid conceding a penalty on 83 minutes.

The visitors dominated possession and poured forward in the six added minutes at the end of the 90, with keeper McDonnell even racing up to join the attack for a corner, however Dover defended resiliently while the fans cheered every stray pass and wayward shot from the Spitfires until the final whistle sparked joyous celebrations on and off the pitch.

Dover are back in action at Crabble when Southend visit on Saturday (3pm).