Question of the WeekShould Stefan Payne be allowed to play again?
|Amond: Late Pen|
The Importance of Beating Dover
By: Andrew Doherty
FIFTH versus third in December could never be described as a season-defining fixture but with the other top teams having relatively easy fixtures, a degree of caution on this unseasonably balmy day was going to be necessary.
Town's line-up was as expected: McKeown – Tait, Nsiala, Gowling, Townsend – Arnold, Disley, Clay, Monkhouse – Bogle, Amond.
Honours were even in the initial stages as each side had their share of possession and played the ball around but without achieving any tangible end result. Town were wary of attacks from Dover and sat deep, relying on the pace of Arnold and the guile of Amond and Bogle to break through. It didn't happen. Clay provided the magic for Town, bursting through midfield and trying to set up the battling front two. Bogle took a while to get into the game and looked unfit. Town's "skill zone" duo of Townsend and Monkhouse were misfiring on the left. On the right Arnold showed great pace several times but having left everyone behind and failing to take stock of the situation wasted a number of unreachable crosses. Clay expressed his frustration as he set up an attack from midfield but received no response from Town's immobile strikeforce. Dover played the ball around well and showed they could be dangerous but Nsiala and Gowling were solid at the back for Town. With half-time looming, a cross was played over the top of the Town defence and from close range Deverdics forced a brilliant reaction save from McKeown, with Dover unable to follow up. At half time it was Town 0, Dover 0.
Town started the second half sleepily and were almost punished on 47 minutes when a Monkhouseesque chip was delivered to the head of Dover's best player Modeste, whose strong header was matched by another brilliant point blank save from McKeown. Town picked up after this second scare and started to work the ball around. Four minutes later Bogle supplied a chip from the left which found Amond, before a trademark Monkhouse pinpoint pass found Arnold in the middle but Town were unable to convert these opportunities. With 60 minutes played, Arnold went on an electrifying run but while getting power behind his shot was forced into striking from twenty five yards. The ball went over the bar. As the game passed the 70 minute mark, the weighty Alabi replaced the tiring Bogle. With ten minutes of normal time remaining, Monkhouse found space twice outside the Dover box but the first was weak and the second blocked, before Marshall came on to replace him. Amond then broke clear and teed up Clay who had space but wasted the chance by side-footing his shot from 25 yards into the Pontoon stand. Town persevered but there were too many wild balls from all over the field including even Townsend who wasn't having one of his better days. But it was Townsend who burst into Dover's penalty box on 89 minutes after some tight build-up play and was apparently tripped as he cut outside. The referee was on the spot and awarded a penalty. Amond sent the goalkeeper the wrong way and drilled his penalty low into the net. Town 1, Dover 0. Four minutes added time was announced and in the 91st minute Gowling tripped Dover's Magri outside the penalty box. The wall stood firm, the free-kick was blocked and Town came away with three points.
This wasn't a five star performance and the game would fall into the "grinding out a victory" box. While Town looked dangerous thanks to individual initiatives, the link ups weren't great and there were too many errors. Dover were a well organised side and it was clear see why they are in the higher reaches of the table. McKeown's two point blank saves were invaluable. To Town's credit, 50-50 balls in midfield were being won and both Disley and in particular Clay deserve commendation for their tenacity and skill. The central defence was solid apart from the two lofted balls which eluded them so this is something to watch for. My man of the match was Nathan Arnold, who although he could learn to look up and evaluate his options before crossing, was dynamic and electrifying throughout, and always looked like he was going to make something happen.
As expected, the other promotion hopefuls won their games so not only have we leapfrogged one of our rivals but this important victory keeps us well in the hunt.
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