Crabble Athletic Ground, Dover
Match Rating: 4
With yet more torrential rain falling in the previous couple of days - in what has been recently noted as the wettest winter in England for some 250 years, the majority of non-league games in the south-east were postponed today, with a total wipe out of fixtures in the Southern Counties East and Combined Counties leagues, and just one game, at Storrington, surviving in the entire Sussex County League. I decided to head to Dover, whose recent acquisition of a "blotter" machine ensured that this game was never really in doubt. Dover Athletic is a club I followed closely back in the nineties, although this would be my first visit to the Crabble in almost nine years.
The Crabble is located a couple of miles north-west uphill from the town centre, and had not changed since my last visit, apart from a new brick clubhouse in one corner of the ground. The ground enjoys a very nice setting, perched on one side of a valley and closely lined with trees on a hill to one side with a view across the valley to the other. The facilities are not easy on the eye, though. As one enters the ground by the half way line, the clubhouse is situated to the right and a small all-seater stand to the left. Standing is only permitted in a very small area along this length. Along the opposite side is an all-seater stand with lots of supporting pillars to obstruct one's view, and behind both goals is covered terracing, again with lots of supporting pillars. These latter three stands are metallic, grey coloured - functional, but completely devoid of any charm or character, but they do each have a small electronic scoreboard which is a very nice touch at this level. There is a noticeable slope from side to side. Although the programme was rather expensive for this level, it is professionally designed and produced with plenty of interesting content.
This game would be between two teams in good form pushing hard for a play-off places. Dover went into this game in eighth place, three points off of the play-off places, and were unbeaten in their previous four games. Bath were in fourth place, five points ahead of Dover but having played three games more. Claiming through one automatic promotion place looks a tall order for Bath, with leaders Bromley 17 points ahead having played two games less. Bath were in very good recent form though, having won their last three games. Dover have already beaten Bath twice this season, winning 0-2 away in September, and 1-0 in the FA Trophy in November.
Into the second half and Dover increasingly dominated proceedings, aided by the strong wind behind them, and they took the lead on 53 minutes with a fairly scrappy goal. Tom Wynter fired two powerful shots on goal in quick succession, both parried by the keeper, before Barry Cogan tapped the ball home. Within a couple of minutes, Bath almost got back on level terms when a Dover defender deflected the ball onto his own post, but that was a very rare chance for Bath in the second half. Dover doubled their lead on 64 minuted when Ricky Modeste ran onto a flick-on and lifted the ball over the onrushing keeper and into the net. It turned out that that sealed the three points, as Dover completely dominated the last 20 minutes, having several fabulous chances to extend their lead, whilst Bath looked a beaten side, blown away by a very strong second half performance by the home side. The deserved three points lifted Dover into sixth place, two points behind Bath, now occupying the final play-off positions.