Blue Square South
Saturday 19 September 2009 - Crabble Athletic Ground - kick off 3.00pm
||Perrin, Hogg, Rollo (c), Coupe, Browning, Connolly, Perrott (Gwinnett 76), Badman (Caldwell 80), Edwards, Pelecaci, Evans.
subs not used: Howells, Hart.
|man of the match:
||Perrott (36), Coupe (70)
||P Knight, L Wood, G Atkins
|league position: 13th
||next match: Willand (FAC) (A)
Report taken from
Few sides are likely to come to Dover Athletic and go as close to taking points off the Blue Square South league leaders before going away empty handed as Bath City did this afternoon.
Trailing 1-0 to an Adam Birchall goal Adie Brittonís makeshift side looked to have somehow salvaged a point in the dying minutes of the match.
With the players visibly wilting on a hot and muggy afternoon and with the referee, Phil Knight, already having indicated only two minutes of additional time the ball was played long to tireless City striker Darren Edwards. He skilfully collected the pass, rounded his marker and, spotting keeper Lee Hook off his line, lobbed the ball over his head and into the net.
The City players, knowing there was just seconds left, celebrated ecstatically but too long for Mr Knight. He added on an additional minute and in that time Dover restored their lead.
From the re-start the ball was played forward to Birchall and as keeper Steve Perrin and his defence heisted he fired home his second of the afternoon.
The final whistle went almost immediately and City were left, like a child who had just had a chocolate bar exchanged for brussel sprouts, to contemplate what a few seconds before had looked like a just reward.
In truth it was fine performance even if the scoreline did not reflect Cityís endeavour. For 65 minutes they had not only kept at bay a side who had comfortably won all of their previous five home fixtures and were top of the table but had fairly matched their opponents.
With five men in midfield, including new Romainian signing Florin Pelecaci, and a defence that saw Marcus Browning alongside Matt Coupe and Lewis Hogg in the right-back position, this was a formation that was as makeshift as a beach shelter on the Dover seafront. As manager Britton pointed out before kick-off it wasnít through choice, it was all he had left.
Yet it was a formation that nearly worked. Apart from one early scare that saw a Lee Browning shot cannon off Perrinís leg, City reduced the home side to constantly passing across the pitch as they desperately sought a way through the defence.
However, the difference between the two teams lay not in the starting XI but in the substitutions. Andy Hessenthaler, the Dover manager, brought on Birchall, a striker with 150 league games to his credit, at half-time and Jerahi Hughes, a former Crystal Palace and Yeovil player, on the hour mark. Britton had only the youth and inexperience of Raiff Gwinnett and Ashley Caldwell, who were named on the bench along with new recruit Callum Hart and assistant boss Lee Howells.
The replacement of Browning and Hill for the home side represented the turning point of the match. Birchall galvanised Dover and 20 minutes into the second period they went ahead. The ball was played wide on the right to substitute Hughes and raced down the touchline before crossing into the City box where Birchall fired home, giving Perrin no chance.
It was the substitutes who had combined to get the goal and it was Birchallís excellence and quick thinking that gave them the victory when the rest of the team and the vast majority of the 1,000-strong crowd clearly thought Dover had lost their 100 per cent home record.
It was the stuff of which potential champions are made while City were left only to contemplate what might have been and look forward to an FA Cup tie at Willand Rovers that has huge significance against a backdrop of not even 11 fit players.