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Priceless points for Magpies
DORCHESTER TOWN 1 DOVER ATHLETIC 0
WHAT a difference a week makes.
The previous Tuesday the Magpies could not have sunk much lower as they lost 4-0 at home to Bromley.
Fast forward to the Avenue last night and the relief was palpable as referee Adrian Quelch blew the full- time whistle.
Ashley Nicholls’ first half strike, created by defender-turned-striker Charlie Clough, was enough to give the hosts a priceless three points and lift them out of the Blue Square Bet South relegation zone.
They could have made it easier for themselves but the Magpies, who were dreadful in their last outing, turned the tables to eke out a precious victory.
One of four changes to the side thrashed a week earlier saw goalkeeper Alan Walker-Harris return to first-team action after 10 months out with a broken leg.
Elsewhere, Nick Crittenden, Jake Smeeton and Arran Pugh came in for George Colson, Sam Malsom and the departed Richard Logan.
And the Magpies’ lack of striking options also saw manager Phil Simkin throw central defender Clough up front alongside Ben Watson and it turned out to be a masterstroke.
But the Dorchester goal was nearly under threat inside two minutes when new Dover signing Ricky Modeste looked to be in with a chance of opening the scoring.
A misplaced pass allowed Modeste to get ahead of Smeeton but the defender recovered to get in a timely challenge which left the Dover man hobbling.
Having seen off the early pressure, the Magpies tried to find a way into the game and a long Walker-Harris punt eluded the visitors’ defence, Clough latched on to it and put a dangerous ball across the face of goal only to find none of his teammates on the end of it.
The lively Modeste was clearly going to be Dover’s most likely threat but Dorchester were having some joy down the left with Smeeton and Neil Martin linking up well. One piece of interplay ended with Nicholls firing over the bar.
However, Nicholls was on target as the clock move onto 17 minutes and it was Clough who played a big part in the goal.
His persistence earned the Mag-pies a throw deep in Dover territory, Clough then got to the by-line, pulled the ball back and Nicholls tucked his shot under Mitch Walker.
It could well have been 2-0 six minutes later when the Dover keeper made a hash of a clearance and presented the ball to Nick Crittenden 35 yards out.
But with the crowd urging him to shoot at the unguarded goal, the midfielder hesitated slightly and when he did manage to fire goalwards Walker had recovered to pluck the ball out of the air.
While Walker was having a busy night the same could not be said of opposite number Walker-Harris, who was being given a relatively comfortable ride after his long lay-off through injury.
By this time the Magpies were edging possession but all too often were not making the most of it and when they did get into promising positions there was no end product, leaving Watson to feed off scraps.
Dover came into the game more as the half wore on but despite their lofty league position were playing like a side with a phobia of shooting. At the same time the Dorchester defence was dealing with everything that came their way but were not being tested too much.
Watson used his compact physique and experience to win a string of free-kicks and from one on the stroke of half-time Pugh’s header was deflected wide for a corner.
Seconds later another set-piece found Pugh’s head but again he was unable to find the target.
Taking a lead into the interval, the Magpies needed to make sure they kept watertight at the back as the second period started. Mark Jermyn put his body on the line to block an effort from Modeste soon after the restart.
Just before the hour mark, Watson broke free down the left and found Jamie Gleeson, but the midfielder wanted too much time on the ball and when he returned the compliment to Watson the striker could only manage a tame effort on goal.
For Dover, a deflected Billy Brick-nell attempt was parried by Walker-Harris as the Magpies’ stopper was called into action for just about the first time.
He might have been called on again had the referee allowed Jermyn to continue after the skipper appeared to handle the ball under pressure from Bricknell – Jermyn was also the last man for Dorchester.
The hosts may have got away with one there but on 73 minutes their chances of a first competitive win since November were given a huge boost when Danny Webb, booked for dissent in the first half, was shown a second yellow for scything down Watson right in front of the Magpies’ bench.
Even for a team as high in the table as Dover, it was always going to be tough for them to find an equaliser with 10 men and in truth they wouldn’t have deserved it had they got one.
Magpies: Walker-Harris, Jermyn, Smee-ton, Pugh, Walker, Gleeson, Crittenden, Nicholls, Watson, Clough, Martin. Subs not used: Bell, Colson, Thompson, Brooks, Way Dover: Walker, Harrington, Wynter, Thomson, Simpemba, Webb, Modeste (Watt 75), McMahon, May (Dixon 66), Bricknell, Cogan. Subs not used: Willock, Ademola, Hook