|Matthew Gerrard reports from the
|Dover Athletic||2||Cloke 32, 41 (both pens)|
|Tonbridge Angels||1||Hogg 69|
Cloke makes Angels pay the penalty
Though it was not particularly pretty and there was limited entertainment for a season's best crowd of 801, the Whites picked up a very welcome three points in their first Kent derby of the season to edge out a Tonbridge side who though had a great deal of possession lacked any real cutting edge.
However, the most important factor was that Steve Browne's new charges picked up three vital three points in his first game in charge at the Hoverspeed stadium.
It had been thirty-five days since the club had played a home league game and those five weeks had brought about one of the biggest changes in personnel in the clubs history with no fewer than eight players making their full home debuts, as Browne decided that for the club to survive they needed fresh blood and from what was on show in patches it could be that some of the new signings will make a serious impact when they settle.
Only match winner Craig Cloke and skipper Craig Wilkins survived the purge from the side who surrendered so badly against Heybridge on September 25th with local hero Lee Shearer being the other addition has he made his second home debut for the club, nearly seven years after his first.
The visitors showed the best of the opening moments and will consider themselves a little unlucky that they did not break the deadlock, when Dover were exposed down the left and former White Anthony Hogg's cross found the onrushing Gareth Street who dragged his shot wide, while in the 10th minute a fortunate deflection saw Hogg's goal bound effort drag inches wide with keeper Kevin Reading's flat footed.
The new Dover side soon settled with midfielder Stuart Maynard beginning to dictate the play while Dean Palmer - an impressive gangly defender whose confidence on the ball was plain to see - curtailed the limited attacks the lightweight Angels offered and showing why they had not found the net in over five hours of action.
Wilkins should have buried his sides first real opening when a delightful free kick in the 18th minute found him free, but his header lacked power and was easily met by keeper Jamie Turner, while the former Deal stopper earned his corn moments later when a well worked move saw Daniel Grieve's shot rasping drive pushed around the post.
The opening goal that was crucial to the game came in the 32nd minute when Maynard was tripped from behind after a fine goal-preventing block by the first victim of the Browne regime in Nicky Humphrey had run loose. Cloke kept his nerve after a long wait to keep his 100% record from the spot as he drove the ball low to Turner's left who did not move due to the power of the shot.
Six minutes later Cloke picked the exact same spot after a seemingly harsh decision on the Angels when Victor Renner locked arms with Andy Larkin - in a challenge that you see throughout the game - but the linesman deemed to it be more than a 50/50 tussle to make it 2-0 at the break.
The second period began with the Dover looking content to hit Angels on the break, as they used their new found pace to get behind the opposition with playmaker Byran Bubb looking particularly dangerous though at times he over elaborated when a pass could have found the Wilkins and the bustling Roni Joe.
The west Kent side only real opportunities came from a deadball situation but the three man rearguard of Cloke, Palmer and Shearer were easily able to keep them at bay, while Wilkins and Warren Ryan went close with efforts at the other end.
The goal that made the final 20 minutes interesting came when Hogg put in probably his worst cross of the afternoon from a free kick, but Readings misjudged the high ball as it dropped over the goal line despite his frantic attempts.
This failed to galvanise Angels as they continued the tactic of wasting the final ball, while Dover looking a little jaded used the ball sensibly as they kept possession with ease and were unlucky to regain the two goal lead when Maynard's shot was spilled by Turner onto the on rushing Victor Renner who shot home from three yards, but the flag of the linesman that gave them the two goal lead worked against them as he stated the striker was in an offside position when the shot was struck.
Even the introduction of Turner into the penalty area for a late corner failed to worry the impressive Dover defence as they picked up their only third win of the season, much to the delight of Browne who punched the air knowing that his career as the Whites boss was underway and though this is only one win it could be one that will be very important come May.
Dover Athletic: K.Readings, Palmer, Cloke (D.Readings 59), Maynard, Shearer, Grieves, Bubb, Joe (Grimes 55), Wilkins, Renner, Ryan Subs Not used Spiller, Wright, Mullin.
Dover man of the match: Dean Palmer - The utility man was impressive throughout and showed
real composure on the ball.