Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.
Let’s hope we can make the long journey south worthwhile by making a dent in our awful record against Dover Athletic. We’ve won two points out of fifteen against The Whites and have two defeats to show for our visits to the Crabble.
Our first match there, in January 2015, saw Kevin Wilkin’s side subside to a 2-0 defeat on a windswept winter’s night. Things started going wrong before kick off when Jay Harris withdrew from the starting eleven after feeling ill, and we compounded matters by missing a string of presentable chances.
At the other end, things Dover were in the mood to punish us. After 35 minutes we were two goals down and we never threatened to haul ourselves back into the match.
We travelled to the further corner of Kent again in October 2015 and the match turned out to be rather revealing as we were given an introduction to the tactical tinkering of Gary Mills. In his first fifteen matches he’d played a 4-3-3 formation, but it was all change at The Crabble as he switched to three at the back, dropped top scorer Dom Vose and gave club captain Lee Fowler and Ross White their first starts of the season.
We conceded the opening goal again, just after the half hour, this time we hit back swiftly as Connor Jennings equalised eight minutes later. However, we fell behind early in the second half, leading to another reshuffle by Mills.
In the quarter hour after going behind we made three substitutions, withdrawing both Fowler and White and reverting to a flat back four. His alterations were to no avail as there were no further goals, and Mills would continue to switch tactics dramatically for the rest of his time in the Racecourse hot seat.
This would be the first of a run of five games in which his starting formation would be drastically different each time, and he never really settled on a consistent first eleven again.
Our matches with Dover tend to be tight, low-scoring affairs. There have only been 8 goals in our 5 matches and those two away defeats are the only time either side has scored more than once.
Curtis Tilt plays his 150th career league match tomorrow, although the fact that it’s also his 30th league game of the season feels just as significant!