Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Dover Athletic

Spiller (5)

Hednesford Town

(1) 1

(0) 0




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Darren Simkin




Hinckley United (A) 19.4.03

Ten man Hednesford are back in relegation trouble once again, as ball-to-back league defeats leave them hovering just three points above the drop zone tonight after a narrow defeat at top three hopefuls Dover Athletic

Saturday's 1-0 defeat at home to fellow strugglers Weymouth had checked the Pitmen's recent progress under new manager Chris Brindley, who was forced into two changes to the side that had started at the weekend; Bryan Small and Stewart Airdrie were both ruled out of the long trip to the South coast with niggles picked up against Weymouth and were replaced by Anthony Maguire and David Berks. Maguire's inclusion saw a change of formation for the visitors, with Stuart Ryder slotting in at left-back and Stuart Lake playing at centre-back, much as he had done three seasons ago. There was also an appearance amongst the substitutes for Ashley Dodd, as the recently-signed free agent made up the numbers for the depleted Pitmen

Dover's recent good form had seen them make a late surge into the top three after only one defeat in their past seven games, with manager Clive Walker sticking with the same side that had beaten Cambridge City 2-1 at the Crabble on Saturday. Star man Matt Carruthers had been attracting interest from a number of Conference sides as the season started to come to a close, with Mark Wright's Chester City the latest in a long line of clubs linked with the forward

The Pitmen's long trip down to Kent could not have got off to a worse start, as they fell behind courtesy of Dover's first chance of the game in the fifth minute; a deep cross from Simon Glover was perfectly weighted for Lee Spiller, whose header proved to be too much for Michael Bingham as it dropped over him and into the net from close-range

Veteran Dover keeper Paul Hyde did well to claim a Berks cross two minutes later, pouncing on the ball at the second attempt after dropping the initial cross right at the feet of the incoming Steve Piearce

A quick break from the hosts on eleven minutes saw Spiller involved in midfield, threading a fine pass into the feet of Tommy Tyne inside the Hednesford penalty area. The striker was put off slightly by the covering Darren Simkin, who forced Tyne into a wild shot wide

On-loan Luke Corbett was next to have a crack for the visitors on seventeen minutes, with his shot from twenty yards brilliantly saved by Hyde down to his right-hand side to keep Dover in front

Four minutes later, Bingham matched Hyde's fine save with a stop of his own of equal quality to deny Spiller with a one-handed save after Jamie Day had played Spiller clean through on goal

A deep corner kick from Berks on twenty-six minutes forced Hyde to plan the ball away from goal, with Stuart Ryder attempting to lift the loose ball over the head of the keeper as it dropped to him on the edge fo the penalty area. However, the defender got a little too much on his effort and lifted his shot over the crossbar

Youngster Maguire was justifying his selection this evening with a good performance on the right wing, beating two players on thirty-one minutes before sliding a low cross into the penalty area that Glover put behind for a Hednesford corner under pressure from Piearce

Corbett and Piearce linked up well four minutes later, creating space on the edge of the Dover penalty area for David Moss to strike a shot straight into the hands of Hyde

A late run into the penalty area from Emeka Nwadike was not tracked by the Dover defence on thirty-nine minutes, allowing the on-loan midfielder to head a Berks cross into the side-netting from an acute angle

With half-time looming, a long kick from Bingham caught the Dover defence ball watching and allowed Corbett to control the ball and play Piearce in. However, Piearce was caught slightly on his heels, fearing an offside flag, and allowed Danny Chapman to nip in and clear


A half-time talk from Brindley seemed to have the desired effect for the Pitmen, who had seen plenty of the ballot once again lacked that killer instinct to finish moves off. Stuart Lake's tenacity saw him win the ball off a dawdling Kenny Dyer on fifty minutes and drove forwards, only for his pass to Piearce to be taken off the striker's toe by a challenge from Chapman

Another driving run from midfield, this time from Nwadike, saw Dover afford the player plenty of space to decide what he was going to do on fifty-six minutes, electing to shoot low and just wide of Hyde's goal as the men in red continued to press

Piearce was again foiled by Hyde just before e the hour mark, as his slightly stuffed shot was saved by Hyde down to his left-hand side when it appeared to be creeping into the far corner of the net

Francis was brought on by the Pitmen on sixty-three minutes to add more aerial presence to their attack, with Lake being taken off after yet again struggling for overall fitness

This move saw the Pitmen pepper the Dover box with high balls as they aimed towards Francis, with limited success in the face of excellent defending from the likes of Glover and Steve Hanna to deal with the crosses

Dover won three successive corner kicks on sixty-six minutes, with the final one headed just wide of goal by Carruthers following a cross from Spiller on the right wing. Carruthers, thus far, had been kept quiet by the Hednesford defence as they doubled up on the home side's danger man when they could

Corbett found himself in behind the Dover defence on seventy-two minutes, to the left of goal with Moss playing a bouncing ball in front of him. Corbett's cheeky attempted chip over Hyde was, however, slightly off target and landed on top of the Dover net

Bingham did well to keep the Pitmen in contention four minutes later, making a fine smothering save to deny Day at his feet after Day had broken through a flimsy-looking Hednesford offside trap

Brindley brought himself on with ten minutes remaining to play up front alongside Francis and Piearce, taking off the out-of-luck Corbett to add more power to the forward line

A fine header back into the danger zone by Brindley on eighty-three minutes landed inside the Dover six-yard box, only for Chapman to clear away from goal before Moss could force the ball home

The Pitmen continued to press through Maguire, whose inswinging cross three minutes later was glanced out of play by Piearce, who was perhaps two inches too short to meet the cross with any conviction

In the final minute of the game, there was to be late controversy involving substitute Francis as he was shown a straight red card for an off the ball incident involving Andy Arnott. A melee followed, with Hyde getting involved on the edge of his penalty area and appeared to say something controversial to Francis that provoked an angry response from the striker. Disappointingly, neither Arnott nor Hyde were disciplined for their part in the scuffle having proved to be unprofessional in their approach

This seemed to floor the Pitmen in the final minutes, as Dover saw the game out with relative ease in added time to earn themselves a much-needed three points in their quest to finish behind Tamworth in the table as the best of the rest. The Pitmen are left with much to do after back-to-back defeats this week, starting with another tough-looking trip to Hinckley United on Saturday as they go looking for another mini-revival to move away from the drop zone 

Dover Athletic: Hyde ©, Hanna, Glover, Chapman, Davies, Browne (Arnott 68), Dyer, Spiller, Day, Tyne (Sykes 80), Carruthers      Subs Unused:  Dent, Monday, James

Hednesford Town: Bingham, Williams, Berks, Simkin, Ryder, Nwadike, Moss, Lake (Francis 63 ▆ (89)), Corbett (Brindley 80), Piearce ©, Maguire     Subs Unused: Dodd, Jenkins