It was honours even once more at Crabble with Darren McQueen’s goal — his first since scoring here last season — contributing to a 1-1 draw in a game that lacked any real entertainment.
Daryl McMahon certainly shook things up after defeat to AFC Fylde, making five changes. With Ebou Adams on international duty for Gambia, that meant Jack Powell came in but there were also starts for Chris Bush, Corey Whitely, Michael Cheek and Darren McQueen. That meant the bench for Danny Kedwell, Andy Drury, Luke Coulson and Sam Magri.
Dover began well enough, enjoying the bulk of possession but the game soon became a fairly unremarkable exchange of passes in midfield. Myles Weston had a floated effort on three minutes that Mitch Walker watched drop over the upright. Otherwise there was little of note bar a mild flare-up between midfield enforcers Dean Rance and Aryan Tajbakhsh.
Then suddenly Fleet found themselves in front. Darren McQueen, whose last goal was here at Crabble last season, managed to squeeze into a gap on 13 minutes, kept his eye on the target and fired off a shot past Walker that deflected off Tim Schmoll on the way in.
Fleet controlled the game for a spell after that without really looking likely to find a second goal. Dover picked up a couple of bookings for challenges in midfield and they took until the 21st minute to find a shot on goal, Mitch Brundle’s effort high over Nathan Ashmore’s crossbar.
Fleet forced half a dozen corners in the first half, while McQueen looked eager to get amongst it, tracking back into midfield to lay off passes into the path of Whitely and Cheek.
But things started to go wrong for the Fleet on the half hour when Dave Winfield pulled up and he was replaced by Magri. Before the visitors could collect themselves, Dover were back in it. A harmless enough set piece was swung in and Fleet allowed Connor Essam to get his head down to the ball and he met it well, heading past Ashmore from close range.
Dover’s confidence was buoyed by that and six minutes later Nortei Nortey had a good chance from just outside the box but powered a low shot into Ashmore’s arms.
The second half was a stalemate for much of the opening period. Fleet stroked the ball about but the strikers lacked the supply to get behind Dover’s front line. Powell hit a free-kick against the Dover wall for a corner and Sam Magri was up well to a Weston cross but his downward header didn’t trouble Walker.
Fleet were largely untroubled but when Rance tried to charge down a Fleet attack, Tobi Sho-Silva stole in and raced upfield, stopped in his tracks by Weston’s intervention which allowed Ashmore to take command and mop up.
A series of substitutions by both sides broke up an uneven game anyway and a couple of stoppages, including when Rance saw yellow for remonstrating an obvious corner that was given as a goal kick, only underlined the scrappy nature of the game.
Dover sub Inih Effiong battled past two Fleet men to send a shot just wide and they could have won it in time added on when Josh Passley hared clear on the break after a Powell free-kick was blocked. He was well-tackled by Bush but George Smith took on the ball and kept his shot on target only to see Ashmore make a crucial save.
EUFC: Ashmore, King, Bush, Winfield (Magri 31), Rance, Powell, Weston, Shields, Whitely, McQueen, Cheek (Kedwell 68). Subs not used: Wilson, Coulson, Drury
DAFC: Walker, Passley, Smith, Schmoll, Diarra, Essam, Brundle, Nortey, Tajbakhsh (Connors 77), Allen (Daniel 71), Sho-Silva (Effiong 66). Subs not used: Jeffrey, Okosieme
Attendance: 1,127 (253 EUFC)