Fleet 0 Dover Athletic 2

Fleet are second best in opening Kent derby of the season…

The Fleet are still waiting to kick-start their season at Stonebridge Road after Dover deservedly claimed the spoils in the first all-Kent fixture of the season. Liam Daish gave Tyron Sealey his first start for the club with Scott Ginty still hampered by a hamstring injury but the Fleet were otherwise unchanged coming off the back of two league wins.

Dover’s season may not have got off to the best of starts but in the early exchanges they looked bright as Fleet struggled to find any sort of rhythm. Ashley Carew had the best of the early chances for the Fleet, riding several tackles and embarking on a mazy run that took him into the Dover box but the ball overran and he hit it weakly at goalkeeper Ross Flitney.

Dover responded on 23 minutes when the ball ran clear to Matt Fish 25 yards out and he rasped it towards goal but ex-Whites goalkeeper Preston Edwards did well considering he probably saw it late. With the match toing and froing, Dover enjoyed the bulk of possession over a strangely subdued Fleet midfield though Carew was still trying to rev his team into action and he fired over in a rare spell of Fleet pressure.

Sealey was having little joy down the right wing but the one time he did get clear of Olly Schulz and hared into the box, he blazed the ball high over the bar. And as the half drew to a close, the Fleet defence began to yield and even the usually steadfast Paul Lorraine misjudged a ball over his head, giving Adam Birchall the opportunity to force Edwards into a save.

With the Fleet defence backing off, Dover forced a succession of corners and turned their pressure into reward on 43 minutes. Ex-Barnet striker Birchall received the ball on the right hand side and got the better of Derek Duncan and Dean Pooley before firing a fine shot into the far bottom corner, leaving Edwards with no chance.

While the first half was far from vintage, the Fleet at least had periods when they looked capable of breaching the Dover defence. The break, however, did little for their peace of mind and the second half was a frustrating 45 minutes. With Michael West tucked in behind Calum Willock, both players looked isolated and the home side struggled to trouble the Dover rearguard.

The goalkeepers, both of them ex-Grays, spent large parts of the second half as spectators, though Edwards could have found himself picking the ball out of the net more often had Dover’s finishing not been so wasteful. But the visitors really should have made it 2-0 on 51 minutes when Ben Hunt played Birchall into space behind the Fleet defence and the striker’s shot looked certain to go in but somehow brushed the post and bounced to safety.

Kane Rice and Luke I’Anson both wasted good chances when given acres of space on the Dover right before Fleet’s best and probably only real chance of note arrived courtesy of substitute Joe Benjamin dinking a ball into West’s path and the Fleet youngster let fly from eight yards – a good shot but not good enough to beat Flitney who performed an excellent save.

Dover brought on ex-Fleet loanee Elliot Charles and he had a couple of efforts of note, one he fired wide when through on goal, the other requiring a good one-armed stop from Edwards to prevent him scoring. The Fleet toiled but never threatened, lacking the guile of Ginty in the final third, and it was no real surprise when Dover sealed the match on 82 minutes, Birchall holding off the attentions of Lorraine to pass back to substitute Nicky Nicolau and he hit a great shot that went in off the bar with Edwards stranded on his line.

Now Liam Daish will need to shake his side up ahead of the visit to Dartford and he will find few positives as he sifts through the wreckage of tonight’s game. Perhaps the only silver lining is that Fleet have thus far been much better on their travels.

TEAM: Edwards, Henry, Duncan, Carew, Pooley, Lorraine, West, Marwa (Sherlock 90), Willock, Sealey (Benjamin 59), Phipp (Stone 80). Subs not used: Hagan.
Att: 1,139

Michael West won Saturday’s man of the match by the largest margin so far, with 52% of the vote. Make your decision on the Dover game [ HERE ].

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