Garry Hill picked over the bones of Fleet’s second successive 1-0 defeat at home and believed Dover were worthy winners on an afternoon where his own side never quite grasped the nettle.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game and it proved that way,” he said. “A local derby, Dover have been going very very well.
“They got the goal and we knew from then on it was going to be a battle and we tried to change one or two things. But I have no complaints over the 90 minutes. Some you win and some you lose and it was their day today.
“We started the best, the first 20/25 minutes I thought we got a lot of good balls around Danny Kedwell, we were on top. We never really took advantage of the possession that we had at that time. But all credit to Dover, they came through that, they were defending very strongly.
“Their form over the last 20 games, let alone the last seven or eight, has been superb, very similar to ourselves since Andy Hessenthaler’s gone in there and got them more organised. We always knew today the first goal would be the goal. We were probably prepared to risk things a little bit more than we normally would because we had to go for a win and still hope for a chance with the final game.”
With one league game of the campaign remaining, Hill’s thoughts will soon turn to the summer and the manager admits he has plenty of work to do.
“There’s a lot of players out of contract, there’s no secret about that,” he said. “There are some players who are on contract for another season. We’re looking to be a lot more stable and live within our means, which has been made quite clear by the boss, of a structure going forward. I think there’s been a certain amount of naivety by certain people. I’ve got a very tough summer and it’s something which I relish.
“I will sit down, I’m sure, and the boss will tell us what he would like and what he expects going forward of the management team and as a football club. I’m very pleased where we are even though we’ve lost today. As a manager you set yourself targets from when you come in, where you are, where you got to. I think if anybody looked at us where we were then and where we are now, there’d be no fewer than 16 clubs knocking on my door or ringing my bell and asking to swap positions.”
Despite the play-offs having disappeared from view, Hill maintains that the past six months have shown plenty of endeavour and that Fleet’s rise to eighth is worthy of praise.
“When I came in November we were four points off relegation,” he said. “The football squad had a lot of quality players and has still got a lot of quality players. All that’s basically been reduced is the number of squad players and also management staff. So we’ve had to trim things and try and manage it. We’ve had to work on and off the pitch collectively, sensibly. And to get where we’ve got to from underachieving in November to be overachieving the way I look at it in April, to be going into the last week of the season and being three points off the playoffs, is all credit to everybody – certainly the playing squad and everybody at the football club.”
And the Fleet manager includes the club’s supporters in that praise, noting once more how they stood and applauded their side even as the minutes ticked away to defeat.
“You see the supporters here at the end again today,” he said. “You can see what it means to them. You can see where they’ve seen the football club come in respect of results on the pitch. And make no mistake, the supporters of this football club have played a major part in pushing the players and the management and staff on this run we’ve had over 20-odd games.
“They travel, they do their miles, they’ve turned out in large numbers again today and got behind the team. We are working very hard, everybody at the club, to get in a direction of stability – that’s been well documented. I like to think going forward that we’ve got a structure in place now or we’re working with a structure in place to go forward for the wellbeing the club.
“When you have problems at football clubs, it’s tough, I understand that. And we’re not the only football club. It’s been well documented and it’s been quite open about certain things and that is hard for a lot of people. The big picture has been we’ve overachieved as a football club in respect of where our league position was and where we’ve got to today in sitting eighth in a very competitive league.”
Listen to the interview below.