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Dover Athletic 1-1 Kingstonian

A midweek return to the Crabble following the postponed previous attempt saw a much depleted Kingstonian side face a Dover outfit desperately seeking to get their season back on track to occupy at least one of the playoff spots currently occupied by the K's.

With captain Julian Sills, Bashiru Alimi, Martyn Lee and Michael Brady all suspended and Tommy Moorhouse injured/released, the depth of the Kingstonian squad was fully tested. Jon Coke continued to fill in at the back whilst Paul Wetherall was given a central midfield berth. Mark Jones, away from the club for two and half years, made a return to the bench, where he was joined by 45 year old assistant manager Stuart McIntyre.

Absent from the Dover lineup were recently departed veteran goalkeeper Paul Hyde and injured frontman Jimmy Dryden. Craig Cloke, central to three of the goals scored at Kingsmeadow just over a month earlier, was once again a central figure in the Whites' defence.

The atmosphere was lively in a seemingly large crowd, though the early action on the pitch certainly failed to match. Both sides adopted a cautious approach to the opening ten minutes as they attempted to feel their way into the game.

Mazin Ahmad, in his attempts to retrieve a ball out on the left wing, fouled his opponent and in early frustration smashed the ball against the hoardings. Whilst referee Greg Smith was cautioning the mercurial winger, Kenny Ojukwa was sent from the bench to warm up. Ahmad was replaced within two minutes as manager Ian McDonald weighed up the situation.

With the game in danger of not serving up another single moment of interest in the opening half hour, an errant goal kick from Alan Hughes flew high into the Dover sky and caught out Steve Symes; the left full back adjudged to have handled as he controlled the bouncing ball. The free kick was well delivered by Anthony Hogg, leaving Craig Wilkins to rise above the crowd and place his header neatly inside the near post to open the scoring.

Kingstonian's immediate response was to deliver a dangerous high ball across the box which was just about flicked away from the stride of James Rose - maybe with the use of an arm, the striker and away support suggested. The ensuing corner saw Rose plant a solid header down the middle of the goal but Darren Smith showed a good pair of hands with his first save of the game.

A one-man team
Photo: Neil Harvey

Although the home side dominated the proceedings in the first half, K's again showed that they possessed a threat when Richard Taylor cut an incisive pass through for Kenny Ojukwa to pounce upon. Just as the striker was to set himself for a clean strike on goal, however, Craig Cloke slid in with a fine sliding tackle to avert the danger.

After a first half producing just the single effort on goal by each side, the second period soon warmed up into a frenetic affair, and the early chances fell to the home side.

Tommy Tyne's persistence down the left almost paid off when this cross was half cleared to Anthony Hogg who just missed the target with an excellent overhead effort. Hogg followed up with a free kick which Alan Hughes failed to hold in the K's goal, but Jon Coke was on hand to clear the danger.

Yet with twenty minutes gone in the half, a whipped Stuart Booth free kick from the left touchline had a combination of Cloke and Wilkins back-peddling onto their line to head away from underneath the crossbar. The ball came straight back for Charley Side to confidently poke home through a crowd of players. Despite the best efforts of the announcer to award the goal to possibly the only K's player in his own half - Steve Symes - there was no doubting the finish and Side's goal.

As in the first half, the goal almost prompted an immediate response from the opposition. Danny Chapman struck from forty yards with venom; Alan Hughes tipped over.

Despite Chapman's effort, the equaliser signalled a marked change in the feel of the game, as the confidence clearly sapped from the home side and K's charged forward with increasing purpose.

Stuart Booth sprayed a throughball across to James Rose, yet whilst the striker got a good touch on the ball, it was not quite enough to set him clean through on goal.

Stuart Booth and Daniel Braithwaite
Photo: Neil Harvey

Long throws - a feature of the two games between the sides this season - were to cause problems for the Dover defence as Richard Taylor's deliveries saw Side strike over and Ojukwa head wide from inside the box.

A winning goal seemed on the cards in the final ten minutes. Paul Wetherall battled his way down the middle to set Ojukwa off towards goal down the right channel. A combination of a heavy first touch and the angle seemed to unbalance him however, as the shot flew high and wide.

Substitute Tony Reid pounced on an error from Chapman in the middle of the park before laying off to Ojukwa down the left. The return ball across the box seemed perfect as Reid pulled the trigger, only for Tony Browne to get a desperate deflection as he flung himself at the striker's feet to send the ball spinning just over the crossbar.

Having been denied in their quest for a winner, Kingstonian were penned back in the final five minutes, plus injury time, as their hosts threw forward everything that they could muster. Alan Hughes and his defence held firm though to claim a well-earned point following the frantic finish.

Despite their indifferent recent form, Dover remains a hard place to visit, particularly with so many players missing. And the signs may have been ominous after conceding in a flat first half, but the K's battled through a tough challenge and proved themselves more than the equals of their opponents in an efficient second half performance.

Tue 14th Mar 2006
The Crabble
Isthmian League Division One
Dover Athletic1
1Alan Hughes
2Steve Potterill
3Steve Symes
4Jon Coke
5Stuart Booth
6Richard TaylorCautioned
7Mazin AhmadCautioned14
8Paul Wetherall
9James Rose
10Charley Side12
11Scott Corbett
12Tony Reid10
14Kenny Ojukwa7
15Mark Jones
16Stuart McIntyre
17Jonty Venter
Match Report By
Ali Kazemi