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Sam Jones – @samuellejones
Of all the away days I’d been to in my life, Dover has always had a special place in my heart. But, like, the bad bit of the heart because its horrible. So it was safe to say that it wasn’t high on my list of away days to repeat. But I fulfilled my TT duty and went down to the South Coast, and the site of the lorry car park from November 1st 2019. I am very glad I did. The Gulls needed to respond after their 2-0 loss at home to Maidenhead midweek. It’s safe to say they did.
The first half was end-to-end stuff, but the final ball was lacking for both sides. The Gulls huffed and puffed but nothing really came of it. Dover looked the more likely to make the breakthrough, but didn’t really test debutant Covolan in the away goal. The Gulls looked dangerous when on the break, with Reid and the Lemon linking up well. The best chance came when some lovely interplay between the two of them resulted in Connor tamely curling it into home keeper Worgan’s arms.
With 40 minutes on the clock, Dover had the best chance of the half. A dangerous cross from the right was headed towards goal. The ball beat Covolan all ends up but the Yellows cleared it off the line. The half-time whistle blew, and the sides were all square.
Fortunately, the second half was a completely different story. Dover had the first chance, with Reason firing tamely at Covolan. From this, the Gulls broke. A long ball over the top was brought down by Evans. He was tackled by Lokko, who almost looped the ball over his own keeper, but it just flew wide.
The resulting corner was swung in by Andrews from the left. Hall met it, unmarked, 8 yards out and headed it low and hard into the back of the net. 1-0 to the Gulls, but the fun didn’t stop there.
Two minutes later and Torquay had their second. An inch perfect ball from Little, found Andrews on the left. He took it down, had a stare off with the defender and swung it in to the box. Reidy leapt like a salmon, and planted the ball in the top corner to double the lead. Think prime Tim Sills and you’ll get the picture.
For the next 30 mins, both sides tried to create chances. The Yellows came close through Reid and Andrews and the home side had their own chances, but nothing to trouble Covolan.
However, this all changed with 3 minutes to go. A dangerous Dover attack was met by Pavey who headed it towards goal. It looked from the opposite end of the ground that the ball had hit the bar, but apparently Hall had stopped it on the line with his hand. A red card for the skipper and a penalty to Dover, which was duly despatched by Effiong. 2-1 up, 3 minutes left in normal time and the Gulls had 10 men.
The rest of the match felt like an eternity as Dover piled on the pressure. However, a mixture of good defending and solid shithousery meant that they couldn’t find the equaliser they so craved.
A very good display from the Yellows who, under previous management, would have thrown it away. But not today as Gary Johnson and his band of merry men turned the infamous white cliffs, yellow.
Lucas Covolan – 8: A very solid debut from the Brazilian. More on him later.
Liam Davis – 8: Man of the match. See below.
Kyle Cameron – 7.5: Much improved from recent outings, rarely putting a foot wrong. Might have been slightly lucky to only have been booked for a high boot though.
Jean Yves Koue Niate – 7.5: Kept his recent good form up with another solid display. Dominant in the air and used the ball well.
Ben Wynter – 6: Bit of an off day for the right back. Struggled with their wingers and didn’t use the ball well. He’ll have better games.
Jake Andrews – 7.5: Worked his socks off, and linked up well with Evans and Reid. Two assists for one half of the blonde bombshells, his second in particular being delightful.
Asa Hall – 6.5: Best player on the park until the red, hence the lower score. Took his header superbly and his use of the ball was excellent. Big loss for the next 3 games.
Armani Little – 7.5: Looks like he has calmed down and started to play his natural game. Some lovely passing and movement in the middle of the park.
Kalvin Lumbombo-Kalala – 6.5: His work rate was phenomenal as he never stopped running, but needs to be braver taking on the fullback. Took a nasty knock in the first half but ran it off.
Connor Lemonheigh-Evans – 7.5: The other half of the blonde bombshell is such a classy player. I love watching him play. Linked up well with Reid and his Cruyff turns are almost orgasmic.
Jamie Reid – 7.5: Apart from scoring his first header in years, the number 19 was excellent. He’s becoming a very good all round striker.
Opi Edwards – 6: All effort, but its like his brain works too fast for his feet at times. Did humiliate their right back once though, which was funny.
Ruairi Keating – N/A: Not on the pitch long enough, but worked hard to preserve the lead.
Mo Touray – N/A: He is real after all! And I must say, his shithousery was excellent.
Man of the Match: Liam Davis
How I have missed watching Liam Davis play football. The left back was outstanding today, never missed a tackle and kept the dangerous Dover winger at bay. He looked a bit rusty going forward, which is expected, but was still brilliant. We are so much better with him on the pitch so lets hope he stays fit.
Connor Lemonheigh-Evans should not be playing at this level of football. He is so good on the ball, reads the game brilliantly and is such a threat going forward. He’ll be in the league next season, hopefully with us.
Jamie Reid showed again that he is cut out for this level. He took his goal brilliantly and was a constant thorn in Dover’s side. His link up with the Lemon is coming along nicely and will only get better as the season goes on. 3 goals in 5 games for the King of Park Lane.
It was the same old 4-4-1-1 that we’ve seen a few times this season. The only changes were Davis in for Vincent and Covolan in goal for Mac. We looked to get on the front foot and dominate the midfield through Hall and Little. Our high line was rarely tested, but we did catch them on the break a couple of times with good switches of play. Little, Evans and Andrews are some of the most technically gifted players in the league, meaning that we can play some great football at times.
Dover are a good side. They keep the ball well, have pace and skill out wide and will cause teams problems this season. Their centre backs were scarily quick when tracking back and the attacking trio of Reason, Munns and Pavey linked up well. They looked to get the ball wide and get the ball into the box early. Their best opportunities, and the goal, came from whipped crosses from out wide. They’ll be top half this season.
The ref had a decent enough game. Got most of the calls right, missed a few obvious ones and drew the ire of the home crowd. Maybe could’ve sent Cameron or Niate off earlier but didn’t see the handball so can’t comment on that. I have seen alot worse at this level.
Key moment: Half Time
I have no idea what our Gary said at half time, but it worked. We weren’t that bad in the first half, don’t get me wrong, but we were over playing a bit. In the first 15 minutes of the second half we were like wasps on a picnic. Hall scored, Reid scored, Andrews should’ve, Reid should’ve again…you get the picture. Dover couldn’t handle us and on another day we may have scored 4 or 5.
Player Spotlight: Lucas Covolan
I feel sorry for MacDonald, we all know how good he can be. But, he will really struggle to get back into the team based on the performance Lucas Covolan put in today. His handling was superb, catching or punching away everything that came his way and wasn’t scared to put his body on the line. His distribution was top class, like a non-league Alisson Becker without the beard, of course. Only thing to note is that his shot-stopping wasn’t really tested today but couldn’t have asked for a better debut.
Away Day Overview:
I’m not going to dwell on Dover or the Crabble. My feelings are very well documented on that. However, what I will comment on is the fact that there’s a bloody big hill to get to the ground. A man of my size has a buddha like figure to maintain, so I don’t like being tricked into doing exercise. The entry price of £18 was steep, and the £3 hot dog was nice but the pitch was weird. The grass was immaculate, but its on a massive slope to one side, which gave it a council pitch feel. A good day out, but not one I’d recommend in a hurry.
My last trip to Dover was during the ill-fated, and ultimately forgettable, 2017-2018 Owers debacle. We lost 1-0, had Romain, Healey and Kuhl sent off and the result pretty much confirmed our relegation to the National League South. Fast forward 18 months and Gary Johnson is our manager, we had just won the League and Wales were about to go Number 1 in the rugby union world rankings. So life was pretty good. I was hoping for a better day than last time, and boy did I get one.
For 87 minutes, the Gulls were excellent. They defended brilliantly, went forward with pace and vigour and took their chances with aplomb. The forwards are starting to click, and Liam Davis is back. The only downside is that Hall will be out for the next game, but Johnson has said they are thinking of appealing it.
Some might say we’re on our way, and I might agree with them. Roll on Aldershot next Saturday.
Aldershot (H) – Plainmoor, 5:20 KO – Live on BT Sport