Today’s fixture pitted 1st placed, still unbeaten, Dover Athletic against 2nd in the table, of recent good form, Chatham Town, in a well anticipated Top of the table clash.

These two teams meet on the opening day of the season with Dover drawing first blood in a 6-1 victory, Chatham were hoping to put that behind them and gain some retribution of their own.

The weather at the Tilmanstone ground was poor, however, it seemed to be holding off from tipping it down until just after the match, with the odd shower in between.

Dover changed shape/formation and personnel, expecting a physical game in slightly bogey conditions. Charlie Corrigan came back into the line up to make a three man strong central bank across midfield accompanied by Ethan Challinor and Liam Jones, inform Ben Cassingena found himself on the bench, Dover sacrificing the advanced attacking option for a more conservative system. League top goal scorer Jack Gealer came back to the starting line-up for this one.

First half – the opening 30 minutes was quite an even affair, with Dover edging the possession and probing attacking phase stats, creating three goal scoring opportunities while Chatham were pinned back looking for route one counter attacks upon transition. The next 10 minutes saw both sides looking to create resulting in a series of corners, Dover having more success in terms of the quality of delivery.

On 43 minutes Liam Middleton found a great pocket of space, having floated out wide into the left wing position, he took on his man and fired a piledriver towards the far post, the speed of the shot carrying the ball past several defenders and GK nestling into the bottom right corner from 25 yards, great finish. On 45 Minutes a beautifully crafted corner kick from Left Back Owen Stewart, found the Chatham GK scrambling for positon at his far post, a magnificent left footed curling shot into the top far corner gave Dover a deserved 2-0 lead going into the interval.

Second half – Dover re-entering the field of play, full of confidence and hungry for more goals, with Chatham the victim of an onslaught. On 55 minutes Jack Gealer found himself in the box firing home low and hard from close range. Almost immediately from the kick off a Chatham break away caught the Dover side in a rear moment of lack of concentration, the Chatham Striker finishing with style into the roof of the net. On 65 minutes a great over the top central ball from midfield into the path of Athletic striker Cody Allcock, who was always destined to get to the ball first, having done so the Chatham defender made contact inside the box where Allcock had gone to ground as a result of a reckless challenge. Allcock slotting the ball home from the spot into the bottom right leaving the GK no chance, even though he did guess the correct way. On 70 Minutes winger Alfie Bryant broke into the box firing his effort in the net for Dover’s 5th. On 72 Minutes substitute central midfielder Harry Andrews stepped up to slot the ball home from inside the area, with a well taken finish after some very good out of possession work creating the turn over seconds earlier.

On 75 minutes Liam Middleton got his second of the game and Dover’s 7th of the day, a great ball into Middleton’s feet from the left wing,  saw the Prolific striker take on two men and place the ball into the far bottom left corner from 16 yards. On 80 Minutes it was that man again, Liam Middleton completing his second hat-rick (that’s two in two games) with another well placed finish. On 85 minutes, after some fantastic link up play in midfield, Cassingena slotted a great pass in between two defenders for Alfie Bryant to arch his run from wide left with a first time finish from just outside the box into the top right hand corner. The scoring was concluded on 87 minutes when Ben Cassingena, creator turned goal soccer got on the end of a very well worked phase initiated from the right wing, smashed the ball home from 8 yards to make the final score Dover Athletic 10 – 1 Chatham.

Managers Comments:
We were expecting a battle today, of which Chatham for the first 30 minutes delivered, however, once the opener had been scored, Chatham begun to lose concentration, which played right into our hands, we then proceeded to open them up at will, all over the field from the 43rd Minute until the end whistle.

I was not happy with the goal conceded as we seemed to have switched off momentarily, we are better than that. However, regardless of the end score line, at this level if you switch off for even a few seconds you will be punished, full credit to Chatham they saw an opportunity and went for it.
I was very pleased with Liam Middleton scoring his second hat-rick in as many games, which takes his tally to 11 in the league this season so far, great to see Jack Gealer grab another taking his tally to 15, there were also two unbelievable strikes from Alfie Bryant’s second goal and Owen Stewart corner kick. GK, Owen Harman played with absolute professionalism and confidence, looking better and better with every game. Nice to also see the first years contribution in Josh Fordham, Finaly Fletcher and Harry Andrews who all put in solid performances, but my most pleasing aspect has to be Joe Hunnisett’s deep deliveries carving up the Chatham defence from the Right full back position, he made a real difference and caused them untold problems when he came on. Like wise with Ethan Challinor spraying possession from left to right with a great deal of accuracy.

Todays man of the match goes to Liam Middleton for his endless work rate, his 3 goals as well a masterpiece in terms of skill/flair in 1v1’s.

Next week we are at home to Folkestone, where we will be working as hard as ever to ensure a clean sheet and 3 points are gained.

Chris Lynch