It’s not often we set off with the expectation of three points, but with Dover firmly rooted to the bottom of the league without a win, it seemed highly unlikely we’d be returning home with anything less than a victory. The optimism wasn’t just due to Dover’s current plight, with the quality of football being played by the Shaymen as good as anything some have seen since the early 1970s according to the Positive Shayman. At 7:30am we were off, full of energy, Tesco Pete had his favourite music on full volume, the windows were down, wake me up before you go go…
It’s always a gamble on the motorways heading south; with 290 miles ahead of us we had choices, it wasn’t about the M1 or the A1 or the traffic conditions, it was more about what was on offer at the possible breakfast stops. In the end, we gambled and headed for Peterborough. We had a great breakfast but ended up going dizzy on the multiple roundabouts at the bottom of the A1. The M11 was closed, if only we had gone to our usual Northampton stop, they had chips there too….
‘You need to put your phone down and hold on tightly to the handrail at the side,’ said the driver. ‘it’s a little difficult on the back seat going up this hill.’ With a sudden judder we were off, the plastic covered back seat of the golf buggy sending me sliding towards oblivion as I grabbed desperately for the handrail. I didn’t take the driver seriously until that point and it was almost too late. Imagine falling off the back of a golf buggy… It was a white-knuckle ride, but it avoided the walk up the steepest hill in football. The trip was only 50 yards, but the Clayton Shayman had a sponsor form it was that difficult.
Dover’s Crabble ground is set amongst the trees, carved out of the chalky hillside. The pitch slopes from side to side by around 10 foot. The decent sized covered terraces at either end of the pitch have been built with a spirit level and look incongruous alongside the pitch. The topside of the ground has about 10 rows of seating running the full length of the pitch, you can sit there for a small charge once inside the ground. The bottom side of the pitch has a club house by one corner flag and an impressive new stand and changing rooms towards the other. There’s nothing on the halfway line, just a gap where, if the ball goes out it’s likely to end up somewhere down the valley, or even in the town centre. You’d have to be a fit ball boy at this ground.
At half time the Shaymen were a goal up, scored early on, just moments after Dover almost took the lead. Without segregation we were at the home end but peering through the light drizzle as dusk fell, it looked like a decent chance for the home side at the far end. In truth, the Shaymen could have had more, a post was rattled and they had lots of possession.
The second half started more even with much of the early action at the far end, with nothing too serious but a few corners and long balls into the box. It seemed the three points we were expecting were guaranteed until Dover poked home an equaliser with around 15 minutes remaining. Dover looked a shadow of the team they had been in previous seasons and had hardly looked a threat. The crowd of just over 500 represented around half of their usual crowd from previous seasons too. It seems relegation is a formality given their points deduction, but the team gave it their all.
Soon after and the travelling 100 or so Shaymen were all smiles again; it took just three minutes to regain the lead and in the dying moments it became 3-1. It was a job well done against a team who had already taken points from games against Chesterfield and Solihull.
Driving back and it was soon quiet in the car. The usual suspects on the back seat had drifted asleep, their heads resting on each other’s shoulders. Tesco Pete was now playing some Spandau Ballet as he drifted too, do Saturday’s get any better than this?
Next up, its Torquay. Can’t wait.
Goals on the road 9, Miles 3640, C’mon Shaymen!
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