Down on the East coast of Kent there is a resurgence in a club that was in a very sorry state just over two months into the season.
On 6th October after a heavy home defeat to Salford City, Dover Athletic were only being held off the bottom of the National League by Braintree Town.
Long serving manager Chris Kinnear had been sacked for the second time the day before, paying the price for a poor start to the season despite having to rebuild his squad once again after the inevitable summer sales, after all success has the full timers looking for bargains.
Kinnear had worked wonders after leading the club to within points of last season play-offs, a solid campaign having once again re-built his squad after a play-off appearance in 2015-16 but this season has proved to be a bridge too far.
Changes immediately to the set-up of the club led to the appointment of Andy Hessenthaler also for a second time. No stranger to Kent nor the club, Hessenthaler with backing from the chairman Jim Parmeter, moved the club to full time status and daytime training.
Inevitably it led to some players being unable to commit and moving away, with new signings made to lift the club from the doldrums, notably Stuart Lewis and Lee Worgan from local rivals Maidstone Utd and striker Alfie Pavey from Havant & Waterlooville.
It’s no secret that Dover at times struggle to attract players given their proximity to the English Channel and in the past the club have trained further into Kent to enable the squad to come together more easily.
The club does attract a healthy support for this level, averaging around 1000 home supporters which puts them in a comfortable mid-table position.
Hessenthaler was already moving Eastleigh in the right direction after others had failed to get the Hampshire outfit into the play-offs with a bigger budget. Once Parmeter came calling, the lure of a job closer to home in the same division became a no brainer despite leaving a club just outside the play-offs.
Since his appointment Hessenthaler and his coaching staff have picked up 14 points from 9 games after the team had picked up just 7 points from the first 15 games and are now only two points away from getting out of the drop zone as the season heads into the busy holiday period with the Whites on a four match unbeaten run, their best of the season so far.
Facing fellow strugglers and Kent rivals Maidstone twice over the holiday period, coupled with games against Barnet and Leyton Orient, six points from twelve could potentially see 2019 start with Dover outside of the relegation zone for the first time since early August.
While it would a momentous run to make the play-offs this season, it’s fair to say the Whites will be happy maintaining their National League status which certainly looked like it was in jeopardy earlier in the season.
Written by Trevor Knell
Follow Trevor on Twitter @trevk37
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