Saturday, 29 January 2011

Dover Athletic

21 November 2009
Dover Athletic 3  Dartford 2
FA Trophy, Third Qualifying Round
Attendance: 1,084
View all photographs (39)

Dover is a very ancient town and so has many ancient names. Crabble derives from Crab Hole - a hole in which crabs are found. Old English: crabba hol (Thanks to Martin Shaw for this information). Crabble Athletic Ground itself is set into the side of a hill at River, on the outskirts of Dover itself and in this respect is quite an impressive venue. The presence of the Directors’ lounge on top of the main stand, above the press box below, also lends an additional bit of the character to the ground.

The now defunct Dover FC moved up to the current pitch in 1951, necessitating an uphill walk from spectators from the car park below. The bottom pitch is used solely for rugby and cricket these days, but saw football from 1897, when the first Dover club was playing in the Kent League.

The ‘professional’ Dover FC (semi-pro by todays standards, ie. not amateur) was formed in 1947 and an application was made for a grandstand on the south side of the top pitch. The application was turned down, but in October 1950 the club secured funding to extend the existing stand that already stood on the opposite touchline, having been built by the Army shortly after WW2. In April the following year, Dover moved up to the top pitch for good. It was an expensive move, with the Football Club paying the Town Council £300 per annum; whilst the rugby club on the bottom pitch were charged twenty-five shillings (£1.25) a match!

The new extended grandstand was officially opened on 25 August 1951. The following year the Supporters’ Association announced plans to provide covered terracing at the Town End of the ground (to the left if viewed from the turnstiles), where there was previously just the steep incline of the slope behind. Floodlights were also in place by this time. The 1,000 seat stand offers a decent enough view, but like the covered terraces at either end of the ground (see below), this is impeded by the numerous supporting columns.

In 1983 Dover FC folded with massive debts, and was replaced by the new Dover Athletic FC. The new club took the place of its predecessor in the Southern section of the Southern League, and gained promotion to the Premier Division at the end of the 1987/88 season. After finishing sixth in their first season, the club finished as champions in 1989/90 but were unable to take their place in the Conference due to the required ground improvements not having been completed by the May 1990 deadline. In 1992/93 the club again won the Premier Division and by this time were in a position to move up the Pyramid. New turnstiles had been built, and two new identical covered terraces had been erected at either end of the ground. In addition the seats in the main stand were all replaced, and a second 250 seat stand - The Family Stand - built at the Town End of the south touchline.

This was a cracking all-Kent derby in the FA Trophy. With both clubs going well Conference South and Ryman Premier Divisions respectively, and coupled with the added spice of a cup tie, over a thousand spectators converged on Dover's Crabble ground. They weren't disappointed as the two teams produced a thoroughly entertaining game.

Despite having home advantage and League status in their favour Dover (in white) had lost five of their previous six matches coming into the tie. However, they settled any early nerves when Adam Birchall gave them the lead on 7 minutes. Dartford however, encouraged by a vocal away following, came back and stunned their hosts to take a 2-1 lead through Jay May (27 min) and Danny Harris (34 min). Crucially Dover were then awarded a penalty three minutes later, which Frannie Collin coolly converted.

The second half brought only one further goal but no shortage of action. Dartford were handed a man advantage on the hour when Dover's Yado Mambo received a second yellow card and his marching orders. However it was the home side who made the all-important breakthrough when Nicky Southall made it 3-2 on 69 mins.

Dartford threw everything at Dover in the final stages but despite some desperate defending at times, the Conference side held firm to move into the first round proper of the competition.

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