Dover Athletic 4-3 Marine
Dover and out as FA Trophy adventure ends in seven-goal thriller at Crabble...
Marine exited the Buildbase FA Trophy at the 2nd Round stage but not before giving high-fying National League side Dover Athletic an almighty scare at the Crabble Athletic Ground.
Manager Tommy Lawson made three changes to the side defeated at Ashton United last weekend as Adam Hughes, Michael Brewster, and new signing John McGrath replaced Peter Wylie, Liam Tongue and George Lomax, whilst another new signing, Tony Donaldson, was named among the substitutes.
In chilly and gloomy conditions on the Kent Riviera, and with the Mariners facing a club two divisions and 61 places above them in the non-league “pyramid”, the home side began as firm favourites to progress and were soon on the front foot as leading scorer Bird headed a yard over the crossbar.
The Yellows, as in the previous round of this competition at Chorley, soon found themselves behind. In the 6th minute a free-kick whipped in by Pinnock from the Dover left saw centre-back Essam's header palmed away at full-stretch by Martin Fearon. However from the resulting corner Bird won the initial header, and Richards' flick-on reached Parry whose back-header found the rigging to give Athletic the early advantage.
Despite having not scored in four league fixtures over the festive period the Mariners have been galvanised in this season's Trophy run, and sure enough it took a mere four minutes for them to restore early parity.
Skipper Danny Mitchley pinched possession in Dover territory as the homesters looked to break forward and fed Vinny Bailey who laid the ball back to John McGrath on the right-hand corner of the box. The former City of Liverpool winger cut inside and fired a goalbound shot which was deflected aerially to the back-post, but James Short's attempt to head the ball back into the danger area was curtailed as home custodian Walker flattened the left-back in his attempt to punch clear. Referee O'Donnell, whose performance throughout the afternoon could best be described as 'inconsistent", awarded the spot-kick and Mitchley stepped up to fire into the top-corner of the net from 12 yards to the delight of the sizeable travelling hordes from Crosby and beyond.
Having levelled matters, the Marine began to settle into a first half which was very evenly contested, Dover employing a direct aerial style of play and looking threatening at every set piece through the giant Bird, Essam, and Parry, whilst the Marine rearguard defended diligently with Mitchley and McGrath in particular looking a real attacking force.
The home side regained the lead just before the half-hour mark as left-back Ilesanmi was allowed to carry the ball 30 yards into Marine territory before delivering a pinpoint cross, Bird soaring to head home adroitly from 10 yards and give Fearon little chance.
Two minutes later and a half-cleared Dover corner saw Essam loft the ball back into the danger area, his cross reaching Bird who headed wide when well-placed 8 yards from goal.
Ilesanmi then looked to repeat his earlier trick, progressing unchallenged toward the Marine box before slipping the ball into Richards' feet, the midfielder turning to strike a low but rather tame shot straight at Fearon who held comfortably.
At the other end McGrath continued to look dangerous for the Yellows but despite a couple of promising runs the winger was unable to produce a telling end product.
The travelling Mariners were dealt a blow two minutes before the break as Lawson's men were reduced to ten. Contesting a ball midway inside the Dover half, Billy Smart's late, dangerous challenge on Parry saw the combative midfielder dismissed by referee O'Donnell to leave the Yellows well and truly up against it.
Dover sought to kill the game before the interval as firstly Bird's cross-shot from the right-hand side of the box dropped onto the roof of the net, before Gallifuoco skied a half-volley over the bar from the edge of the box as the half ended.
The home side sought to capitalise on their numerical advantage early in the second period, and the predicted one-way traffic began to materialise. A free-kick 30 yards from the Marine goal was whipped in by Dover skipper Brundle but Fearon was well-positioned to hold securely on the first bounce.
However the game looked to be up for the Yellows on 54 minutes as they conceded in disappointing fashion. Phil Baker's somewhat laboured attempt to clear allowed Richards to close and make a telling block, the striker holding off Baker's challenge to feed Pinnock on the right. Pinnock took a touch and stepped inside before curling a sumptuous left-footed finish beyond Fearon's despairing dive from 22 yards for the goal of the game.
It now looked as though the ten-men were bereft of wind in their sails, and Dover looked to add to their tally with every foray. Home midfielder Nortey's shot from distance was pushed away by Fearon low to his left as the ball skipped off the immaculate Crabble playing surface, before Gallifuoco's shot from the edge of the box saw the ball bend over Fearon's crossbar.
A rare sortie into the Dover half saw saw Mitchley felled from behind by Parry, the centre-back benefitting from Mr O'Donnell's inexplicable decision not to caution him. From the free-kick 25 yards out McGrath's left-footed effort carried straight through to Walker who held comfortably in a central position.
The impressive Athletic right-back Passley then fired wide from all of 25 yards, before the Mariners found a glimmer of home with 15 minutes remaining. Mitchley's sharp turn in the Dover area once again proved too quick for the lumbering Parry who stuck out a leg and brought the Yellows' leading scorer down. The arbiter pointed to the spot once more, and Mitchley defied Walker's best efforts with another precisely taken spot-kick in front of the travelling support.
A Dover corner from their right saw Essam's downward header clutched by Fearon on his goalline, but with eight minutes of the ninety remaining another Dover attack saw the homesters punish tiring Marine legs. Substitute Jeffery's low cross from the left-flank was only half-cleared as far as Brundle who clinically fired home from 15 yards to seemingly seal the Mariners' fate.
Incredibly however, the valiant Mariners refusing to accept defeat and the tireless Michael Brewster sought to single-handedly reduce the deficit once more. In the 87th minute Brewster pinched possession on half-way before surging toward the Dover box, the midfielder playing a neat one-two with substitute Tony Donaldson before beating Walker from an acute angle as his fiercely-struck finish nestled just inside the far post to set up a grandstand finish.
With three of the five added minutes having elapsed, the Yellows found one final opportunity to secure an unlikely but perhaps deserved replay. Mitchley was felled 25 yards from goal by, yes you've guessed it, Parry, but substitute Liam Tongue couldn't find one final moment of magic as his rather tame free-kick sailed straight through to Walker who had no trouble in holding securely.
As the Mariners pressed Dover created one final opportunity of their own, Jeffrey utilising his pace to beat the understandably fatigued Adam Hughes but his low shot was brilliantly parried low to his right by Fearon and cleared to safety.
However, time elapsed to bring Marine's Trophy run to an end, but with the Crosby club having given an incredible display of heart, resolve, and sheer character on an afternoon in which those in yellow defied the script time and again.
The Mariners now return to league action and will look to progress from their lowly position in the EvoStik Premier Division table. Their next fixture sees them make the relatively short trip to Derbyshire to face Mickleover Sports next Saturday, kick-off at 3pm.
Marine: Martin Fearon, Vincent Bailey (Tony Donaldson 83), Florian Da Silva (Liam Tongue 59), John McGrath (George Lomax 76), Billy Smart, James Short, Kenny Strickland, Adam Hughes, Danny Mitchley (c), Phil Baker, Michael Brewster.
Unused subs: Peter Wylie, Germano Mendes. Cautions: Brewster, Lomax. Sent Off: Smart.
Dover Athletic: Mitch Walker, Josh Passley, Femi Ilesanmi, Giancarlo Gallifuoco, Manny Parry, Connor Essam, Kane Richards (Anthony Jeffrey 77), Mitch Brundle (c), Mitch Pinnock (Kadell Daniel 60), Ryan Bird, Nortei Nortey (Liam Bellamy 76).
Unused subs: Loui Fazakerley, Chris Lewington. Cautions: Passley, Essam, Walker, Parry .
Goals: Dover Athletic; Parry (7), Bird (28), Pinnock (54), Brundle (82)
Marine; Mitchley (pen 10, 75), Brewster (87)
Referee: Mr Christopher O'Donnell
Assistants: Mr Paul Lister and Mr Scott Williams
4th Official: Mr James Hurst