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Match Previews

PREVIEW| Wrexham v Dover Athletic

Dover are down, but Wrexham can't afford a slip.

25 March 2022

Wrexham's run of home games continues against a side which is already relegated, which makes the requirement for ruthlessness more important than ever.

The spectacular performance on Tuesday against Halifax kicked off a remarkable sequence of seven home games on the spin. Wrexham need to take advantage of those matches, and the 3-1 win over Halifax was the perfect start.

The Red Dragons didn't seem to pick up any new injuries in midweek, and Jordan Davies completed more minutes than expected. Furthermore, the strike partnership of Paul Mullin and Ollie Palmer continued to be potent: at least one of them has scored in four of the five games since Mullin returned from suspension, and on three of those occasions both of them hit the net.

Phil Parkinson's side will not need to be told the importance of cashing in on their upcoming home games, and this is a match in which they quite simply can't afford to slip up. Chesterfield and Solihull Moors are the only promotion-chasing teams to have dropped points against today's opponents, and none of Wrexham's rivals have failed to beat them at home. Ruthlessness is compulsory in a game like this.

Dover suffered relegation last weekend after a 2-0 home defeat against Yeovil Town. In truth, it was always likely that their eight-year spell in the fifth tier would end this season after they were handed a 12-point penalty last summer for failing to complete their 2020/21 fixtures.

Manager Andy Hessenthaler was philosophical when he spoke to Kent Online after the defeat:

“It’s a sad day, obviously, going out of the division.

“But it would have been a sadder day if there wasn’t going to be a football club here next season.

“The one thing there will be is a football club next season, competing in National League South at a level they will be able to compete at.”

At least the experienced Hessenthaler knows that he will be able to bring stability to the club after chairman Jim Parmenter confirmed to Kent Online that he'd be in charge next season.

The performance against The Glovers was poor, although a number of players were absent through injury. Athletic's performance in their previous match was a very different affair, and showed why they need to be respected despite their results this season.

They took the lead at Halifax Town, holding that advantage for half an hour before The Shaymen were able to fight back. It looked like they might hold on for an admirable point, but Halifax were able to grab a winner with 20 minutes left.

Still, even the most ardent Dover fan couldn't deny that this has been a horrible season for the Whites. They've lost their last four games and have earned one point from the last 24. They've won just one game all season, in late January at home to Eastleigh.

For their last win on the road you have to go back to February 1, 2020, when they were 2-0 victors at Stockport County, 28 away games ago. 

EARLIER THIS SEASON...

Jordan Davies' injury time corner somehow made its way into the net to earn Wrexham a dramatic win at The Crabble.

HEAD TO HEAD

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Last season’s home match against Dover Athletic was the game that never was. We met in January 2021, but Dover’s subsequent withdrawal from the National League meant the game was rendered null and void.

It didn’t really matter in the great scheme of things, as everyone else lost the points they’d accumulated against Dover as well as us. However, it did lead to a couple of peculiar situations.

Thankfully, nobody was injured during the game, but Jay Harris wasn’t so lucky. Although the result and scorers were expunged from the record, the bookings collected against the Whites still counted.

Four Wrexham players received yellow cards from the zealous referee, and Harris ended up receiving a two-match suspension for accumulating too many bookings. He missed the home defeat to Stockport and the away win at Halifax, and didn’t get a yellow in the rest of the season, so he would have avoided a ban if it hadn’t been for that Dover booking.

Jordan Davies also had to tread carefully, and avoided a suspension by just one yellow card, having also picked one up against Dover.

Less significantly, annulling that match meant that Fiacre Kelleher’s only goal for Wrexham never happened, while Reece Hall-Johnson and Luke Young each lost a goal from their seasonal totals.

A weird quirk from that match is that Paul Rutherford passed a milestone twice! He made his 525th career appearance as an injury time substitute against Dover, but then the match was expunged from the records, so he made his 525th appearance again at Chesterfield a week later! He ended his Wrexham career having made 199 appearances for Wrexham, so sadly the Dover annulment meant he didn’t become the 60th player to play 200 games for Wrexham.

That “match” was unusual because it featured four goals, and also because Wrexham won! Generally, matches between the two sides are drab, low-scoring affairs with Athletic more likely to come out on top.

We still haven’t beaten Dover in five attempts at home, and only one of those games featured more than one goal. That was our first home game against them, a mid-week match which was played straight after our disastrous defeat at Wembley to North Ferriby in the final of the FA Trophy.

That result cost Kevin Wilkin his job, so Carl Darlington took over the hot seat, and Jay Harris gave us a first half lead with a fine strike from the edge of the area. However, Athletic came back to claim a point, and we’re still waiting for our second goal at home to them seven years later! That’s 412 minutes at home without scoring!

The next season saw them return from North Wales with a 1-0 win, and the subsequent two games were goalless draws.

The well-drilled man-to-man system Athletic manager Chris Kinnear organised meant Wrexham were smothered in both matches. The first of those games, on the opening day of the 2016-17 season, was a sign of the struggles to come as Gary Mills' side couldn't make inroads into the visiting defence, while at least the stalemate in the following campaign propelled us to second in the table against a promotion rival.

As last season’s game doesn’t count, and the home fixture from the season before couldn’t be played because the season was suspended due to COVID-19, Dover’s most recent legitimate match in Wrexham was in January 2019.

The game was decided by a goal two minutes from the end by future Wrexham man Anthony Jeffrey, who came off the bench to torment Kevin Roberts before striking the winner.

POTENTIAL MILESTONES

Christian Dibble's 50th league appearance for Wrexham.

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Jordan Ponticelli's 100th career appearance.


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