Wrexham's return to action is a huge game for both sides. The Dragons find themselves having slid down to 16th place after playing just one league game in the last month, but also only 3 points off a play-off place with games in hand on 7 of the 15 teams above them.
Nobody has as many games to make up as Dover though. They've played just 11 games this season, and are marooned at the bottom of the table, 8 points shy of safety. Both teams will be desperate for the three points. Athletic showed great heart on Tuesday though, halting Boreham Wood's 4-game winning streak in a gutsy 1-1 home draw despite having one player suspended and another 6 in isolation.
The point was not just a reward for a fighting performance: it also brought to an end a worrying sequence of results for Dover. They'd lost their previous 5 games and hadn't equalised since their last win, a 3-2 victory over Eastleigh in late October.
Get ready for the game by listening to "The Lowdown" our scouting podcast on Dover Athletic.
In total they've won 2 games this season: a 1-0 win over Notts County in their first game of the season was their other victory and the only clean sheet they've kept in their last 19 matches.
They've struggled away from home too: 7 of their last 8 away games have ended in defeat, and the other saw them go out of the FA Cup on penalties at Yeovil. Overall in 2021 they've won 1 away game, drawn two and lost 9, scoring 9 and conceding 27.
DOVER LINE-UP IN LAST MATCH
Jordan Davies v Thomas-James Bramble
Dover's line-up is hard to predict as players are gradually fed back into their side following isolation. Should they retain Thomas-James Bramble as a right wing-back, though, then we're due to enjoy a fascinating duel between two of the most exciting young players in the division.
Bramble isn't a right wing-back by trade, but forced into the position on Tuesday against Boreham WOod, he showed terrific energy. One minute he was dropping in alongside his centre-backs, the next he was popping up in the opposing penalty area. He really was non-stop, and was rewarded when a fine run into the box on the blind side saw him score the first goal of his senior career.
He isn't a specialist, though, and Davies has been extremely impressive since he switched to left wing-back. He can beat a man and deliver with quality. Can Bramble keep him under control?
It's commonly said that when two sides play with three at the back you can judge who's on top by which side's wing-backs are forcing their counterparts into their own half. If that's true, keep an eye on where this duel takes place.
HEAD TO HEAD
We have a horrible record against Dover Athletic, so this would be a perfect place to start turning that around.
We’ve only beaten Athletic once in 11 meetings, and haven’t beaten them in 5 games at The Racecourse. The longest unbeaten run we’ve enjoyed against The Whites is a mere two games, and we’ve only managed to hit the net five times in 990 minutes. We’ve never scored twice against them in a game, and Mike Fondop, Jay Harris, Mark Harris, Connor Jennings and Jordan White are the only Wrexham players to beat their keeper.
Jay Harris’ goal was our first against Athletic. It came in their first game at The Racecourse, in March 2015, just two days after our FA Trophy Final defeat to North Ferriby. Carl Darlington had been appointed caretaker manager the day before, and Harris’ clean strike from the edge of the box gave us the lead at the break. However, we conceded an equaliser after an hour to draw the match and might have lost had Andy Coughlin not saved a second half penalty.
Remarkably, that’s the only goal we’ve scored at home against Dover: they’ve kept four clean sheets since then, and we haven’t hit the net at home against them in 412 minutes.
Dover’s next visit to The Racecourse was in March 2016. By this point the early promise of Gary Mills’ first season was petering out, and any lingering hopes of reaching the play-offs were extinguished when Ricky Modeste scored the winner in the second half.
The following season began with a goalless draw at The Racecourse; indeed, we seem to do better against Dover on the opening day of the campaign, as our one win against them was a 1-0 victory at The Crabble in the first match of the 2018-19 season.
We also drew 0-0 in December 2017, as Dean Keates’ side dominated Athletic but were thwarted by a concerted defensive effort.
Last season’s home game with Dover never took place as the campaign ended early, and the season before they severely damaged our promotion hopes at The Racecourse. The match was a well-balanced, grim battle which turned on a second half substitution. Athletic brought on a left winger who gave Kevin Roberts a torrid time, and cut in from the flank to score the winner with two minutes left. His name? Anthony Jeffrey! Wonder what he’s up to now.
That result has a significant effect on our season. Graham Barrow’s reign as Wrexham manager has started spectacularly with fine home wins over promotion contenders Salford City and Solihull Moors. The defeat to Dover, coming after losing at Salford, set off a catastrophic run of form: five consecutive defeats hit our promotion hopes hard and Barrow walked at the end of the month.
In a season which saw us finish just 4 points off the top of the table and 1 point behind an automatic play-off semi-final place, that run of defeats was decisively damaging.
Anthony Jeffrey will mark his first game against his old team by making the 150th league appearance of his career. With a peculiar symmetry, he’s made 74 starts and played 75 times off the bench.
Also, Luke Young plays in his 325th career league game.