Dover Athletic (0) 0 Bath City (0) 0 – Saturday 16 December 2023 – Vanarama National League South – Crabble Stadium

Dover Athletic (0) 0 Bath City (0) 0 – Saturday 16 December 2023 – Vanarama National League South – Crabble Stadium

Match Report by Mark Stillman.

Dover Athletic and Bath City played out a second goalless draw in two seasons in an uneventful affair at Crabble.

It was Dover’s first clean sheet since April and a point on the board for new manager Jake Leberl, whose back five stifled the Romans.

Charlie Naylor hit the bar for the hosts early on and Ewan Clark went close twice in the first half for Bath.

The second saw City look the more threatening, but they failed to find past a packed defence, resulting in a third successive away draw.

Scott Wilson was recalled for Tom Smith as City reverted to a 4-4-2 formation, while Dover made five alterations from Mitch Brundle’s final game in charge a fortnight ago, including debuts for on-loan goalkeeper David Aziaya and centre-back Scott Holding. Their entire starting XI was different from the previous meeting in Kent between the teams in February.

Heading into the game, the hosts had no home win in the league since February and only one National League South victory all season, that back in August, but there appeared to be an added spirit in a side keen to impress a new boss.

The recalled George Nikaj hooked a useful early ball over the top for Zidan Sutherland who escaped Joe Raynes but was swiftly thwarted by Will Buse at the expense of a corner.

George Wilkinson’s resulting delivery was cleverly flicked on at the near post by Nikaj for the onrushing Naylor, but he headed against the crossbar from six yards with Jacob Mensah unable to convert the rebound.

Naylor and Luke Russe needed treatment having accidentally clashed heads in that chance and both continued bravely with extensive bandages required.

Clark had City’s first clear chance midway through the half. Cody Cooke and Wilson linked up well down the right, the latter’s low centre was ideal for the onrushing Clark but he shot too close to Aziaya with Mensah hacking the loose ball from near the line.

The hard-working Wilson saw his stinging effort from 20 yards easily gathered by Aziaya.

Dover were denied an opener on 41 minutes when Wilkinson’s superb defence-splitting pass was calmly curled in by Sutherland, but an offside flag cut short any celebrations.

In first half added time some fancy footwork by Jordan Thomas preceded a whipped cross to the back post which Clark controlled but shot too close to Aziaya.

The second half saw chances at a premium. While Dover’s front three worked hard they lacked any star quality, not helped by feeding off scraps as the surface made flowing football tricky and hopeful balls frequent forward from the hosts.

City brought on Smith for Thomas on 65 minutes and he came close to breaking the deadlock with a low free-kick which flew just wide of Aziaya’s right post.

Cooke’s glancing header fell wide and Wilson shot over on the turn after a lively first involvement for substitute Oscar Thorne.

However that was the closest City came as they dropped out of the play-off places for the first time since August. They’ll be looking to head back up the table again this weekend when they take on another relegation-threatened outfit in Welling United.

Att: 506

City’s Line-Up: Buse, Raynes, Greenslade, Dyer, Parselle (c), Clark (Thorn 80), Hayfield, Cooke, Thomas (Smith 65), Wilson, Russe. Subs not used: Batten, Frear, Lines.

Scorers: City – none; Dover – none

City Bookings: Greenslade (83), Thorn (86)

Officials: A Hursey, C Stobart, J Lamping