Bath City make their longest National League South journey of the season this Saturday as they make the 400-mile round trip to Dover Athletic.
Dover sacked manager Mitch Brundle on 5 December, one day after his 29th birthday. The rookie boss, who had spent just under a year in charge in trying circumstances, saw the Whites avoid relegation on the final day on goal difference. A late season collapse of nine defeats in 11 saw them fall from mid-table mediocrity to staying up by the skin of their teeth. Weymouth overcame them in the final game but Dulwich’s defeat at home to Chippenham saw Dover stay up by two goals.
Following a difficult summer where two assistant managers resigned and a couple of players departed without playing a first team game, the Kent outfit picked up surprising four points from their opening two matches. They haven’t won a league game since, drawing eight and losing 11 since an August success at Slough meaning it’s 19 without victory in National League South. They haven’t won at home in division since 28 February against Havant & Waterlooville, a week before City drew 0-0 at Crabble. Since that goalless fixture (the Whites’ fourth clean sheet in a row), Dover’s only shutout since was a 0-0 with Welling in April. They’ve not stopped the opposition netting in 30 league and cup games since. Goalkeeper Billy Terrell has cut his loan short from Bournemouth with David Aziaya set to make his debut between the sticks. Defender Scott Holding has also arrived for the month from Watford.
A 4-3 loss at Havant, the only side below Dover in the league, saw Brundle dismissed and replaced by Jake Leberl. The former Whites centre-back was previously assistant to their most successful manager Chris Kinnear had only just arrived as Brundle’s number two. Mike Sandmann will also form the management team, the academy boss has overseen several graduates into the firsts. His first game in charge will be this weekend after the long trip to Truro was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. Leberl’s arrival also means that City boss Jerry Gill will face a different opposition boss in all three of his meetings with Dover. The match will be the City chief’s 288th in charge, overtaking Tony Ricketts.
His side didn’t pick up any injuries in their win over Boreham Wood last Saturday. While City are one from a half century of goals this season in all competitions, Two City players are closing in on that tally alone – Tom Smith (48) and Cody Cooke (47) will be hoping to edge nearer that total. The Romans failed to net in both meetings with Dover last year, losing 1-0 at home and the 0-0 in Kent described earlier. September’s clash ended 2-2 as City came back from 2-0 down thanks to goals from Jordan Thomas and Scott Wilson. Athletic had Peter Ojemen sent off for two yellows late on.
This will be the 31st meeting with the latest incarnation of Dover Athletic, who were formed in 1983. There’s little between the clubs – City have 10 wins, Dover 11 with nine draws. City’s last win at Crabble was in October 2011, an FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round success thanks to Andy Gallinagh’s finish early in the second half. Their last league success at the venue was November 1993, ending the hosts’ two-and-a-half year unbeaten home stretch. Gill started in a 3-0 success.
There will be no supporters coach for this trip but Bath City Radio will be relaying the action. Tune in if you can’t make the trip!