A drab afternoon was mirrored on the pitch as Town stuttered to defeat to concede the League double to a functional yet unremarkable Dover outfit sitting one place above them in the table. It was hardly a fitting spectacle for the Peacocks of yesteryear attending the Former Players’ Day as a single second half goal for the visitors continued the slump in recent home form.
After Tuesday’s recovery to gain a point against promotion-chasing Oxford City, the Peacocks were forced into a goalkeeping change, with club stalwart Lloyd Irish flying back from Newcastle to replace loanee Jack Bycroft who had been injured during training while Joe Guest came in for Cam Evans. However, any anticipation that the hosts could carry on from where they left off in midweek soon faded away. The opening exchanges were as appealing as the grey skies overhead before Town won the first corner of the game after 12 minutes which proved fruitless. Irish then did well to claim the ball at the other end ahead of Alfie Paxman who had looked to follow up on his first blocked attempt.
Both keepers only had to make one real stop during the dullness of the opening 45 minutes and they both came within a minute of each other. Firstly Lee Lucas won the ball to feed Dylan Morgan whose shot was safely pouched by Stuart Nelson on 25 minutes before Dover broke away for Jordan Higgs to find Irish with a similar strike. Despite Town winning several corners and set pieces, the Whites defended them all solidly while posing little threat at the other end although they did conclude the first half with another effort, Dover skipper Lee Martin curling a free kick wide after he had been fouled by Lucas.
The Kent side looked the more purposeful when play resumed after the interval. Right back Myles Judd advanced to post a 20 yard strike which Irish palmed wide before they grabbed what proved to be the only goal of the afternoon after 56 minutes. Their new winger Brandon Pierrick broke away down the right flank, his cross found George Nikaj who laid the ball back for Higgs to fire home into the net. An immediate double substitution followed for the home side, with Ollie Chamberlain and Evans replacing Lucas and Guest. Town briefly fluttered when Zac Smith got the better of his man on the right but could only find Nelson with a cross while Morgan charged down a clearance to deliver a tame shot which was easily held by Nelson who had little to do otherwise.
Ross Stearn took over from Dave Sims-Burgess just past the hour as the Peacocks attempted to restore parity. They came close when Morgan found Chamberlain whose strike whistled narrowly wide but all too often any promise inside the box broke down, a prime example being when Chamberlain’s cross reached Nick McCootie who wanted an extra touch and the ball was cleared as far as Jay Foulston whose shot was blocked. All very frustrating.
Jake Wannell had another effort blocked as chances remained sparse. That is until ten minutes from time when Morgan made ground down the left before cutting the ball back to McCootie in the middle . However, he sliced his effort wide of the inviting target and Dover breathed again. The visitors were able to negotiate the remainder of the game without any real concerns whilst not seriously looking like adding to their lead. Josh Ajayi sped away but was unable to set up Nikaj thanks to Chamberlain’s fine challenge while Irish clawed down Ajayi’s shot to hold at the second attempt.
Dover had a second goal disallowed for offside as the game entered six minutes of stoppage time but there was to be no repeat of the Oxford heroics. In fact it was the Whites who nearly snatched another when Nikaj broke through, only to be denied by Irish who was the only real bright spark and fully merited the Man Of The Match award. Noah Carney planted the rebound into the trees while any last hopes the Peacocks had evaporated when Morgan sent a cross over the bar.
A fortress since August 2021, the Cygnet Health Care Stadium is now starting to suffer breaches by the enemy. Only one win from the last seven home matches and with only four goals scored tells its own story and the Peacocks will want to address those statistics quickly to stop the rot.
Taunton: Lloyd Irish, Jay Foulston, Nick Grimes (captain), Jake Wannell, Lloyd James, Nick McCootie, Joe Guest (Ollie Chamberlain 56), Zac Smith, Dave Sims-Burgess (Ross Stearn 62), Dylan Morgan, Lee Lucas (Cameron Evans 56). Unused subs: Dan Ball, Nat Jarvis
Dover: Stuart Nelson, Myles Judd, Alfie Paxman, Jake Goodman, Jordan Higgs (Luke Baptiste 71), Lee Martin (captain), Tyrone Sterling, George Nikaj, Freddie Oliver, Joshua Ajayi (Will Moses 89), Brandon Pierrick (Noah Carney 74). Unused subs: Mitch Brundle, Kieron Agbebi
Referee: Liam Corbett (Dudley)
Referee’s Assistant 1: George Enever (Gloucester)
Referee’s Assistant 2: Nathaneal Wormleighton (Cheltenham)
“Pretty disappointed that we didn’t do what we’re good at and we need to show some character…….” watch Rob Dray’s Match Reaction on Peacocks TV HERE
Match Highlights can be seen on Peacocks TV HERE
Mind In Somerset MOM
Lloyd Irish receives the Taunton Town Man Of The Match award from Goalkeeping Coach Connor Sidley-Adams