Another point on the road for the Peacocks as they extended their undefeated run in the National League South to an impressive ten games and avoided defeat for the first time against a Dover club following four previous meetings. Equality was about right on an afternoon when Town recovered from conceding inside 20 minutes to lead at the interval before a second half free kick restored parity for the Kent side.
On an unseasonably warm day, the longest journey of the season on a coach with no air conditioning did not provide the best mindfulness for the visitors who showed seven changes from the side that were on midweek cup duty against Portishead. Any fanciful notions that the Peacocks, having spent a week sitting at the top of the table, were going to dispatch with relative ease a Dover side lying one place off the bottom were just that, fanciful. This is the National League after all where there is a fine line between victory and defeat.
Early exchanges were fairly even with both sides having spells of possession without a clear chance originating, a Lloyd James cross falling the wrong side for Ollie Chamberlain to capitalise while a run from the Whites’ Zidan Sutherland was snuffed out. After the game had halted to allow treatment for Lee Lucas who felt the after-effects of a block tackle, the hosts came close to opening their account, John Oyenuga threading a pass down the right for Paris Lock and his driven ball across the face of goal just failed to get the touch of Nick Dembele. The eye-catching Lock, on loan to Dover from AFC Wimbledon, again got in behind soon after, his cross being booted clear before a follow-up effort was bundled wide.
Dover’s purple patch soon led to the opening goal after 17 minutes. An Archie Hatcher corner found its way back out to him on the left and he switched feet to return into the middle where Peter Ojemen slid in to net at the near post. Joe Guest took over from Lucas minutes later as Town looked to steady the ship. Ross Stearn found space on the right but frustratingly the cross found no yellow shirt before the Peacocks were fortunate not to find themselves two behind, Guest caught dawdling on the right and robbed by Dembele who burst forward but under pressure from Austen Booth’s challenge saw his effort kept out by Dan Lavercombe who then did brilliantly to foil Sutherland’s attempt from the loose ball.
Town rode the storm as they began to carve out some openings of their own. Dylan Morgan scurried in from the right to have a shot blocked and then it was the turn of Dover shotstopper Billy Terrell to play his part, Chamberlain’s looping long ball picking out Jay Foulston whose half volley from the corner of the six yard box was palmed away by Terrell. Further balls into the mix were not locating a teammate until the 35th minute when the Peacocks equalised. Hatcher headed away a Chamberlain cross to concede a corner which saw Nick Grimes prod at the far post deflect wide for another corner. A third immediately followed and an unmarked Foulston was there to power home a header from James’ delivery.
Seven minutes of added time were enough for the visitors to turn the game around. Stearn played square to Chamberlain whose ground shot was held by Terrell before five minutes in and Town were ahead. The ball broke to Morgan in the centre and a dart forward led to a lovely pass for Stearn to show great composure and round Terrell to tuck home into the unguarded net. Lock and Sutherland both posted efforts off-target during stoppage but it was the Peacocks who looked in better shape as the half time whistle blew.
Zac Smith appeared upon the resumption in place of Guest who had taken a knock on his calf. My choice of language to describe the second half as ‘poor quality’ in the post-match interview was maybe a tad too strong, perhaps ‘remarkably unexceptional’ would have been more apt. Morgan, aiming to produce one of his specials, cut in but saw his strike blocked while Hatcher’s free kick at the opposite end found a colleague but the header was steered across goal and out. Nat Jarvis then got on the end of a couple of crosses, firstly bundling wide from Stearn’s centre and then glancing a header well over from Chamberlain’s delivery. A foul on Chamberlain then gave Town another chance, James sending in the free kick, Booth and Evans jumping with Terrell and Stearn firing home from the stray ball. The ‘goal’ was disallowed though for a challenge on the keeper.
Oyenuga advanced to drill a shot wide, however the batteries of the game were running low, with Town seemingly in a lull and Dover doing little to worry them in return. Hatcher’s free kick did cause some panic stations in the Taunton box, the ball eventually rolling safely to Lavercombe while Luke Baptiste planted a soft header wide from Ifeanyi Allen’s cross but overall the job just needed to be containment to ensure maximum points returned westwards. Foulston became the third injury casualty for Town with cramp with just over ten minutes to go and had to be replaced by Marcus Day before Dover were given the chance they needed to draw level. Chamberlain was penalised for a foul just outside the box and after Sutherland feigned to shoot, Hatcher pulled the trigger to beat the wall and Lavercombe at his left-hand post with a nicely executed free kick with 11 minutes to go.
Dover now smelt a winner as they pressed forward, Lavercombe clutching a Hatcher cross. Town repelled them though while Day got into several promising positions for the Peacocks down the right, trying to find Stearn but seeing his cross held by Terrell at the front stick before another break ended with his centre cleared. Five minutes of stoppage time ensued with neither side close to the knockout blow. An away point is always a valuable one at such a demanding level so disappointment at not seeing the game out can be tempered with the fact that it’s one more towards the safety pot which is surely the initial focus of the season.
Taunton: Dan Lavercombe, Jay Foulston (Marcus Day 76), Nick Grimes (captain), Austen Booth, Ollie Chamberlain, Lloyd James, Nat Jarvis, Ross Stearn, Cameron Evans, Dylan Morgan, Lee Lucas (Joe Guest 20) (Zac Smith 45). Unused subs: Nick McCootie, Dave Sims-Burgess
Dover: Billy Terrell, Peter Ojemen (Luke Baptiste 30), James Dunne (captain), Johl Powell (Ifeanyi Allen 73), Zidan Sutherland, Charlie Naylor, Jacob Mensah, Archie Hatcher, Nick Dembele (George Nikaj 73), John Oyenuga, Paris Lock. Unused subs: Henry Young, Dontai Stewart
Referee: Matthew Norton (Waltham Cross)
Referee’s Assistant 1: Simon Parbery (Beaconsfield)
Referee’s Assistant 2: Kieran Bailey (High Wycombe)
“We just weren’t quite right today, we didn’t do a lot of right things in a lot of areas……..” watch Rob Dray’s Match Reaction on Peacocks TV HERE
Match highlights courtesy of Dover Athletic FC can be seen HERE
Match photos from Club Photographer Debbie Gould can be viewed HERE
Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance MOM
Jay Foulston receives the Taunton Town Man Of The Match award from new media team recruit Max Fournier