*BS*ANDY HESSENTHALER reckons Dover fans saw the good, the bad and the ugly on Boxing Day.
*BF*Whites had to fight back from a goal down at Ashford to win 2-1 and maintain their five-point lead at the top of Ryman One.
Frannie Collin’s class showed as he netted two superb goals – to make it a *BS*GOOD *BF*day for the travelling supporters.
But the Homelands pitch was in *BS*BAD *BF*condition, making playing difficult.
And, despite a below-par second-half performance, Hess’ men mixed it on the physical side to secure an *BS*UGLY *BF*win.
The Dover boss said: “We were the better side. Frannie hit a post but then their lad scored a superb goal. There wasn’t much we could do about it, the lad’s hit a strike that either goes out of the ground or into the top corner.
“But then two pieces of class from Frannie has turned the game and put us in charge. The worse thing that happened to us was the half-time whistle. We had the momentum and would’ve gone on to score more.
“In the second half, we didn’t quite get it going – but showed the ugly side of our game on a very difficult pitch by grinding it out. Everyone worked hard and the lads were out on their feet at the end.”
Whites were bogged down in the Homelands mud two years ago – falling 3-0 down before rallying but still losing 3-2. And this was the kind of game that many of the travelling army of supporters knew could have been another banana skin in our bid to win the title.
But Hess said: “We have the players in this squad who can adapt to the bad conditions. No disrespect intended towards Ashford, but it was not a nice pitch to play on. Even I didn’t enjoy playing on it. But we’re going to need to churn out results on a number of pitches that will be similar to that one – and I’m confident we can do that.
“That’s where the club has come up short in previous seasons – and it’s usually around this time of year that Dover goes into winter hibernation. But that’s not happening so far this year.”
Hess now says the pressure is firmly on the chasing pack to catch Dover. And the Whites boss said, although he is far from celebrating promotion yet, only his team can throw away the title.
*Ppic1*He said: “It’s in our hands. We’re five points clear, have got two games in hand – and I’m confident we can go 11 points clear. That’s what we’ve got to aim for.
“We’re certainly going to have a good go at getting 100 points. At the moment, we’re on course to beat even that – and if that’s not enough to win the championship, we may as well give up playing football.
“It’s vital we keep our feet firmly on the ground. Nothing is won yet and we need to keep putting points on the board. I know what it is like to be chasing a side at the top. You end up trying to force wins and slip up. The teams chasing us are all hoping we slip up and we have to make sure we don’t.”
On-loan Crystal Palace keeper David Wilkinson is set to return to Selhurst Park after the trip to Kingstonian, giving fit-again Dean Ruddy the chance to win back his place as Dover’s No 1.
Hess is still trying to keep Wilkinson, 19, but admits it is a long-shot that he will be staying at SeaFrance Crabble for another month.
He said: “Wilks has been superb for us. He’s played a key part in what we’ve achieved during the past couple of months. The lad’s going to have a good career, I’m sure of that, and it’s just a case of him waiting for a first-team chance in the pro game.
“We’re trying to keep him but it’s unlikely – but that only means Dean comes back into the side. Deano would’ve learned a lot from Dave and cannot wait to get back in between the sticks.”
Hess dismissed speculation linking Dagenham and Redbridge to signing Frannie Collin.
He said: “That’s the price of success. Clubs higher up the ladder will start to get linked with your players. But there’s no truth in it. I know John Still, the Dagenham manager, very well and how he does his business. If he was interested in Frannie, he’d have phoned me – and he hasn’t.
“I’ve been linked with Gillingham, Stevenage and Brentford myself. Now it’s Frannie’s turn and no doubt Jon Wallis will be mentioned at some point. But you just take it in your stride and don’t get distracted.
“Our aim is to get Dover back into the Conference (Blue Square Premier) and the potential is here to do that. The first thing we must do is win promotion this season.”