THE Gulls bounced back from two away defeats in a row to seal all three points at Plainmoor.
Jamie Reid and Dan Sparkes scored their first goals for the club as United and Dover played out an entertaining match full of chances and excitement. Home debutant Joe Ward nearly capped his fantastic display with a goal, but he will be pleased with an all-action display that pushed Jamie Reid close for the Man of the Match award.
Ward was into the action early in the first half and picked up what must be United’s earliest booking this season. A stern challenge saw referee Adrian Quelch reach for his yellow card in the 2nd minute. It wasn’t going to halt Ward’s impressive opening to the match. He showed courage on the ball and looked to get United forward at every opportunity.
Nathan Blissett and Jamie Reid started the game well and United pegged Dover back, especially for the first fifteen minutes.
The front two were unlucky to score in the 10th minute when they had multiple shots on goal in a frantic spell inside Dover’s penalty box.
Blissett was close again in the 17th minute when a ball over the top caught Dover out. He never set himself for the chance, but his first touch deserved better than the snatched finish that went over the bar.
Ward found Blissett inside the box with a long diagonal pass. Blissett took a few touches and put the ball across the box but it couldn’t quite reach Richards who was lurking inside the six yard area.
The clearest chance of the first quarter fell to Dover. Thomas was left all alone at the far post and his header went over to save United’s blushes. It was a warning sign for United, but both teams were creating chances on a day when it was never going to be a drab 0-0 draw.
Another string of shooting opportunities presented themselves in the 28th minute. Aman Verma, Jamie Reid, and then Sparkes all had shots that were blocked by Dover defenders. The Yellow Army hoped that these close calls weren’t going to cost the team much like in previous home and away games so far this season.
Dover then started to gain some territory back and looked to catch United on the break. Dan Sparkes had to be alert when covering back. He was able to clear up a potentially dangerous Dover counter attack.
Dover caused some drama inside United’s penalty box in the 35th minute when defender Jack Parkinson rose highest to send a header on goal. United were able to clear but not before some nervous moments when it could have fallen Dover’s way.
United threatened twice more before the break.
Giancarlo Gallifuoco nearly met a long free-kick from Sean McGinty. The ball was a little bit too far in front of him. United were creating all sorts of chances. Chances were being created from all across the pitch. The Gulls weren’t reliant on any one individual to get things going.
Lathaniel Rowe-Turner found some space in front of him and took the ball within shooting range. He opted to shoot and managed the power, but not the direction as it flew just over from just left of the penalty area.
On loan striker Jamie Reid was to have the first say in the second half.
Reid was turning defenders all afternoon and in the 46th minute he struck a low effort from inside the box that found the bottom corner. The striker was rewarded for all of the close calls in the first half and he was delighted.
Dover weren’t to fold after going a goal down but United followed up Reid’s goals with even more chances. Some clear, others not quite so.
Rowe-Turner found himself free once more in the 54th minute. He struck a quality ball looking for the run of Sparkes who only just missed connecting.
Sparkes would later open his account for United but it should have come earlier. He broke through and was one-on-one with Dover Keeper Steve Arnold but wasn’t able to beat the man recently signed from Forest Green Rovers.
Ward set Sparkes up with a terrific cross-field ball that Sparkes headed on goal. Arnold was to come to Dover’s rescue once again by tipping it over the bar. There was not much more that Sparkes could have done.
The last quarter of the game was entertainment that you’ll rarely find in any other sport.
United felt harshly treated in the 75th minute when conceding a free kick on the edge of their area. The Yellow Army howled their disapproval when the decision was made to pull Luke Young up for a foul on Ricky Miller. If the foul was given for the tackle, then Young took the ball.
Miller picked himself up and struck a delicious free-kick into the far corner. It was a fantastic strike.
You’ll be forgiven for missing United’s winner.
From the kick-off a long ball found Nathan Blissett. His knockdown was fired home by Dan Sparkes. United were back in the lead a mere minute later after going behind.
Ward nearly made it three when tried for the far top corner with minutes to go. Arnold wasn’t sure, it looked like it was going in, but it snuck just wide of the post.
Dover made it an uncomfortable last period for the Gulls.
Arnold was part of the action as Dover’s ‘keeper came up for a corner in the last throws of the game. He stayed in play for a least a minute, and even had a shot on goal. United were throwing bodies in the way, and putting everything on the line to seal the win.
The final whistle came as a blessed relief. United had the three points that felt due after some tough trips away from Plainmoor.