Manager Garry Haylock took his United side down to East Kent, to continue the pre-season programme against newly promoted Blue Square South side, Dover Athletic, managed by Andy Hessenthaler.
United started fairly brightly, employing a 4-5-1 formation, with Ram Marwa playing behind former Sutton striker Craig Dundas in the United attack, Matt Day employed just in front of the back four, and Binns and Allen-Page providing the width.
As early as the third minute, United pressed the Dover defence, with a 20 yard shot from Marc Canham which did not trouble Lee Hook in the Dover goal. Simon Overland, formerly of Fisher, was guardian of the United net, and was called into action from a dangerous cross put over by former Gillingham veteran Nicky Southall, palming it away for a Dover corner.
Dover began to assert their domination on the game during the middle of the first half, but United’s defence held strong, with chances few and far between. Another cross from Southall was plucked from under the bar before United’s best move of the first half, a long ball over the top of the Dover defence from Matt Day found Ram Marwa sprinting away from his marker, but his header was well saved by the Dover stopper diving sharply to his left. Soon after, a whipped cross from Dale Binns found Craig Dundas in space, but his shot was well saved by Lee Hook, with the rebound somehow scooped over the bar by Marwa.
United began to assert themselves on the game in the latter stages of the first half, and their reward was to come in the 42nd minute when a shot from Tom Cadmore on the edge of the box was fortuitously deflected off Dundas past the keeper for the opening goal. United’s goal was then threatened in first half stoppage time when a foul by Adam Green set up a free-kick 25 yards out, but the resultant free kick did not trouble Overland.
Esmond James was introduced at half-time, replacing defender Matt Ruby, allowing Tom Cadmore to move in to Central Defence, his more familiar position. A series of niggling fouls, and a very whistle happy referee, resulted in a disjointed start to the half, with the dangerous Southall, belying his 37 years, surging down the right on several occasions. In the third minute of the second half, another cross from Southall found Frannie Colin unmarked in the centre, but his shot was well saved by Overland to his left. Overland then released Dale Binns with a pinpoint throw, only for the winger to be scythed down just by the half-way line by a retreating Southall, earning the Dover defender a booking for his troubles.
A series of substitutions by both sides resulted in a familiar pre-season slowdown in the play, also not helped by a torrential rain storm, for which the supporters were glad of the plentiful cover at the newly refurbished and very smart Crabble ground.
Half way through the second half, with both sides struggling to dominate, Southall again crossed from the right, finding Adam Birchall in space, and his right foot shot was saved well by Overland down to his left. Play then moved straight to the other end, when Rob Gradwell fed the ball through to Binns who shot from 18 yards bringing out an excellent save from substitute keeper John Whitehouse.
As the game moved towards its conclusion, Scott Fitzgerald, who was introduced for Matt Day, but still employed behind the main striker, found the net at the third time of asking – His initial shot was fluffed, with the rebound being well saved by the keeper – not put off, when the ball returned to him again, he coolly struck right footed past the flailing Whitehouse to put the game out of Dover’s reach.
Report by Andy Corbett.