ANDY HESSENTHALER has warned that his Dover team are no write-offs.
Hessie’s boys have had a disastrous Christmas – collapsing from 2-0 up at Lewes to lose 6-2 on Boxing Day and then suffering a 1-0 loss against Chelmsford on Saturday.
Despite these setbacks, the Whites currently sit fifth in the Blue Square South – and a promotion play-off spot is still a realistic target.
And – after a stunning year for the club – Hess believes 2010 could be another incredible one for Dover Athletic.
He said: “We won the Ryman League with 104 points, a club record, scored 91 goals and only lost four league games all season and got a second successive promotion, which was some achievement.
“I’m incredibly proud of what the boys achieved. We’ve come a long way in such a short space of time.”
Whites started life in Blue Square South at a blistering pace but injuries and a loss of form has seen a stutter in recent months.
And the 6-2 hammering by Lewes was the lowest point of the year. But Hess will not be beating his team with a stick.
Instead the Whites chief has watched the DVD several times to pinpoint what went wrong – and will be making his men watch it too ahead of the rematch at Crabble on New Year’s Day.
He said: “We’ve given them six goals. Every single one could, and should, have been avoided. We’ve not closed down properly, not got tackles in, not marked properly – and, quite simply, not defended as a team from back to front.
“I’m not going to blame the back four. It’s a collective effort. You defend as a team and the bottom line is we didn’t do that – and put our back four under considerable pressure.
“Also the players just gave up in the second half – and that disappoints me. I’ve not had to fault the players’ effort too many times, but on Boxing Day it was lacking.
Ryman Premier Champions
“There’s no point beating everyone up about it. We have to move on. We’re only looking back at it from a critical point of view this week because Lewes come to Crabble next.
“I’m sure if we all do our jobs properly then we can get the three points. It’s all about learning from mistakes.”
Hess has already stated he will be looking to sign new players in the New Year after conceding that some of his current squad have struggled at a higher standard of football. Those fresh faces are likely to be loan signings from Football League clubs – although the Whites chief has not ruled out making transfer offers for players.
He said: “We have everything still to play for. Yes, it’s been a tough time recently and we’re assessing the squad all the time – and working out what we need to compete right at the top of this division.
“The title looks gone now of course – but a play-off spot is still very much up for grabs. We still have a shot at getting into the Blue Square Premier for next season – so will give it a real good go.
“However, we won’t beat ourselves up if we don’t achieve Conference National status at the end of the season. We’re way ahead of schedule in our five-year plan to get there.”
Chairman Jim Parmenter said: “It’s been an amazing year. We’ve made huge strides on and off the field.
"We've achieved a second straight promotion, got an A-grading for our ground and achieved full FA membership.
“The only thing that has disappointed me is our attendance figures, which are about 15 per cent down on what we hoped.
“The average crowd has dipped this season, despite playing at a higher level. Yes, I know we’ve lost all our local derbies and some of the big teams in this league don’t seem to take too many away from home.
“However, I’d like to see a few more Dover fans coming through the gates to watch a club that’s going places
“That’s not taking anything away from our regular supporters, who have been incredible. We thank everyone for their support and wish them a ‘Happy New Year’.”
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