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Dover Athletic defender Connor Essam prefers stopping goals to scoring them

By Mark Stokes

Connor Essam was as pleased with Dover’s clean sheet as he was with the goal which sealed Saturday’s 2-0 home win over Eastleigh.

Essam’s 57th-minute effort was his first goal of the season and made sure of a fourth home win in five matches after James Alabi’s 32nd-minute opener.

The clean sheet was leaders Dover’s ninth in 19 National League matches this season and their second in successive games, after the goalless draw at Gateshead.

Essam, who has played every league game so far, said: “The first 20 minutes we struggled a little bit coming to terms with their formation.

Connor Essam sends the ball on its way to the net against Eastleigh on Saturday. Picture Tony Flashman

Connor Essam sends the ball on its way to the net against Eastleigh on Saturday. Picture: Tony Flashman

“I think they had done something different to try and put us on the back foot but once we got the hang of their formation, it was a fairly comfortable afternoon.

“It’s always nice to get a goal but I take more pride in our defensive record to be honest, It’s still the best in the league so that’s a lot more important to me than the goals.

“Traditionally, Dover sides have always conceded a lot of goals, so it’s nice to get that sorted this year.”

Essam admits he has been surprised by how quickly Dover’s new-look defence have come together this season and he says team spirit is a big factor.

He added: “It’s pretty incredible, I don’t think anyone quite predicted it. I think there are just three of us from last year and in any side that’s a massive turnover but we just hit it off from day one.

“The management are always cute with the type of players they bring in. There are no bad eggs in the dressing room.

“Everyone is pulling in the right direction, everyone wants to improve and get better. It’s a slightly different squad to ones I’ve previously been in (at Dover).

“We’ve not got a great deal of experience, although we’ve all got a lot of appearances under our belts, we’re still a young side.

“I think I’m the third oldest at 25 (only Femi Ilesanmi and Ryan Bird are older). It’s a young team but it’s about ambition and everyone wants to get better and progress up the leagues. Hopefully, we can do that with Dover.”

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