Dover Athletic 2 Ebbsfleet United 1
Richard Orlu heads Dover in front against Ebbsfleet (Pic: Gary Browne)
Steve Brown's return to Crabble ended in defeat on Tuesday night when Dover claimed a hard-fought victory over Ebbsfleet in front of a bumper crowd.
The winner was scored by Tom Murphy after the sides had gone into half-time level at 1-1, Anthony Cook cancelling out Richard Orlu's early goal.
Dover boss Chris Kinnear fielded the same side which won 1-0 at Gosport on the opening day, with Craig Stone captaining the hosts against his old club alongside another Fleet old boy, Ashley Carew, in midfield.
Former Dover midfielder Daryl McMahon returned from suspension in the only change to the Ebbsfleet starting XI, while Billy Bricknell was named among the substitutes after missing Saturday's goalless draw against Havant & Waterloovile. The pair were among six ex-Whites in the visitors' squad.
The home side came out with real intent and they took the lead after just six minutes. When Elliott Charles outmuscled Shane Huke and Paul Lorraine stepped in to concede a corner, Carew took it from the left and Orlu headed home at the back post.
Ebbsfleet almost equalised immediately. Mitch Walker raced out to dive at the feet of Michael Thalassitis and although the keeper got to the ball first, it ran free to McMahon on the edge of the box. He dinked in a cross which Cook headed against the bar, before Stacy Long blazed the rebound over.
The game continued to be played at a frantic pace. Murphy forced a smart save from Preston Edwards after Ricky Modeste had laid the ball into his path, while at the other end, Dominic Green crunched a shot well wide.
Play was held up midway through the first half when Lloyd Harrington departed on a stretcher, Barry Cogan coming on in his place.
The stoppage seemed to benefit Ebbsfleet, who started to string a few passes together. They worked the ball into Cook's feet and when he turned sharply in the box, Walker got down low to save his snapshot.
Dover came within inches of making it 2-0 when Murphy outpaced Aiden Palmer, cut inside and had his left-footed shot tipped onto the inside of the far post by Edwards.
But the Fleet went straight up the other end and scored. Green poked an effort goalwards which Walker clawed round the post, but from the resulting corner, Long back-heeled the ball into Cook's path and he crashed a superb strike into the top corner.
Now in the ascendancy, Brown's side could even have taken a lead into the break. Long and Green combined to set up Thalassitis for an effort which deflected wide and Thalassitis then headed Palmer's cross past the post on the stroke of half-time.
Dover looked to start the second half in the same manner as they had the first. From a right-wing corner, the ball dropped at at the feet of Charles and only an excellent block by Thalassitis kept his shot out.
McMahon had a shot deflected wide at the other end as Ebbsfleet began to gain a foothold. From the corner which followed, Cook unleashed a dipping shot and Walker did well to tip it over.
The introduction of Bricknell from the bench predictably brought a chorus of boos from the home faithful but they were cheering just 60 seconds later. Murphy made it 2-1 with a fine shot across Edwards which nestled in the bottom corner.
Ebbsfleet lost Michael Corcoran to injury and there were more jeers from the Dover fans when Dean Rance came on to replace him.
Green unloaded with a left-footed effort but it flew well wide. Then a Stone clearance fell nicely on McMahon's left foot but his volley also sailed well off target.
Kinnear's side defended smartly as time ticked away and the only scare they had to negotiate in five minutes of stoppage-time was a Green free-kick which Walker caught comfortably.
Dover host Concord Rangers on Saturday, while Ebbsfleet are away to Eastbourne Borough. Both games kick off at 3pm.
Dover: Walker; Kamara, Orlu, Forbes, Wynter; Stone, Modeste (Bakare 88mins), Carew, Harrington (Cogan 22mins); Charles (Elder 90mins), Murphy. Subs not used: Ademola, Kinnear.
Ebbsfleet: Edwards; Howe, Lorraine, Huke, Palmer; Corcoran (Rance 75mins), McMahon, Long (Phipp 82mins); Green, Cook, Thalassitis (Bricknell 67mins). Subs not used: Sankofa, Hall.
- Click here for more Deal news
- Click here for more news from across the county