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Dover Athletic manager Jake Leberl reacts to 2-1 National League South derby defeat to Tonbridge Angels at Crabble

Manager Jake Leberl conceded basement boys Dover were lucky to stay in the match for as long as they did in their National League South derby home defeat to Tonbridge on Tuesday.

Whites were second-best for much of the match after a bright start and trailed to ex-midfielder Jordan Higgs’ deflected first-half strike, only for stand-in skipper Jacob Mensah to level before the break in wet and windy conditions.

Boss Jake Leberl – saw Dover suffer a fourth defeat in five games on Tuesday. Picture: Tony Flashman
Boss Jake Leberl – saw Dover suffer a fourth defeat in five games on Tuesday. Picture: Tony Flashman

But a mistake by on-loan Dover goalkeeper Daniel Jinadu allowed Angels winger Francis Mampolo to convert for the all-important third goal in their 2-1 loss - a fourth defeat in their last five fixtures.

Leberl reflected: “We were lucky to still be in the game at half-time.

“But we did stay in the game, which gave us a chance in the second half. Obviously, we got a late goal in the first half against the run of play – which we didn’t deserve. But it kept us in the game.

“We gave away a sloppy one for the second. It was a little bit of a goalkeeping error from the cross and then we didn’t react to the second ball.

“We took a gamble, threw a couple of bodies forward late on, but just couldn’t quite get the equaliser.”

Report: Dover 1-2 Tonbridge

Mensah took the captain’s armband with regular skipper James Dunne on the substitutes’ bench as he nurses a minor knee injury and right-back John Oyenuga absent after he had been involved in a car accident.

Nevertheless, Whites, who also were without left-back Bailey Akehurst (knee), started brightly and midfielder George Wilkinson hit the crossbar early on while striker George Nikaj twice threatened in front of a crowd of 455.

Leberl said: “I’d forgotten about those chances after their dominance on the ball!

“We just couldn’t get close to them. Lots of the boys haven’t played many minutes.

“John was always going to be a big miss and Bailey was, as well. So, both the regular full-backs that have been playing didn’t play.

“Pete (Ojemen) came in and he hadn’t played for a long time before the weekend and Roman (Charles-Cook) hadn't been playing.

“A lot of the boys haven’t been playing and I felt it showed in the first half. They were caught in no man’s land.

“Rather than doing their particular jobs, they were backing off. Tonbridge have got some good players. You could see they were used to playing with each other and played some really nice stuff.

“They will be disappointed that they didn’t bury the game in the first half.”

Dover - at home to mid-table Slough this Saturday - have lost more than half of their 29 league games this season, eight by a single goal in the league.

They remain 12 points adrift of fifth-bottom Taunton but the financially-troubled club have four fixtures in hand, too.

Asked where Whites need to improve, Leberl replied: “We need to keep the ball better.

“We want to get the ball forward - that’s no secret - but it seems to me that we’re trying to score with every attack. Sometimes, the ball needs to stay up there.

“We need to probe a little bit more and pass the ball around the edge of their box a bit more to create better chances.

“We’re trying to instil that. We just have got to keep working and keep going.”

Dover will aim to complete a rare double this season when they host Slough, having beaten them 2-1 in their first away match of the campaign in August.

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