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Dover captain Mitch Brundle opens up on securing National League safety

By Cameron Hogwood

Dover Athletic's players swerved tarnished résumés by hurdling the threat of National League relegation, admits Mitch Brundle.

Whites cemented their spot in the division against Barrow on Saturday with the calibre of comeback they have been victims to on more than one occasion this year.

Three goals in the final 17 minutes overturned a 2-0 deficit to lift Andy Hessenthaler's men to an unassailable 12 points clear of the drop zone.

Andy Hessenthaler. Picture: Alan Langley
Andy Hessenthaler. Picture: Alan Langley

Read more: Dover Athletic aiming for the National League play-offs next season

Brundle said: "It's been a tough old season, we are glad we got it done in the end, especially given where we were from the start.

"It was just relief for us, we've worked so hard. There had been a few draws of late and a few where we'd conceded late on so we are relieved to get it over the line. You set a target at the start of the season and then see it wiped out after 15 games, but looking back on the season as a whole we've taken a good amount of points against some good teams.

"People don't realise that when you get a relegation on your CV it can dent your career a bit. This is a good group of lads, the train journey home was good as well, we stayed in London afterwards and all had a drink, it was a great feeling.

"It was hard for us to get out of our half, then they (Barrow) had two deflected goals so we were starting to think it might not have been our day. We put a bit of width in the team though and changed our game plan and it pushed them back a bit."

The Dover skipper was also full of praise for his manager, who took over from Chris Kinnear in October in light of the team's slump to second bottom.

Brundle added: "I've loved every minute with him (Hessenthaler), he's fantastic and a good character, he knows what he wants from his players and I like that he can be ruthless. He's tactically good and his record speaks for itself.

"To come in with only seven points on the board, everyone was saying we were definitely down but he lifted the mood. He recruited the right players, we needed winners and people that would go that extra mile, that was key.

"To recruit half way through the season can be tough, but the staff found players to come in and get us ticking over again and put a bit of freshness back into the team.

"We've all worked hard, relegation is the last thing anybody wants in their career, it would have been tough to take so I'm over the moon for the boys. We've dug in there and slogged our way through the months.

"We've got great supporters and a fantastic chairman, they don't go unnoticed. It was a great feeling to share that with them, they were the ones digging in with us and spending their hard earned money to watch us. To spend time with them after the game was nice."

An accumulation of 15 points from the last eight league outings has meanwhile entailed traits of a side with the talent to compete at mid-table and beyond in 2019/2020.

Brundle insisted: "This club shouldn't be in that position in the first place, going full-time was the perfect thing to do at the time.

"We've achieved staying up but it's not something we want to go through again. With the form we have shown towards the end there is no reason why we can't push for the play-offs next season.

"There have been games that we've thrown away with silly mistakes, there are lost points in there that I think will be easily eradicated next year with recruitment and with the manager getting to spend more time with the team."

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