Kevin Lokko has lauded Dover’s team unity as a driving factor behind their end of the season revival.
Whites finished the campaign with a nine-game unbeaten record thanks to Saturday’s 3-0 win over Sutton, having found themselves bottom with eight points after 18 games in October.
A drastic turnaround saw them secure National League safety with three games to spare after producing a stunning 3-2 comeback win at Barrow in mid-April.
Lokko said: “I love this group. It’s probably the most enjoyable season I’ve had personally. That’s because of the boys here and everybody involved with the club, they’ve all been brilliant.
“Everybody is close-knit, the team camaraderie is unbelievable. That’s quite rare because at some clubs you have a lot of cliques and individual groups that go off and do their own thing, but here at Dover everybody can genuinely say we’re all mates. We’re all out here for each other, nobody is isolated, everyone is brilliant.
“To bounce back and go on this amazing run is testament to everyone involved at the club, all the boys on the pitch, the new management staff, the people off the pitch, everybody has played their part and believed that we could get out of this. The new boys that came in, Stuart Lewis, Scott Doe, Jai Reason, they’ve given us a lot of experience and we’ve all gone on to defeat the odds.”
The switch to a full-time operation upon the arrival of manager Andy Hessenthaler in October has also had an evident impact on the team’s progression since the turn of the year.
Lokko added: “It’s been a long slog of a season, with plenty of emotions but it was an enjoyable one towards the end. Being part time at the start of the season under the previous regime was difficult, we started the season slowly.
“As we went full-time, the new gaffer has come in and everyone has adapted really well, we’ve gone on to pick up some great form and win points in games we maybe shouldn’t have, Salford away, Wrexham away, we’ve picked up really valuable points.
“We’ve been strong, we’ve been resolute, we’ve been really good in front of goal. We’ve changed it around really impressively.
“This is my fourth year in the conference and it gets harder every year, a lot of the teams are full-time and you have to be full-time because this league is an extension of League 2 now in terms of the quality and the teams that are here.
“We’ve got some big clubs here with full-time players that have played in League 1, League 2 and the Championship so it’s imperative that you go full-time I think, otherwise you’ll slouch behind.
“I think you saw that with the teams that have gone down in Havant and Braintree only being part-time.”
Such has been Dover’s impressive finish that they concluded the season closer to the final play-off spot than the relegation zone, fuelling their hopes of competing in the top 10 next term.
“People remember the end of the season, nobody will go back and remember getting eight points from 18 games,” insisted Lokko.
“Everybody will think about how we finished the season strongly, how we’re top of the form table.
“It’s good momentum and hopefully we can take it into next year and challenge for the top half of the table, the play-offs and promotion.”