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Dover Athletic manager Mitch Brundle’s pride as record-breakingly youthful side come from behind to beat Haringey Borough 2-1 in FA Cup Third Qualifying Round

Manager Mitch Brundle spoke of his pride after a record-breakingly youthful Dover side came from behind to beat lower-division Haringey in the FA Cup on Saturday.

Whites’ average age of their starting line-up was 20.72 after midfielder Iffy Allen, 29, pulled out in the warm-up with an existing quad muscle injury and was replaced by 20-year-old Luke Baptiste.

Dover Athletic manager Mitch Brundle – was delighted with his youthful side on Saturday and their second-half fightback
Dover Athletic manager Mitch Brundle – was delighted with his youthful side on Saturday and their second-half fightback

Defender John Oyenuga, 28, skippered the side but was some five years older than any of his team-mates who started!

Khalifa Jabbie gave early-season Isthmian Premier strugglers Haringey a half-time lead but substitute Zidan Sutherland’s brace flipped the game on its head at Crabble as Dover progressed to the Fourth Qualifying Round.

Brundle, himself only 28, said: “Some of the substitutions we have made [this season], they haven’t really come on and changed the game but, today, that’s actually what won us the game.

“First half, it’s the poorest we’ve played. But you just need to look at the average age of the team and that’s why I lose my voice so much because I constantly have to be shouting information on.

“They’re still young, they still do naive things, but they need support. I’ll give it to them.

Report: Dover 2-1 Haringey Borough

“Sometimes, they can’t hear me and, sometimes, they’re in the game. It didn’t work, first half, and substitutions needed to be made.

“It just wasn’t a game for certain people and I thought the substitutes that came on were absolutely outstanding. John going to right-back, arguably, that shut them down because they were looking sharp.

“Nick Dembele’s not had much game time recently and he came on and he affected the game in terms of things you can control which are determination and hard work. He chased after things he shouldn’t get after and put them on the back foot. That allowed us to create a few more things.

“With an average age around 20, I’m so proud of them. I said before the game that I didn’t care how we won. I couldn’t care less about the performance.

“We’re in the hat for Monday - and that’s all we wanted.”

Second-bottom National League South Whites struggled to get going in the first half.

But Nick Dembele came on at half-time for George Nikaj, doing well up top, while an attacking switch which saw Sutherland replace right-back Roman Charles-Cook proved a game-changing one.

Asked what he had said to his players at the interval, Brundle, who was struggling with a cold, replied: “Nothing for the radio, that’s for sure!

“It was a case of highlighting their players. There were six or seven players that I felt were outworking ours and showing more quality than ours.

“I know they’re in the league below and they’re in the position they are, we’re in the position we are in the league, so it was literally a game about who was going to have more desire?

“Who was going to be the hero to get us through to the next round? Today, that was Zidan.

“I’m delighted for him. I’ve given him a lot of criticism. I have hammered him a lot and he’s had what some people class as a bad attitude. It’s not - it’s more of a frustration at not doing well.

“He’s not scored since the second game of the season. He missed a penalty at Tonbridge and we’ve not seen him since, firing as well as he can.

“I put him on the left today, not down the middle, so he had a bit more licence to drift inside and get to the back post.”

Sutherland found himself in that position to score the winner from a great right-wing cross by teenage AFC Wimbledon loanee Paris Lock after the same duo had combined for the equaliser.

Dover are now in the hat for tomorrow’s Fourth Qualifying Round draw and a win away from getting into the First Round when League 1 and League 2 outfits will enter the competition.

National League clubs enter at this stage but Brundle, whose troops have had home draws against Isthmian Premier opposition so far, also beating Hastings 3-2, isn’t fussed about who they get.

“It could be anyone,” he noted. “I actually don’t care!

“The only time you care is when you get past these rounds. I’m fortunate enough that, in my career, I tend to have come in the Fourth Qualifying Round.

“I’d take any of those National League teams who are flying high because the one thing in football is there's always banana skins. You could take Barnet or whoever, they’re flying high in their league but it becomes a banana skin - like this game was for us. It becomes a hard game.

“It’s why we all love to watch the FA Cup and I personally say that it’s the best cup in the world. I’ll take anyone.

“I’m just so glad that we got there. It’s a great little stepping stone for us. It doesn’t come easy.

“Lots of clubs flying high in our league have been knocked out of this cup. It shows that we have got it.

“Now, we just need to do it on a consistent basis.”

Whites host Taunton, top of National League South after beating Eastbourne Borough 2-1 on Saturday, next weekend.

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