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Dover Athletic manager Jake Leberl disappointed with players’ reaction after failing to respond to controversial opening goal in 2-0 home National League South loss to Truro City

Boss Jake Leberl was disappointed with Dover players’ reaction to falling behind as the relegation-threatened side lost at home to Truro City on Saturday.

The National League South basement boys were beaten 2-0 - their 13th league loss this season - as the much-improved visitors did the damage inside five second-half minutes.

Dover forward George Nikaj – forced a save from the Truro City keeper before Whites lost their way after the restart on Saturday. Picture: Stuart Brock
Dover forward George Nikaj – forced a save from the Truro City keeper before Whites lost their way after the restart on Saturday. Picture: Stuart Brock

After failing to make the most of having the better chances in a forgettable first period, Dover controversially fell behind. Truro forward Andrew Neal stabbed home Ryan Brett’s corner from yards out on 59 minutes but home players were furious, feeling the ball had already gone out of play.

Defender Ed Palmer doubled the away side’s lead just four minutes later after the defender had found himself in space.

Leberl, who revealed defender Jacob Mensah (foot) missed out through injury while midfielder Johl Powell has left the club, reflected: “I was relatively pleased with the first-half performance.

“Obviously, Truro have been doing very well and are top of the form guide, so it was always going to be a difficult game. They’re a good team with good players. But I thought we made it difficult for them.

“I thought we had some really good chances, first half, and some in the second half, to be honest. I think we probably had more chances than them over the course of the game. But unfortunately, we couldn’t take any.

Report: Dover 0-2 Truro City

“They got one from a corner - our boys are complaining that they thought the ball had gone out - whether it had or it hadn’t, my biggest disappointment was the reaction from that. I felt that beat them.

“Rather than rallying and having a bit of belief, two weeks ago we won late here (against Aveley), so I just felt, if we had stayed in the game at 1-0, we could have a go at them late on.

“But the second goal has absolutely killed us. I believe that was a reaction from the first goal.

“I don’t think we steadied ourselves as a team. We gave them a sloppy, sloppy, second goal and that killed it off, which was bitterly disappointing.”

Zidan Sutherland and fellow forward George Nikaj had good first-half opportunities - the former firing over and the latter denied by a fingertip save from goalkeeper James Hamon - but Leberl refused to be too critical of his strikers.

Midfielder Johl Powell – has left Dover. Picture: Stuart Brock
Midfielder Johl Powell – has left Dover. Picture: Stuart Brock

“I don’t mind forwards missing chances - as long as they’re getting the chances,” he explained.

“We have had probably six chances against the team top of the form guide so we must be doing something right to create those chances.

“Forwards are going to miss chances. They’re going to score and they’re going to miss.

“Today, they missed but hopefully, next week, they will score.”

Even in the final stages after falling 2-0 behind in front of a crowd of 598 at Crabble, Dover could have set up a grandstand finish, only for substitute Iffy Allen to be thwarted by Hamon with another golden opportunity.

Leberl admitted: “It summed up the day, didn’t it? It was a great chance.

“It probably wasn’t the easiest chance but it was another great chance. It would have been nice to get a goal to at least give the crowd something to cheer about.”

Leberl also discussed the re-signing of young Academy product Freddie Oliver.

Midfielder Oliver broke into Whites’ first-team squad last season and, despite having left in the summer for title-chasing Isthmian South East side Ramsgate, he made his Dover comeback against Truro City - albeit as an unused substitute.

“He has sort of been training with us a little bit,” Leberl revealed. “He was at Ramsgate but not really getting a game.

“Obviously, he was here before and has played in National League South.

“I like his attributes.

“I was hoping to get him on but it didn’t quite work out with the way the game went.”

Dover visit Taunton, only five points clear of the relegation zone themselves and in financial difficulties, next weekend while Whites remain 12 points adrift.

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