George Nikaj deserves his opportunity to stake a claim for a Dover first-team shirt, according to player-assistant manager Mitch Brundle.
The teenage forward is back from a loan at Ashford, which saw him score nine goals for the Isthmian South East outfit.
He came off the bench on Monday in Whites’ goalless National League South draw away to play-off occupants Chelmsford, extending their run to one defeat in eight matches.
Brundle, himself sidelined with a knee injury, said: “George has gone away and got match fit.
“He deserves his chance to come back in and the opportunity to play. He had to go and get that fitness, but we’re delighted to have him back in the group now.
“He definitely deserves his chance.”
With top scorer Alfie Pavey and right-back Myles Judd suspended at Chelmsford, former Academy players Will Moses, George Wilkinson and Luke Baptiste - alongside Alfie Paxman - started.
“It shows the belief we have in our young players,” Brundle added.
He was delighted to leave Essex with a point, with Jordan Higgs filling in at right-back.
“It was a very good point,” he reflected.
“They’re in good form, I think they’re second in the form guide. They are a good, solid side, and I thought we did fantastically with suspensions and players out injured.
“The players that came in were fantastic so we have got to be delighted with that.”
It was a second successive clean sheet for Andy Hessenthaler’s men who are 12th.
“The boys playing in defence have been outstanding,” said Brundle, who turns 28 next month.
“We are priding ourselves on the clean sheets.
“If you stay in games and don’t concede, you have a lot more chance to win games. That’s what we have been emphasising to the group.”
Another currently sidelined for Whites is experienced defender Tyrone Sterling, who has an ankle problem.
But asked how long the Grenada international was expected to be out for, Brundle replied: “Not as long as initially thought.
“He’s had his scan, you can never really put a timescale on certain injuries. But I’m not far away myself, and Myles Judd and Alfie Pavey come back into the squad at the weekend.
“Hopefully, we can get our full team out soon and give ourselves some headaches.”
This Saturday, Whites host Chippenham before a trip to Oxford City on Tuesday.
While Chippenham are yet to get going in the league, and are in the relegation zone, they have made the Second Round of the FA Cup, beating League 1 Lincoln 1-0 at the weekend.
“No game in this division - or any division - is easy,” said Brundle ahead of their clash against Chippenham. “You have to turn up and focus on the game.
“We just need to keep our run going, we’ll just focus on ourselves a lot.
“They’ve had their FA Cup run, they will be confident, but the FA Cup is the FA Cup.
"The league is a different situation. That’s our focus.”
Young forward Noah Carney (knee) missed Whites’ trip to Chelmsford through injury.
Dover's Academy beat Langley 3-2 at Crabble on Tuesday to progress to the Second Round of the FA Youth Cup. Archie Hatcher, Leo Dodds and Joel-Michael Oderian scored their goals.