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Dover Athletic 5 AFC Fylde 1: Whites manager Andy Hessenthaler says taking pressure off the players has helped improve his side's home form

Andy Hessenthaler believes Dover Athletic's improved home form is down to the management team's decision to try to take the pressure off their players as they bid to reach the National League play-offs.

The Whites earned a 5-1 win over AFC Fylde to move into the play-off places, going sixth in the table.

Dover manager Andy Hessenthaler. Picture: Alan Langley
Dover manager Andy Hessenthaler. Picture: Alan Langley

A vital factor behind Dover's push up the table has been their much-improved home form, having taken 10 points from their last five league games at Crabble.

"We have taken pressure off ourselves," explained Whites boss Hessenthaler.

"Maybe, there’s been an expectation level that we have got to get in the play-offs because we kept saying we have got to get in the play-offs, and we have taken that away from the players.

"Let’s just take each game as it comes, let’s perform and let’s work harder than the opposition when they come here and make this place harder to come to. We have done that.

"Four wins and a draw from our last five is exceptional.

"If we can continue to keep playing the way we are at home, then that’ll help us to achieve our goal because we know we can perform away from home."

It is the first time Dover have moved into the play-off places since October.

Hessenthaler said: "It’s good timing because being in (the play-offs) in October didn’t mean anything, did it?

"Actually, now in February, it still doesn’t mean anything but it’s nice to be there.

"We had great momentum last year when we stayed up.

"This year, we have won four out of six. We don’t want to draw too many games.

"We just have to keep trying to win football matches and we are in there at the moment.

"If we keep winning football matches, we’ll end up in there."

Inih Effiong led the way for the Whites with a hat-trick, while on-loan striker Dominic Poleon and substitute Bobby-Joe Taylor were on target in their win over relegation-threatened AFC Fylde, as well. Dover's goals came after Tom Walker had given the visitors an early lead.

"I thought it was thoroughly deserved," Hessenthaler said of the victory.

"Defensively, I felt we started slowly.

"There was a new partnership (in central defence) with Roons (Paul Rooney) and Will De Havilland at the back because we’ve lost Kevin Lokko (due to concussion).

"I know Roons came on in midweek (in their loss at Barrow) but they had to find their feet and Roons had not played for a while, and they (Fylde) had two big strikers who got in a bit too easily a couple of times, just from straight balls.

"But we started quite well generally with the football and then they got the penalty, but we didn’t drop our heads, we kept going and kept trying to play.

"We played 4-4-2, giving Dominic his debut and gave a few other people that hadn’t been playing a chance, just to freshen it up.

"I thought we played some really good football.

"Once we got our first goal, I thought that settled us down even more and I felt we were comfortable in the end."

There was a big debate over who scored Dover's third goal, with Effiong missing a penalty but then stabbing home the rebound, although substitute Ade Yusuff also appeared to attempt to try to claim the goal. Even video footage proved inconclusive as to who got the final touch, but it was Effiong who walked away with the match ball.

Hessenthaler said: "I’m pleased for Inih.

"I’ll give it to him, I’ll say he’s scored three - but Ade won’t be pleased with me.

"But I don’t really care (about who claims the goal) as long as we win the football match, and we have done that."

Read more: All the latest sports news in Kent

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