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Dover Athletic 1 Farnborough 3 match report: Forward Nick Dembele puts Whites ahead at Crabble but controversial first-half decisions consign them to another National League South defeat

A 23rd National League South defeat of the season at home to in-form Farnborough left Dover on the brink of relegation on Saturday.

Both of the away first-half goals came in controversial fashion, a penalty and their second coming from what appeared an offside goal by former Dover player-assistant Ricky Holmes. That left play-off chasing Farnborough ahead at half-time after Nick Dembele had netted for Whites to put them in front.

Dover boss Jake Leberl – saw his side squander a first-half lead in their 3-1 home National League South defeat against Farnborough on Saturday. Picture: Randolph File
Dover boss Jake Leberl – saw his side squander a first-half lead in their 3-1 home National League South defeat against Farnborough on Saturday. Picture: Randolph File

Aaron Kuhl then sealed the win to complete his brace in the second half as play-off chasing Farnborough secured a fifth straight victory as it ended 3-1.

Jake Leberl’s team drew first blood in fine fashion at Crabble after a dull first 14 minutes.

Forward Dembele had plenty to do when he collected Roman Charles-Cook’s low cross. But he cut inside well and scored, his shot crashing against visiting goalkeeper Jack Turner’s left-hand post before it found the net for Dembele’s third goal of the season.

Farnborough skipper Ollie Robinson had a chance to level four minutes later, only to volley wide after a corner had only been half-cleared.

But the visitors did equalise in the 24th minute. Referee Ayrton Hursey awarded a debatable spot-kick as Joseph Haigh went to ground under a challenge after on-loan home goalkeeper Matthew Rowley had made two saves in quick succession.

Kuhl made no mistake. He powered home to spark celebrations from the Farnborough fans.

Spencer Day’s side, who headed into the game on the back of a four-match winning run, were now on top.

A shot by Holmes was deflected wide off Whites midfielder George Wilkinson on the half-hour mark before the same player nodded a corner inches over.

Five minutes later, Millar Matthews-Lewis struck narrowly wide as the pressure continued to mount.

Farnborough went ahead in first-half stoppage time, with another goal which had more than a hint of confusion surrounding it.

Both Holmes and another away forward appeared well offside from Turner's long clearance to the naked eye. But experienced midfielder Holmes lobbed over Rowley and, much to the dismay of Dover's defence, the goal stood.

Four minutes after the break, Charles-Cook picked up a needless yellow for shooting at goal after a Farnborough free-kick had been awarded.

Charlie Naylor nodded a Wilkinson corner straight at Turner in the 53rd minute while, on the hour mark, Turner stabbed the ball behind with his feet to deny Dembele after George Nikaj’s through ball.

An unmarked Naylor then headed wide a Wilkinson corner with another glorious opportunity.

But midway through the half, Kuhl rose highest to head a corner beyond Reading loanee Rowley for his second goal of the afternoon.

Naylor again went close with 17 minutes to go when he stung the palms of Turner through a long-range effort.

Five minutes later at the other end, Olly Pendlebury curled a free-kick against the upright, although the damage had already been done.

Turner got well behind a shot from around 30 yards by Dover debutant Jaiden Drakes-Thomas amid five minutes of injury time.

Only late goals in the matches involving sixth-bottom Truro and fifth-bottom Taunton left Whites to fight another day.

But with 18 points to play for, Dover are 17 points adrift.

The hosts made a single switch to their starting line-up from the previous weekend’s 0-0 draw against Havant & Waterlooville.

The injured Iffy Allen (ankle) was replaced by Luke Baptiste in midfield. Another winger, Kamon-Sherrell Assidjo (hamstring), was unavailable due to injury too.

Newly-signed teenage former Colchester Academy midfielder Drakes-Thomas was on Dover’s substitutes’ bench and came on for his bow in the second period.

Holmes - who was Whites' player-assistant briefly last summer, before swiftly u-turning on that decision when Mitch Brundle was in charge - started and played an influential role for the visitors.

Former Dartford striker Harvey Bradbury was an unused substitute on Farnborough's bench.

Dover Athletic: Rowley, Charles-Cook, Mensah, Holding, Oyenuga, Naylor (Neil-Gray 87mins), Wilkinson (Akehurst 70mins), Oliver, Dembele, Nikaj, Baptiste (Drakes-Thomas 62mins). Subs not used: Stewart, Young.

Farnborough: Turner, Norville-Williams, Fearn, Robinson, Pruti, Haigh (Kasimu 78mins), Young, Pendlebury, Kuhl, Holmes (Clark 72mins), Matthews-Lewis (Saied 81mins). Sub not used: Bradbury.

Referee: Ayrton Hursey.

Attendance: 565.

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