Dover manager Andy Hessenthaler felt the difference was in the penalty areas at Ebbsfleet on Bank Holiday Monday.
The National League South frontrunners made it six wins out of six with a 3-0 victory over Hessenthaler’s men at Stonebridge Road.
But the scoreline failed to tell the whole story as Dover enjoyed a good spell in the second half, only for a lapse in concentration at the other end to cost them – along with a failure to convert the few clear-cut chances that came their way.
“At 1-0 it was pretty much us in the second half,” reflected Hessenthaler, whose side looked more comfortable with a back three.
“We made a tactical change at half-time as I think their movement was causing our two centre-halves problems. That was nothing against young Luke Baptiste so we changed it and matched them up.
“Chike Kandi should do better and score, and it was 2-0 when Alfie Pavey got a chance which he should score. We had some good play and movement, and they never really troubled us at 1-0.
“I said to Mike Sandmann if we get a goal here then we’ll definitely go on and get something out of the game. But then one ball we don’t defend properly, we were set up right and the only space that ball can go is in that space and we haven’t dealt with it, and they score a second goal.
“We didn’t defend situations. They’ve got a good squad, we made one change and they made seven so there’s a difference. Two games in three days for us was always going to be tough.”
Tyrone Sterling was back in the Dover squad but Hessenthaler resisted the temptation to start him, although he did reveal it was a close call not to match up to Ebbsfleet’s preferred formation.
“I did think about it but we haven’t played that this season and they play it quite a lot,” explained the Dover boss.
“I had concerns about it and it was in my thought process, I nearly did it when we went one down in the first half but even then we did have some openings, balls going across goal and had some decent play without hurting the keeper.
“For me it was working in the second half and if we’d got a goal then the game changes but we can’t give goals away like we did for the second one.”
It’s been a tough start for Dover with Worthing making a strong start to life in National League South while they’ve also faced the top two in Ebbsfleet and Havant.
There’s still been signs of encouragement for Hessenthaler, although he knows exactly where Dover need to improve.
“I’m disappointed because of the result, there were good parts of the performance but the defending wasn’t good enough,” he said. “The players know that but we can’t keep doing it.
“I can’t fault the lads in terms of application, they were very good, but application doesn’t always win you games and if you make poor decisions that will cost you.
“I can take a lot of heart but as a manager I still get frustrated by the sloppy goals we give away. We’ve got to stop that. Yes, they’ve got good players but when you’re on top like that, one ball can change the complexion of the game and that’s what happened. It was the same against Tonbridge as well.”
On the top two so far in the league this season, Hessenthaler added: “I liked Havant, they’ve got a nice budget and a good squad of players. Ebbsfleet are a good side as well. We could have made it harder for them in terms of the goals we gave away.
“For me, Ebbsfleet are a big club and shouldn’t be in this division, I’m sure they will get out of it and the way they are going they will, although it’s a long season and we’re only six games in.”