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Dover Athletic manager Jake Leberl hopes club’s National League South relegation will be their lowest ebb in recent seasons

Manager Jake Leberl hopes Dover’s National League South relegation will be the lowest ebb for the club in recent years.

A hard-fought 1-0 loss at seventh-placed Hampton & Richmond Borough last weekend ensured Whites mathematically will finish bottom this term, as they suffer a second relegation in three years.

Dover Athletic manager Jake Leberl. Picture: Randolph File
Dover Athletic manager Jake Leberl. Picture: Randolph File

Dover haven’t played Isthmian League football in 15 years since back-to-back promotions in 2007/08 and 2008/09. But Leberl is remaining upbeat after a healthy contingent of away fans made the weekend journey to the capital despite their current plight.

He said: “I had a really positive meeting with the supporters’ club last week.

“I do sense that we’re just turning a corner as a club. Obviously, lots still needs to be worked on - on and off the pitch. But I hope this is the lowest ebb.

“We’re still waiting to hear back from the young boys that we want to keep. We have put a lot into them this season and vice-versa.

“The balance of the squad hasn’t been quite right but, hopefully, we can keep the boys we want to keep. I’m hoping this is the lowest ebb and we can start moving forward. We can get back on track.

“The supporters were really vocal on Saturday. There was a subsidised coach from Megger, we really appreciate that, and fair play to them.

“Although you expect it, the players kept working for them and credit to the supporters. They appreciated their efforts.”

It was a similar tale for Dover, who conceded the game’s only goal against Hampton on the hour from a corner, with experienced defender John Oyenuga absent due to injury.

“The boys were adamant that there was a handball before the corner,” revealed Leberl.

“But we had more than enough chances to get something out of the game. It was a disappointing result - but I was pleased with the players’ attitudes.

“It’s quite easy to down tools but the boys are still doing everything. They’re just not taking chances when they’re there.”

Whites will end their season at home to league champions Yeovil in front of a bumper crowd this Saturday, having been due to face Truro City at Gloucester City’s ground tonight.

Leberl noted: “We’re, obviously, on the home straight now.

“Believe it or not, I still look forward to every game. Whether the boys are as much, I don’t know!

“We have got the champions on Saturday. That should mean there’s a great crowd at Crabble.”

While some may question chairman Jim Parmenter’s decision to appoint two relatively inexperienced managers in Leberl - and before that Mitch Brundle - Kent rivals Dartford and Havant & Waterlooville have also been relegated this term.

Leberl said: “I find it absolutely staggering that those two clubs have found themselves in those situations.

“Havant, to a certain degree, struggles for players a bit due to location - although they do have Portsmouth nearby. Dartford doesn't pay big money but it’s a good location to pick up players.

“It shows how competitive this league is this season. Our situation is a bit different because of our finances and our area.

“People might say we have had two inexperienced managers in myself and Mitch - but teams like Dartford have done the polar opposite.

“Ady Pennock had a lot of experience at Dartford and Kingy (former boss Steve King) at Havant has got great experience - and a great budget. Unfortunately, it’s two relegations for those clubs, as well.

“If you look at Chatham, it shows what can be done.

“We need to make sure this is the lowest ebb and it’s up from here.”

While Dover have struggled, neighbours Deal have sealed promotion to Isthmian South East, just one division below Whites.

Among their squad this season has been former Dover Academy graduates Kane Smith, Alex Green and Connor Coyne - players familiar to Leberl’s No.2 Mike Sandmann, also Whites’ Academy boss.

“Mike knows them,” said Leberl. “What Deal has done is build a squad over a number of years and they have had great success this season.

“They have really got involved with the community and it’s a massive part of why Deal and Ramsgate have been successful.”

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