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Dover Athletic manager Jake Leberl says Whites have lost out on transfer targets to rivals Welling United in doomed National League South survival bid

Boss Jake Leberl has revealed Dover have lost out on transfer targets in their doomed bid against National League South relegation to rivals Welling.

The teams are set to lock horns at Park View Road on Friday while Whites host second-placed Chelmsford on Easter Monday, with Dover’s 15-year stay in the National Leagues set to officially come to an end over the Bank Holiday weekend.

Defender Peter Ojemen - has left Dover for Isthmian Premier Dulwich Hamlet
Defender Peter Ojemen - has left Dover for Isthmian Premier Dulwich Hamlet

Welling, who turned to new manager Rod Stringer and ex-Ebbsfleet boss Kevin Watson in January, have moved four points clear of the bottom four - despite a 4-1 weekend loss at Chippenham.

Leberl attempted to sign some players from the London area, having replaced Mitch Brundle at the Crabble club’s helm in December, only to see them opt to move to the nearby Wings.

He said: “Welling have done ever so well.

“They have changed their manager and literally reshaped their whole squad. We have missed out on a few boys that have gone to Welling.

“But geographically, lads are always going to choose them because it’s 10 minutes from their house, rather than potentially two hours. That’s disappointing.

Dover's Iffy Allen - has been sidelined with an ankle injury. Picture: Randolph File
Dover's Iffy Allen - has been sidelined with an ankle injury. Picture: Randolph File

“It’s a local derby. I remember having lots of derbies against Welling over the years. I’m sure it’ll be a competitive game.”

Whites have managed to sign midfielder Jaiden Drakes-Thomas. The 19-year-old former Colchester player made his debut as a substitute during the 3-1 home defeat against in-form Farnborough last weekend.

He joins a youthful squad which will have many first-team players who are a similar age.

But Leberl, who was disappointed with his players’ lack of reaction as Ricky Holmes ran through unmarked to make it 2-1 to Farnborough just before half-time, despite forward Nick Dembele earlier having put Whites ahead, stated: “That’s not our remit.

“We want to sign the best player in the position that we’re looking for.

“Our hands are tied to a certain degree with where we are in the table and our finances. But with the young boys, that does give you a chance to learn and build, and be part of something.

“Obviously, on the other side of it, you do have incidents like the one on Saturday where, if you have got more experienced boys on the pitch, those goals (Farnborough’s second) don’t go in.”

Leberl would like to start tying down some players for next term with relegation all-but-confirmed, although he admits it’s unlikely many of the younger players he would like to keep will be committing to stay just yet.

“We’re in a really difficult situation regarding next season,” he admitted. “In the world of football now, with agents and all that sort of thing, that makes it very difficult.

“They’re going to hedge their bets to try and stay as high as they can, and get as much money as they can.

“We have got to be a little bit patient but, also, we need to start laying foundations for next season.

“We need to start building a squad to compete.”

A 23rd league loss of the campaign almost sealed Dover’s fate. Only late goals in the matches which involved sixth-bottom Truro and fifth-bottom Taunton left Whites to fight another day.

When asked if he had stopped paying attention as to when relegation will be confirmed, Leberl replied: “We did a while back.

“What we have got to concentrate on is trying to finish the season as strong as we can performance-wise, pick up as many points as we can and that’s why Saturday was really disappointing.

“It’s the first performance in quite a few weeks where we weren’t really in the game at any stage.”

Striker Destiny Oladipo and defender Peter Ojemen have left Dover for Isthmian Premier clubs Margate and play-off chasing Dulwich, respectively.

The former was sent off for two bookings just five minutes into his debut in a weekend 1-1 draw.

On their departures, Leberl explained: “Dulwich came in for Peter on loan.

“I said to him ‘Do you want to play for a month on loan?’.

“He asked whether he could go permanently. Destiny wanted more game time, which we couldn’t promise or offer him. We wish them both well in their futures.”

Iffy Allen and fellow midfielder Kamon-Sherrell Assidjo - who only played a few minutes on his Dover debut during the 0-0 draw with Havant earlier this month - are among those sidelined.

Leberl said: “Unfortunately, Iffy rolled his ankle in training. We’re not sure how bad that is.

“We’re still waiting on reports. Hopefully, it’s not too bad and he’ll feature again this season.

“Kamon-Sherrell has been struggling a little bit with his hamstring.”

When Whites visited Chelmsford in October, they let the lead slip three times in a 3-3 draw. They also collected a point from a 2-2 draw at Crabble against Welling 15 days later.

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