Dover Athletic are, let’s face it, the closest to European football that we’ve come so far; 1987 being the first time we met. OK – we’re sure that Folkestone Invicta or one of those sort of lads may dispute the claim. But that’s for them to slog it out. After that initial meeting with the Whites, our relationship became closer when we went up to the Conference in 1994; sharing eight seasons before they were relegated at the end of the 2001-2 season. We did get to fit in a quick 2009-10 FA Trophy tie before we left non-league behind.
Dover Athletic: The Facts
Crabble Athletic Stadium
Lewisham Road, River, Dover, Kent, CT17 0JB
Can you believe it? The Whites are actually younger than we are; formed as recently as 1983. The difference between us and them, however, is that Athletic got to keep the old Dover FC’s place in the Southern League. We did not get that pleasure with regards to Stevenage Town or Athletic. Mind you, it’s important to take full advantage of the chances you get. The Whites did this by winning the Southern League Southern Division in 1988. It took them into the Premier Division, which they went on to win two years later.
In spite of this title success, promotion to the Conference did not happen as the Crabble was not up to what authorities demanded of it. So, their ascent into the top ranks of non-league football didn’t happen until they won a second Southern League title in 1993. The 1999-00 campaign stands out as their best in their history (if we’re talking pyramid levels); finishing sixth in the Conference. Two years later, however, they were down; ending the campaign rock bottom.
After this, the club went from third in the Southern League to 19th inside two seasons. They switched across to the Isthmian League in 2004 and struggled initially. But 2009 would see them back in the National League structure; promoted as Isthmian champions. Better still in 2014 was their return to the top tier of non-league football; picking up where they left off and consistently challenging for the playoffs. That was the case until the 2021-2 season, when they finished bottom with just one point.
Of course, the context you need here is that Athletic simply refused to fulfil their fixtures on account of the Covid-19 pandemic robbing them of any meaningful income. The National League suits decided the course of action needed was a hefty fine and a hefty points deduction. After all, the competition is only really keen on the likes of Notts County and Wrexham – right? Anyway, the Kent side returned to Conference South.
How to get to Dover Athletic – Travel Information – Distance: 109 miles
The easiest way to get to Dover is via the M25 and M2/A2. You can use the M20 if you so choose, although it is a little further and a little longer. We’ll keep it simple by choosing the former and should make sure you complete the trek in under a couple of hours.
Take the clockwise M25 round to and across the Dartford Crossing. Come off the M25 on the other side for the coastbound A2. Continue to follow it onto the M2 and back again when the motorway ends on the other side of Faversham. As you approach Dover, take the fourth exit at a roundabout for the A256 for Dover (North)/River/Temple Ewell.
After a mile, take the first exit at the roundabout and continue on the A256. There’s a sharp right after 0.7 miles for Crabble Road that you need to take, however, with the ground up on the left as the hill snakes round to the right.
Your best option for parking at Dover is to use local streets.
Services to: DOVER PRIORY (for ASHFORD INTL., LONDON CHARING CROSS)
Kearnsey is the nearest station to the Crabble – but it calls for a numbers of changes if coming from Stevenage. The quickest trip is timed at slightly more than two-and-a-half hours; changing at Dover Priory. Some may indeed prefer to get off at Dover Priory.
The trip – as dictated by National Rail – involves a service from London St Pancras to Ashford International; Ashford International to Dover Priory; and then Dover Priory to Kearnsey. You can get to Dover Priory on a direct service from Charing Cross, though; Kearnsey from London Victoria is possible on a direct service too.
From the station, head southeast on Alkham Road and turn right to stay on that road. Keep on Lower Road for nearly a mile, before turning right onto Crabble Road. Follow the road around to the right as it goes up the hill; bearing left through the park to the ground.
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