Dover Athletic
The Crabble Athletic Ground

Ground No. 120
Visited - Saturday 24th March 2007
Result - Dover Athletic 2-1 Godalming Town
Competition - Isthmian League, Division One South
Attendance - 675

Even before I’d really got into going to non-league grounds, Dover was always a club that fascinated me for some reason, perhaps being one of the bigger (or more important?) towns without a Football League team, so a visit to the Crabble Athletic Ground was high on my list.

I’d managed to get cheap train tickets there and back, however that did mean an early start, leaving Wolverhampton at 7am, but the journey down to Kent went well, changing in London and arriving in Dover at 11:45am. As usual, beforehand I spent the time in town before making my way up to the ground for about 2pm.

Set into the hillside, it’s quite a dramatic setting. The first part of the complex is the Rugby ground, which is a large bowl like arena with two rugby pitches, and a crease in the middle which looks like it also hosts cricket during the warmer months. That part of the ground is a good 30 feet below the football ground, which you reach by a steep walk up to the turnstiles.

After going in through the turnstiles, you come in on the halfway line with the pitch immediately above you. This side is predominantly hard standing to the right, with the clubhouse and club shop situated here as well. To the left is the Family Stand, which runs for about a third of the length of the pitch, sitting in the corner next to the players tunnel. This is all seated, and covered with a number of pillars restricting views. Both ends are small covered terraces, whilst the far side features a mixture of three stands. In the centre is a double decker stand, which has seats below and a box for Directors above. Flanking this are two identical all-seated stands featuring four rows of seats. As well as the setting, the other most notable thing about the ground is the slope of the pitch which runs from side to side, and can be seen on both end stands where one side is lower than the other.

After taking a few pics, I decided to stand on the Dover Port End for the first half where most of the home support had congregated. The game kicked off, and it wasn’t long before Dover took the lead, when Craig Cloke headed the ball home from close range in the 8th minute. They dominated the rest of the half, but right before half time a bizarre incident led to Godalming drawing level. After conceding a free-kick about 30 yards out, Dover players Anton Innocent and Danny Chapman started to argue with each other before (the not so!) Innocent ended up swinging a punch straight at Chapman. By the time the referee had run over to the fracas, Innocent had already started walking off, but he was called back on only for Chapman to be shown the red. Worse was to follow for the home side when Michael Ruffles drove the free-kick hard along the ground, only for it to deflect off Dover striker James Dryden straight into the net to make it 1-1 at half-time.

In the second half, with the rain driving into the Dover Port Stand, most fans abandoned it for the River End, where they witnessed a somewhat duller second half, with Dover playing a deep game thanks to being down to 10 men. Godalming had their chances to go ahead, but it was the home side who took all three points with a fantastic goal from Byron Walker in the 86th minute. With the ball played into a crowded box, with back to goal, he managed to find time to flick it up before smashing it home with a spectacular bicycle kick that was a worthy winner to any game.

Throughout the match, the Dover fans had kept up quite a good atmosphere, particularly in the first half, and the late winner meant everyone left the ground in a good mood.

After walking back to town myself, there wasn’t a long wait for the train back to London, before changing there and getting one home to the Midlands, arriving back just before midnight.

Overall, it had been quite a good day out. The ground rates up there as one of the more dramatic that I’ve visited, and I’d recommend a trip there to anyone. As well as the location, the stands themselves all create quite a unique and characteristic venue to watch football in, so even with the long journey, I’d be happy to go back one of the days.

The Main Turnstiles

Welcome to Crabble!

The Club Shop

The Clubhouse

The Near Side

The Port Dover Stand
(note the slope of the pitch from right to left)

The Main Stand

The Family Stand

The River End

Rear of the Dugouts

The River End

Match Action

Match Action

The Crabble Athletic Ground Panoramic 1

The Crabble Athletic Ground Panoramic 2


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