When thinking about games against Dover, the older fans may remember Southern League spats, whilst the new disciples might hark back fondly to last season's two cup ties between the teams. Those that were there today are unlikely to remember anything of this insipid encounter by next week's big kick-off.
Dover are a big, strong side, relegated from the Ryman Premier Division last season. AFC Wimbledon are a (slightly less) big, strong side, promoted into the Ryman Premier Division for this season. Add a persistent drizzle to the pre-season mix and we ended up with a midfield stalemate with few chances falling either way.
The first half started sedately, and it wasn't until the tenth minutes that the Dons got their first sniff at goal, when Richard Butler chased down a ball over the top, cut right inside a recovering defender, but blazed high and wide from just inside the box.
Dover should then have drawn first blood three minutes later, breaking fast down the left and whipping in a cross for Anthony Hogg, six yards out and un-marked, to stab towards goal. Andy Little spread himself and instinctively beat the ball away.
With twenty minutes gone Little was called into action again, smartly saving a Dover free-kick.
Things livened up a bit around the half hour mark. Another cross from Tommy Tyne on the left found Dover's captain Lee Spiller, also un-marked, but he headed tamely into the side netting. There was nothing tame about the clash soon after between Anthony Hogg and Matt York, but the Dover players claimed York was over the top and a mini mêlée ensued, with a yellow card for York the result. Then followed AFC Wimbledon's best move and best chance of the match. Shane Smeltz rose above two Dover defenders and headed the ball back towards Richard Butler. Butler nipped in front of a defender and volleyed the ball back in the path of Smeltz. The Kiwi took two paces towards goal and poked the ball in the same direction, but former Orient keeper Paul Hyde got down well to save.
Further pressure from the Dons resulted in one more chance before the break. Wayne Finnie launched a throw across the face of the Dover goal which Hyde eventually punched away, Wes Daly clipped the ball back in but Michael Woolner headed wide from six yards.
Sonny Farr replaced Jeff Campbell after the break, and he brightened up proceedings for fifteen minutes, before taking a clattering. His first touch of note was four minutes in, collecting the ball in midfield, drifting left past a defender and chipping in towards the box on the run. Butler, coming in at pace, could only reach the ball with the top of his head and it skidded wide.
Dover then spurned two good chances. Mark Cooper could only clear a long Dover throw onto his own bar and behind. From the corner Wayne Finnie was forced to hack the ball away from off the line and when the ball was pumped back in Hogg's firm header was just wide of Little's post.
Farr repeated his earlier trick fifteen minutes into the second period. This time Butler made better contact with the ball, but could only head into Hyde's hands.
Craig Wilkins should have given Dover the lead with sixty-three minutes gone when Finnie slipped, leaving Hogg to chip in a cross that left him one on one with Little, but the Dover forward embarrassingly mis-hit and a Dons defender nipped in to clear. Wilkins made up for his miss with just over quarter of an hour remaining. Daniel Braithwaite combined with Tony Browne on the right and the latter's cross found Watkins on the edge of the six yard box. His powerful header gave Little no chance.
Dave Anderson threw on Ryan Gray and Amadu Kouman for the last few minutes, and Kouman almost drew the equaliser, jigging around a defender and firing off a left foot shot that was goal-bound until deflected into the scaffolding around the new Tempest End roof.
The final whistle drew a roar from the many good natured Dover fans and hugs from the ebullient Dover players as the Don's fans wandered off to watch a far more entertaining Give & Go special by the Ghears in the bar.