Scout report: Why Hartlepool United must beat Dover Athletic but should not underestimate National League strugglers

Dover manager Andy Hessenthaler.
Dover manager Andy Hessenthaler.

Hartlepool United are on a four-game losing streak in the National League - a run which must end soon if Matthew Bates' side want to maintain their dwindling promotion hopes.

Pools are six points off the play-off places following last weekend's defeat against Barnet, which saw Bates' men slip to 12th in the table.

But surely Pools won't get a better chance to stop the rot this weekend when they face bottom of the table Dover Athletic at the Crabble Athletic Ground.

The Whites lost their 13th league game of the season against Halifax Town last weekend and are seven points adrift of safety.

But Dover have been lifted by the appointment of new manager Andy Hessenthaler, who took charge of the side last month.

We take a closer look at Pools' next opponents and what we can expect from them ahead of Saturday's meeting.

What system will Dover play?

Like Pools, Dover started the season playing a back three with wing-backs, but have altered their formation in recent weeks.

New manager Hessenthaler was appointed on October 8 and immediately reverted to a four-man backline, with the intentions of tightening up Dover's leaky defence.

Hessenthaler also made the decision to make Dover go full-time, and there have been signs of progress since.

The White kept just their second clean sheet in the league this season following a 2-0 victory over Maidenhead.

Hessenthaler made two changes to his side after that game, sticking with a 4-2-3-1 system, as Dover were beaten 1-0 away at Halifax Town last weekend.

Who are Dover’s key players?

Captain Mitch Brundle has played every game for Dover this campaign after signing for the Whites from Gateshead in 2017.

The 23-year-old has played in the centre of midfield for most of the campaign but has also slotted in at centre-back.

Brundle is Dover's joint top scorer with four goals this season, alongside defender Kevin Lokko, a stat which highlights Dover's lack of firepower up front.

Do Dover have any injury worries?

The Whites don't have any fresh injury concerns following last weekend's defeat at Halifax.

Hessenthaler can call upon Anthony Jeffrey once again, though, following the winger's recent suspension.

Jeffrey has missed the last six matches following his sending off at Harrogate last month.

Who is Dover’s manager and what can we expect from them?

A former player for the club, Hessenthaler went on to manage Dover between 2007 and 2010.

Following spells at Gillingham, Leyton Orient and Eastleigh, the 53-year-old returned to the Whites last month.

He hasn't wasted any time, making the club go full-time and quickly getting to work on the side's porous backline.

Since Hessenthaler's appointment, Dover haven't conceded more than two goals in a league game and have kept their second clean sheet of the season.

What form have Dover been in?

The Whites have won just two league games all season and conceded a whopping 39 goals - only Maidenhead have conceded more in the National League this term.

They sit bottom of the table with just 11 points and are seven points adrift of safety.

Since Hessenthaler took charge of the side, Dover have won once in the league while losing three times, and drawing once.

They also lost 5-0 away at Bury in the FA Cup on November 10.

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