Non-League vs Premier League, does it get much better? It’s time for a trip down memory lane where we take a look at Dover Athletic’s FA Cup tie against Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace.

There’s nothing better than sitting down to watch the third-round FA Cup draw and seeing your local club draw a Premier League team at home. For Dover Athletic in 2015, that dream became a reality. 

After wins against Eastbourne Borough, Cheltenham Town and Morecambe, the Whites found themselves in the hat for the third round for only the second time in the club’s history. 

The non-league side, who were yet to concede a goal in the competition, welcomed Premier League outfit, Crystal Palace, to Crabble.


A gap of 86 places separated the two sides before the game and the Eagles were struggling for form with only one win in their last eleven. The stage was perfectly set for a famous FA Cup upset. 

The buzz around Crabble was electric. A record-breaking 5,645 filtered in through the gates to get behind Chris Kinnear and his team. 

Speaking to the Guardian before the game, Kinnear accepted that Dover would have to take a cautious approach despite being on a 16 unbeaten run in all competitions. 

The Whites manager said: “We might have to park the Dover ferry. We’ll try to attack and score some goals but if they make us defend, then we’ll try to defend well.”

As for Crystal Palace, a new era was on the horizon. Alan Pardew, fresh off a £3.5M buyout from Newcastle, was in the Eagles hotseat for his first game.

An appointment which would eventually see him become the first manager to take charge of a Premier League club in the relegation zone and guide them to a top-half finish.

Here we had a true David vs Goliath matchup. In one corner, Chris Kinnear, a manager balancing his duties with teaching PE in East London. In the other, Alan Pardew, a Premier League heavyweight with a hefty price tag. 

As the clock ticked down to kickoff, fans checked their phones for the eagerly awaited team lineups. Which Premier League stars would they be witnessing grace the Crabble turf?

Pardew named a strong team, making just four changes from the lineup that played out a goalless draw at Villa Park on New Year’s Day. Wilfried Zaha, Glenn Murray, and Scott Dann were all poised to showcase their talents on the south coast.

The home side fielded an unchanged eleven which was unsurprising given their form in the run up to the game. 


Dover Athletic: Rafferty, Raggett, Orlu, Bellamy, Murphy, Cogan, Payne, Sterling, Deverdics, Bonner, Essam.

Subs: Wynter, Francis, Reid, Nanetti, Hook, Lock, Modeste. 

Crystal Palace: Hennessey, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Kelly, Bannan, Ledley, O’Keefe, Zaha, Gayle, Murray.

Subs: Kettings, Mariappa, Hangeland, Guedioura, Thomas, Puncheon, Doyle.

A particular intrigue emerged surrounding the FA Cup match ball. The subject of much controversy that season, its unorthodox salmon pink threatened to become near enough invisible in the Dover sunshine.

However, this peculiarity did not hinder Crystal Palace who took the lead within the opening ten minutes. A Zaha cross found Scott Dann who volleyed home to give Alan Pardew a dream start in the Eagles dugout.  

Crystal Palace started to control the game and barely gave the non-league outfit a touch of the ball. The gulf in quality was evident.

Forced to find creative solutions to watch the game, some Dover supporters inadvertently stumbled upon the perfect view of Scott Dann doubling the lead. 

Rising above the Whites defence to meet a corner, Dann headed home for his brace. A Scott Dann brace!? Unheard of. 

The half-time whistle blew and it was Crystal Palace who were in complete control. However, Dover fans were able to drown their sorrows in the iconic Crabbleburger, the best food in non-league (coming from a completely unbiased Dover fan). 

The second period mirrored the first. Dwight Gayle added a third for Crystal Palace after the restart with a powerful low strike into the bottom left corner. 

A light cheer ran around the ground as Dover finally registered their first shot of the game with around 15 minutes to go. 

However, Palace secured a fourth goal just before the end when substitute Kevin Doyle finished off a stunning move. 

The magic of the FA Cup was not enough for Dover to secure a surprise upset and Palace advanced through the next-round of the competition. 

Despite the result, the match will forever be etched in the memories of Dover fans. It was a historic occasion, a day they welcomed a Premier League club to their humble Crabble pitch for the first time. 

The scoreline may not have reflected their valiant efforts, but the unwavering support and sense of community in the concourse made it a truly unforgettable day.

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