“We don’t get twatted as often, which is the most Dorch metric of improvement possible.”

After the disappointment of the Poole Christmas Bank Holiday game, waking up on New Years Day that feeling that some may describe as stupidity came over me once again and I decided to make the trip down the M5 in the hope we might start the year in a better fashion than we ended 2021. First of all Happy New Year all, after making my debut on the TSOF blog for Merthyr away, once SV knew I was making the trip he asked me to have another go, so here is my thoughts on our latest away day.

Whilst there were few positives to take on the field from the Poole Town game, something made me feel like Yate might be one of those games where things click/fall our way and we get a result, so with it also being my closest away game, and thankfully waking up without a hangover it seemed like a good idea. The first positive of the day was that despite the sale of cans of Stella from a giant tent behind one goal, the home support seemed to be able to handle their drink a bit better than the visitors on Boxing Day, so a repeat of the Jake Paul style windmilling in the crowd seemed unlikely.

Stella Tent > Craft Ale

Arriving an hour or so before KO, the first challenge of the afternoon would be navigating the walk from the car to the ground across what was essentially a giant lake, it seems shit car parks may be a theme of the games I get chosen for the blog. Heading into the bar to meet the General et al, talk quickly moved to the lineup, the lack of Alfie Stanley (and Roberts) and therefore no recognised striker led to questions about the lineup and formation, but appeared to be a 4-3-3 with Bayston up top and Oakley and Charlie Gunson either side.

After a fairly heated debate between my dad and Luke about the optimum number of recognised first team players at the club, it was time to head outside for the game, the most notable thing as the two sides lined up was the size of Yate defender Matthew Bower, looking at the General we were instantly expecting a repeat of Truro away where we decided to pump long balls straight at their biggest defenders for the first 75 minutes of the game, however, the opening exchanges of the game were thankfully fairly positive for the Magpies as we played some nice football and moved it around quickly and efficiently.

The ground with some huge conifers down one side, some of which seemed pretty close to hanging over the pitch, saw a surface, perhaps fairly expected at this time of year, that was fairly uneven and bobbly, but that wasn’t appearing to cut up much further despite the recent rain. Having only seen a handful of games this season, mainly defeats, it is well talked about on the group that we are playing a lot better style of football this year and the first half against Yate seemed to be evidence of that. Whilst it was far from a one sided affair, I think it would be fair to say there was little between the two teams with us playing the better football at times, but Yate looking more threatening in the final third when they did get there. 

A few long range efforts had flashed wide of the Yate goal when midway through the half we won a freekick on the edge of the Yate box, after a clever bit of work from Bayston to win the foul. The free kick itself, seemed relatively routine for the Yate goalkeeper but with the bounce just before him, he spilled the effort, before some Laurel and Hardy style defending from Yate left Bayston with a fairly simple finish to open our account for 2022. In the minutes that followed a good block at the other end from Madden to deny Yate was quickly followed by a great chance for Oakley to increase our lead, but he was denied by the Yate keeper, before Billy Lowes tried to recreate his effort from a week previous, but he was denied by the upright, both moments probably proved fairly pivotal later on.

Photo; Phil Standfield

One observation was how it was good to see a decent travelling contingent for the game. Not getting to many Saturday games these days, it is literally often the same old few people (see what I did there) I see at games these days. But there was a good number of people behind the goal in both halves, hopefully some good results might see this continue in games to come.

With the half time lead, and some pretty decent football played, things seemed pretty positive “New Year, New Us” and all that, arrangements for the end of season bus tour were being initiated. In stark similarity to the Merthyr game the following period of play couldn’t have been much further from the positive opening half we had watched. Whether we decided to purposefully sit back, whether the enforced change with Madden being replaced by Davidson led to it, or Yate just came out with a different mentality, I am not really sure, but it appeared as if we were in for 45 minutes of defending, in the hope we would see the game out for a 1-0 victory.

Photo; Phil Standfield

Yate, who appeared to have a 12th player in a black kit in the second half, seemed a different side, and perhaps why they are where they are in the league as they pushed and pushed for the equaliser that just seemed inevitable to the travelling support behind the away goal. Mr Enever no doubt delighted with the assist by awarding a penalty as the clock ticked towards 80 minutes, which the home side duly convert. The goal did seem to spark Dorch back into action, but unfortunately as we pushed to regain the lead, we were left exposed to a quick counter that led to the home side’s second, offside appeals waved away as the linesman picked himself back up from the floor.

The last ten minutes, and the majority of the six minutes of injury time were spent with Yate either on the floor, of taking their time to take throw ins, kicking the ball away, or pretty much anything else to prevent the game actually being played on the pitch, it might sound quite bitter, but my issue isn’t with the home side, everyone would want their team to do it if they could, but how the referee let them do it time after time, with no effort to speed things up, or just to purely uphold the rules of the game he’s there for was very frustrating. In a day and age where we are short of referees in the non league game, and speaking from experience I know it is a difficult job, I wouldn’t normally comment on this, but his display was particularly poor, especially after giving out a yellow card to one of our players in the first half for the softest push you’ll see, largely because of the rehearsed appeal in unison of the home dugout, but his subsequent failure to then book any players in the second half for a number of very late tackles.

Enough on the man in the middle, on reflection afterwards few of us just standing in the bar after the game fairly speechless after what was a huge improvement on the Poole game, but ultimately another frustrating game where we walk away with 0 points after a one goal reverse. Whilst it could be argued we might have had the better of the first half, it was very clear that Yate dominated the second, and maybe therefore deserved the 3 points, but I don’t think a draw would have been too unkind on the home side. Things are definitely in a much better place at the club these days, both on and off the pitch, however, the next step is to really convert some of these games into 1 and 3 points that we are just missing out on. Hopefully we will pick up the required points to avoid having to look down, but such is our position we are currently only a couple of defeats away from that position currently, so we can hopefully get some “Good times on the pitch”. DW

“There was no intent to hurt him. But I’ve absolutely folded him in half.”

Photo; Idris Martin

As another strange festive period comes, the usual wish for three points on Boxing Day will once again go unanswered, albeit it as we’re playing on the 27th and not the 26th this year. Christmas cheer has been in somewhat short supply over the last few seasons, but we’ve had some better luck in the Christmas and New Year period in years gone by. So, we welcome you to the ‘Ghosts of Christmas Past’, as past seasons’ fixtures, stories and other assorted nonsense come under the microscope, including a snow storm that left two players stranded in the club bar, Boxing Day disasters and delights, being victims of the Dorset Echo photographer on New Year’s Eve in Bridport, and why Shep was walking around a Bournemouth club with a tray of roast potatoes. Grab yourself a mulled beverage, snare a mince pie and have the tin of Roses on standby as we review our festive fortunes through the years.

The first complete season of stats available to us takes us back to the 1950’s and the make-up of the Western League would see us in the same league as the reserve sides of Weymouth and Yeovil, as well as Portland United, Poole Town and Salisbury. So of course, our Boxing Day was a home fixture against Chippenham. We’d win 3-1 courtesy of a Hat-trick from Joe Moore in a season we’d finish 10th. We’d draw 4-4 with Street on January 30th (goals from Harry Merritt x2, Peter Jones and John Masterson) before not having a game until January 20th of the following year. We assume it was a touch wet. The following season we’d have no Boxing Day or New Year’s Day game, instead having to settle for a 2-5 humbling at the hands of Weymouth Reserves on December 29th, Harry Merritt with both goals. There was once again a big gap to January games so the weather in this decade was either awful, or the Western League adopted a very European approach to player fitness with a winter break.

Dorchester Town FC, 1949-50.

1952-53 we will spend a touch more time on, purely because the run of games was somewhat notable. A 1-3 loss at home to Chippenham United on December 20th (Harry Merritt once again with our goal) was our first league game since November 22nd, and we’d make up for lost time shortly after. As far as we can tell, this was the penultimate season we played a competitive game on Christmas Day and in true Magpies fashion, we’d capitulate to a 6-0 away defeat at Chippenham Town. Revenge would be swift though as we’d defeat the same opposition at home on Boxing Day a mere 24 hours later in a 3-0 win with two Jack Bugler strikes and a single Ken Symes goal getting us the two points. Two games in two days seems a lot but the league obviously took the ‘in for a penny in for a pound’ point of view and we would play our third game in three days on December 27th, as we succumbed to a 3-0 loss away at Street. In an era where pitches were heavy, no substitutes were allowed, the boots were like something you’d buy from Screwfix compared to toady’s lightweight versions and a wet football would end up like heading a medicine ball, three games in such a short space of time would be exhausting. So, it was only right that the next league game would come on January 17th. As a side note, we’d finish second bottom that season and after the weather issues, we’d end up playing eight games in April to make up the time. Fixture congestion is not a modern issue…

Dinky Curtis scores in 1957.

A loss away at Poole in the 1953-54 season would be the only festive action but 1954-55 would see an eventful few days. A 4-2 win away at Poole on Christmas Day would be, as far as we can tell, our final competitive fixture on that day. Goals from Dinky Curtis, Ron Moscrop and two from Tony Spink would see us take the points that day, before a 3-3 draw (Jimmy Grimason, Spink and Moscrop goals) on the 27th. We would also have our first New Year’s Day action in this season and in true DTFC fashion, we’d lose 2-1 away at Portland with Tony Spink netting our solitary goal. The season would have a happy ending though as we’d be crowned Western League Division One champions.

Derek Stroud nets from the spot at a packed Avenue ground.

Four games in seven days the next season would see a busy period begin with a 7-5 win away at Bridgewater on Christmas Eve (Eric Bryant with a hat trick, two from Reg Dare and solo strikes from Derek Stroud and Ken West), before Boxing Day and 27th wins over Yeovil Reserves would follow by 5-0 and 4-0 margins away and at home respectively, and over the coming seasons we’d settle into a pattern of no NYD game and ‘local’ Boxing Day games against the likes of Poole, Salisbury, Portland and Yeovil.

The sixties would pass off without much event and without any titles but 1970-71 would see no Boxing Day or NYD game, most likely due to the weather. No games between December 19th and January 9th would see our season end with a quite ridiculous 12 games between April 1st and May 1st.

DTFC 1967-68

We’d join the Southern League in 1972, and with our opposition remaining largely the same during this period the decade would end well with a league win in 1979-80. A 1-1 draw at home to Basingstoke on Boxing Day with Kevin Leigh scoring our goal was as thrilling as it sounds, but the NYD game at Salisbury was probably more notable despite not actually being played. Captain Hedley Steele recalls why:

“One of our festive trips to Salisbury springs to mind. Will need to check the season but I remember getting off the coach to news the match ref wasn’t happy with the frozen surface. He eventually called it off but we discovered our coach driver had left to visit family and wouldn’t be returning until the scheduled end of game. We had to hang around for several hours in the Pavilion Clubhouse when most of the Salisbury crew were long gone.”

Hedley Steele, fashion icon.

This was not the only memorable winter memory for Hedley though:

“After an away trip we got back to Dorch in a very heavy snow storm. It was so deep I couldn’t get my car out of the car park and had to walk back into town. It was worse for my Exeter based teammates Alan Hooker and Mike Green –  they had to kip down in the Clubhouse for several days. They managed to get into the bar so survived on booze and crisps, so it wasn’t all bad!”

The early 80’s would see us play either Salisbury, Poole or Waterlooville as our Christmas and New Year fixtures, Pete Poore and Paul Thorne scoring in a win over Salisbury on Boxing Day in 1980. But local derby games in this period would not always be commonplace as the likes of Witney, Hillingdon and ​Trowbridge became part of the calendar. The 1986-87 title winning season would see a particularly fruitful period with a 2-0 home win over Trowbridge (Craig Morrison and Brian Chambers goals) on Boxing Day, before a 3-1 away win at Poole the very next day on the 27th. Pete Loveridge, Pete Morrell and a first Magpies goal for a young Tony Diaz would see us take the points that day, before a 4-1 hammering of Waterlooville (Craig Morrison with all four) would follow on January 3rd.

Pete Morrell wins the ball against Wealdstone.

The end of the decade would see us move to the newly built Avenue Stadium, but the first season there would see a festive disaster as we’d contrive to lose 3-1 at home to a rock bottom Weymouth side, who would only win four games all season as they finished comfortably bottom. This result would see the end of Keith Miller’s very successful managerial reign, and a 2-0 loss at Poole on New Year’s Day would do nothing to improve the spirits. The local derby was something of a lost art form in parts of the 90’s with trips to Gloucester and Trowbridge being inconvenient for all concerned, Bath a lot more agreeable, and Merthyr on New Year’s day an odd choice. Crowds for the festive games would be in the thousands, with 1,049 at home for a 4-2 over Gloucester on Boxing Day in 1991 (two goals apiece for Tony Diaz and Paul Masters), and 3,027 being in the ground for the Boxing Day 1-0 defeat to Weymouth in 1992. As the decade drew to a close, there was a record high attendance of 4,159 on New Year’s Day in 1999 as Rob Murray would net our goal in a 1-1 draw with Weymouth (Taffy Richardson scoring theirs…), before another big crowd would see us fall to a 1-0 defeat the following season.

Ryan Cross celebrates as Taffy looks on from the ground. Photo; Idris Martin.

The new millennium would start with relegation to the Dr Martens Eastern Division, but promotion back up to the Premier would come in 2002-03. In typically Dorch fasion, we’d lose 2-0 at home to Bashley on Boxing Day, and our game away at Fleet would be called off on New Year’s Day. This was very fortunate for two members of the squad who had got so drunk on New Year’s Eve that they wouldn’t have made the game. These players are in the witness protection program, so cannot be named. But as they have over 1,100 Dorch appearances between them, their legacies have not been tarnished… 

Christmas parties and footballers are a big thing, and Dorch were no different. Jamie Brown has good memories from some festive get togethers;

“We had a Christmas do where Jem sorted it out in Bliss (in Bournemouth) or something. For some reason we all ended ​up losing our heads as Jem ordered full roast dinners for everyone. Martin Shepard just walked around handing roast potatoes out to everyone in the club. Pockets full of crushed roast potatoes.

“We also used to have a Christmas do in Harry Redknapp’s restaurant most years and always had to do secret Santa. Skunk made this weird picture collage of cut photos of Gups (Mark Morris) and Benji. Like some serial killer would make when they don’t want to be caught. Gave it to Gups. Funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Gups’ face.”

Shep eyes up the roast potatoes. Photo; David Ward.

Jamie Brown, Mark Jermyn and Simon Radcliffe would be somewhat unlucky as they ventured out in Bridport one New Year’s Eve, as Browner recalls:

“One New Year’s Eve Jem, Rads and I decided to go out in Bridport dressed as hippies. Stupid suits, wigs, glasses, the lot. We only drank Red Bull as we had Weymouth the next day, but no one would recognise us out in Bridport and there weren’t camera phones or anything like that. Next day, Gups comes over to our bench in the changing room absolutely fuming, throws down a copy of the Echo and says, “Recognise these three?” The Echo had only taken a picture of the three of us! He told us we’d better play well. Fortunately, we all ended up having good games. Gups just said to us, “You got away with one there, lads!”

Mark Morris and Benji scrutinise the Echo on New Year’s Day. Photo; Idris Martin

One time where we did not get away with it was Boxing Day of 2003, as we would capitulate to an embarrassing 8-0 defeat at Weymouth. Jamie Brown was sent off and it was as humiliating as it sounds. A few days later on NYD of 2004, we’d restore some pride in one of the most famous/infamous games at the new ground. The 2-2 score line tells a fraction of the story as in front of a crowd of over 4,000, we’d take an early lead, only to find ourselves 2-1 down late on. A Matt Hann penalty levelled the scores, before a challenge from Jamie Brown on Weymouth player/manager, Steve Claridge, would cause a melee in the middle of the pitch, with both Brown and Claridge getting red cards. Jamie’s version of events didn’t entirely match up with Claridge’s, not that he’s too worried by that:

“Claridge has the ball and it’s there for me, so I’ve gone in. I don’t know if I’ve jumped in, slid or whatever, but I’ve not gone in to injure him, there was no intent to hurt him. But I’ve absolutely folded him in half. Next thing I know, I’ve got players on top of me and everyone has piled in. I remember Mark Robinson stuck his finger in my eye and I got a few kicks. So, I had a finger in one eye and was trying to look out the good one to see who had booted me and I just see Claridge volley me when I was down. I know he said his bit in the press after and in his book, but I know what I saw. He definitely kicked me. We got a draw in the end and some pride back and no one said anything to me in the changing room after. It was just a reaction challenge, a chance encounter. I certainly don’t regret it.” 

Photo; Idris Martin

There are rumours of the issue continuing into the carpark post game, but the game itself is still spoken of to this day. The following season’s derby games would be equally memorable as we’d thrash our local rivals 4-1 on Boxing Day in 2004, Matt Groves grabbing a famous hat-trick and a solitary Mark Jermyn strike doing the damage. Unsurprisingly, Groover has fond memories.

“A personal highlight was the hat trick against Weymouth, that really put me up a level. The game itself went quickly with first half being fairly equal and I was pleased with my goal, then second half we absolutely battered them. Grabbing a hat trick was just perfect in such a huge derby and was the highlight of my playing career as people still talk to me about it now and it’s what I’m best remembered for at Dorchester. Doing it in front of 4,000 fans is brilliant and scoring the one in the 1-1 draw at their place a few days later was as satisfying as the three in the 4-1. There’s a great picture of me and Jem celebrating at their place, it’s great doing it in front of all those fans.” 

Photo; Idris Martin

The 1-1 draw on NYD in 2005 was a hard-fought point, and although we’d succumb to defeat at Weymouth on Boxing Day of that same year in the following season, we’d bounce back in front of a crowd of 3,006 on NYD as a looping Justin Keeler strike would follow up the opener from current manager, Glenn Howes, as we’d secure a 2-0 win over our nearest rivals. As the years went by and we found ourselves in a different league to Weymouth, games against Salisbury, Bath and Havant would become the festive fayre.

Brown, Keeler and Howes celebrate, NYD 2006. Photo; Idris Martin.
Bath City 1-0 Dorchester, NYD 2008.

But it was off the pitch that we’d get our most infamous festive story in 2010, as the players’ Christmas party ended with a brawl at the local Wetherspoons with five arrests made, and although no one was charged with anything, manager Ashley Vickers, Gary Bolwes, Ryan Moss and Jamie Frampton all made front page news as they were banned from 14 Dorchester pubs for a year and placed on ‘PubWatch’. The naughty list indeed.

This came in the same week that Rico Wilson had been jailed for drug offences, but fast forward to 2012 and Rico was a free man and he netted the winning goal in a 1-0 win away at Salisbury, avenging a 3-0 defeat from a few days’ prior on Boxing Day, but festive cheer would be in short supply following some barren seasons. Relegation to the Southern Premier League in the 2013-14 season has seen us renew our acquaintance with Poole in recent seasons, butnot before a few more Weymouth clashes. The 2014 3-0 hammering best remembered for the fight that broke out in the club bar, the front page of the Echo far more notable than the backpage.

Broadchurch returns.

But the standout moments from our time in this particular division are firstly from Boxing Day of 2015, as Frankyn Clarke’s 93rd minute debut goal earned us a 2-2 draw at Weymouth. Nathan Walker had given us an early lead, but it was Franklyn’s strike that got us a point, with the goal and the celebrations one of the highlights of several pretty awful seasons in the Southern Prem.

Photo; Phil Standfield

The other notable game from this particular period is Jem and Critts’ final game for the club, a 1-1 home draw against Weymouth on Boxing Day of 2016. It was announced several weeks prior to the game that the popular duo would be stepping down, and a penalty from Nathan Just before halftime looked to have put us in position to give them the perfect send off. An equaliser meant the points were shared, but it remains a memorable day and one of few half decent memories from the last few seasons.

Photo; Phil Standfield
Photo; Phil Standfield

A 2-2 draw at Weymouth in 2017 (Egan and Lanners) in what was a pretty flare result, but that is the only real result of note since then as covid and forgettable games have become the norm. What will this year bring? Well, getting a game on the pitch would be an improvement from last year, but we may not be saying that come five o’clock on the 27th! Merry Christmas one and all, here’s hoping for three points and a Christmas dinner not delivered by Shep. SV.

Billy Lowes, Antonio Diaz and Lanners celebrate the Lanners’ equaliser in the 2-2 draw. Photo; Phil Standfield.

“Why has he got a condom on his head?”

Photo; Phil Standfield

Well, alright lads? Guten Tag! What a difference a week makes. After a disappointing loss to Swindon and a point having surrendered a 1-0 lead at Merthyr last Tuesday, the next two games against Kings Langley and Wimborne, both at home, were vital if we were to get points on the board and start to put some distance between us and the relegation places. Seven days on, six points have added, five unanswered goals, four hundred crowds at each game, three places climbed, two wins in a row, and a Gareth Stewart in goal (yes, I have referenced a near 13-year-old joke). Back-to-back wins for the first time in two years and back-to-back clean sheets for the first time since Chris Weale left, have left us in 16th place and eight points clear of the drop zone as we now can start glancing at the teams above us, and not those below.

Alright lads?

Having worked hard in our 2-0 win against Kings Langley on Saturday, making sure we carried on that form and ensuring it didn’t become another in series of false dawns over the past few seasons was vital. And, truth be told, the only minor complaint I can have about the comprehensive victory of Wimborne was that the winning margin was only three clear goals. We were that dominant. It has been long time since a Dorchester side has looked so completely in control and impressive at both ends of the pitch. Tougher tests will no doubt come, but you can only beat what is in front of you, and the manner of victory and way we played suggests we can give anyone in this league a game regardless of form or league position.

After TC boiled his eggs for the next days lunch, he picked me up in his work wagon, complete with crunchy nut cornflakes and a loaf of bread. We were both looking at the impending Wimborne fixture as one we should win, but were aware that this is Dorch and we’ve seen this all before. A cheeseburger and chips to fill a hole was consumed as we saw the teams with there being just the one change for us as Tom Soares returned to the starting XI as Charlie Madden, who had started but picked up a knock at the weekend, was named on the bench. The bench was as strong as it has been in a while with Madden, the returning Flavio Tavares, Sam Davidson, Christos Papakonstantinou and new signing Billy Steadman all being good options to bring on, and Steadman may be one of few Dorch players to have the holy grail of the ‘blue tick on Twitter. We at TSOF await such an honour…

Working mans luncheon.

There was a smattering of former DTFC representation in the Wimborne side as well as Dan Strugnell and Dan Cann were involved. Strugnell taking the captains armband, Cann on the bench. One thing that struck TC and I as we did some serious damage to our food, was how firstly; we looked like a team of grown men, and secondly; this was a side who actually works hard for 90 minutes and shows not only some togetherness, but a genuine will to win. These things may seem like a given in most sides, but given some of the performances we’ve watched and squads that have been assembled over recent, this comes as something of a pleasant surprise.

A very salty Bovril. Photo; David Ward.

With the teams out and us attacking the bypass end first half, we took up residence behind the goal. Given we stood behind the goal for Saturday’s victory, we didn’t want to upset the Footballing Gods™ and tempt fate by heading to the Bovril. We were soon joined by El Générale who had either come dressed wearing a hat that was suitable for one of the Seven Dwarfs, or possibly a woollen condom. Our superstition based vantage point turned out to be ideal as the early play was almost exclusively in the Wimborne half. A header back towards his own goal by a Wimborne defender had their goalkeeper, Ryan Hall, scrambling to avoid getting caught out, before Hall would produce an excellent block to deny Alfie Stanley after Sam Bayston’s through ball set him free.

Grumpy, Dopey, Doc, Happy, Bashful, Sneezy and Sleepy all rolled into one.

Bayston would then have a shot cleared off the line before Hall’s fingertips would push a Tommy Toe Poke effort from the same man onto the post, Kieran Roberts just missing out in the scramble for the re-bound. We need to take one of these chances, we won’t keep creating these every five minutes, we said. Five minutes later and Bayston was once again denied by Hall, this time as the wide man broke clear on the left side. Dan Strugnell would come in for some stick from some behind the goal, but they seemed to be directing their ire at Wimborne’s number 18, who was in fact Billy Maybury. Strugnell wearing number 2 seemed to escape lightly by comparison. It wasn’t all one way traffic as Wimborne had a couple of shots, one wide and one palmed clear by Benfield, but normal service was resumed as Kieran Roberts first appeared to malfunction when presented with a chance as his limbs seemed to extend like a Swiss army knife, before Hall showed excellent reflexes to keep a close range Soares effort out, although the ball appeared to be going wide from our angle.

Some light reading in the programme, The Long Read with Matty Holmes will soon be online.

Despite the 0-0 score line, it has been a half of utter dominance as we’d picked up where we left off from Saturday, and there was further good news to come at halftime as TC confirmed the Bovril was back to its usual high standards. After Saturday’s Bovril being saltier than the fans on the actual Bovril terrace itself, this was a blessed relief. Our wander to the Tesco end left us surprised as to how many people were actually already there, and it was another decent crowd of 439 after Saturday’s gate of 446. Even Ash Jury was back for the first time in two years and he would have had the best sideburns in the ground had The Luth not come to the game after a hard day working the land. But the 400 plus gates are very encouraging signs given we’ve struggled to get people through the turnstiles in recent seasons, and performances like the one that followed in the second half will do no harm as we try to tempt back the detached fan.

Livin’ off the fat of the land.

The early goal we scored less than two minutes into the second half helped to settle any nerves, and was a product of some very good play and questionable defending. A delightful ball over the top from Big Thiago set Oakley free, and his cutback was calmy slotted in by the on rushing Tom Purrington. There was a slice of luck as one of the Wimborne defenders seemed to not bother cutting the cross out, but the goal was the least we deserved. Purrington was excellent again as he had been against Kings Langley, and gets my nod for man of the match. With two goals in his last three games, he’s started to add the goals his play has deserved, although some fans need to be more realistic with what he’s capable of. At one stage he picked up the ball 30 yards from goal, was being pursued by three defenders and had turn away from goal, one fan bellowed “FINISH IT TOM!” Not sure that was one he could really have done much more with, but high standards are being encouraged all the same.

Photo; Phil Standfield

One brings two is a frequently used cricketing cliché, and it was very true here as we doubled our lead after 55 minutes. A driving run in field from Oakley Hanger saw him find Tom Purrington who in turn laid the ball off to Alfie Stanley. Stanley’s return pass to Purrington was blocked but the ball rebounded to him and his ball though to Oakley was more successful, Oakley finishing his one on one chance like a man who finds himself in such positions on a far more regular basis. Seeing Oakley in a one-on-one with the goalkeeper was akin to finding a fish up a tree or a turtle on a fencepost, but he took his goal well and you could see by his celebration just how much he enjoyed it.

Photo; Phil Standfield

Hall in the Wimborne goal would soon continue his doomed one man resistance as he denied his former Pompey teammate Stanley a third goal. And, although we lost a little bit of rhythm when Tom Soares was taken off and Wimborne had a slightly more extended spell of fruitless possession, the returning Falvio and new signing Billy Steadman would see us re-assert our dominance and the third goal would come in the 93rd minute. Steadman’s excellent ball over the top saw Roberts motor away from the defence, and although his effort was blocked by that man Hall, Alfie Stanley was on hand to guide the ball into the unguarded net. 3-0 and if anything, that flattered Wimborne. Wimborne look like a side in real trouble, something not lost on us given how their official club feed referred to use as “relegation bound” after a 4-1 Senior Cup win for ourselves in a pore-pandemic world, and although we don’t hold grudges, we at TSOF do have long memories. Life comes at you fast…

This was as professional a performance as we’ve produced since Saturday. Victories like these last two games have been as rare as an AWH smile over the past few seasons and the improvement in these past few games has been notable. We will play better sides, starting with the visit to Met Police on Saturday, but playing like that we’ll give anyone in this league a game and pick up points in the process. As we left the ground to the aroma of KFC and the sad sight of footballs trapped behind fences around electrical equipment, the mood was positive with some of us planning route to Saturday’s game and the game that follows away at Truro. This is not something that seemed probable a few weeks ago as we were manageress and looking at a relegation battle, and I’ll be going on Saturday regardless of my night shifts on Friday and Saturday. What a life I lead… Off the pitch the club has also made giant strides as the chips, cheese and gravy made it to the pages of the ‘Footy Scran’ Twitter feed, even drawing a favourable comment from Deliveroo. Two wins and we’ve gone mainstream.

No sadder sight.

As we approach the halfway point of the season there is now a nice looking gap between us and the relegation places, a gap almost comparable to the one between the end of Glenn Howes three quarter lengths and his shoes. If we keep winning, he can wear them all season. Up the Magpies, here’s hoping for a smash and grab against the Met, or some such witticism, on Saturday. SV