“Imagine Steve here with a calculator trying to work out if we’d stayed up. That would be better than the game itself.”

Walton Casuals away in the last game of the season was a fixture I was dreading. Not due to any great fear of the area, but the thought of having to go there and get a result to secure survival, which seemed very likely a few weeks ago, was not a pleasant one. Memories of last day survival at Stratford in Craig Laird’s ill-fated spell in charge are still relatively fresh, as are flashbacks of the quite horrific hangover I suffered following that 1-1 draw after we’d sleepwalked into a relegation battle from a position of relative safety (sound familiar…?). And given my Portsmouth loyalty, I’ve known a few last day escapes over the years that have left nerves shredded and promises from various club talking heads of “we’ll never be in that position again” seem very hollow.

Stratford and the hangover of the season. 📸 Phil Standfield

As it happened, my fears were totally misplaced as we secured survival with two games to go. We can now start thinking in earnest about next season and how we plan to avoid a repeat performance of this borderline disaster of a season, that saw us reprieved from relegation for the second time in three years by circumstances out of our control. Don’t get me wrong, it was an excellent set of results to keep us up, but the fact we were in this position once more is the real issue and concern. Given the dead rubber nature of Saturday’s game at Walton, this piece will be partly a review of that, partly an end of season review. Much like standing on the Bovril awaiting kick off on a Saturday afternoon, I’ve got no idea what to expect or how this will turn out. 

Walton should have been a relatively straight forward 30-minute train journey out of Waterloo for me, but the wonders of track improvement work meant that my 30-minute trip turned into a more arduous hour and 20 minutes train and rail-replacement bus journey, so it didn’t start brilliantly. I was once more joined by The Girlfriend as she somewhat naïvely enjoyed her sole previous outing to watch us win at Kings Langley so much, she fancied another trip. I’m sure she’ll learn soon enough. The replacement buses from Wimbledon were a total fucking farce, but luckily for us, the bus pulled up and opened its doors right next to us, despite the fact we were nowhere near the front of the whacking great queue. Was it a lucky omen? Well, if that was, being stuck next to a trio of walking, talking rich university student clichés was not. Mercifully, the journey wasn’t too bad, and after a short taxi ride to the ground, we arrived to get something to drink and have a look at the teams and our surrounds.

As a ground, Walton is quite pleasant, although given it is part of a wider sports complex, it does have the feel of playing at school about it. The actual stadium part is very nice and modern, and is how Hayes and Yeading’s ground should look and feel if they ever get around to finishing it rather than putting money into the playing budget and not the physical infrastructure of the place. Unlike Hayes, the bar does not feel like it is in the boiler room, and from its elevated position you get a bloody good view of the game. Picking up a couple of drinks, lager for myself and a very fancy looking hot chocolate for The Girlfriend, I was joined in the queue by Callum Buckley and Thiago Sa. This gave me a good indication that they were unlikely to start. They were also joined by Josh Bertie (I think/was told), so it will be interesting to see if he re-appears for us next season. When we did see the starting XI, it showed four changes from the Yate defeat as Calverley, Lowes, Purrington and Koszela all returned. Yemi, Soares, Gunson and Josh Phillips all dropped to the bench.

The turnout from the Magpies fans was understandably small given the nature of the game and the travel involved, but a small band of us headed towards the goal we were attacking that was against a bloody strong wind. Just before kick-off we were joined by a late arriving and somewhat weary Eames, who had to go through the penance of shoe shopping with his children whilst suffering from a hangover in order to get the green light to attend the game. Eames had previously met The Girlfriend and I at Bekenscot Model Village last year. Eames with his wife and children on a family day out, The Girlfriend and I there as we really should grow up. The model village is in Beaconsfield, and the model village trip marks one of the few occasions I’ve enjoyed a visit to Beaconsfield as most other have seen us get soundly beaten there, including another especially unenjoyable 90 minutes there a few months back. Bekenscot Model Village was used a the setting for an episode of ‘Midsomer Murders’, so consider that your useless fact of the day.

Murder in Bekenscot before death by boredom at Beaconsfield.

As a game, it had the classic end of season feel to it. We started well and despite being denied a penalty from what looked like a good effort to catch a cross by a Walton defender, we took a deserved lead after 13 minutes after an excellent ball from Tom Purrington set Olaf away. Walton’s goalkeeper totally misjudged the weight and speed of the pass in the wind and ran hopelessly out of his area for a ball he was never going to reach first. Once Olaf had done the hard part and lifted the ball over him, the rest was simple as he took his time to slot the ball into the empty net. The quality of the ball from Purrington was exceptional – he is one of the players I would love to see back at the club next season. We were playing well with Olaf, Purrington and Alfie all causing problems. Alfie was twice denied chances by the lineman’s flag despite looking to time his runs well, and we probed and pushed without any real reward.

The goalkeeper is more out of position than this image
lets on. 📸 Phil Standfield

Kicking against the wind didn’t seem to cause us too many issues, Walton initially struggled with the wind in their favour as they overhit several passes and looked unsure of how to use it to their advantage. The home side picked up a bit as the half rolled on, a hanging cross causing issues as Jack Bycroft had to be alert to claw the ball away. Better was still to come from Bycroft as he made an excellent stop down low to his right to keep out a stinging shot from Walton’s Rohdell Gordon. It was a far better save than I’ve made it sound, and Jack’s performances have been key in seeing us nudge towards safety. I’d imagine it is unlikely he’ll return to the club next season as his parent club will probably seek to loan him to a club in a higher division, and we wish him all the best. We’ve not had many better keepers than him, loan or otherwise, over the past few seasons.

📸 Phil Standfield

The second half didn’t exactly burst into life, but from a game that was played at training pace, it all of a sudden had some needle to it. Walton looked to press more and missed a couple of reasonable openings, and we struck a free-kick from a good position into the wall, before an odd flashpoint saw temperatures on the pitch raised a bit as the referee started to lose control. Walton’s number three, a limited footballer with a seemingly unlimited temper, got himself into a bizarre shoving match with Alfie, of all people, and appeared to throw the ball at him. There was a small huddle with some more argy-bargy from players of both sides, but it seemed to act as a catalyst for the game to breakdown into a more verbally spiteful, if not physical, encounter. The turning point of sorts came shortly after as our friend the limited three and another Casuals defender came together to clumsily foul Billy Lowes (I think), to give us a penalty. Harvey Bertrand clapping and laughing in three’s face would be as good as it got though as Alfie uncharacteristically screwed his effort wide of the keeper’s righthand post, the keeper himself having gone to his left. The miss seemed to deflate us, with Alfie soon after getting a booking for a rash challenge, likely one borne out of frustration, and he was soon replaced by Yemi.

Around this time there was once again an odd flaring of tempers, with assistant manager James Wood getting a yellow card and both benches clashing. I had initially thought it had been Brian Churchill who had been carded which would have capped off quite the week for him as he had already received a red card for the under 23’s this week. Special mention to Kriss Radivojsa, TSOF sponsor, and the under 23’s for getting through to a couple of finals this season. Best of luck to them for those. Also, worth acknowledging the shithousing celebration of U23’s goalkeeper, Cameron Pike, who scored the winning penalty in the shootout during the week, and gave the vocal home support some back. You’ll go far.

Back to Walton and we’d dropped a touch deeper and were coming under increased pressure as missed chances and good defending/goalkeeping kept it at 1-0, but with injury time approaching, Walton got the equaliser they merited, albeit in a fortunate manner. Jack Bycroft misjudged a looping ball, his fumble turned into the gaping net and we were level at 1-1. It was unfortunate for Bycroft, who has done as much as anyone to ensure our survival, to gift them such a goal. Thankfully, it wasn’t his last touch in a Dorchester shirt as he had one final top drawer stop in his bag, his right leg denying Walton a certain winner in injury time, and the final score of 1-1 was probably a fair reflection. The players thanked the fans for their support as we applauded them for their efforts these last few weeks, and in the end, it was job done by the barest of margins. After a few handshakes, or in the case of The Girlfriend, missed high fives, with the players and staff, we retreated to the bar for a quick natter. Luke, Lee and I chatted about what next season may bring, while Keith Kellaway was quite rightly more concerned with why I was taking so long to bring The Girlfriend’s drink back and took matters into his own hands, delivering it to her personally. Finishing those up, it was off back to London and that was the 2021/22 season done, ending as it started, with a late goal costing us points. A 1-1 draw was a neat summary of the season, good in patches, ultimately not getting the result we wanted, and being stung late with only ourselves to blame.

There will be a few players there who have played their final game for the club over the past two fixtures against Yate and Walton, and a clear-out is certainly in order. Even with our improved performances and form, we’ve still only survived due to a reprieve this season. Four sides were supposed to go down from each step three division of non-league, of which we are a member of, at the start of the season, but multiple vacancies in the non-league football pyramid saw that drop to three relegated sides from each division as the murky mathematic based Points Per Game method decided one of those spots. Thank fuck we didn’t have to get something or rely on other results going into the Walton game. El Gen would have been frantic in this scenario, calculator, walkman radio and Flashscores his companions as he tries to work out the permutations. This seasons reprieve, alongside our Covid based escape the season before last, mean we’ve stayed up due to circumstances we don’t control twice in three seasons, which is nowhere near good enough. Add that to previous lucky escapes, we’ve won the ‘AGM Cup’ at least five times, possibly more. We have a better recent record in that than the Dorset Senior Cup.

Thanks for all the photos, Phil.

Who to keep and who to let go is a tricky question, and we’ve been caught out in seasons past by keeping on too many members of an underperforming squad. Thommo, Callum Brooks and Leigh Robinson were all guilty of keeping too many of a side that had not performed one season but hoping that would change the next. The definition of insanity etc… That’s not to say there isn’t talent in this squad, but we do need a good number of new faces if we want to avoid being in this situation again. Buckley and Stanley are contracted for next season, we believe (the latter with caveats but that is both fair and understandable), and there are others who I would happily see back involved. But this is the very clichéd Big Summer © for the club as Glenn has to really do a pretty big rebuild job. I don’t think anyone is demanding or expecting us to win the league next season, but to be closer to the playoffs and not be in the relegation mix at Christmas would be nice, and then we can have a look from there at where we are. Hopefully Glenn can bring his own people in, be it on the pitch or off it, as he wants and build a side and a squad that means we won’t find ourselves scrapping for survival again. The league table doesn’t lie, especially after 42 games. This season hasn’t been anywhere near good enough.

So, season review and some ‘awards’ into the bargain. Player of the season was a reasonably straight forward one for me, Callum Buckley getting the nod ahead of Alfie, for my money. Defensively, we’ve really not been that bad this season. 58 goals conceded over 42 games isn’t an awful return at all, especially by our standards. And although the personnel around him has changed, Callum has been almost ever present in our XI, wearing the captain’s armband and even becoming the first player we’ve paid any sort of fee for in many a year. He also changed his very outdated claret and blue based Twitter profile and cover pictures after we spotted them; that alone deserves recognition. Congratulations, Callum, you win our warmest wishes.

Signing of the season could quite conceivably have gone to Callum as well, but that doesn’t seem fair. Jack Bycroft has been almost faultless and will surely go onto better things, Harvey Bertrand has been absolutely excellent in the games I’ve seen him, and Oakley’s consistency deserves noting. But, for his vital goals and quite delightful haircut, Alfie Stanley is crowned signing of the season. Alfie’s return of 13 league goals is our highest in the league since we don’t know when. Quite possibly looking back to late spell Groover unless we missed someone more recent who just bettered Alfie’s tally. Of those 13 goals, 11 of them came in games we got points from (I think), with several vital ones in amongst them. His match winning hat-trick in our 3-2 victory against Tivvy included what is the undoubted goal of the season with his strike from the halfway line, but other goals have been equally important. His brace against Swindon broke a 10 game winless run, his equaliser at Kings Langey followed up with another brace at home to Hendon helped us secure vital points, and he finished off his scoring with the goal that kept us up as he netted the only goal of the game at Salisbury. Goal, signing and trim of the season go to Alfie, all three well deserved.

Alfie from range in the 3-2 win against Tivvy. 📸 Phil Standfield

For every good signing, there is an equal and opposite flop. Poor Michael Green. A no doubt very good player, and man described by Mark Derrien as “far too good looking to play football”, may have the distinction of having one appearance in the undoubted season low point of our 3-1 home capitulation against Merthyr. Rudi Plummer looked like someone who could be really useful for us on debut at Harrow with his quite obscene pace winning a penalty before he tailed off badly and left under something of a cloud, and many others seemed to leave as quickly as they arrived over the season as a whole. I’ll let Rudi and Greener fight this one out and will instead award the season low point to the Merthyr horror show as we gifted the rock bottom Martyrs only their third win of the season. This was bad on a par with some of the Brooks/Robinson games of the ill-fated Covid season, which is an incredibly low bar to match. Survival seemed a million miles away at full-time that day, so full credit to Glenn, James Wood and the rest of the side for pulling clear.

A rare shot of Michael Green in action.

High point is the full-time whistle at Salisbury, both securing survival and ending a truly abysmal run against that lot and their scarecrow of a manager. We hadn’t beaten them for over a decade, so winning there and under the circumstances was a great feeling. Hopefully we can win more games next season and make it more of a habit. Other moments of the season go to the improvement in the food available in the snack bar and the prices of it. The WFC snack bar was long due a transfer, this season’s version with excellent gravy to boot is an upgrade on a par with what parts of our squad require. Most improved player goes to Oakley, who has performed well and really made that right side position his own this season. Tiago Sa was in the running for this as he became a totally different player to the one who seemed to struggle under Callum Brooks and Leigh Robinson.

And the unsung hero award goes to Glenn’s three quarter length shorts. A curious fashion choice that initially appeared to be a pair of Robbie Herrera’s old trousers, they have remained in favour and a dependable sight on the touchline, even in our most dire run of form. Credit to them, they were still there at the end of the season despite not providing much protection for the ankle – it will be interesting to see if Glenn elects for actual shorts or trousers next season. It’s a big summer for the club in so many ways Glenn’s wardrobe included.

Thanks for reading our nonsense across the season, it is much appreciated. We’ll be back next season for more droll musings, and there might even be a historic lookback or two over the summer months – suggestions for DTFC topics yet to be covered always welcome. Up The Magpies, here’s looking forward to next years open top bus parade down South Street. SV

“His dad sent the stewards around apparently.”

It’s fair to say our recent form against Salisbury is fucking dire, to say the least. Under the newly reformed Salisbury FC 7 years ago, our record against them had been played 10 lost 9, plus a draw in the FA Trophy – we ultimately lost the replay 0-3. One of those losses includes a 10-0 defeat in the Southern League cup which would bring psychological damage to any team, regardless of how pointless the cup is.

Wiltshire services.

From a personal perspective however, my record of watching Dorch at the Ray Mac stadium is pretty good, witnessing 2 wins and a draw plus a game called off due to torrential rain minutes before kick-off. Off the back of back-to-back victories, the Magpies had every right to go into this Easter fixture with cautious optimism against a Salisbury team who’ve had a poor season by their standards. The onus was on the away side to get a positive result and secure our safety in the Southern Premier League.

My attendance at DTFC games hasn’t been so prolific this season, but I decided to attend my first Dorch game since a drab 2-0 defeat at Beaconsfield in mid-January. Having finally renewed my network railcard last month, train tickets to Salisbury were reasonably priced and knowing plenty of friendly faces amongst the Dorchester fans making the trip from Dorset, I was quite looking forward to this one. Unlike my last blog at Chesham there were no hiccups on my journey, as I jumped on a tube from Walthamstow to London Waterloo before hopping on the train to Wiltshire, where I could enjoy a couple of Irish cans to keep me hydrated on a beautifully sunny and warm day. My only minor gripe was that the train didn’t have any plug sockets, so that sadly meant no solitaire or Netflix to pass the time.

I arrived at Salisbury station at 13:40 and juiced up my phone while I waited for my dad to give me a lift to the ground as he was driving up from the county town. Good job too, because fuck me, having a ground 3.5 miles away from the city centre can’t do much for their fanbase. Once we arrived at the ground, I met the lads in the bar for catch ups and to discuss the usual pre-match patter. There were plenty of away fans in the bar but already you could sense the general positivity in the atmosphere opposed to the usual dread, especially as there was so much riding on this game. The line-up showed a completely unchanged squad for the third game in a row, something we’ve not done all season. The first half itself didn’t have a lot going for it and very much had an end of season feel. Both sides looked fairly unthreatened, with an Ashley Wells shot that was comfortably saved and a couple of high blasts being our only half chances. The 100 or so Dorch faithful were creating a good atmosphere including a bit of friendly stick towards some of the ex-Magpie contingents in the Salisbury line-up. This was much to the annoyance of the Salisbury stewards, as well as Charlie Davis’ dad in the main stand.

As we were taking our place behind the goal at the start of the second half, the Magpies began far livelier and just as I approached my position behind the goal, we took the lead. Some brilliant play from Tom Purrington down the left-hand sidefound Alfie Stanley, who sidestepped a defender before slotting firmly home to put us 1-0 up. From then on, we rarely looked to be troubled and had one or two good chances to extend our lead with Harry Mcgrath having the biggest, after great work from Purrington again in finding Mcgrath who fired over from 12 yards. Salisbury did give us a scare when Sam Ashton cannoned a thunderous effort against the crossbar from 20 yards out, but despite 8 minutes of injury time due to an injury to former Dorch player Calvin Brooks, we seemed to see the game out with relative ease. Goalkeeper Jack Bycroft was comfortable dealing with last ditch Salisbury attempts thrown into our box and we hung on for the 1-0 win.

📸 Phil Stanfield

There were jubilant scenes at the full-time whistle with players and fans celebrating survival with 2 games to spare, something that was unthinkable a month or so ago. With the sun still shining and spirits high, we ventured back into the bar for one last pint and it was brilliant to see lots of smiling faces. Lots more of those for next season please! I got my lift back to the station to catch my train back to London and it was nice to leave an away game with that feeling again, something I’ve not witnessed since we won 3-1 at Hendon back in September 2019. A very enjoyable trip and I’m glad I made the journey.

📸 Phil Stanfield.

As I said just now, staying up was unthinkable a month or so ago. I’d almost resigned myself to relegation so much that I actively chose not to go to the easily commutable Kings Langley four matches ago. To be honest I’ve not really enjoyed any of the games and occasions I’ve attended this season and just couldn’t see us getting anything from it. At half time it seemed awise choice too, but of course we ended up winning 2-1 so fair play to Glenn Howes and the team for kicking on from that. Yesterday’s 1-0 at Salisbury meant 3 consecutive wins and clean sheets, with narrow losses to promotion-chasing Farnborough and Met Police before that. Whilst it’s good to build some momentum going into next season, it’s vital that we properly build on our squad in the summer and strengthen it. Glenn said in his post-match interview yesterday that we have a “big summer ahead” and I agree with him. It’s unacceptable that we keep finding ourselves in this position, but it seems like Glenn has slowly built a foundation, a platform and the winner’s mentality he had at Blackfield & Langley and AFC Totton before managing Dorchester. Our next goal for this season will be to overtake Hartley & Wintney with 2 games left, starting with our final home game against Yate Town on Easter Monday. There is still lots of work to be done but will our fortunes FINALLY turn? Here’s hoping and UTM. FR

📸 Phil Stanfield.

“I genuinely don’t like football.”

There are few more crushing feelings in football than watching your side lose to an injury time goal. Seeing your side do so in the purgatory that is Farnborough, having played and defended so well for 90 minutes is doubly depressing. This was another sucker punch in a season that has seen us on the receiving end of a fair few, but it did show a marked improvement on previous performances in such games and gives hope we’ll be able to get the points we need to secure survival in this god forsaken division. One that we’ll ideally one day depart on an upwards trajectory, rather than falling through the trapdoor.

As away trips from London go, this was a pretty simple one for me to make. Working within striking distance of Waterloo, I was able to curry a favour from a colleague and head to the station to get the 1812 from there to Farnborough, arriving in plenty of time to take in the sights and scenes of the local area. I jest, I got a taxi straight to the ground. Farnborough is a curious place and seems to have been locked in a timeless battle with Aldershot for the coveted title of ‘the shittest town in Hampshire’, but their football team are flying high in the league and look like a good bet for the title. They have been something of a boom and bust club over the past few seasons with smatterings of financial problems interspersed with success and investment. This is one of those more successful periods with our hosts assembling a good squad with a lot of football league experience, and this game doubled up as the game in hand for both of us and them after the original fixture was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. With our odds drifting out as far as 12/1 in a three horse race, it was fair to say the bookies didn’t really fancy us.

A point here would be huge for our survival hopes as It would take us three points clear of Kings Langley with us both having played the same number of games, and also give us a slightly better goal difference than our nearest rivals. Buoyed by the 2-1 success having been behind at the aforementioned Kings Langley on Saturday, a result that had lifted us out of the relegation places, we headed to Hampshire’s armpit with some added confidence. I was pleased to find my taxi was cheap but not as cheap as the concession rate I was charged on the gate to get in as I was admitted for free with my Blue Light Card. In the current financial climate, every little helps. A quick stop in the gents revealed what is possibly the world’s highest urinal, one so high that El Generale may have to use the cubical and treat himself to a sit down wee as I don’t even think standing on tiptoes would have helped. Once in the bar, which is in need of some care and attention as it felt a bit like a ‘Cold War Steve’ setting, I decided to invest some of the money I had saved in a golden goal ticket and by luck if the draw ended up with the 90th minute. Feeling that was likely a quid wasted I afforded myself a giggle at my own misfortune and was soon joined by The General as we ran the rule over the team sheet.

There was only the one change to the starting XI as Charlie Gunson came in for Tom Purrington, who was named amongst the substitutes. We were unsure if this was tactical or not but the game did seem to suit Charlie’s more combative approach, even if changing a winning side is somewhat of a bugbear at times. The bench was Yemi-less as we were told his partner had just given birth, so he joined Tom Soares on paternity leave as he had also become a father in recent days. Congrats to the new pair of Dad’s, looking forward to seeing them both break out the ‘rock the baby’ or a thumb sucking celebration on Saturday. The four man bench was competed by Ben Symes, Josh Baxter and Louis Slough as our numbers seemed somewhat depleted. El Gen and I made our way out the terraces to see which way we’d be kicking and after a cup of a tea and a cheeseburger had been acquired, we took up residence on the terrace in the corner as we kicked towards a largely vacant oversized stand at one end. There were a dozen or so of us assembled there which sadly didn’t include Keith Kellaway who was unable to make it. Nothing to do with his wedding anniversary but the matter of a rather vital game of bowls had come up. So as Keith aimed for the jack, we looked to play out from the back. Or something like that.

It was a pretty even start, both sides enjoying a fair bit of possession without any real end product. Frankie Sutherland slicing a shot wide from distance for the home side, Alfie Stanley flashing an effort past the far post for us. A few promising positions came to nothing for Farnborough and both sides were wasteful when in good crossing positions, form open play and set pieces. We seemed to gain more control as the half went on, Olaf causing problems and winning several fouls before he mistimed lob landed a few rows back. But he would have the games first meaningful shot on target as he forced the home keeper, Jack Turner, into a good save up to his right as his rising effort from the edge of the box was heading goal bound. We’d continue to press, better delivery from set pieces seeing Callum Buckley head over and an excellent delivery from an Oakley set piece not being attacked as it probably should have been. A mark of how much possession we were having was the amount of time that Callum Buckley spent on the ball in the Farnborough half as we matched the home side for the majority of the half. A couple of half chances and efforts from range being dealt with comfortably by Jack Bycroft, but there were signs of what was to come as Paul Hodges would come much closer as he bundled an effort well clear of the bar. John Oyengua’s well struck shot was closer but not close enough as the hosts found some more consistency going forward. But 0-0 it was at half time, a fair reflection on what had been entertaining if not uneventful 45 minutes in which we had certainly been equal to our high-flying hosts.

We got the impression there was probably a lot more to come from Farnborough, but we once again started steadily with no chances of note or one team dominating possession in the second half’s opening exchanges. Farnborough would start to show more attacking intent and as the half wore on, they went through the gears a bit. Elliott Buchanan, who had scored twice in the reverse fixture, wasn’t in such lethal form as he missed the target with two good chances, but his teammates would soon find their range as we were put under more concerted pressure. Their improved accuracy would soon properly test Jack Bycroft who responded by producing an outrageous looking save to keep out a close range header. We didn’t have the best view from the far end of the ground, but this looked a save from the very top drawer to keep the game at 0-0. Harry McGrath would make way for Tom Purrington just after the hour mark as we looked to gain a bit more control and we’d still look threatening when we did get into more advanced positions. A couple of corners came to nothing but there would be controversy with 20 minutes to go as Oakley appeared to be wiped out in the penalty area, the referee gave it a big cut the grass and awarded nothing. Much like the Bycroft save, I’d need to see it back to be sure, but judging by the reactions of both sets of players and seeing it from our angle, it looked a penalty. That said, we were managing the game, which seems to be the polite modern way of saying timewasting and general shithousing, well as Olaf and Alfie closed down defenders and made life awkward, Lowes and Gunson (who had his best game in a Dorch shirt) were the right combination of combative and clever, and the defensive line was much like they had been on Saturday in that they were committed and playing bloody well.

📸 Phil Standfield

As the game wore on into the final ten minutes, those of us assembled behind the goal got increasingly nervous. Steve looking like a man who had just realised he’d booked tickets for Barnsley away on the same day as his girlfriend’s birthday, me looking like a man who has just had just remembered the fact he has an hour wait post-match for his train home. “I genuinely don’t like football. I can only enjoy it when it’s over”, said Steve. Nerves weren’t improved as Farnborough edged closer to a goal as they created more chances and applied more pressure. Bycroft, who was by general consensus our MOTM, once more coming to the rescue with another fine save, this time low to his right, as we came under more pressure and dropped slightly deeper. But we were still defending well with bodies being flung in front of shots, crosses, and opponents as we worked hard for what would have been a deserved point. As the 90 minute mark passed and we entered into injury time, Glenn elected to bring on Ben Symes for Olaf in a move that raised a few eyebrows and questions from those of us behind the goal, but before any sentences could be finished we were rendered speechless by a hammer blow as Farnborough went ahead.

What looked like a bloody good cross was headed in by home sub, David Pratt, which sparked a small pitch invasion by what looked like the JD Sports winter sale catalogue models. It was a heart-breaking goal to concede for both players and fans. Heads in hands, people lying flat in a state of distress, head bowed, and this was on both the pitch and the terrace. Steve swatted his water bottle halfway down the terrace in anger, before then going to pick it up and bin it as he cares about the environment. He did slam the bin lid in a frustrated manner though so we knew he was still hurting. There was still two minutes on the clock once the remainder of B-wing had been removed from the playing area, but we were unable to mount a meaningful attack and as the final whistle blew and second waive of borderline grief came over us. Had we lost 1-0 with a goal coming after about an hour, it would have felt frustrating but not as bad as this did. This one was soul destroying. We’ve had some pretty morale sapping defeats over the past few seasons and a handful this season alone. But this one was really hard take. Having matched them first half and defended brilliantly for so long, we didn’t deserve to lose like that. Even my £40 win on the golden goal ticket felt hollow. I’d have gladly won nothing in exchange for a point. Selfless, I know. But as that well known prophet, Vince McMahon, once said; “life sucks, and then you die.”

The players had put everything into the 90 minutes and got a well-deserved round of applause from those of us behind the goal. It was a horrible result to take but the group can take great encouragement from the way they played. Hopefully these last two games have helped raise the standard, even in defeat we can take positives from this one, and will help us pick up the necessary points to survive. We looked a far more cohesive unit defensively and even if opportunity was scarce going forward at times, we still carry a considerable threat. With Met Police at home on Saturday, the games don’t get any easier, but we’ve upped our game in the past few days and with the squad hopefully being bolstered with potentially Sa, Soares and Yemi all returning to the fray, maybe the XI and certainly the bench should look much stronger. Having seen the top three sides in the league this season, the Met are comfortably the best all around side for my money, but if we put it together then we’re more than capable of getting a result. As I waited on the platform at Farnborough for 35 long minutes for my train. I contemplated a few things, quite how a Twirl could cost a £1 was one of the more distressing things, but I hold much more hope of staying up now than I did post Merthyr. Hopefully my optimism isn’t misplaced.

How much?

Glenn has a few days to try and add to the squad and pick the players up after that morale sapping blow. He does seem to have found a favoured formation now which with tweaks can hopefully become a successful one. As said in previous blogs, we need to stay up by any means necessary and allow Glenn to have a full pre-season get rid of what he sees are deadwood and bring in what he thinks he needs on pitch and in the dugout rather than operating with a lot of hand-me-downs from previous incumbents of the managers office. But for the time being, we have six rather big games to worry about, three at home and three on the road. Met Police and Yate both have promotion aspirations, the other four are either in the delightful surrounds of midtable mediocrity, or staring relegation in the face (Wimborne). 18 points to play for, the same as Kings Langley who are directly below us, and Hartley Wintney who are directly above. I’m not sure what I think the ‘magic number’ would be from those 18 available but I suspect 10 would probably suffice but that would need a big upturn in results. But if we play like we did second half v Kings Langley and for the 90 minutes at Farnborough, I don’t think we’ll be too far off that. Here’s hoping…

This is potentially my final game and therefore final blog of the season, with the season finale away at Walton Casuals being the only one I can possibly make. Up The Magpies , If this is the final game and blog combo of the season, I hope my next matchday review will be from one of the many grounds I hate in the god awful league as I’ve no idea how the hell I’d get to Slimbridge from Peckham if were to go down. SV.

📸 Phil Standfield