“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.

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

  1. Well written piece of prose, you really do have a hidden talent. Shame the DEE are unable to tap into your talent. Well done and a happy Christmas. Enjoy

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