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.
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.
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.
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