“F*** off back down South, you pasty eating c***.”

The dream is still alive. Not since 1901 has a non-league side won the FA Cup and we are only eleven games from a Wembley final and fulfilling our destiny. Well, maybe. Either way, the difference between this season and previous seasons is like night and day, and although a replay isn’t what either side really wanted, we continued our impressive start to the new season and kept a second consecutive clean sheet in what was a far more watchable game than the 0-0 scoreline suggests.

This was a weekend I’d planned on watching Dorch, selfishly hoping we’d get a FA Cup tie that was favourable for travel from London. So, Wimborne away wasn’t really what I was looking for at all. But I’m nothing if not stubborn, so back on a Dorchester bound train from Waterloo it was to watch the early stages of the inevitable march to Wembley. As with most things on the railways at the moment, nothing was straightforward. My journey home on Thursday was going swimmingly and I’d got all the way to Wool when the train remained stationary in the platform for a little while longer than usual. Suddenly, a WhatsApp message on the cricket club group asked why there was a fire engine on the outfield at the Rec – I soon got an answer via the train tannoy as we were informed the train was being held at Wool due to two lineside fires in Dorchester, caused by a steam engine setting fire to the embankment. Of course it fucking had. Luckily, I was close enough to get a lift home with my long-suffering Mother, and the train duly pulled out and continued on its journey not five minutes after I’d left it. I was rather hoping this was not an omen for the coming days.

Wimborne is not a long trip, but one that’s not local by virtue of the Wimborne postcode being BH. At this point, Wimborne becomes part of Hampshire as anything outside of a DT area is quite obviously not Dorset. Bournemouth and Poole can move along into Hampshire, or possibly even into France, if they’ll have them. Areas outside of a DT postcode wishing to become part of proper Dorset will be considered on a case-by-case basis and certain exemptions apply to parts of Purbeck and Durdle Door which we’ll gladly keep. Otherwise, redrawing the county boundary and using clubs to have played in the Dorchester and District Evening Cricket League as a guideline seems a wise option. Whatever way you slice it, Who’s Afear’d could see which way the wind was blowing. Their song, ‘Borderline’, provides all the necessary warning you need.

Despite it not being a long journey, we set off in plenty of time to enable us to catch the early kick-off in the Merseyside derby. The plan was to have ourselves a no-frills breakfast at Spoons (complete with a gurt big teddy bear in the corner for reasons unknown), hop in El Generale’s armoured Ford, and head on out to the New Cuthbury ground. The first two parts of this plan were ticked off in a straightforward manner as El Generale, JW and I were regaled by TC of his tales of a day trip to London to watch the test match at Lords. Despite the cricket being highly entertaining, the most noteworthy part of the day came when his old man, who was driving that day, accidently cut up a black cab driver on the way back. After an exchange of pleasantries when they were next to each other in stationary traffic, the cabbie told TC Snr to “fuck off back down South, you pasty eating cunt.” Not really having a reply to that due to being too busy laughing, he took that advice and headed back home.

Back to our journey and after a smooth trip out of Dorch as TC helped us navigate the back roads and avoid show traffic, we made it to the Puddletown bypass, and soon we were over the border into Hampshire as we reached Wimborne. Now, you’d think that was the hard part done. This was not quite the case. Steve’s Google maps took us to Wimborne’s old Cuthbury ground, now a load of new build houses, and it took a little while for us to get our bearings, TC once again helping navigate as we made our way to the new ground. A new ground that we duly missed the turning for. Still, it would be easy to turn around and go back on ourselves as we took a left and would soon find somewhere to turn. Well, Steve did the first part and took a left. We then carried on for about a mile and a half through suburban Wimborne, passing some lovely houses and scenery, yet failing to turn. It was only when we came to a crossroads that the question was asked: “what are you looking for? A fucking roundabout?” – Steve had in fact been waiting to be told where to turn, so after a couple of minutes to recompose ourselves and get our bearings, we eventually arrived at the quite pleasant surrounds of the New Cuthbury and settled in the bar there.

It is a tidy new ground with a good-sized bar and a good selection of beers to choose from. Two that caught the eye were the ‘Magpies Salute’ and the ‘Magpies 1878’ that had been brewed for the club by the Ringwood Brewery. Always nice to see a novel local ale available… As we watched the Merseyside derby, we were joined by others who had made the trip including a few familiar faces not seen for some time. Spud and Ben Ward made a rare appearance and were on fine form, this is despite Spud suffering with bad knees. How has he got bad knees; you ask? Is it work? New fitness regime? Old football injury? Nope, he has bad knees from playing darts. Or as TC put it;

“Fuck me, you’ve got bad knees from being at the oche? Fuck me, help me out, I’ve just thrown a treble twenty and put me knee out.”

Numbers seemed good and the Dorch fans numbered one more when it was at last established the Ollie Griggs was in fact still suspended and unavailable for the game. Probably best that was worked out pre-game. When we did get the team news, it showed four changes from the Yate game as Harvey Bertrand, Tiago Sa, Charlie Gunson and Ollie Balmer replaced the benched Jordi Foot, Louie Slough, Matty Neale and the injured Jordan Ngalo. None of those players had done anything wrong; this seemed more tactical than anything else and gave us more of an attacking threat from the wide areas. Helpfully, the loan players were all able to play as well so Olaf, Alex Moyse and Harry Lee were all able to play, which was more than helpful. After a bit more of a natter with the assembled masses, it was out to the terraces to find a suitable vantage point and to hang up some flags. All of this was done with fresh breath as Spud had thoughtfully passed some chewing gum around.

“As football fans, we need good breath.”

Always grips the glass from the lowest point.

The start we made was an excellent one, and we were unfortunate not to take the lead on several occasions. A Balmer free kick went narrowly over before Balmer again really should have opened the scoring and grabbed his first goal. After a defence splitting header from Kieran Douglas, Balmer did the hard part in rounding the keeper but a combination of taking fractionally too long and some very good tracking back from Ash Wells saw the effort cleared when the goal had been gaping. More chances would come and go, with a Moyse header over the bar, and an Olaf free kick went the same way before yet another free kick would draw a save from the home keeper, Ollie Balmer this time testing him as we continued to press.

We’d go closer still just after the fifteen-minute mark, with Olaf heading against the bar before Shaq’s effort was blocked for a corner. From the resultant set piece, Kieran Douglas would thud a header against the face of the post as we did everything but score. It is genuinely pleasing to see us carry a threat from set pieces now after years of both struggling to defend them and not having much luck attacking them either. We are a totally different side to this time twelve months ago and its enjoyable to watch again.

What was not enjoyable to watch was the referee’s performance as he made some very curious decisions across the course of the day, the worst one being the penalty appeals he turned down after Shaq had literally been punched in the head by the Wimborne keeper. There was no malice in it – it isn’t like he chinned him at a corner – but he horribly misjudged the bounce of a ball over the top, Shaq got up to head it and got there first by a comfortable margin, with the keeper’s flying fist catching nothing but Shaq’s noggin as he clattered into him. The referee and the linesman looked at each other, both looked clueless and gave a goal kick, which was the one thing it couldn’t really be. It would logically have either been a free kick to Wimborne for simulation if they think Shaq had dived to try and win the penalty, or it is a penalty due to the keeper literally punching Shaq in the fucking head and getting nowhere near the ball. To give nothing was to bottle it totally, which is exactly what he did. A baffling decision.

Play on! 📸 Phil Standfield.

Thankfully, that was the only punch to the head landed during the half as tempers threatened to boil over on the terraces at one point, but the DTFC peace corps of TC and I helped to quell the tempers like a modern-day Max and Paddy. Well done to the Wimborne stewards as well for not piling in and potentially worsening the situation; it’s nice to see some common sense used in situations like this and was much appreciated. We were also very appreciative of our own crossbar as a Wimborne cross struck the face of it before it was being cleared, giving us a reminder that it wasn’t going to be one way traffic all day. Alex Moyse picked up a booking at some point for what we think was his first foul challenge of the day in another one of the ref’s more confusing calls, before we’d twice go close again in the final five or so minutes of the half. 

We finally had the ball in the net, but it was disallowed for a foul on the keeper, and their keeper would make a good save, connecting with the ball and not a Dorch player’s temple as he kept out a shot on the turn by Balmer. I didn’t see the foul that saw the goal disallowed as I was getting a tea and had a slightly obstructed view, but I like to think we were hard done by so I’ll assume it was a bad decision. The cup of tea was served from an actual teapot, complete with tea cosy, so it scored highly on the SV BrewScale. Flags were removed from behind the goal, a critical flaw we’ve had in seasons past, and it was back into the bar for a debrief and a natter on how we weren’t ahead. It was a short one as we all fancied we’d finish the job second half.

Said second half wasn’t as one way as the first, as Wimborne came far more into the game and a more even 45 minutes followed. We still had chances, with Balmer again going close and Keith Emmerson lifting his effort off the bar when a rebound fell kindly to him. We lost a little bit of shape when Alex Moyse was subbed off – that’s by no means a dig at Matty Neale, we just seemed to go a touch longer with our passing and found ourselves a bit more under pressure. The pressure almost told as Wimborne created chances. A number of corners were dealt with but an excellent point blank save from Harry Lee saw the rebound fall kindly to a Wimborne player who, mercifully, slammed it wide via the outside of the post. 

We weren’t done yet either as sub-Alfie’s shot on the turn from a cross by our third sub, Jordi Foot, was well saved, and possession and a couple of good positions from wide areas and corners came and went. There was still more time for another interesting decision from the ref as Wimborne’s assistant, Mark Gamble, got a comedic red card for literally picking up the ball when it went out for a throw in, and waddling off with it. His protestations of innocence were almost as amusing as the initial act of picking the ball up and running off with it as he claimed to be changing it. These protests would have carried more weight had our player not just picked up another perfectly round and normal looking ball that was where he just shuffled off from. Bizarre. The full-time whistle followed soon after and after a deserved bit of applause for the players, it was back to the bar for a further natter, before heading back home, thankfully avoiding another couple of miles around Wimborne’s suburbs. TC, Welchy and I popped into the cricket club to have a beer and a chat with some of the faces there. It is always good to see Trev Senior and we had a very enjoyable chat with Jorge Diaz as he told how how the Poole v Salisbury game was interesting both on and off the pitch. As time went by, Fin Barge ending up with a smoke grenade wedged between his arse cheeks was my cue to head home.

As 0-0 draws go, I’ve seen far worse and I have also seen Dorch fail to turn a good first half into anything other than a loss on multiple occasions. Over the 90 minutes we were the much better side, but there is a confidence from both the fans and the team that we’ll get the job done on Saturday. This squad is far better than anything we’ve had in recent seasons, and a look back at some results and line-ups really hammered this home. A couple of sides we had were genuinely awful and propped up by very good loans. Harry Kite has gone from playing alongside Billy Lowes when on loan from Exeter to scoring League One goal of the month contenders; Jordan Storey also came to us on loan from Exeter and has gone from partnering Ross Carmichael in the centre of defence to keeping seven consecutive clean sheets in the Championship. Had it not been for COVID, we’d have gone down three seasons ago, but this squad look capable of more than just keeping us afloat. Likable and with plenty of ability, the team and their start to the season has been far better than even our most optimistic fan would have predicted, and we’re enjoyable to watch again after some tough seasons. Lots of games to go yet, but it really does feel a bit different this season. The key for us as fans is to not get too far ahead of ourselves and carried away with such a good start. Enjoy it, make the most of it, and don’t get pissy when we do eventually lose a game again. Hopefully that won’t be on Tuesday as our march to European football continues – the £2k prize money will be more than handy with the electricity bills.

I’m not sure when my next game will be with work and other commitments, but I’ll be following from afar and no doubt tweeting some utter nonsense about it on TSOF’s page. Up the (Dorset, not Hampshire) Magpies, and if you see any red smoke coming from the Rec, it’s not a fire, likely just Bargey at last orders. SV

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