Last time I visited Tatnam Farm, Poole were a Wessex League team and the General and I, as we did every year in those annual pre-season games, jumped over the fence at the back of the ground rather than stumping up a couple of quid. Poole have progressed a long way since those days, but having lived abroad for the last five or so years, this was my first time there for a competitive match between the two sides.
On paper, this should have been a decent local derby. They are, after all, the second nearest club to us; there have been plenty of Dorch-Poole player connections over the years; they’ve grown as a club since those pre-season favours in the 90’s and they have finished above us in each of the however-many-fucking-years its been since we’ve been lost in this Southern League wilderness. There was even a bit of agg between the two sets of yoof last season to top it off.
But for whatever reason, it just doesn’t.
And it seems a shame.. until you realise it’s always just going to be a shit day out. The current ground resembles (visually and atmospherically) an old subbuteo stadium you’d piece together as a kid….even if they do sort out a ground of their own, it’s inevitably going to be some out-of-town affair that you can only reach by taxi…and then there’s the fact that it’s so close to home that you barely have time to see off a tinnie on the train.
So it was probably something of a blessing that this game landed on Boxing Day, where there were no trains running and instead we were thankful for Goddard giving myself, the General and Saudi Dan a lift.
Poole have been constant play-off contenders and in previous years, the pre-match WhatsApp chat has been restricted to how many they’ll beat us by. It’s a sign of what a remarkable job Glenn has done that not only did we go into the match knowing a win would see us leap frog them, but that the WhatsApp group was even discussing the possibility of doing so. In truth, the bulk of the chat was actually planning a pub crawl around Dorch, knowing that the game was in all likelihood going to be called off at 10am. Spoiler alert: this is probably something we shared with the players’ group given the performance on the day.
Having got lost in some suburban backstreet, we eventually parked up and made our way to The George (that big pub on that big roundabout that just screams “Brexit!”) where we were to be joined by Dorch’s very own one-man ticket pricing crusader, Phil. He had confusingly come dressed as Goddard. It’s been far too long since I’ve seen one of my oldest mates, so it was great to catch up with him and hear how he’s got a dog, a new job and has moved from Parkstone into a new house in an area which can only be described as Parkstone.
We’ve given up on trying to encourage/bully Phil to come to games now, so having shouted at the lads when I thought we had missed the 1pm KO before realising my watch was still on Amsterdam time, we left the chips and possibly worst evernachos I’ve witnessed and wondered down to the ‘ground’.
We had in fact missed kick off, but fortunately for us Dorch were shooting towards the huts and we joined the Dorch fans lined up along the railings behind the goal. Barely five minutes had passed before the Yoof struck up their first chant aimed at Tony Lee, which led to Poole’s chairman racing around shouting “you’re not allowed to sing that!”.
(For those unfamiliar with the story, Poole’s top scorer last term was suspended by the club pending investigation over unspecified allegations. A quick Twitter search will give insight into these… In an act of standing by their man and believing him to be innocent, Poole duly sent him out on loan to Farnborough (afitting sentence in itself, some might say). With the charges dropped he was recalled from purgatory/Farnborough to partner ex-Magpie Toby Holmes up front, in what is surely the strongest partnership in the league.
And so it proved. The first 20 minutes were relatively even as both teams began to feel each other out. But with our usual high pressing game not hitting the usual heights, but our game plan still remaining quite expansive, the hosts began to pick at a few gaps we left open. They hit the bar and had, what looked from our end, quite a strong shout for a penalty waved away, before they look the lead. Harvey Bertrand read a through ball well, but his own pass was poor and was retuned with interest straight over his head, where a predatory Tony Lee had read it, run on to it and slotted it under Hall.
The move (or “pattern of play” as it apparently has to be referred to nowadays) was repeated five minutes later. An aimless ball was headed straight back by Whisken, flicked on by Holmes and Lee ran onto it, closely marked by Kieran Douglass, who poked a toe at the ball, just about getting there to knock it out for a corner. The referee, however, saw it differently and pointed to the spot. He got it wrong, but I can see why it was given. What is inexcusable is that in either forgetting or just being ignorant of the fact that the “denying a goalscoring opportunity red card rule” was changed in the summer to just a yellow if a penalty is also given… the ever-inconsistent Parsons pointed to the spot and brandished a red – much to the infuriation of the entire team, who were clearly more clued up on the rules of the game than the referee. 2-0. Half time. And given how poor we had been it felt like game over. It felt like a game from previous years.
The second half started with a rant from The General, disgusted at how he wasn’t allowed to bring his almost empty pint into the ground but the bloke next to him could bring a scolding hot cuppa. “You could kill a man with a coffee” seems a bit of stretch in hindsight.
In an act that absolutely nobody could see coming, having been told by the Poole Chairman in the first half not to sing any songs about Tony Lee, our Yoof preceded to sing nothing but songs about Tony Lee for the second half.
An assortment of stewards stormed round and a spectacle of Tom and Jerry style back-and-forth between Yoof and stewards took place as the chants were adapted from “Tony Lee’s a sex offender” [He isn’t] to “Tony Lee likes his steak tender.” Now, whatever your views on chanting about alleged sex acts are (and I did spend most of the second half wrestling with this as a couple were genuinely quite funny in a dark humour sort of way), watching a chirpy teenager rile up an over officious head steward with the simple line of “show me in your ground regulations where it mentions innuendo” was a darn sight more engaging than watching the second half peter out to nothing. . And when a couple of Yoof were eventually asked to leave five minutes before time, more than just a couple of us made inquisitive glances around to see if we could follow too.
Nevertheless, we decided to stick it out, just in time to see Toby Holmes notch a third for the hosts, in what was an uncharacteristic (for this season) off day for us. We were never in the game at all and 3-0 was a fair reflection against a very solid Poole team who will be play-off bound once again.
One bright spark to come out of the game was the second half performance of Jordi Foot. A few scouts have been at the Avenue of late and it wouldn’t surprise me if it was him they were watching. But it would apparently surprise El Gen who exclaimed in the car back to Dorset “I can’t imagine a Dorch side without Jordi Foot in it!!” Pretty impressive given this is Jordi’s debut season.
Back in the county town, we popped into the Kings’ Head at my request (because I wanted to see what they had done with the place, not because I’m a Tory) for a couple but ended up staying most of the night there, as we were joined by Dabbs, the Chairman and a handful of Barboured-up, fresh-from-the-hunt Young Tories passing around bags.
It’s a really strange world at the moment and I don’t know what to make of it. Dorch are good and on the day of a local derby [it isn’t] it’s farmers not football fans doing bumps in the bathroom. Get me back to Amsterdam – everything is much more normal there.
I was due to do a double header blog and cover the Yate game too, but in truth it was pretty uneventful despite the win being the perfect tonic to the Poole game. So here’s a few key points: We apparently now do “routine wins” and can see out games comfortably. This is most welcome. Jordi Foot is indeed very good. Matt Neale is very tidy to watch. Gunson is unrecognisable from the player of last year. We barely got out of second gear. The bar post game was buzzing and felt like the old days. 2023 is going to be a very exciting year. I’m now looking at the next three league games almost expecting nine points and this is all very disturbing. CM