“Either that toilet is blocked or someone in here has a kidney infection.”

New Year’s Eve is, for me, the shittest night out of the year. On the face of it, it should be brilliant. Loads of people about, all the pubs open, Bank Holiday the next day and it is pretty much a free pass as everyone is expected to be hungover the next day. Yet it is nearly always a big fucking let down. Someone peaks too early and needs to go home by ten o’clock, the group gets spilt up as some want to visit a different pub to others, there’s an argument about who has the most convincing Mexican costume, and before you know it, it’s gone midnight, no one noticed and you’ve then got the prospect of a extortionate taxi for one home as everyone else has disappeared. It is a night that can never live up to the hype and expectation and is invariably a big disappointment that promises much and delivers little.

This brings me neatly on to the first game of the season, very much the New Years Eve of sporting events. After a very fortuitous coronavirus based escape when the likes of Melksham and Bristol Manor farm beckoned, we were given a reprieve and have another shot at having a respectable season in the Southern Premier League. I say respectable, the oracle that is Berry informs us we are yet to finish in the top half of this league since our relegation from the Conference South, so anything that doesn’t see us looking over our shoulder with six games to play would be an improvement. So with the new season starting on Saturday following a close season period of squad overhaul and off as well as on field changes, we got back into old habits as the new season dawned. Would the first game back up the most cautious sense of optimism we had beforehand? Would it fuck. That said, it wasn’t all bad and even we’re not naïve enough to judge the season based on one game.

Rogues gallery.

After months of lockdown and the writing of several blogs looking back on more successful times in the clubs past, it was nice to be able to fall back into the old habits of meeting before the game, talking nonsense, having a few beers and being fully prepared for the game to kick us in the balls by ten past three. There was a unique twist to this occasion though as we were the match sponsors. Any dress code, I asked. No, was the answer from Cam. So as I made my way back home from London on the Friday, Cam would the tell us that actually it was smart casual. Having come home with nothing but shorts, t-shirt and a jumper, the half smart trousers I had as a teenager were inexplicably still at Mum’s home in Dorch, so they were utilised as I attempted to polish the turd that is my outward appearance. In truth, they were totally unnecessary as we all looked as smart as you’d expect a bunch of non-league football fans to appear.

We did some ‘painting’. Tried to get AWH in but not for the first time, we were unable to agree terms.

But as we met as Spoons and Cam, El Generale and the lesser spotted Phil met up, the conversations went as if there had been no enforced break from football at all. Over beers and my lattes, the usual topics of VAR, Steve’s undying love for Eddie Howe and Phil’s flip flops dominated the discussion, but it was the state of the club that unites/divides us all, DTFC, that was the obvious underlying topic. In truth, we have no real idea of what to expect from this season. From the recruitment and limited friendlies that have been seen, we can draw some conclusions about our side, but the rest of a league remains somewhat of a mystery. Our knowledge of other clubs is limited mainly to players who we’ve heard of signing for clubs around us, regional knowledge, and we can guess some clubs have more money than others. But with the pandemic altering pre-season, finances, recruitment and almost every facet of the game at all levels, it’s a guessing game as to how the league will go. With Blackfield and Langley withdrawing from the league and rumours about another potential drop out, nothing is certain in terms of relegation places, all we can comment on with any authority is our own side and club. And even then, we’re hardly the best judges of these things…

Here, I’ll praise the club for some of the work done during the pandemic and in the sawn off pre-season we’ve had. With long term figures and hand shaking tag team champions, Matt Lucas and Dave Ring stepping down from their roles after years of service for the club, there has been movement of personnel on and off the field, but we seem to have got a lot done despite the upheaval. ‘The Magpies Fund’ raised good money when the club was unable to use its chief revenue stream of the 3G pitch, the snack bar is now ran ‘in house’ so no more fucking WFC polo shirts there, efforts have been made to ensure the stadium is kept in better shape as it was starting to show its age to say the least, although the drainage in the gents could do with being looked at, the youth set up and team behind it has been improved (it will take a brave player to mouth off to either Dan Claxton or Brian Churchill…) and the manager has been able to go about his recruitment for the first team early and in his own manner. The club does genuinely seem to be moving in the right direction and appears to be making efforts to ensure the foundations are sound as well. Saturday was always going to be a tough game as Weston-super-Mare are one of the few clubs who we see to know anything about.

“What’s the Abbott Ale like?”

In the bar at table reserved in our name as we’re basically corporate sell-outs, we mused as to what we expected. The consensus was that we’d be good at the back but potentially not offer as much as we maybe should going forward. A draw was largely accepted as being a reasonable expectation given the WSM would likely be one of the better sides in the division and we were still finding out feet. As we got the team sheets, it looked like we’d be playing wingbacks with Plymouth loanee Rubin Wilson being the main attacking outlet. As we trudged out onto the terrace with our beers (Dabbs, the two other freebies from the match sponsorship shall be claimed at a later date!), it was just nice to be back watching live football. It was also a competitive game which took on a double meaning for me as not only was it a league fixture, we’d also been humped 5-0 and 3-0 in the two previous ‘competitive’ league games I’d seen. The game would soon settle into what would be its familiar pattern of Weston having more of the ball, but not doing much with it as we sat and defended well, sometimes dropping back to our won 18 yard line but rarely further back. 10 minutes in though and we’d take the lead with what was actually a good goal.

Picture; Graham Hunt Photography

Winning the ball on the right hand side just inside our own half, Tom Blair would run at and beat two defenders and his ball across goal was turned in by the sliding Wilson for a debut goal and we’d find ourselves 1-0 up. This was a rare position to find ourselves in given our last seasons form, so the novelty for us fans was quite welcome. The game would then go back into the holding pattern of a lot of Weston possession but no real threat. A shot from 20 or so yards hit the post with our debutant keeper Will Buse scrambling, but shots from distance was all Weston really mustered deepest having the bulk of possession. We offered very little going forward, save for one curling Blair effort that went just over, but with Weston limited to pot shots and a few corners, that although causing Buse an co a few problems as they quickly realised he wasn’t looking overly comfortable with dead balls put into the six yard box, never caused any real danger, we looked like we might make it to halftime with a lead. This was not to be the case.

A lengthy stoppage after an injury to Weston’s Nick McCootie would see several added minutes of stoppage time and as that was approaching, Sam Poole would knock a back pass to Buse. Buse had time to take and despite setting himself, scuffed his clearance straight to the impressive James Waite, who was able to control and curl the ball into the unguarded net. 1-1 and it was probably a fair reflection on how the game had gone, but we couldn’t take that score into halftime as after causing problems with corners into the box, Chris Knowles headed Weston in front six minutes into injury time and it was all too easy. Charlie Madden (we think) was quick to hold his hand up an apologise, but in truth, we’d looked shaky from set pieces all game.

The halftime chat mainly centred on how we needed to offer more going forward as we’d been dominated in terms of possession and although we looked more than competent defending in open play, set pieces had been a concern. Sure enough we’d concede another header from a corner 8 minutes into the second half, and as the inquest went on at the back as to who should have claimed the ball, who missed a header or lost a man, the game was effectively over. Weston could afford to sit a bit deeper and we lacked a creative spark to get us going. The introduction of Tom Bath, Harry Hodges and Ashley Wells didn’t really make a huge difference, and although we had some better possession and got a few crosses in, we never looked like scoring. In truth we could have conceded more had it not been for alert defending and good goalkeeping, but a 3-1 defeat was probably a fair reflection of what was a disappointing opening day.

So where did it go wrong, what was promising, what needs improvement. Well despite the score line, I actually thought we looked okay defensively in open play. Set pieces were a worry and Will Buse will not want to see the goals back, but as a unit, I though that Oakley, Dunston, Poole, Madden and Sa looked tidy and never unduly worried when defending from open play. We look a far more imposing side physically, something we’ve not looked in years, and there is definitely more of an edge to the squad. It may sound daft, but having at least one or two adult males over the height of six foot has been a rarity in previous seasons. If we’re lucky enough to avoid another lockdown and suspension of the season, I can see this side not folding against teams in midweek fixtures on cold shitty night in suburban London as in previous years. WSM will probably be one of the better sides (their numbers 6 and 9 were excellent, I thought) and playing on a surface like our 3G suited them better than us it seemed. But after one game, it can’t be all doom and gloom. We’ve no doubt the manger has targets in mind as to who he thinks can improve us and one game won’t define the season.

‘Smart casual.’

With that said, we offered very little going forward and were disjointed throughout. Rubin Wilson got his goal but was starved of service, we were unable to get Tom Blair in possession as often as we’d have liked as he was our most dangerous outlet by far, Bayston, Clarke and Lowes all struggled to get a foothold in the game, and our subs weren’t able to influence it too much. We are a new side, we have had some positive results in pre-season and there are some encouraging enough signs on and off the field that we are moving in the right direction. This season is going to be a strange affair with all that is going on in the world and there is a genuine chance we may end up pausing the season again as restrictions change. But I don’t think a season of consolidation is a bad thing. After five to ten games, the league will start to take a bit more shape, the odds and the results at the weekend not really giving any real indication of what to expect. But I think the upper reaches of midtable would be a solid foundation for us to push on from as we try and turn the club around from being hindered by an overly generous mind-set and ethic into being a bit more of a bunch of win at all costs shithouses who aren’t really that keen on the opposition having a nice day out.

Bar conversation was a predictable debrief of what we’d seen, a few pearls of wisdom from the chairman that aren’t suitable for broadcast, and Cam nearly falling asleep as the night went on. We were joined by Spud who not only had not been seen at the avenue for a while, now looks suspiciously like a more rounded version of the ex-Spurs midfielder, Stuart Nethercott, from the 90’s with his blonde brows and complexion. Spud and Cam ended up assisting Shanks with some parenting by democracy as Otis and Inzi asked questions that evidently only those tow could answer, and our musing went on until about ten when we all decided we’d had enough. For what its worth, Oakley got our vote for man of the match, and as we all filed out, us in the direction of the Chinese, Shanks and his two rascals in tow off home, we all said how we had enjoyed being back for a proper game, but would love to see something more to be enthused about. At least the kit looked nice.

We have a chance to get the season going properly tonight as we head to away to Christchurch (managed by former DTFC player and league winner, Ollie Cherrett) in the FA Cup, before two winnable games away at Yate and home to Wimborne this Saturdayand next Tuesday respectively. Hopefully we’ll have something positive to report back on from those, in the meantime I’ll be off to look at possible historic blog topics for any second lockdown and hope that Steve gets over the double blow of Eddie Howe leaving Bournemouth and Brian Stock joining W*****th. SV

“We drew 2-2, got the mother of all bollockings, then a few beers later on the bus home, it turns out he’s off on holiday to Spain and misses the next game anyway!”

We’re now only a day away from the return of competitive football to The Avenue, so normal service with blogs covering depressing defeats in the arse end of London and how a sense of optimism can be crushed by 1515 will soon resume. But before that, we have one final lookback (for the time being…) and having done the previous title winning seasons of 1979-80 and 1986-87, we finish this little series with a review of the record breaking 2002-03 campaign that saw us win the Dr Martens Eastern Division title.

In many ways this is a totally different triumph to the previous two that have been mentioned. Firstly, the preseason expectations in this season were to gain promotion and this is very much in contrast to the two other successful seasons. Relegation had preceded the 1979-80 triumph and it should also have preceded the 1986-87 season but we were reprieved due to a substandard ground from one of the would-be promoted sides. This was not the case in this successful campaign though, as we’d finished an agonising third, five points off the promoted Hastings and Grantham sides. So where as consolidation had been the order of the day in other years, promotion and being in the title picture was the minimum expectation this time around. After relegation in the 2001-02 season, manager Mark Morris had totally rebuilt and changed the personnel and ethic of his Dorchester side. The deals players were on had become much more performance related, a lot of the players involved in the relegation had departed, a core of young and hungry players had joined and the spine of the side was very strong.

Matty Holmes was a key part of the side and remembers both this and the previous season well; “It was no bad thing really that we didn’t go up in the previous season. It gave us a chance to build on finishing third and we had a really stong spine to the side. We had quality in depth and were able to go into games knowing we’d score, and with Skunk (Andy Harris) and Michael White at the back we had a quality centre back pairing.”

Building on that near miss of a season wouldn’t require major changes to the squad with Matt Hann and the returning Martyn Shepherd being the key additions to supplement a squad that was close knit and had already shown it was capable to being genuine contenders as well as being very physically fit and well drilled. With players such as Holmes, Hann, Shepherd, Matt Groves, Justin Keeler and Marcus Oldbury in side, goals shouldn’t be a problem. And with a backline marshalled by the excellent Mark Ormerod that included Andy Harris, Michael White, a young Mark Jermyn, Jamie Brown, Simon Radcliffe, Carl Poore and many others who would make vital contributions, we looked set for a season that could match our high expectations.

This would inevitably see us draw our first game of the season away at a Spalding side who would get relegated with a tally of only 18 points. Shep and Keeler penalty getting us off the mark in terms of both goals and points on what was a boiling hot first day. A 1-1 draw at home to Newport IoW with another Keeler penalty helping us take a share of the spoils in front of a crowd of 427 would follow that, and our first three points would come in a 3-1 win at home over Banbury with another Keeler penalty added to single strikes by Shep and Phil Andrews. A 0-0 away at Bashley on August Bank Holiday would precede a 5-0 FA Cup win at Porthleven (Harris, Shep, Keeler, Oldbury, OG), but we would lose two players in and around this time. David Elm would move to Bashley for an alleged £10,000 (it was a different time),and Matt Lonnon would sadly see his season ended as he would injure his knee ligaments in the FA Cup win at Porthleven.

No replacements were signed given the depth in the squad, but the start of the season after five games was DDWDD, which was slow by anyone’s standards, and more was expected in the league. The fifth game was a 2-2 with Rothwell (Holmes/Shepherd) but it was the next game when the first glimpse of what was to come was seen with the 5-1 demolition of promotion contenders Salisbury. Shep, Hann, a Keeler brace and a first strike of the season for Matt Groves would see us brush our visitors aside in emphatic fashion. It was a game Matt Holmes would we “bossed” and gave the team a much needed boost after a slow start, but defeat away at Clevedon in the FA Cup and a 2-2 draw at Tonbridge in the league would see us take a backward step after the forward momentum the Salisbury win gave us.

But the disappointment of the Tonbridge result would result in the first real turning point of the season as Matt Groves (who netted both goals in that game) would recall;

“Tonbridge was a game we really should have won. We drew 2-2 and got the mother of all bollockings from Mark Morris afterwards. Then a few beers later on the bus and it turns out he’s off on holiday to Spain and misses the next game anyway!”

Mark Morris in action before his full time switch to management

And it was that next game that would prove a pivotal moment in the season as we would travel to another promotion contender in Eastbourne on the Tuesday night. With Mark Morris away in warmer weather that the Sunshine Coast of Sussex, he would select Matty Holmes to take charge of the team with Benji assisting. The gaffer for a day remembers it well;

“Mark had asked me to take charge for that night and left his instructions for it and I remember starting really well and being 2-0 up. Once we got the third I subbed myself off quickly but my record as Dorchester manager is played one and one won so I’m happy with that record!”

Ever wondered why Matty is yet to manage us full time? Why risk that 100% record. The Eastbourne task was made difficult by the sending off of Andy Harris after half an hour with is 2-0 up, but we’d see the game through comfortably enough as single strikes from Shep, Groover and a rare Mark Jermyn strike would see us home. Both Matt’s Holmes and Groves would identify this game as key fixture in the season and it’s easy to see why. We’d win nine of the next 10 games in the league (exciting both the trophy and the league cup, but who really cares) in a run that saw us remain right up there, with a 2-0 home defeat on Boxing Day against Bashley bringing our run to a halt. But 28 points from a possible 30 from late September to Christmas was an excellent return.

The Matty Holmes Corinthian figure meets a paintbrush and a man with some artistic talent.

In that run we would really hit our stride going forward. The 8-1 home victory over St Leonards would include four goals from a rampant Shep (would would chose that as one of his favourite games in the recent ‘players choice’ pieces), five goals in a 5-2 mauling at Corby, and a 4-0 win at home versus Chatham. The smallest margin of victory was 2-1 with the only dropped points coming in a 0-0 away at fellow promotion chaser Salisbury. As Groover would remark;

“We played with no fear, knew we were a good side, knew we’d score and we knew we’d get promoted. We just got stronger every week.”

With that said, we’d then go on a most typical of Dorch runs as including the Boxing Day defeat, we’d lose five of the next seven in the league. Defeats against Banbury, Rothwell, Burhman and Stamford would see us fall a bit off the pace, with a 2-2 at Kings Lynn as a 1-0 win over Erith and Belvedere being the only points gained in the run. In the piece on the 1986-87 title win, Pete Morrell would say how there was less pressure on the side in the run in as “we weren’t up there to be shot at” all season, but had the pressure of expectation got to us this time around? If it had, we’d shake it off in quite spectacular style.

Mark Ormerod gets the ball clear of danger as Andy Harris looks on.

It would start with a 5-1 home demolition of Tonbridge with Hann, Jem, Groover and a Keeler brace doing the damage, and although a 0-0 away at Fleet would follow, what was to follow was remarkable. Wins against Fisher, Ashford and Spalding would come by scores of 2-0, 5-1 and 9-0 (N-I-N-E) with goals and confidence now flowing again. Does Groover remember the emphatic wins by margins of 8-1 and 9-0 well? Of course he does, but not for the reasons you may think…

“Of course I remember them, I was only a goal bonus and didn’t score! I tried so hard and it didn’t happen. The harder I tried the worse it got, I must have been the only bloke not to score and Shep must have got about six or seven! I had my mates there watching me and they took the piss all night after that!”

Shep did indeed fill his boots with a hat trick against Spalding to follow his four against St Leonards. Matt Hann would also bag a hat trick in the 9-0 win as his profitable season continued, but it was the next game, a rearranged clash away at Histon in midweek that would prove more memorable in terms of importance for the pair of Matthews;

Groves; “It was a Tuesday night and it was a long trip. The coach would leave at half one in the afternoon and I remember we got back and got dropped off in Bournemouth at two in the morning on Wednesday. But we won 2-0 and it was a big win that really showed the team spirit.”

Holmes; “I remember we were two thirds of the way there on the original date in December when it got called off and it’s a really long journey. It felt even longer midweek but we played really well and got a big win. There was a lot of travelling that season and that was a long trip getting back early in the morning, but it was a great result.”

It was goals from Hann and Keeler that would secure the points and since the Stamford defeat, it was five wins from six. That would become six from seven as another goal glut would come as Erith and Belvedere would become the latest victims, a margin of 6-2 seeing our goal difference increase to a quite ridiculous number. Mark Rawlinson would net his first goal for the club in his third appearance following his arrival from over the Ridgeway, a rare piece of transfer activity in a very settled squad. But this wouldn’t cause issues with team spirit and the mentality of the side being so geared towards team rather than individual success. The work ethic and spirit created came from a huge respect for the manager who was someone who players would run through walls for.

Groves; “Mark made sure everyone understood their jobs. He had high expectations and if you didn’t work hard then you wouldn’t play. He could except mistakes but not a lack of effort, and that’s why we won the league.”

Holmes; “Mark would get right into people if needs be. He was respected and you really didn’t want to let him down. We were well organised and I remember doing shape sessions with him in pre-season which was pretty much unheard of in non-league. You wanted to play for him.”

Wins at home to Corby and a victory overseas on the Isle of Wight versus Newport would precede a disappointing draw at home to Dartford. This would see our midweek fixture at home to league leaders Eastbourne take on extra importance as we sat in third place, points and a place off the promotion slots. A draw would have been of much more value to the visitors who had a healthy points at that time. But despite the fact he cannot remember his performance or anything particular from the game, Matty Holmes would be the driving force behind an absolutely vital win. With Ollie Cherrett and Micheal Walker replacing the injured regulars of Andy Harris and Simon Radcliffe, we’d take an early lead through a Matt Hann header following some excellent work down the left by Holmes. A rare error from the usually faultless Mark Ormerod would see Eastbourne level, but a Holmes strike with six minutes to go would prove to be the winner. His left footed shot from 20 yards would squirm under the keeper and creep over the line and send those stood in the rain behind the goal mad. Three vital points and we were right back in the title and promotion shake up.

Matt’s Hann and Groves celebrate the formers penalty in the derby game the following season.

Things would only get better from there and not always due to our own actions. A 4-0 win at home over Chatham would see us move into the second promotion place as Salisbury, who had occupied that spot, fell to a 3-1 defeat at Kings Lynn, and Salisbury’s misery would be compounded as they were docked three vital points for fielding an ineligible player in an earlier game. Eastbourne would also drop points at home to lowly Corby Town in their game in hand, and all of a sudden we were second place with a gap to third and only three points off Eastbourne in top spot.

Any questions about our ability to handle pressure and sustain our form were rather emphatically answered with wins over Histon, St Leonards and Fleet leaving us needed a victory away at Fisher to secure promotion back to the Dr Martens Premier. An 5-1 trouncing of our hosts would see promotion secured, with goals from Shep, Michael Walker, and own goal and two from a Groover (one after only 15 seconds) seeing us canter home. A more competitive match than the football would see Groover and Mark Morris battle it out for the last beer on the bus home.

Harris, Oldbury and Keeler celebrate.

Matt Hann; “I remember that before we got to out of the M25 we had to stop for a refill on beers as we had drank the supply dry as they were already gone! I even remember Mark fighting Grovsey for the last beer at the back of the bus (only one winner there). Great memories, of the football, yes, but of the lads much more.”

Matt Groves; “I do remember that! It was a great journey home and we needed to restock on beer pretty quickly. I gave as good as I got but I don’t think I was winning that one! It just shows the teams spirit, Mark would always be good for a few words on the bus and that was a great trip. We played like a promoted side.”

Sadly for Groover, he’d injure his ankle in the game (not in the beer battle) and would miss the final game of the season against Kings Lynn. And with promotion secured, a win would see us win the league regardless of Eastbourne’s result as even though we were level on points, our goal difference was so far superior. A lone Justin Keeler strike from a free kick would bring us the three points and the title as the celebrations would carry on long into the night with the fans and players. Keeler’s goal would be our 114th league strike of the campaign, a record only bettered by the Dinky Curtis inspired Magpies of 1960-61. We’d also win the Dorset Senior Cup courtesy of a 2-0 win over Weymouth making this our most successful season in recent years, as well as setting a record that still stands of a season high points tally with 93.

Rarely has a Dorchester side played with such confidence and it really was a team effort with everyone in the squad playing their part. We’d have three players with 20 goals or more as Groover (20), Shep (24) and Keeler (26) would all enjoy excellent seasons, and the supply line of Holmes (seven) and Hann (16) would add a combined 21 goals as well as countless assists. Jamie Brown and Mark Rawlinson would share the midfield duties with Marcus Oldbury often being used as Matty Holmes replacement, and the backline that usually comprised of the excellent Ormerod marshalling a back four of Jermyn, Radcliffe, Harris and White that was ably assisted by vital squad members such as Carl Poore, Ollie Cherrett, Michael Walker. In truth, everyone that wore the shirt played their part in the season, the close nit nature of the squad being proved by the fact that many of those who played are still in touch to this day. With a core of ten or so players living in Bournemouth, the social side was as successful as the on field side with a very much work hard and play hard feel to it. Matty Holmes would say it was the best Dorchester side he played in and many fans will likely say its the best Dorchester side they’ve seen. Looking back, it’s not difficult to see why.

So there you have it, the final historical piece of (this) lockdown done. If you’ve enjoyed looking back and reliving some of the memories then don’t forget, the season starts again so why not get down The Avenue and support club. We can’t promise a romp to the title like this, but it has to be better than the months of endless zoom quizzes and efforts to master the art of baking that many seem to have endured over the past few months. Up the ale house cloggers, here’s hoping I might end up writing a blog on this coming campaign in a positive sense in the not too distant future. SV.

Thanks to Matty Holmes and Matt Groves for their memories, Idris Martin for his excellent photos, and Sam Welch for having the time to dig out the stats from the programmes.

“Are you kidding? He won’t fetch the curse out mumbling a few prayers.”

30 years. Three whole decades. 10,950 days. No, that’s not how long the last few seasons in the Southern League have felt, that is how long the Avenue Stadium has been the club’s home. Built at a cost of over £2 million with Prince Charles involved in the design process, we switched from the old Avenue Ground in 1990 (now the site of Tesco) to the brand-new Avenue Stadium. It is in fact 30 years to the day since we played our first league game at the ground (more on that to come) and in the seasons that have followed we’ve been treated to some great highs, a curse placed on the stadium by a “Dorset wizard”, a scheme to put flats around the ground, a televised FA Cup game, an away keeper trying to jump into the home fans for a scrap, some stunning goals and gaffes, memorable testimonials, as well as being subjected to some staggering lows. Of course, listing all off these highs and lows isn’t possible as quite frankly, I don’t want to depress myself with having to spend too much time looking at crushing defeats. But a condensed version with 5 of the best, and on the flip side, 5 of the worst, seems much more manageable. So along with some honourable mentions that didn’t quite make the top slots, here are some of the best and worst games that have taken place on the hallowed turf/3G at The Avenue Stadium.

Honourable mentions;

A most honourable of mentions has to go to the official opening of the stadium with a friendly against Chelsea. Monday the 15th of October 1990 was the date and in front of a bumper crowd of 4,000 plus fans, a strong Chelsea side would run out 1-4 winners thanks to two goals from Kerry Dixon, a Kevin McAllister effort and bizarrely, a penalty from England goalkeeper Dave Beasant. The Chelsea side also included Graeme Le Saux, Dennis Wise, Steve Clark, Frank SInclair and ex-Magpie Graham Roberts in their number, but Dorchester put in a performance of their own and were rewarded with a strike from Colin ‘Harry’ Sayers as a consolation. With a ‘grand penalty shootout’ of DTFC youngsters as well as a performance from The Massed Band of the Devon and Dorset Regiment, entry priced at £4 for adults and £3 for OAPs/children in the main stand and £3 & £2 respectively on the terrace, it was a bargain as well as a memorable night for the club.

Jeremy Judd saves from Kerry Dixon in the official opening match.

In the middle of an awful run of form and on a horrible night in March, a 4-1 win over soon to be promoted Bromsgrove in the league cup would be the standout result from 1992. The Midlands side would win promotion to the GM Vauxhall Conference that season (no idea if they sponsored it but I just like the name) but they would be undone by a tremendous team performance at The Avenue. Two goals for Tony Diaz and one each from Paul Masters and Gary Green would see us take a 4-1 lead into the second leg, but that’s only part of the story. We had to use both of our subs inside 30 minutes (yep, only 2 subs then), and when Pete Morrell was stretched off after 64 minutes with no feeling in his previously broken leg, we were down to 10 men. Staggeringly, Pete would return to the pitch for the final 10 minutes as we held off late pressure to take a big win that would give the club and the dressing room a boost.

Big spending Crawley came to town in 1995 and had David Speedie amongst others in their side, but we had a few handy players of our own. Taffy Richardson, Owen Pickard and Tommy Killick goals would see us emerge as 3-1 winners over the money side in the league and the game would be excellently summed up as; “one of those glorious ‘we’re quite good actually’ moments of pride that come around all so rarely come around as a Magpies fan.” A high scoring classic would see us overcome Salisbury 4-3 in the qualifying rounds of the FA Cup in the year that would eventually see us face Wigan in the first-round proper. Two Matt Lonnon strikes and single efforts from Andy Harris and Owen Pickard were enough to get the job done in a real end to end game.

We’re not sure there are any greater winning margins in the league than a Martin Shepherd inspired 8-1 thumping of St Leonards on our way to the title in 2003 [edit-we won a game 9-0 that season at home against Spalding]. Shep would net 4 that day and he also kindly allowed Justin Keeler, Matty Holmes, Stuart Cooper and Mark Jermyn to score as well as we would utterly rout the lowly opposition. There was another nine-goal game in and around this time as we would defeat Stamford 5-4 having been 4-1 down. Frustratingly, I can’t find any information on this one other than the result, so that will remain a mystery for the time being. A 5-4 injury time win over Sutton in 2006 with a last gasp Groover winner adding to two Dave Town strikes and goals from Mark Robinson and Justin Keeler in a game that had a red card and a penalty was a real thriller, a late 3-2 win over Welling in 2005 would keep faint promotion hopes alive as Warren Byerley would score a late clincher, and we couldn’t look at memorable games without looking at local derby matches.

Justin Keeler and Glenn Howes would secure a 2-0 win over our rivals in January of 2006, the battle that was the 2-2 draw on New Years Day in 2004 saw Browner and Steve Claridge clash in between Alex Browne and a Matt Hann goals, and the game when player/manager Mark Jermyn would fire in the only goal in a 1-0 win on August bank holiday in 2015 are all memorable for many reasons. Two Justin Keeler goals and a Matt Lonnon injury time winner would be the difference in a 3-2 victory in the Dorset Senior Cup in the early part of the millennium, and Mark Jermyn and Nick Crittenden’s final game on Boxing Day in 2016, a hard fought 1-1 draw was an notable day on many levels. I could go on for a while talking about wins that meant something, but that’s not the point.

Dishonourable mentions.

Where to begin with this… A strong side was dumped out of the Dorset Senior Cup by the mighty Swanage in 1991 in one of the first real stinkers at the new ground. An XI that included terrace heroes such as Paul Thorpe, Pete Morrell, Tony Diaz, Gary Borthwick, Neil Coates, Tony White were soundly beaten 2-0 by the Wessex League outfit but sadly that wasn’t the only disappointment the club would have to deal with. Owen Pickard has less than fond memories of Gravesend at home in the mid 1990’s as he missed two penalties and then proceeded to give the ball away which resulted in their equaliser. Thankfully for Owen this was a draw and not a defeat. Our form was so bad at home in 1994 (8L, 4D, 2W) that we took the unusual step of having the club chaplain come in to help lift a curse that had been placed on the ground by a local wizard. And no, I am not making this up. A curse was placed on the ground by the Wizard of the Wessex due to a dispute with the Dutchy, who own the land the stadium is built on. Please see the article below as the quotes genuinely have to be seen to be believed.
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/football-curse-lifted-1428943.htm

Other notable defeats were to follow and to be honest, having lost 24 games in the league in 2000-01 on our way to relegation, you can take your pick from that lot. After returning to the Dr Martens Premier Division and then into the newly formed Conference South we would suffer a 0-7 defeat to champions elect, Grays Athletic, who were full time and powered to the league title. Mark Morris’ final home game, a 3-0 loss against Histon was a depressing day all around, and our eventual relegation from the Conference South was every bit as sombre as you’d imagine it to be. Sadly, we then come to the Southern League seasons of recent time which has been an utter abomination on the whole. A real low point was the tragic death of Alex ‘gangster’ Legge, popular figure and kitman, in September of 2014. He sudden death shocked the whole club, but Truro’s alleged insistence of playing the fixture on the day of his death left a sour taste. The 1-2 defeat that followed did little to ease the pain of a horrific week for all involved at the club. Both Alex and his late father, Stacey Legge, have had seats purchased in their honour in the main stand as part of the club’s ‘sponsor a seat’ project.

Last season was abysmal and we were reprieved by a deadly pandemic which tell you all you need to know. That said, a 0-5 loss at home to Salisbury, a 1-5 score line vs Tiverton were soul destroying, but the biscuit is taken by grinding out a 2-2 draw with Walton Casuals. On the face of it, a point is no bad thing. But having been 1-0 up when Walton has thier keeper sent off, put an outfield player in goal and then proceeding to go 2-1 down to said 10 men with a midfielder in goal, a point earned deep into injury time really is a disaster. Other Southern League . shockers include nearly all of Graham Kemp and Craig Laird’s games with Mick Jenkins and Shaun Brooks having their fair share of stinkers in there as well. But, enough of this. Here is the best and indeed the worst 5 games as picked by TSOF Think Tankto commemorate the last three decades of DTFC at The Avenue Stadium.

Best; Dorchester 3-2 Worcester, 18/08/1990.

30 years to the day since this match which is by more luck than judgement, but a very fitting tribute to what was the first league match at the new ground. At first glance, a 3-2 win was likely to be an exciting game regardless of the ins and outs of it. But the result only really tells a fraction of the story. The crowd of 1,250 were witness to a remarkable game that saw Dorchester goalkeeper, Jeremy Judd, sent off inside the first 20 minutes for a professional foul with the score at 2-1 to The Magpies. This saw full-back, Pete Morrell take the gloves for well over an hour, and despite playing the pre-season promotion favourites, two Robbie Taylor goals and a strike from Harry Sayers alongside a heroic rear-guard action would see the first league game at the ground yield 3 points for Keith Miller’s side. As Jeremy Judd recalls, it was an expensive night for him in the players bar, but five goals, three points, a 1,000+ crowd, incident and a gutsy performance would set a high bar of what to expect from games at our new home.

The first ever Dorchester Town FC squad to play at the new ground, 1990-91.

Worst; Dorchester 1-3 Weymouth, 26/12/1990.

Fast forward a few months and the first local derby at the stadium would be an absolute disaster. A 1-3 home loss to your local rivals is bad enough. But with a 3,000+ crowd there to witness it against a Weymouth side who would get relegated, finish rock bottom and only win 4 games all season was a really difficult result to take. Add to that the fact that manager Keith Miller, who had been in charge when we won the league in 1986-87, was sacked after the game, it was a shocker in every way possible. Gary Green would score our solitary goal and we would only win 1 game in 7 between Boxing Day and February 2nd, including a four-game stretch without a goal as we’d finish our first season at the new ground in 11th place. Weymouth would finish bottom with only 24 points, but four of those would come against the Magpies.

Best; Dorchester 7-1 Merthyr Tydfil, 05/09/1995.

The 1995-96 season would be more notable for our run to the FA Cup first round against Oxford (sadly a 9-1 loss…) than our 13th placed finish in a season which we struggled with injuries. But that’s not to say the season wasn’t without success. Not only was this the month where we beat big spending Crawley 3-1, as was mentioned earlier, we would also pummel a hapless Merthyr Tydfil on an early season Tuesday night in September. Solitary efforts from Paul Wilkinson, Andy Gater, Taffy Richardson, Tommy Killick along with a hat trick from the prolific Owen Pickard. It hadn’t been a great start to the season, but this result would help us kick on with the cup run and the Crawley win all coming in this timeframe. With Stuart Morgan at the helm, this was a Magpies side which included fan favourites Neil Coates, Tony White, Pickard, Killick, Richardson, Ken Veysey and many more. One of the first real hammerings dished out by us at The Avenue, there won’t be many times we’ve scored 7 or more over the years

Worst; Dorchester 2-3 Woking, 01/03/1997.

Now despite being a defeat, this almost made the best 5. But having a loss in the best 5 of the last 30 years was a bit too much, even for us. A crowd of almost 3,000 were in attendance for the FA Trophy third round tie, and there was plenty of intrigue as Hans Segers signed on loan for Woking, despite being embroiled in a match fixing scandal at the time. Segers was duly showered with Monopoly money by the home fans and subjected to what would have been an uncomfortable afternoon for a man who was used to playing in the FA Carling Premiership until recently. This was no bad Dorchester side though. Killick, Richardson, Pickard, Criag Taylor, Russell Coughlin, Neil Coates, Martyn Sullivan, Toby Redwood and many more were all in this side who has overcome Slough after 2 replays, and both sides would put on a show. We would take an early lead thorough Tommy Killick, but would be pegged back to 1-1 before halftime. Then would come the drama. Kicking towards our fans at the bypass end, Segers would bring down Tommy Killick and give away a penalty, and despite saving Craig Taylor’s initial effort, Owen Pickard was first to the rebound to put us 2-1 up after 65 minutes. Segers was well and truly in the fans cross hairs, but two Woking goals in the last eight minutes would see us fall to a narrow 3-2 defeat. This wasn’t the last incident of note as after Woking’s third goals, Segers had decided to return to the favour to the home fans as he celebrated in front of them. This would draw the ire of the local policeman who would go onto the pitch to reprimand Segers in front of 3,000 people. Segers would have the last laugh as the final whistle blew and despite it being a spirited performance and an excellent game, this make the worst 5 due to the sickening nature of the defeat.

 Best; Dorchester 2-1 Eastbourne Borough, 01/04/2003.

This may have taken place on April Fool’s Day, but it is a notable highpoint and a game that really started our kick towards promotion and eventually, the league title. Eastbourne Borough were the league leaders coming into the game, and a win was key to our hopes of overturning the deficit at the top of the table. A draw was a much better result for the visitors than us, and that was the way it was heading as the game went into the last 10 minutes. An early Matt Hann header with 12 minutes played, following work by man of the match Matty Holmes, was cancelled out after 63 minutes following an error from the usually reliable Mark Ormerod. However, Holmes wasn’t finished. Having been a menace to the Borough defence all night, Holmes would embark on a run with 84 minutes on the clock, skipping away from a defender and letting loose a left footed shot from 20 yards. It wasn’t sweetly struck by any means, but the wet ball squirmed through the away keepers grasp and rolled into the back of the net. Cue pandemonium from the fans assembled at the Tesco end who had been getting a soaking on what was a miserable night weather wise. We’d hold on for a vital win and this would be part of a remarkable run of 16 wins in our last 17 matches, culminating in a 1-0 home win over Kings Lynn in the final game of the season that would see us pip Eastbourne to the title on goal difference. The importance of this win on a wet Tuesday cannot be underestimated as we would score 114 goals in 42 games en route to the title.

Worst; Dorchester 1-4 St Albans, 17/09/2005.

When high flying St Albans came to town in a season that would see our visitors win promotion to the Conference National, manager Mark Morris had a plan. The pitch was narrowed by a few yards on either side to stop St Albans getting behind us as easily as they had other sides and make it easier to keep our backline tight. When we went 1-0 up inside 30 seconds though a Justin Keeler thunderbolt, it seemed like this plan might work. How wrong we were. Inspired by ex-Magpie, Matt Hann, the free-flowing visitors would tear us apart. The prolific Simon Martin and Lee Clarke would have a field day, including one goal that came from one our own corners as St Albans countered and scored within 10 seconds of us taking the set piece. It was abysmal and was part of a run of 17 goals conceded at home in only four games. It left Morris furious and telling players to show more passion or look for a different club, saying eight of the eleven on the pitch hadn’t been good enough. We would eventually finish 11th as things improved, but this was a lesson taught in the harshest of ways.

Best; Dorchester 4-1 Weymouth, 26/12/2004.

When we decided to limit this to one Weymouth game in the ‘best’ category, this was the one that stood out above all others. Weymouth manager Steve Johnson had boldly proclaimed that Matt Groves and the rest of the Dorchester side weren’t good enough to play for Weymouth. The best way to respond? Thrashing them 4-1 with Matt Groves ramming Johnson’s words down his throat with a hat trick as Mark Jermyn netted the other goal in this absolute mauling. It was another bumper festive crowd of 3,000+ that witnessed this one sided thumping as Mark Morris’ side were the better team from start to finish. It was as good a Dorchester side as we’ve had in years with quality all the way through the side. From Craig Bradshaw in goal, Radders, Jem, Keeler, Browner, Jose Barandiarain and more, it was a side that would fall agonisingly short of the playoffs. But this fixture provided much festive cheer, and of all the derby games played at the new ground, this one nudges out the competition to take top spot.

Worst; Dorchester 0-3 Weymouth, 26/12/2014.

This was as bleak as it sounds. To say the bloom was off the rose for manager Graham Kemp would be an understatement. We were in freefall, on a four-game losing streak which had seen an agonising late 3-4 defeat at home to Paulton and the quite ridiculous spectacle of a 6-5 defeat at St Neots. Dissention amongst the fans, poor performances on the pitch, AWH and Nathan Walker both being dropped for discipline-based issues, and a relegation battle staring us in the face. Just the time you want your local rivals who are on an upward curve coming to town. We were second best everywhere and despite going in level at halftime, it wasn’t to last as two penalties and a late third goal to add further salt to a somewhat gaping wound would see our descent into a relegation battle continue. Thankfully, Kemp’s time was soon to come to an end. Three more games were all he would last before Mark Jermyn would return to the club as player/manager, steer us away from trouble and provide us with the hope things would improve as we moved into next season. This wasn’t to last but at least it was better than this Boxing Day embarrassment which was the lowest ebb of several lows we’d encounter in this period.

Best; Dorchester 1-0 Plymouth, 04/12/2012. 

The obvious choice for this piece, this is the undoubted peak of life at The Avenue Stadium. FA Cup First Round, live on ESPN, a strong Magpies side, league opposition, a big crowd and the feeling that anything could happen. The Vic was drunk dry of cider in the pre-match festivities, and as the game began, we were given a helping hand as future Premier League player Conor Hourihane would be sent off early in the first half. A Charlie Clough header would strike the post and it would be a tough slog on a cold wet November afternoon. But early in the second half a deep Jake Smeeton cross was turned back into the danger area by Mark Jermyn. Loanee Jake Gosling was on hand to turn the ball into the roof of the net and secure us a famous, historic win. It is one of the high points of the club’s entire history, let alone at the new ground and one that will live long in the memories of fans for years to come.

Worst; Dorchester 0-6 Farnborough, 15/01/2019.

Our final match is one that is once again, as bad as it sounds. Three days after the narrow 2-1 defeat away at Barnet in the FA Trophy, our league form was patchy at best as we were descending into a possible relegation battle. A cold February Tuesday night would leave fans in no doubt as to how dire things were as we were battered on our own patch by an inconsistent Farnborough side. The signs were there early that it would be a long night with the visitors being afforded the space to shoot twice inside the opening minute. We would be 2-0 down by half-time and that would be a slightly flattering score as far as our performance was concerned. After the break, we’d fall apart as four more goals would compound our misery as our reliance on loanees Harry Kite, Brennan Camp and Ben Seymour would be evident for all to see. The three loanees who had been so impressive three days earlier at The Hive were unavailable due to commitments with their parent clubs, and their absence and the score showed just how important they were. Manager Steve Thompson would only last a handful of further games before the axe fell, and Callum Brooks would guide us to safety. What happened following that is a blur of coronavirus and embarrassing defeats…

With the pre-season program starting tonight as we face Winchester at home in a ‘behind closed doors’ friendly, we can only hope things improve and we can add games into the best rather than the worst category in coming months. We have no doubt missed several games, so do let us know which ones. Up the Magpies, don’t forget to buy your 505/50 tickets online for tonight’s friendly! We’ll have Cherry Magpie providing us updates from the safety of Guyer’s cherry picker in the railway side carpark. SV.