“Who is our sub who looks like Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya?”

There are few better footballing feelings than seeing your side win away from home, particularly on cold midweek nights such as Tuesday. Conversely, there are few worse footballing feelings than seeing your side lose away from home, particularly on cold midweek nights such as Tuesday. My visit to North Leigh comfortably falls into the latter category, and as I was stood on the solitary platform at Hanborough station, freezing and needing a piss, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d made the right choice in heading to a village in Oxfordshire that makes Puddletown look like a thriving metropolis, having witnessed us losing away at a rock bottom North Leigh side who claimed only their fourth win of the season.

As is usually the case with days like this, the trip out and the pre-match was the best part of the day. Having taken a few, what I thought were, wisely timed hours leave to enable me to get away from work early, I headed over to Paddington for the 1550 to Hanborough. It was only an hour long journey, which may seem like a very early departure for a 1945 kick-off. The reason for this wasn’t as I really wanted to spend more time there, but simply as our god awful train operating companies charge a fucking offensive amount for tickets. So I saved myself £20 by getting the 1550 rather than the one an hour later, and took a pleasant stroll to the nearest pub for a beer and some dinner. Another thing worth noting is that Hanborough was the station I got the train into as North Leigh does not have, and never has had, a train station. With the ground some two and a half miles away, this was as close as I could get without a lift to the ground, but the George and Dragon provided a very pleasant pitstop.

In contrast to many of the awful pubs we’ve found ourselves in on away days, the G&D was bloody lovely. A couple of pints of Tribute followed by steak and chips were much better matchday fare than the usual flat lager and roadkill in a bun that we tend to end up having, and given the benefit of hindsight, I should have remained in the pub for the remainder of the evening. But, I had high hopes of seeing us bounce back from a disappointing performance and result on Saturday, and as Ellie, George and Man Who I Did Not Catch The Name Of picked me up, we all fancied we could stop our losing streak at two after a spirited loss to Swindon preceded the capitulation at Tivvy in the Hedley Steele derby.

Our first challenges were off pitch though as the turning for the ground was not where the sat nav took us, and we ended up in Blair Witch country as we took a turning in on a parallel road that gave no access to the ground. A quick U-turn and we were eventually able to find the actual entrance to the ground which felt like something from a low budget horror film. This was somewhat ironic given the 90 minutes of football we’d soon be enduring. After entering via the gazebo, not the usual turnstile you’d expect, two things struck me about the ground; firstly, that the pitch was in much better nick than I’d expected, and secondly, that the slope was possibly the biggest I’d seen since I last played at Chickerell. If it was a road, you’d have expected a warning sign about the gradient.

The team had been announced and after XI had filtered to the WhatsApp group, there were a couple of guesses as to how we’d line up given that with the personnel in the side, we could have been playing a flat back six. Thinking this seemed unnecessarily defensive, I asked Kieran Douglas what the setup was, and I was slightly disappointed to hear he wasn’t starting up top. It was in fact the same formation just with different players, Sa and Bertrand as the more advanced players in the wide areas being the more surprising inclusions, both Alfie and Matty Neale being on the bench. Shaq would be leading the line on this particular evening, and after Kieran had to cut off our chat as he had to actually participate in the warm up rather than chat to me, I had a natter to the man who would have ideally been on the pitch rather than watching from the sides, namely Harvey Bradbury.

Bradders was serving the second of his four match ban following his red card against Swindon, his second red in the league of the season following one for Gosport in his time there. A player who obviously enjoys the physical aspect of the game, and having seen his Dad at Pompey I can confirm this is a hereditary trait, his disciplinary record is starting to precede him slightly. Having scored three in three to start the year, he’s now got two reds in two after another straight red this week, albeit this one for the under 23’s. Hopefully this ban is the last one he serves this season as he’s far more use to us on the pitch than in the stands, and the other players will probably be annoyed if he keeps using all the hot water if he’s in the shower for an hour before the game actually finishes.

With my first hand team news, I now headed up the hill to the bar and met with other exiles who had made the trip. Ollie and Evo had a short trip by their standards, Dev and his luckless accomplice also enjoyed shorter commutes here than many, and the usual smattering of boardroom faces were in the tidy, if not a little small, clubhouse. Cup of tea acquired and team news passed, we headed out to the terrace and just before the players were due to emerge, we did the usual score predictions. Between Evo, Ollie and I, we all predicted wins of varying margins and all proved to be wildly off the mark. Evo predicting a win was a particularly bold move from him given the last time he saw a win, Theresa May was Prime Minister, Obama had just left the White House, Craig Laird was Dorch manager, and Cam quite possibly still had a head of hair.

The last win Evo saw, February 2017. 📷 Phil Standfield.

The only thing worse than our predictions was the fucking awful kit combination we had to wear. Our usual shorts and socks would have clashed with the home side’s, so we ended up with our blue shorts and socks from the away kit, and our usual black and white striped home shirt. It looked like a barcode with some blue pen scribbled beneath it and was as uneasy on the eye as the following 90 minutes would be. This was only Evo’s second game of the season and when he asked who one of our subs was, saying they looked Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya, I had to Google who the leader of Chechnya was. I can now confirm that a thinner Ramzan Kadyrov might actually be Matty Neale.

Kicking up the hill first half, we started brightly enough. Tiago Sa hit an effort wide inside the first minute from Charlie Gunson’s pass, and we enjoyed a good amount of possession in the opening stages as neither team was really able to muster anything of particular note. That all changed 14 minutes in as Jordan Thomas was able to comfortably weave his way past four defenders and strike the ball low past Ryan Hall’s outstretched glove. As good as the run and finish was, it seemed all too easy and he was afforded a lot of space. Maybe this was a side who has conceded far too many bloody penalties being slightly reluctant to make a challenge, or maybe I’m underselling the quality of the goal. Either way, it was not a great start and we never really looked like getting back into the game from this point on.

We seemed to have a lot of the ball without really creating much as we either got bogged down in the middle, or went too frequently to diagonal balls that either didn’t find their intended target, or merely resulted in the attack breaking down in a wide area rather than in the middle. Down the other end, Hall had to be alert twice to keep the score at 1-0, but he was caught a bit flat footed as North Leigh doubled their lead. An uncharacteristic error from Kieran Douglas saw his poor control break favourably for the hosts, but from there it was again too easy as Lance Williams wiggled his way into the box to cross for Levi Steele, who rudely ignored Hall’s very loud call of “keeper’s” as he beat him to the ball quite comfortably to make it 2-0. With our pre-match predictions in tatters, an odd feeling of déjà vu that covers almost a decade set in. We’d all seen these type of performances before, and we all knew how they ended up.

A Charlie Gunson freekick would bring our first effort on target, with home keeper Adam North parrying the ball away for a corner, but as with most things we tried that evening, the corner came to nothing. North was a spectator for almost all the game, his most notable contribution being the turtle neck he appeared to have on making him look like a cross between Captain Birdseye and a Poundland James Bond. Mercifully, the halftime whistle soon sounded and it was off to the warmth of the bar and to the toilets, where I was greeted by the odd sight of a Poole Town sticker in the urinal. After doing the necessary over said sticker, not due to any particular dislike of Poole as I couldn’t care less about them, but more due to the fact there was nowhere else to piss, it was back to the bar which seemed to have filled quite nicely. However, this was not for the football, but the local women’s darts league, one lady nailing double 17 at the first go to win the leg. How and why she’d ended up on the lesser spotted D17 I don’t know, but I can categorically say it was the best bit of finishing I saw all night.

With us kicking down the slope second half, we headed out and passed a somewhat haunted scene of stacked patio chairs and a folding table propped up against a wall, before assuming residence behind a very cold and frosty goal. North Leigh had said earlier in the day there was to be no pitch inspection, but as the temperature hit 0 degrees it didn’t look especially player friendly. Luckily for Captain Birdseye in goal, he had next to nothing to do that involved diving on the rock hard turf as more huff and puff from us resulted in much the same as the first half. Jordi Foot was replaced by Ramzan Kadyrov in an effort to spark us into life, but even his introduction could not Chech our slide to a third successive defeat. Keith Emmerson and Alfie Stanley also came on for Slough and Shaq respectively, but the fact our first effort on target in open play was from Alfie in the 85th minute really tells you all you need to know. In truth, North Leigh could have had three or four, with only some good keeping from Hall and some wayward finishing denying the hosts more in what was a deserved win.

The walk back up the slope after that was a killer, and it was 90 minutes we were all glad to see the back of as we all made our separate ways home. The group chat wasn’t as drastically reactive as it would have been twelve months ago as this side has shown it has a great deal more about it than other recent versions of DTFC, but the loss and the manner of it were tough to take having seen us play so much better this season as well as coming off the back of another poor performance at Tivvy only days prior. Glenn’s comments in the Echo spoke of how he was pleased with the reaction from the players after the Tivvy loss, but any reaction that results in a 2-0 loss to bottom of the league doesn’t pass muster with fans. Hopefully we get a proper reaction on Saturday as we host Hanwell, a return to home at the Avenue will be most welcome after two losses on the road in which we’ve rarely threatened.

📷 Phil Standfield.

That said, we’re still seventh and only two points off the playoffs. Three losses in a row doesn’t end our season anymore than the three games we won on the bounce before that made us dead certs for the top five. Our home form is markedly better than our away form, and hopefully we can make that count on Saturday. There is a case to be made that our nice and flat 3G pitch is part of the reason our form on the road is noticeably poorer than at home, but that argument doesn’t really hold water for me given how we have been crap on all surfaces in previous seasons. That and I’m sure that our players haven’t forgotten what grass pitches are like. Come five o’clock on Saturday, we could be back in the playoffs, although stopping this mini rut and scoring a goal are more pressing priorities.

My next one is likely Weston-super-Mare away, a place I’ve not been to since Danny Ings and Ryan Moss tore them apart in a 3-1 win in the Trophy many moons ago. Bradders and Shaq doing something similar in a couple of weeks would be a welcome sight, but then again so will a ground that has a train station a walkable distance away and doesn’t take me to a place that looks like it might be haunted by an orphaned Victorian child. SV

“At least when we lose to Weymouth on Boxing Day it’s a good day out”

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. 

Someone didn’t get a razor for Christmas.

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.

Tony Lee’s mugshot from his sentence at Dorch. 📷 Phil Stanfield.

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. 

Toby Holmes when he scored for, rather than against us. 📷 Phil Stanfield.

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. 

Better late than never….

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. 

📷 Phil Standfield.

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

Bradders celebrates his goal against Yate. 📷 Phil Standfield.

“If that’s Trevor Senior, does that mean there is a Trevor Junior?”

Usually, when Christmas comes early, it means something good has happened ahead of time. Well, due to a combination of working shifts and logistics, my Christmas once again literally came early as Sunday December 4th was my designated Christmas Day in Dorchester with my Mum and The Girlfriend. This did mean one anomaly on this out-of-sync festive period; Christmas Eve coincided with Dorch at home to Chesham. What a treat for all involved…

Our festive form over the past few seasons has been nothing short of awful, and there is a handy TSOF blog from last season to document this, but even at fake Christmas our luck wasn’t to change as we came up against, for my money, comfortably the best side I’ve seen us play this season.

Given I had come home for the specific point of a faux Christmas, there was none of the usual frivolity and this blog will be sadly football centric, but that doesn’t mean some of the standard haunts weren’t frequented and certain standards weren’t kept. The Convivial Rabbit was visited, and I was pleased to inform Nigel there that the advertising board they have at the Tesco end has managed to prominently feature in several photos that Phil Standfield has taken, and that for a pleasant change, it is us scoring in them. “The Convivial Rabbit, a bar worth hitting”, as the sign reads. And no truer words have been spoken. You know it’s a good place to drink when other local pub landlords are drinking there. Ray from the Bakers Arms had spent some quality time there last week and had a very one-way conversation with a cask of Bass. In fact, Ray enjoyed it so much that upon waking up with a hangover the next day, he ordered two casks of the stuff for the Bakers. Just 160 pints worth. Bass for gas. What a life to lead.

📷 Phil Standfield

Where a Spoons fry up or a visit to the Gorge would usually have filled the morning period, instead it was something to eat at home before a trip into town for some Christmas shopping, and a visit to Coffee #1. How times change. As The Girlfriend and I entered Coffee #1, the door was held open for us by Trevor Senior. After a brief chat with Trev, The Girlfriend and I headed inside and I explained to her she had just met DTFC royalty and Reading’s all-time leading goal scorer. Her response was not a question regarding Trev’s footballing prowess, but in fact a more straightforward one resulting in this exchange;

“If that’s Trevor Senior, does that mean there is a Trevor Junior?”

“You mean Chris?”

“No, Trevor.”


Once we had established who was Junior Senior and who was Senior Junior, we got ourselves a coffee and vowed never to speak of this again. The Christmas shopping part of the day was done, complete with a few things to take to the ground for the club’s ‘Give at the Gate’ appeal, which will help provide some much-needed assistance to local foodbanks. A sizable amount of food was donated, so well done to all who contributed and to the club for organising.

What could have been at The Gorge.

As we set off towards the ground, The Girlfriend asked what to expect from the day’s game, and I was unusually a bit stumped. We’ve been in pretty good nick and not lost for a while, but with a few draws and Chesham being right up there, it was a tough one to call. The Girlfriend had a good record watching Dorch prior to this; her first game was a season changing win at Kings Langley last term, and a 1-1 draw in a real end of season affair at Walton Casuals completed her two games thus far. Given many haven’t seen us win in years having watched more games, this isn’t a bad record at all. She was far more confident than I of a result though.

Some of what was given at the gate, no humans were donated. 📷 Phil Stanfield.

As we arrived at the ground, she was greeted by a hug from Keith Kellaway, who had met and spoken to her at her two games last season. He recognised her as a good luck charm from previous games and was pleased to see her, and she was pleased to see him as he’s a nice bloke and she found his Dorset accent endearing, saying he sounds like me after I’ve been in Dorch for more than five minutes. We nattered to Keith before heading to the turnstile to go in and donate our purchases, and made a beeline for the snack bar. With The Girlfriend being very Northern, the food choice was appropriate in chips, cheese and gravy. One of the women serving seemed horrified, the other like she’d finally found a kindred spirit.

“Chips, cheese and gravy is bloody lovely. Good choice!”

This was the sort of reaction The Girlfriend was looking for, and I have to begrudgingly accept that it was a bloody good choice as some serious harm was done to the food, all washed down with a piping hot Bovril. Just what was required.

Although slightly down on recent attendances, there was still a good turnout from the home fans. Ben Ward had decided the time had come for his daughter to be introduced to a world of bitterness and disappointment as she attended her first game. Many familiar faces occupied the Bovril and, fresh from his rounds, Drew O’Farrell was seen tucking into a nice, refreshing, ice-cold bottle of Tribute ale. Just what was needed to warm the cockles. To be fair, it probably did warm him up a bit as given his employment as a postie, it would appear that he is stipulated to wear shorts for at least 11 months of the year, regardless of the outside temperature.

As The Girlfriend and I took residence in the different surrounds for me of the main stand, I got a proper look at the team. There was only the one change to the XI as Alfie came in for Harvey Bradbury, and there was the welcome sight of Shaq back amongst the substitutes. We were kicking towards the bypass end and had a shot on goal with the first kick of the game as Charlie Gunson had a go straight from kick-off – Chesham’s keeper however was alert and took a simple catch. Charlie may have seen Wimborne win a game with an identical effort last week; respectful nod to Tim Sills and Junior Senior for the job they’ve done there since coming in.

After the initial early effort, the game turned into a quite entertaining affair with both sides keen to attack. Gunson would be the main threat early on, as he thudded an effort off the face of the post after some excellent work on the righthand side, and we also saw an effort cleared off the line. It was not all one-way traffic though as Chesham looked dangerous every time they came forward. Ryan Hall made a high quality save away to his right following a shot from 12 yards out, and there were a couple of efforts that went narrowly wide of Hall’s goal as we were forced to defend for a spell, having looked the better side only minutes earlier.

Back came Dorch and we tried to be a bit too clever as a combination of Olaf and Matty Neale elected to pass when shooting may have been the better option, and then moments later a shot was taken when Alfie was in space on the left-hand side. Olaf was playing thought the middle with Alf on the left and Matty Neale on the right, and this caused Chesham a lot of problems, particularly when the ever-lively Gunson broke forward. Both sides had further half chances but it was an outstanding piece of individual brilliance that would eventually see us open the scoring.

📷 Phil Standfield.

A freekick in a good position was hit into the wall by Matty Neale, but he was able to regain possession and find Alfie on the left side of the box. Alf channelled his inner Andrés D’Alessandro, cutting back onto his favoured foot and bending an unsavable effort beyond the keeper that was made to look all the more pleasing as it hit the post on the way in. Alfie is a Pompey fan, so may get the Andrés D’Alessandro reference. He might not read this though, and I wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t. But I can assure you, D’Alessandro was fucking brilliant.

Alfie’s goal came in the 44th minute, but there were four minutes of injury time to see out yet, largely due to what appeared to be a particularly nasty finger injury to a Chesham defender. Either that or his little finger was meant to bend at 45 degrees to all the others. It was this injury time that would aid our later downfall as Olaf picked up an injury in what looked like an innocuous 50/50 challenge. He was in obvious pain, and although he tried to continue, it wasn’t one he could run off as he went back down in agony. He was replaced by Bradders and there was news today that Olaf has sadly broken his ankle, an injury that will see him out for around 12 weeks. We wish him a speedy recovery; he’s been one of our standouts this season and will be sorely missed.

📷 Phil Standfield.

Olaf’s injury put a slight dampener on what had been a good half of football in general, let alone a good half for us. Wardy and I realised we might have to keep bringing our guests with us should this luck continue as we chatted at halftime, and there was good news from the bar as Drew was able to source a Tribute that hadn’t been in the fridge, but was “one from the top”, like a big number on Countdown. How long that bottle of Tribute had been sat on display in the bar is anyone’s guess, but he seemed happy. There was also a sighting of Simon Slade at half-time as we caught up and spoke of Jägermeister fuelled days gone by. Slader, Ian Sibley and I once said that we’d do a shot for every goal Dorch scored as we watched an inconsistent Magpies at home to Braintree. Dorch were 3-0 up at half time and in the end won 5-0. Our order of 15 shots of Jägermeister was greeted with confusion and delight by Geoff Claridge.

Residence was taken up on the Tesco end for the second half as The Girlfriend and I perched near the Kellaway clan. Nige, Paul and I agreed that this would be a real tough half of football and that keeping it tight to start would be vital. We were made to look foolish as Chesham upped the ante and turned the game on its head in the 45 minutes that followed.

15 Jagers, please, Geoff.

Chesham enjoyed a lot of the ball and were far more aggressive at the start of the second half, their reward coming nine minutes in as they deservedly equalised. Jeanmal Proser’s low effort was brilliantly saved by Hall down low to his right, but the loose ball was turned in on the angle by the onrushing Tobias Braney. Even with only nine minutes of the half gone, it felt the goal had been coming as our visitors had obviously upped it a gear from the first 45. That said, the equaliser did liven us up a bit as we had more possession without creating any real opening; Bradders physicality caused issues and he nearly got on the end of a loose ball, but Chesham’s keeper, Sam Beasant, was there in the nick of time to clear.

Possession and no real end product would be the story of the half for us, and it wasn’t a great surpise when Chesham took the lead just after the hour mark. At the time, the second goal looked all too easy as Jordan Edwards was able to turn and fire into the bottom right corner of Hall’s goal to give the visitors the lead. Looking back, it was probably just a very good goal by a decent side who had the bit between their teeth. Their passing, movement and speed of it all caused us a lot of problems – this was underlined when a foul by Callum Buckley gave them a penalty, the third we’ve conceded in as many games in a season where we’ve conceded a few, and when Edwards duly converted that to make it 3-1, it did feel like game over. Beasant in the Chesham goal certainly fancied it was all over – his Robbie Keane style celebration, complete with a flicking of the V’s to the Dorch behind the goal, was that of a man who didn’t think he’d have much else to do that afternoon. He wasn’t wrong.

📷 Idris Martin.

Shaq was introduced with 10 to play as we looked to salvage something from the game, but his first touch was to boot an away defender in the head as he tried to bring a high ball down and he got a yellow card before he got a touch of the ball. At this point, I’ll also add that I thought the referee was crap. He was in no way at fault for us losing the game and the penalty decision was the correct one, but aside from that, he was fucking awful, manging to piss off both benches, ignore calls from his assistants, get in the way of play, and then lose control as the game petered out. T’Sharne Gallimore, who is no relation to Wooker as far as I know, brought down Ngalo in injury with a tackle that looked at best clumsy, at worst reckless and intended to injure. Rather than deal quickly with this, he let it develop into a bit of a flare up between the two sides, with Gallimore eventually getting booked, but Bradders and Kieran Douglas were also booked for their very vocal protests. “You’ve fucking bottled that”, and “that was fucking shit” were two of the audible complaints heard as an obviously fucked Ngalo was helped from the pitch to leave us with ten men for the dying minutes. Fulltime mercifully came soon after, and as I trotted towards the bar I overheard the Chesham manager saying to one of their players that we were a good side, which is a scant consolation but nice and The Girlfriend and I headed into the bright lights of DT1 for some food and drink to drown the sorrows. Although not before Keith Kellaway informed us that “the jury is out” on whether The Girlfriend will be allowed back. This might not be something she is too saddened by, but she would miss the chips, cheese and gravy.

Although it was disappointing to lose and fall away like we did in the second half, this didn’t feel like an utter disaster. It felt more like a bit of a reminder of where we are and where we want to be. Chesham are, for my money, the best side I’ve seen us play this season, and it is easy to see why they are pulling away from the pack along with Truro and Weston-super-Mare. They were solid all over the pitch, quick to move the ball about, no frills in defence, and a very dangerous side in the final third. I didn’t see the Weston home game, but they did a job on us by all accounts, and I can’t really say Truro are a better side either given how the game there went. As a reminder, it was a day that everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Second game of the season, only four players on the bench, no sub keeper and no physio, so of course our keeper at the time, Brad Snelling, would get concussed after about 15 minutes. No physio saw Brad play for 15 minutes longer than he needed to, and no sub keeper meant that when the obvious was diagnosed and Snelling was taken off, Kieran Douglas went in goal. Oddly enough, with a central defender in goal, we never looked like winning the game from there, eventually succumbing to a 4-0 defeat in a loss so interesting that Brian Churchill spent a decent portion of the second half looking at his phone when sat on the bench. So, yes, Chesham shade the best team I’ve seen award thus far.

Truro away. 📷 Phil Stanfield.

So, our unbeaten run comes to an end but it wasn’t as stinging an end to the run as it could have been – there isn’t any shame in losing to a better side on the day and that is exactly what Chesham were. the 5-2 win that followed this in the DSC on Wednesday was helpful with several players, such as Keith Emmerson, Harvey Bertrand, Shaq and Louis Slough getting minutes that they’ve not had recently, along with goals for Ollie Balmer and Bradders, so that was more than just another meaningless game. Also, it was good to see Lewis Toms get another start in the DSC as I was impressed by him in the under 23’s game I saw last week. His Dad was a more than useful player as well, from memory, and it was pleasing to see a few familiar names on in the youth set up, although seeing a Gadsby that isn’t a goalkeeper confused me somewhat.

North Leigh awaits on Saturday and that is a game we really should be looking to win as they are well adrift at the foot of the table. I have no idea what North Leigh will be like, but given it is a place that is slightly bigger than Puddletown but smaller than Stalbridge, I’m not expecting much. Hopefully I have to spend less time around a sausage casserole this weekend than I did in the reverse fixture. Up The Magpies, if anyone fancies a pint of Bass, Ray at the Bakers might be able to assist. SV

📷 Idris Martin.