“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.

Notes:

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.”

“What?”

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.

“This is the best I’ve seen a Dorchester side look with Ollie Griggs on the pitch.”

It has been a while since our relegation from the Conference South, and since then we’ve had to go through the non-league fans’ version of the ‘five stages of grief’. First, there was denial. “It won’t be that bad a standard”; “we’ll piss this tinpot league”; “clubs won’t fancy playing us”. Then, there was anger. “What do you mean Dunstable doesn’t have a fucking train station?”; “No, I’m not having that Biggleswade is a real place”; “You can tell this place is a village, there isn’t even a Sutton sticker in the bogs”. Third came bargaining, which was really just Goddard saying he’d break his glasses to show how much Dorch means to him when in conversation with AWH. No one was offering up a sacrifice to experience Dartford away. Stage four was depression, and fuck me has it been depressing. Being saved from almost certain relegation by a global pandemic that killed thousands probably summed up the last few years quite well. And finally came acceptance that actually this is probably where we deserve to be, as staggeringly, the league table hasn’t been lying for nearly a decade, and on the pitch, we have just have not been anywhere near good enough.

Having gone through those five stages, we now, mercifully, seem to be coming out the other side and have progressed tentatively towards a new and very unfamiliar step: expectation. Its been a while, but these last few games have had a sense of expecting a result and even the rarity of feeling that we’ve maybe dropped two points rather than gained one when we’ve drawn. There is a lot of the season to go and a lot can still happen, but it does make a nice change not having to look at the bottom half of the table with a sense of dread every bloody week. Saturday’s game at Winchester is a good example of the expectation stage we find ourselves in as there was a good feeling that we’d get a result pre-game and a tinge of disappointment that we’d only drawn rather than won in the immediate aftermath at the final whistle. In truth, a draw was a fair result and it is seems a better point now than it did at 1700 on Saturday, but the days of just being grateful we haven’t got stuffed on the road seem to be gone, for the time being at least.

As a day, Winchester had all the hallmarks of being one of the better ones of the season. A city with a train station, pubs, and all in walking distance of the ground seemed to tick all the boxes. That was of course until the dreaded three words all football fans dread were mentioned: rail replacement bus. Thankfully, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Us London exiles had a 30-minute bus from Basingstoke having done the bulk of the journey on the train, and the contingent from Dorch had a similar time as the train took them as far as Eastleigh before the bus came into play. And in a most unusual bit of good luck/planning, we all managed to get in at the same time, but asthat time happened to be 1100, the only place that was open was the Spoons. So off there we trudged.

Numbers were reasonable for that hour as we headed in that direction, the three of us from London in The Roth, Goddard and myself were joined by the advanced guard of half a dozen or so from Dorch. Some were more hungover than others as Luke and Robbie Lowe both looked and said they felt like they’d been recently excavated after a long night out on the Friday. This conversation spawned the first odd question of the day; what is the shortest taxi journey you’ve done in Dorch? It was quickly established there are some seriously lazy bastards about with fares paid to get from The George to the Chinese, The Bull to the chippy on Fordington Green, The Station Masters to the Junction and Spoons to Kilmax. All these were deemed too far to walk and a reasonable expense. Spoons to Pauls was justified as the taxi had to navigate the one-way system. For those without a knowledge of Dorchester, you can either literally see the destination from the pickup point, or could be heard from A to B if you shouted loud enough. An honourable mention also went to Spud and crew as they tried to get a cab from St Pancras to O’Neil’s when in London, only for the cabbie to tell them you can literally see O’Neil’s from where they were stood and that it wasn’t even worth the hassle for him.

This chat took us all the way to Spoons and we soon realised we didn’t really fit the demographic. Lots of families out for breakfast and normal looking folk packed the place out. Not a single old man with a Ruddles or one group of a few elders with several empty Fosters glasses on the table. Just people with kids and normal members of society. Thatcher’s Britain. It was busy enough that in true Dorch fashion, we couldn’t actually sit together. This was good practice for the game as no matter how many or few fans we have, we never stand together there either. The plan was to have a drink or two at Spoons and then move onward to one of the nicer watering holes. Some wanted, or in the case of Rob and Luke, needed food, but the 45-minute wait was too much, so we’d get some elsewhere when the normal places opened at midday. That was the plan anyway – Goddard either didn’t get the memo or didn’t care, so the 45-minute wait for a rather sad looking vegan burger was taken. To be fair to him, he didn’t hang about when it arrived and the eating of the long-awaited burger took less than four minutes.

We finished up our drinks and made the short walk to the brilliantly named ‘Mucky Duck’ which was a far better fit for us. With Poland v Saudi Arabia on the telly and drinks flowing much more freely, there was more chat about the game and other Dorch based miscellany. The recently unearthed newspaper clipping from 1990 of some terrace-based aggro from a Weymouth game many years ago popped up in conversation and a very young looking Buik was bang in the middle of it. Lucky for him that there was a photo as he has absolutely no memory of it. Probably best as he’s not been involved in any trouble against Weymouth since, so his record remains spotless. The Mucky Duck was a lovely little spot with a few screens for the sport, its own bitter – on tap, not just us bringing the mood down – and a decent food menu that saw the ravenous duo of Richards and Lowe inhale food at a pace that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the jungle.

We were there for a couple and then planned to go onto the King Alfred (Stanley) as that was the nearest to the ground, but a lack of research had been done prior to this and we quickly found out that the Stanley was more of a gastro-pub, and not one that we’d really want to be in, or probably be wanted in. Luckily, the ground was a mere five minute walk away along the River Itchen, a poor man’s River Frome if ever I did see it, and into the ground via a carpark which could do with having some of the pothole issues it faces being dealt with. One Winch fan ahead of us, who looked a lot like a knock off version of Buik, let himself in through a gate, then walked around to the turnstiles and promptly tried to bargain over the price of admission, which seemed a bold tactic. He duly paid full price when asked. I took the more conventional approach of entering though the turnstile and paying my concession rate, and got my first proper look at the ground.

Now, in terms of a one-off visit and for novelty value, I quite enjoyed my visit to what I think is the snappily named Charters Community Stadium. It comes under the bracket of ‘proper non-league’ and is the kind of ground that is a bit of a throwback with very little cover, a worn and uneven looking pitch, a couple of small stands, the clubhouse and changing rooms all under one roof, very old-fashioned floodlights, and some rickety looking wooden structures such as two literal garden sheds. Others were not so kind and it’s a game I’m glad we’ve got done this side of Christmas as come the new year and latter part of the season, the pitch will look like a farmer’s field after the harvest. To call the facilities basic would probably be too generous. The Acrow props holding up the roof of the bar took the attention away from the considerable work that needed doing on the face of the clubhouse, and that’s before your eyes were drawn to the storage container housing the toilets outside that looks like something straight out of a Coldwar Steve piece. Or as Evo put it, “How does a club manage to be so village when it’s a bloody city?” The whole place looked like the perfect setting for a series set in the late 70’s to early 80’s – fuck knows what series that would be mind. Maybe a prequel to the original series of the ‘Renford Rejects’.

Having got myself a drink at the bar for three pounds, 10 shillings and a halfpenny, I tucked into one of the best burgers I’ve had in a while at football, and also the best cup of tea of the season. A quick chat with Lee Loder and Cam Dabbs about all matters DTFC followed, with Lee taking a less favourable view than mine on the ground and saying, amongst other things, how it looked like the sort of place we should come to for a pre-season friendly, not a league game. He isn’t too far wrong to be fair, as Bridport is in better nick, but he was enjoying the food – so much so that a sizable bit of burger managed to get stuck in his beard. Food removed and conversation moved on, Lee was able to answer one of the season’s burning questions; why has Glenn made the switch from those awful three-quarter lengths to normal shorts and trousers. Well, it’s because Lee cancelled the order due to unspecified manufacturing issues. Well played. Glenn did appear to be wearing what was either compression tights of some of Mrs Howes’ leggings on Saturday, but we’ll gloss over that.

No sign of Phil Mitchell or Cilla Black.

The number of Dorch steadily grew and with kick-off approaching the bar was busy and optimism was pleasingly high. Finn Barge, who I assume was the DeFacto leader of the 20 or so North Face Magpies, was feeling a tad delicate from the cricket club do the night before, as was the DCC Chairman, Mark ‘Deadly’ Derrien, who with his officiating experience would turn into the Dorch equivalent of Peter Walton as he was consulted for his view of every refereeing decision that was made. The team news showed a couple of changes with Ryan Hall returning in goal after he re-joined on loan, Tiago Sa coming in for Louie Slough in defence, and the welcome sight of Ollie Balmer on the bench, but otherwise it was as you were from Hendon. Heading out to the tiny terrace behind the goal and awaiting the players, the numbers of Dorch seemed high with a few unfamiliar faces. We soon worked out why as Winchester have a small but loud youth element who stay at that end, regardless of which way they’re kicking. Their constant noise and hammering on the terrace annoyed some, but I’m all for it. There was no malice, probably as they’re all about 13; they get behind their team, and the songs aren’t the usual fare for non-league in that it isn’t just the name of the team shouted over and over again. They did rhyme black with black at one point with is just lazy and they need to brush up on their geography when they go back to school as they referred to us as a bus stop in Poole – everyone knows Poole is in Hampshire – but aside from that they were good value. Far more tolerable than the Poole and Chesham ASBO crews that we’ve come across in the past who seemed to come to football straight from watching ‘Green Street’.

The game started as it would go on for the whole 90 minutes in that it was a scrappy affair made very difficult by a heavy pitch and strong wind. We were kicking with the wind in the first half towards the North Face and Stone Island clad section, but there was little of note to liven up a fairly even first twenty minutes or so. Harvey Bradbury picked up where he left off against Hendon as he introduced himself to the home centre halves with his elbows and full bodyweight, but getting the ball down and playing was difficult for both sides as a combination of the wind, some rain and the heavy nature of a pitch next to a river in a week with a lot of rain meant it wasn’t a fast game of free-flowing football. After nearly half an hour of not a lot happening and the highlight being the Winchester youngsters singing about someone having shit TikTok’s, we took the lead.

📷 Phil Standfield

Harvey Bradbury barrelled into a couple of players as held them off and he then set away Charlie Gunson down the left. Now, Charlie is adamant he saw their keeper go early and went to shoot at the near post. From behind the goal, it looked like the keeper went a touch too far too early, expecting a pull back towards the penalty spot. By going so far so early, when the ball was much closer to him than he first anticipated, it looked like it went off his outstretched elbow and into the goal at what was pretty much a right angle. However, there is no dubious goals panel at this level – the goal was given on the day to Charlie, and I very much doubt their keeper wants to claim it, so well-done Charlie on your third goal of the season. His continued good form is one of the most impressive things from this season, and the celebration was an enjoyable one, even if I was coated in lager afterwards. George Isaacs’ pint was one of those that went flying, and this obviously upset the Gods as he soon appeared to develop stigmata as blood flowed from wounds on his hands. Either that or he cut himself on one of the several uncovered nails behind the chipboard barriers. Could be either.

📷 Phil Standfield

As we settled down after the excitement of the goal, we almost netted a fortunate second as a Gunson corner almost crept straight in, but we were pegged back shortly after as we gave away another penalty. This has been an unwelcome habit this season, and this was the second game in a row that Jordan Ngalo was the culprit as he appeared to shove the Winchester attacker over as he went away from goal. It looked stonewall from the other end, and it was scored soon after via the glove of Ryan Hall. 1-1 and back to where we started. Not much else of note happened in the remainder of the half other than noticing that Steve Hill had to stand on tip toes due to the height of the barrier, and all square at the interval seemed about fair. One thing that was apparent at halftime was that Kieran Douglas was not a popular man with the home fans, and it was never really revealed why. Ollie Balmer didn’t have any such issues it seemed, but Douglas was the villain of the peace for reasons unknown. All very odd. Maybe he promised to paint the clubhouse and fucked off before doing so. Our ire was more directed at the referee who aside from getting the penalty call what looked like correct from a distance, had been next to useless for large swathes of the game. Harvey Bradbury got nothing all half except fouls given against him, which would be fine if he was the guilty party, but he was one half of a proper physical battle with both he and the defenders giving as good as they got. But apparently Bradders was the only one who was committing fouls. Add that to some very curious calls in the middle of the pitch and the ref’s bizarre decision to give a goal kick when it was the most obvious corner after a great last-ditch tackle from a defender, and he hadn’t had a confidence inspiring half. The decision was so bad Winch started to set up to defend a corner, and the keeper had to ask the linesman for confirmation of the goal kick.

We had a quick look in the bar and it was back out for the second half. While attacking the far end, we soon found out that you can’t actually get right behind the goal without standing in what looked like it might have at one stage been an allotment. You can stand either side of the goal, but you can’t all stand together as one side is fenced off. So we of course had fans on both sides of the goal, and on either touchline, but continued the Dorch tradition of not standing together at away games as we kicked into a gurt wind second half, with flags tied to the metal barricade that was supported by a wooden post and bungee cord. Harvey Bertand had come on for Jordi Foot at the break – not that we noticed until about an hour in, and there really wasn’t much to report for the opening fifteen or so. Winchester started the better of the two sides with a couple of efforts going wide, but we grew into it more and had a lot more possession as the game wore on.

The last half hour saw some goalmouth activity, and Harvey Bradbury was unlucky not to have a penalty as he seemed to be held back as he muscled his way into the penalty area. Deadly was brought into the conversation in the same way Clive Tyldesley would bring Peter Walton in on ITV – he offered his expert analysis of “well I think it was as he had no reason to go down.” Thanks Mark…back to Clive and Ally McCoist we went, although Deadly’s other pearl of wisdom during the second half was the title of this blog. I thought it was a penalty and so did the rest of the team. The ref did not. This was perhaps him punishing Bradders for him laughing at the keeper and bellowing “what the fuck was that” when the keeper seemed to lose the ability to move his limbs properly and appeared to try and slide tackle a ball that he could have just picked up. Chances did eventually come as some good work down the left saw the ball fall to Olaf, but his shot was shovelled behind for a corner. The resultant corner drew a very good double save from the home gloveman as he blocked the first and second efforts right on his line.

📷 Phil Standfield

It felt like we were the better side, but it wasn’t all one way as Winch had a couple of shots either wide or deflected that way, had a good claim for a penalty of their own turned down, and thankfully Callum Buckley got his noggin in the way of a rising effort from sub-Ollie Griggs that was certainly on target. However, 1-1 was how it stayed. Both sides will feel they maybe could have done more but a draw is probably a result both sides will see as fair. It looked tough going out there on a heavy pitch that was stating to cut up even more, with Buckers summing up the 90 minutes by saying “that was fucking horrible” when asked how it was out there.

A point gained, or two dropped? Immediately after, it felt like two dropped. Looking back now, it wasn’t a bad point at all. Back in the bar afterwards, Dodge, in between telling us how he was trolled online on the Echo website for his recent post and pre match wisdom, made some good points about how the home side had treated this game, and given the conditions, pitch and performance, it wasn’t as bad a point as it first seemed. The home part of the bar was decked out for what looked like a child’s birthday party – do not touch the party hats – so some of our number added their own decor to the away area and the flags were caringly draped to make the area feel more homely. It was a good laugh afterwards as a few of the players chatted with the fans and towards the end of the evening a few of us spoke with Glenn about the season so far and much more associated footballing nonsense. One sad piece of news is that Glenn is a Southampton fan. This was tough to hear but as long as we continue to not be terrible, I can look past that fact. I also feel less guilty at laughing the demise of his three-quarters. As the players all departed and the set up for the 80’s disco in the bar began, we sloped off for a final beer in the city centre before the replacement bus would take us the first step of the home journey. Steve tried to board the wrong bus, and it was never revealed if some of the Dorch bound Magpies made the final train. The London bound journey was largely uneventful, even if my salad fingers did mean we missed the fast train, instead having to take the stopper through places like Byfleet & New Haw that I’m not actually sure exist. We made it to Waterloo, and it was home for some much-needed rest, which was actually watching the World Cup highlights.

Chesham at home is next this weekend, and that’s likely to be another tough game as they sit third – it looks like them, Weston-super-Mare and Truro could pull away from the pack. Still, we’re a tough game for anyone and aren’t sixth by accident. A 1230 kick-off will also mean an unpleasantly early start time for our visitors, so every little helps. The kick-off has been moved due to a possible England World Cup knock out fixture but we won’t know until after the England v Wales game what position we’ll qualify in, if at all. That game will also see former Dorch man, Kieffer Moore, play for Wales, and he joins a very niche club of two of players to play both for Dorch and at a World Cup final. The other one is Rory Fallon, who played more games for New Zealand at the World Cup in 2010 (three) than he did for Dorch in 2017 (two). You could see Keiffer Moore would go on to play higher even in his short spell with us, but I doubt anyone thought he’d play at a World Cup, let alone thought that he was Welsh.

Anyway, I’ll be there Saturday. I might walk to the ground but given some of the journeys I’ve found out about, I might just get a taxi to the ground from KFC. SV