Well, alright lads? Guten Tag! What a difference a week makes. After a disappointing loss to Swindon and a point having surrendered a 1-0 lead at Merthyr last Tuesday, the next two games against Kings Langley and Wimborne, both at home, were vital if we were to get points on the board and start to put some distance between us and the relegation places. Seven days on, six points have added, five unanswered goals, four hundred crowds at each game, three places climbed, two wins in a row, and a Gareth Stewart in goal (yes, I have referenced a near 13-year-old joke). Back-to-back wins for the first time in two years and back-to-back clean sheets for the first time since Chris Weale left, have left us in 16th place and eight points clear of the drop zone as we now can start glancing at the teams above us, and not those below.
Having worked hard in our 2-0 win against Kings Langley on Saturday, making sure we carried on that form and ensuring it didn’t become another in series of false dawns over the past few seasons was vital. And, truth be told, the only minor complaint I can have about the comprehensive victory of Wimborne was that the winning margin was only three clear goals. We were that dominant. It has been long time since a Dorchester side has looked so completely in control and impressive at both ends of the pitch. Tougher tests will no doubt come, but you can only beat what is in front of you, and the manner of victory and way we played suggests we can give anyone in this league a game regardless of form or league position.
After TC boiled his eggs for the next days lunch, he picked me up in his work wagon, complete with crunchy nut cornflakes and a loaf of bread. We were both looking at the impending Wimborne fixture as one we should win, but were aware that this is Dorch and we’ve seen this all before. A cheeseburger and chips to fill a hole was consumed as we saw the teams with there being just the one change for us as Tom Soares returned to the starting XI as Charlie Madden, who had started but picked up a knock at the weekend, was named on the bench. The bench was as strong as it has been in a while with Madden, the returning Flavio Tavares, Sam Davidson, Christos Papakonstantinou and new signing Billy Steadman all being good options to bring on, and Steadman may be one of few Dorch players to have the holy grail of the ‘blue tick on Twitter. We at TSOF await such an honour…
There was a smattering of former DTFC representation in the Wimborne side as well as Dan Strugnell and Dan Cann were involved. Strugnell taking the captains armband, Cann on the bench. One thing that struck TC and I as we did some serious damage to our food, was how firstly; we looked like a team of grown men, and secondly; this was a side who actually works hard for 90 minutes and shows not only some togetherness, but a genuine will to win. These things may seem like a given in most sides, but given some of the performances we’ve watched and squads that have been assembled over recent, this comes as something of a pleasant surprise.
With the teams out and us attacking the bypass end first half, we took up residence behind the goal. Given we stood behind the goal for Saturday’s victory, we didn’t want to upset the Footballing Gods™ and tempt fate by heading to the Bovril. We were soon joined by El Générale who had either come dressed wearing a hat that was suitable for one of the Seven Dwarfs, or possibly a woollen condom. Our superstition based vantage point turned out to be ideal as the early play was almost exclusively in the Wimborne half. A header back towards his own goal by a Wimborne defender had their goalkeeper, Ryan Hall, scrambling to avoid getting caught out, before Hall would produce an excellent block to deny Alfie Stanley after Sam Bayston’s through ball set him free.
Bayston would then have a shot cleared off the line before Hall’s fingertips would push a Tommy Toe Poke effort from the same man onto the post, Kieran Roberts just missing out in the scramble for the re-bound. We need to take one of these chances, we won’t keep creating these every five minutes, we said. Five minutes later and Bayston was once again denied by Hall, this time as the wide man broke clear on the left side. Dan Strugnell would come in for some stick from some behind the goal, but they seemed to be directing their ire at Wimborne’s number 18, who was in fact Billy Maybury. Strugnell wearing number 2 seemed to escape lightly by comparison. It wasn’t all one way traffic as Wimborne had a couple of shots, one wide and one palmed clear by Benfield, but normal service was resumed as Kieran Roberts first appeared to malfunction when presented with a chance as his limbs seemed to extend like a Swiss army knife, before Hall showed excellent reflexes to keep a close range Soares effort out, although the ball appeared to be going wide from our angle.
Despite the 0-0 score line, it has been a half of utter dominance as we’d picked up where we left off from Saturday, and there was further good news to come at halftime as TC confirmed the Bovril was back to its usual high standards. After Saturday’s Bovril being saltier than the fans on the actual Bovril terrace itself, this was a blessed relief. Our wander to the Tesco end left us surprised as to how many people were actually already there, and it was another decent crowd of 439 after Saturday’s gate of 446. Even Ash Jury was back for the first time in two years and he would have had the best sideburns in the ground had The Luth not come to the game after a hard day working the land. But the 400 plus gates are very encouraging signs given we’ve struggled to get people through the turnstiles in recent seasons, and performances like the one that followed in the second half will do no harm as we try to tempt back the detached fan.
The early goal we scored less than two minutes into the second half helped to settle any nerves, and was a product of some very good play and questionable defending. A delightful ball over the top from Big Thiago set Oakley free, and his cutback was calmy slotted in by the on rushing Tom Purrington. There was a slice of luck as one of the Wimborne defenders seemed to not bother cutting the cross out, but the goal was the least we deserved. Purrington was excellent again as he had been against Kings Langley, and gets my nod for man of the match. With two goals in his last three games, he’s started to add the goals his play has deserved, although some fans need to be more realistic with what he’s capable of. At one stage he picked up the ball 30 yards from goal, was being pursued by three defenders and had turn away from goal, one fan bellowed “FINISH IT TOM!” Not sure that was one he could really have done much more with, but high standards are being encouraged all the same.
One brings two is a frequently used cricketing cliché, and it was very true here as we doubled our lead after 55 minutes. A driving run in field from Oakley Hanger saw him find Tom Purrington who in turn laid the ball off to Alfie Stanley. Stanley’s return pass to Purrington was blocked but the ball rebounded to him and his ball though to Oakley was more successful, Oakley finishing his one on one chance like a man who finds himself in such positions on a far more regular basis. Seeing Oakley in a one-on-one with the goalkeeper was akin to finding a fish up a tree or a turtle on a fencepost, but he took his goal well and you could see by his celebration just how much he enjoyed it.
Hall in the Wimborne goal would soon continue his doomed one man resistance as he denied his former Pompey teammate Stanley a third goal. And, although we lost a little bit of rhythm when Tom Soares was taken off and Wimborne had a slightly more extended spell of fruitless possession, the returning Falvio and new signing Billy Steadman would see us re-assert our dominance and the third goal would come in the 93rd minute. Steadman’s excellent ball over the top saw Roberts motor away from the defence, and although his effort was blocked by that man Hall, Alfie Stanley was on hand to guide the ball into the unguarded net. 3-0 and if anything, that flattered Wimborne. Wimborne look like a side in real trouble, something not lost on us given how their official club feed referred to use as “relegation bound” after a 4-1 Senior Cup win for ourselves in a pore-pandemic world, and although we don’t hold grudges, we at TSOF do have long memories. Life comes at you fast…
This was as professional a performance as we’ve produced since Saturday. Victories like these last two games have been as rare as an AWH smile over the past few seasons and the improvement in these past few games has been notable. We will play better sides, starting with the visit to Met Police on Saturday, but playing like that we’ll give anyone in this league a game and pick up points in the process. As we left the ground to the aroma of KFC and the sad sight of footballs trapped behind fences around electrical equipment, the mood was positive with some of us planning route to Saturday’s game and the game that follows away at Truro. This is not something that seemed probable a few weeks ago as we were manageress and looking at a relegation battle, and I’ll be going on Saturday regardless of my night shifts on Friday and Saturday. What a life I lead… Off the pitch the club has also made giant strides as the chips, cheese and gravy made it to the pages of the ‘Footy Scran’ Twitter feed, even drawing a favourable comment from Deliveroo. Two wins and we’ve gone mainstream.
As we approach the halfway point of the season there is now a nice looking gap between us and the relegation places, a gap almost comparable to the one between the end of Glenn Howes three quarter lengths and his shoes. If we keep winning, he can wear them all season. Up the Magpies, here’s hoping for a smash and grab against the Met, or some such witticism, on Saturday. SV