“His dad sent the stewards around apparently.”

It’s fair to say our recent form against Salisbury is fucking dire, to say the least. Under the newly reformed Salisbury FC 7 years ago, our record against them had been played 10 lost 9, plus a draw in the FA Trophy – we ultimately lost the replay 0-3. One of those losses includes a 10-0 defeat in the Southern League cup which would bring psychological damage to any team, regardless of how pointless the cup is.

Wiltshire services.

From a personal perspective however, my record of watching Dorch at the Ray Mac stadium is pretty good, witnessing 2 wins and a draw plus a game called off due to torrential rain minutes before kick-off. Off the back of back-to-back victories, the Magpies had every right to go into this Easter fixture with cautious optimism against a Salisbury team who’ve had a poor season by their standards. The onus was on the away side to get a positive result and secure our safety in the Southern Premier League.

My attendance at DTFC games hasn’t been so prolific this season, but I decided to attend my first Dorch game since a drab 2-0 defeat at Beaconsfield in mid-January. Having finally renewed my network railcard last month, train tickets to Salisbury were reasonably priced and knowing plenty of friendly faces amongst the Dorchester fans making the trip from Dorset, I was quite looking forward to this one. Unlike my last blog at Chesham there were no hiccups on my journey, as I jumped on a tube from Walthamstow to London Waterloo before hopping on the train to Wiltshire, where I could enjoy a couple of Irish cans to keep me hydrated on a beautifully sunny and warm day. My only minor gripe was that the train didn’t have any plug sockets, so that sadly meant no solitaire or Netflix to pass the time.

I arrived at Salisbury station at 13:40 and juiced up my phone while I waited for my dad to give me a lift to the ground as he was driving up from the county town. Good job too, because fuck me, having a ground 3.5 miles away from the city centre can’t do much for their fanbase. Once we arrived at the ground, I met the lads in the bar for catch ups and to discuss the usual pre-match patter. There were plenty of away fans in the bar but already you could sense the general positivity in the atmosphere opposed to the usual dread, especially as there was so much riding on this game. The line-up showed a completely unchanged squad for the third game in a row, something we’ve not done all season. The first half itself didn’t have a lot going for it and very much had an end of season feel. Both sides looked fairly unthreatened, with an Ashley Wells shot that was comfortably saved and a couple of high blasts being our only half chances. The 100 or so Dorch faithful were creating a good atmosphere including a bit of friendly stick towards some of the ex-Magpie contingents in the Salisbury line-up. This was much to the annoyance of the Salisbury stewards, as well as Charlie Davis’ dad in the main stand.

As we were taking our place behind the goal at the start of the second half, the Magpies began far livelier and just as I approached my position behind the goal, we took the lead. Some brilliant play from Tom Purrington down the left-hand sidefound Alfie Stanley, who sidestepped a defender before slotting firmly home to put us 1-0 up. From then on, we rarely looked to be troubled and had one or two good chances to extend our lead with Harry Mcgrath having the biggest, after great work from Purrington again in finding Mcgrath who fired over from 12 yards. Salisbury did give us a scare when Sam Ashton cannoned a thunderous effort against the crossbar from 20 yards out, but despite 8 minutes of injury time due to an injury to former Dorch player Calvin Brooks, we seemed to see the game out with relative ease. Goalkeeper Jack Bycroft was comfortable dealing with last ditch Salisbury attempts thrown into our box and we hung on for the 1-0 win.

📸 Phil Stanfield

There were jubilant scenes at the full-time whistle with players and fans celebrating survival with 2 games to spare, something that was unthinkable a month or so ago. With the sun still shining and spirits high, we ventured back into the bar for one last pint and it was brilliant to see lots of smiling faces. Lots more of those for next season please! I got my lift back to the station to catch my train back to London and it was nice to leave an away game with that feeling again, something I’ve not witnessed since we won 3-1 at Hendon back in September 2019. A very enjoyable trip and I’m glad I made the journey.

📸 Phil Stanfield.

As I said just now, staying up was unthinkable a month or so ago. I’d almost resigned myself to relegation so much that I actively chose not to go to the easily commutable Kings Langley four matches ago. To be honest I’ve not really enjoyed any of the games and occasions I’ve attended this season and just couldn’t see us getting anything from it. At half time it seemed awise choice too, but of course we ended up winning 2-1 so fair play to Glenn Howes and the team for kicking on from that. Yesterday’s 1-0 at Salisbury meant 3 consecutive wins and clean sheets, with narrow losses to promotion-chasing Farnborough and Met Police before that. Whilst it’s good to build some momentum going into next season, it’s vital that we properly build on our squad in the summer and strengthen it. Glenn said in his post-match interview yesterday that we have a “big summer ahead” and I agree with him. It’s unacceptable that we keep finding ourselves in this position, but it seems like Glenn has slowly built a foundation, a platform and the winner’s mentality he had at Blackfield & Langley and AFC Totton before managing Dorchester. Our next goal for this season will be to overtake Hartley & Wintney with 2 games left, starting with our final home game against Yate Town on Easter Monday. There is still lots of work to be done but will our fortunes FINALLY turn? Here’s hoping and UTM. FR

📸 Phil Stanfield.

“I genuinely don’t like football.”

There are few more crushing feelings in football than watching your side lose to an injury time goal. Seeing your side do so in the purgatory that is Farnborough, having played and defended so well for 90 minutes is doubly depressing. This was another sucker punch in a season that has seen us on the receiving end of a fair few, but it did show a marked improvement on previous performances in such games and gives hope we’ll be able to get the points we need to secure survival in this god forsaken division. One that we’ll ideally one day depart on an upwards trajectory, rather than falling through the trapdoor.

As away trips from London go, this was a pretty simple one for me to make. Working within striking distance of Waterloo, I was able to curry a favour from a colleague and head to the station to get the 1812 from there to Farnborough, arriving in plenty of time to take in the sights and scenes of the local area. I jest, I got a taxi straight to the ground. Farnborough is a curious place and seems to have been locked in a timeless battle with Aldershot for the coveted title of ‘the shittest town in Hampshire’, but their football team are flying high in the league and look like a good bet for the title. They have been something of a boom and bust club over the past few seasons with smatterings of financial problems interspersed with success and investment. This is one of those more successful periods with our hosts assembling a good squad with a lot of football league experience, and this game doubled up as the game in hand for both of us and them after the original fixture was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. With our odds drifting out as far as 12/1 in a three horse race, it was fair to say the bookies didn’t really fancy us.

A point here would be huge for our survival hopes as It would take us three points clear of Kings Langley with us both having played the same number of games, and also give us a slightly better goal difference than our nearest rivals. Buoyed by the 2-1 success having been behind at the aforementioned Kings Langley on Saturday, a result that had lifted us out of the relegation places, we headed to Hampshire’s armpit with some added confidence. I was pleased to find my taxi was cheap but not as cheap as the concession rate I was charged on the gate to get in as I was admitted for free with my Blue Light Card. In the current financial climate, every little helps. A quick stop in the gents revealed what is possibly the world’s highest urinal, one so high that El Generale may have to use the cubical and treat himself to a sit down wee as I don’t even think standing on tiptoes would have helped. Once in the bar, which is in need of some care and attention as it felt a bit like a ‘Cold War Steve’ setting, I decided to invest some of the money I had saved in a golden goal ticket and by luck if the draw ended up with the 90th minute. Feeling that was likely a quid wasted I afforded myself a giggle at my own misfortune and was soon joined by The General as we ran the rule over the team sheet.

There was only the one change to the starting XI as Charlie Gunson came in for Tom Purrington, who was named amongst the substitutes. We were unsure if this was tactical or not but the game did seem to suit Charlie’s more combative approach, even if changing a winning side is somewhat of a bugbear at times. The bench was Yemi-less as we were told his partner had just given birth, so he joined Tom Soares on paternity leave as he had also become a father in recent days. Congrats to the new pair of Dad’s, looking forward to seeing them both break out the ‘rock the baby’ or a thumb sucking celebration on Saturday. The four man bench was competed by Ben Symes, Josh Baxter and Louis Slough as our numbers seemed somewhat depleted. El Gen and I made our way out the terraces to see which way we’d be kicking and after a cup of a tea and a cheeseburger had been acquired, we took up residence on the terrace in the corner as we kicked towards a largely vacant oversized stand at one end. There were a dozen or so of us assembled there which sadly didn’t include Keith Kellaway who was unable to make it. Nothing to do with his wedding anniversary but the matter of a rather vital game of bowls had come up. So as Keith aimed for the jack, we looked to play out from the back. Or something like that.

It was a pretty even start, both sides enjoying a fair bit of possession without any real end product. Frankie Sutherland slicing a shot wide from distance for the home side, Alfie Stanley flashing an effort past the far post for us. A few promising positions came to nothing for Farnborough and both sides were wasteful when in good crossing positions, form open play and set pieces. We seemed to gain more control as the half went on, Olaf causing problems and winning several fouls before he mistimed lob landed a few rows back. But he would have the games first meaningful shot on target as he forced the home keeper, Jack Turner, into a good save up to his right as his rising effort from the edge of the box was heading goal bound. We’d continue to press, better delivery from set pieces seeing Callum Buckley head over and an excellent delivery from an Oakley set piece not being attacked as it probably should have been. A mark of how much possession we were having was the amount of time that Callum Buckley spent on the ball in the Farnborough half as we matched the home side for the majority of the half. A couple of half chances and efforts from range being dealt with comfortably by Jack Bycroft, but there were signs of what was to come as Paul Hodges would come much closer as he bundled an effort well clear of the bar. John Oyengua’s well struck shot was closer but not close enough as the hosts found some more consistency going forward. But 0-0 it was at half time, a fair reflection on what had been entertaining if not uneventful 45 minutes in which we had certainly been equal to our high-flying hosts.

We got the impression there was probably a lot more to come from Farnborough, but we once again started steadily with no chances of note or one team dominating possession in the second half’s opening exchanges. Farnborough would start to show more attacking intent and as the half wore on, they went through the gears a bit. Elliott Buchanan, who had scored twice in the reverse fixture, wasn’t in such lethal form as he missed the target with two good chances, but his teammates would soon find their range as we were put under more concerted pressure. Their improved accuracy would soon properly test Jack Bycroft who responded by producing an outrageous looking save to keep out a close range header. We didn’t have the best view from the far end of the ground, but this looked a save from the very top drawer to keep the game at 0-0. Harry McGrath would make way for Tom Purrington just after the hour mark as we looked to gain a bit more control and we’d still look threatening when we did get into more advanced positions. A couple of corners came to nothing but there would be controversy with 20 minutes to go as Oakley appeared to be wiped out in the penalty area, the referee gave it a big cut the grass and awarded nothing. Much like the Bycroft save, I’d need to see it back to be sure, but judging by the reactions of both sets of players and seeing it from our angle, it looked a penalty. That said, we were managing the game, which seems to be the polite modern way of saying timewasting and general shithousing, well as Olaf and Alfie closed down defenders and made life awkward, Lowes and Gunson (who had his best game in a Dorch shirt) were the right combination of combative and clever, and the defensive line was much like they had been on Saturday in that they were committed and playing bloody well.

📸 Phil Standfield

As the game wore on into the final ten minutes, those of us assembled behind the goal got increasingly nervous. Steve looking like a man who had just realised he’d booked tickets for Barnsley away on the same day as his girlfriend’s birthday, me looking like a man who has just had just remembered the fact he has an hour wait post-match for his train home. “I genuinely don’t like football. I can only enjoy it when it’s over”, said Steve. Nerves weren’t improved as Farnborough edged closer to a goal as they created more chances and applied more pressure. Bycroft, who was by general consensus our MOTM, once more coming to the rescue with another fine save, this time low to his right, as we came under more pressure and dropped slightly deeper. But we were still defending well with bodies being flung in front of shots, crosses, and opponents as we worked hard for what would have been a deserved point. As the 90 minute mark passed and we entered into injury time, Glenn elected to bring on Ben Symes for Olaf in a move that raised a few eyebrows and questions from those of us behind the goal, but before any sentences could be finished we were rendered speechless by a hammer blow as Farnborough went ahead.

What looked like a bloody good cross was headed in by home sub, David Pratt, which sparked a small pitch invasion by what looked like the JD Sports winter sale catalogue models. It was a heart-breaking goal to concede for both players and fans. Heads in hands, people lying flat in a state of distress, head bowed, and this was on both the pitch and the terrace. Steve swatted his water bottle halfway down the terrace in anger, before then going to pick it up and bin it as he cares about the environment. He did slam the bin lid in a frustrated manner though so we knew he was still hurting. There was still two minutes on the clock once the remainder of B-wing had been removed from the playing area, but we were unable to mount a meaningful attack and as the final whistle blew and second waive of borderline grief came over us. Had we lost 1-0 with a goal coming after about an hour, it would have felt frustrating but not as bad as this did. This one was soul destroying. We’ve had some pretty morale sapping defeats over the past few seasons and a handful this season alone. But this one was really hard take. Having matched them first half and defended brilliantly for so long, we didn’t deserve to lose like that. Even my £40 win on the golden goal ticket felt hollow. I’d have gladly won nothing in exchange for a point. Selfless, I know. But as that well known prophet, Vince McMahon, once said; “life sucks, and then you die.”

The players had put everything into the 90 minutes and got a well-deserved round of applause from those of us behind the goal. It was a horrible result to take but the group can take great encouragement from the way they played. Hopefully these last two games have helped raise the standard, even in defeat we can take positives from this one, and will help us pick up the necessary points to survive. We looked a far more cohesive unit defensively and even if opportunity was scarce going forward at times, we still carry a considerable threat. With Met Police at home on Saturday, the games don’t get any easier, but we’ve upped our game in the past few days and with the squad hopefully being bolstered with potentially Sa, Soares and Yemi all returning to the fray, maybe the XI and certainly the bench should look much stronger. Having seen the top three sides in the league this season, the Met are comfortably the best all around side for my money, but if we put it together then we’re more than capable of getting a result. As I waited on the platform at Farnborough for 35 long minutes for my train. I contemplated a few things, quite how a Twirl could cost a £1 was one of the more distressing things, but I hold much more hope of staying up now than I did post Merthyr. Hopefully my optimism isn’t misplaced.

How much?

Glenn has a few days to try and add to the squad and pick the players up after that morale sapping blow. He does seem to have found a favoured formation now which with tweaks can hopefully become a successful one. As said in previous blogs, we need to stay up by any means necessary and allow Glenn to have a full pre-season get rid of what he sees are deadwood and bring in what he thinks he needs on pitch and in the dugout rather than operating with a lot of hand-me-downs from previous incumbents of the managers office. But for the time being, we have six rather big games to worry about, three at home and three on the road. Met Police and Yate both have promotion aspirations, the other four are either in the delightful surrounds of midtable mediocrity, or staring relegation in the face (Wimborne). 18 points to play for, the same as Kings Langley who are directly below us, and Hartley Wintney who are directly above. I’m not sure what I think the ‘magic number’ would be from those 18 available but I suspect 10 would probably suffice but that would need a big upturn in results. But if we play like we did second half v Kings Langley and for the 90 minutes at Farnborough, I don’t think we’ll be too far off that. Here’s hoping…

This is potentially my final game and therefore final blog of the season, with the season finale away at Walton Casuals being the only one I can possibly make. Up The Magpies , If this is the final game and blog combo of the season, I hope my next matchday review will be from one of the many grounds I hate in the god awful league as I’ve no idea how the hell I’d get to Slimbridge from Peckham if were to go down. SV.

📸 Phil Standfield

“My claim to fame was that me, Stuart Morgan and David Fayle went on the Ester Ranzen show to talk about the curse.”

Saturday September 14th 2019 seems an age ago. It was a pre-pandemic world before social distancing and lockdown, the Mango Mussolini was still US President, Callum Brooks was in charge of Dorchester, and Alan Luther was without Mutton Chops. It also marked the last time that we came from behind to win a league game as a second half Jack Hoey hat-trick would see us turn a 1-0 halftime deficit into a 3-1 win. Since then, the us falling behind and the all too frequent WhatsApp message of “one down” has been something of a death knell as we have lost just about every game we have gone behind in, salvaging only two points from losing positions this term. But after 917 days, that finally changed yesterday as we broke that particular run, secured a vital three points on the road and hauled ourselves out of the relegation places to boot, with a 2-1 victory over fellow strugglers Kings Langley.

Although only Tiago Sa and Billy Lowes remain at the club from that Hendon victory in 2019, much has sadly remained the same as we have been in and around the relegation places for what seems like several years. Has the curse placed on the club in 1994 by a local wizard, which was only halted by a Bible waving ceremony by the Reverend David Fayle, resurfaced? Do we need a parson rather than cover at centre half? Either way, our prayers were answered on a sunny afternoon in Hertfordshire as we mounted a second half comeback that scarcely looked possible at the 45 minute mark.

2019 calling. Whatever happened to those two? 📸 Phil Standfield.

Following the disaster that was Merthyr at home, we had a two week break that was probably well timed as getting over that was going to take a bit of time. It gave Glenn a couple of weeks to try and lift the players ahead of what was the classic six-pointer® against ‘Lango’, as Kings Langley are nicknamed. The Merthyr debacle had seen the initial plans of a minibus of fans fall by the wayside, and some who had planned to make the trip decided there were more appetising options, such as overtime at work or potentially illness, so numbers attending the game were likely to be small. But it is an easy trip for me from South London and I was joined by my girlfriend (proving there is someone for everyone…) who was oddly keen to watch a Dorch game and see what I spend some of my spare time doing. After yesterday’s result, she might have to come more often.

The trip to the oddly named ‘Orbital Fasteners Stadium’ was a simple one for us, a straight train from Euston to Kings Langley, and a 20-25 minute walk via a couple of watering holes to the ground. It is a trip so simple that Fred, Goddard and I made a total mess of it and ended up on the wrong side of a the canal and had to get a lift to the ground. No such dramas this time as The Girlfriend and I made it to the pleasant surrounds of the Rose & Crown where a diet Pepsi and a pint of the delightful Side Pocket (for a toad) ale was quaffed as we basked in the sun. A quick wander down the road and we joined Lousie Edney, sadly minus Charlie The Dog who is a bit of an old man who frankly has better things to do on a Saturday, and we chatted about all matters DT1 including the vital question of how many toilets does a bungalow with two people living in need? The correct answer is three. Kings Langley is a typical London commuter area, with its part village, part suburb feel. A small local church was near an oddly out of place Premier Inn, and a sign advertising Christmas trees appeared as rolling hillside became new build estate.

Get them early.

 As the clock showed half past two, we headed in the direction of the ground to see who was there and what the team was – the team showed four changes from the last game. Charlie Gunson and Yemi dropped to the bench with Michael Green and Tom Soares not in the squad, and in came Harvey Bertrand, George Calverley, Ash Wells and Tom Purrington. The latter two were returning from injury and suspension respectively. Wingbacks of Oakley and Calverley with a central three of Buckley, Wells and Bertrand was the educated guess at how we’d line up at the back, Billy and Purrington in the middle of the park, and Alfie, McGrath and Olaf as the attacking options in some sort of order. Louie Slough was also a welcome addition to the bench, the defender rejoining the club for a second loan spell from Torquay. There was also a Ryan Case in the Lango side, likely the same Ryan Case who played for us in the dying days of our final Conference South campaign. If it is indeed the same one, his time at Dorch was notable for someone believed to be his Mother being very active on the club’s online fans forum. From her posts, we appeared to have signed the non-league Cafu, so our relegation came as a bit of a shock.

It was a nervy atmosphere as kick off approached, the magnitude of the game apparent by the fact that Neil Walton (who I think I’m actually related to) from the Echo was in the ground to provide live updates. It’s rare we have a travelling journo outside a local derby, so for there to be an expenses chit to be going into the Dorset Echo finance department, it must be a rare occasion. As a ground, Kings Langley is typical non league and has what is probably one of the better playing surfaces in the division. Home to both Lango and Watford Ladies, they’ve tidied it up nicely from our first visit. They are also possibly, and mercifully, the only ground I can think of in the league with what appears to be a DJ set up. Aside from calling us Doncaster, the tannoy announcement for the owner of a car with the registration plate of ‘NE14 ABJ’ seemed very out of place. Sadly we were kicking that way first half so got subjected to that sort of witty banter for longer than I’d have liked, although some eclectic 90’s tunes did soften the blow.

The Girlfriend and I were soon joined by Pete and El Generale behind the goal as we kicked off, and we could have gone ahead inside two minutes. Good work between Billy and Olaf saw the ball flash across the face of the goal and although he stretched, Alfie couldn’t quite get on the end of it. Had he been 6’2, we’d have probably been 1-0 up. It was a nervy affair at best with both teams showing the quality, or lack thereof, that reflected their league positions. Jack Bycroft was called into action soon after as his hands were warmed by an early effort, and Harry McGrath was on hand to block an effort; unfortunately it was a shot by Alfie Stanley he inadvertently got in the way of and our chance passed. 

It was somewhat attritional viewing at times, with neither side wanting to commit too much as we passed the half hour mark. After a very genteel rendition of “you’re shit ahhh” as Lango keeper, Alfie Marriott, took a goal kick, I established I was stood next to his Dad, and ended up having a chat with him and his Mother about how he’s done in his loan from Watford. It was more interesting than the game. But from seemingly nothing, we were behind after half an hour. From our angle, it looked like Callum Buckley misjudged the flight of a ball over the top, if that was not the case then I offer my apologies to Callum. What is for sure is that Bradley Wadkins had all the time and space he needed to pick his spot and put Lango 1-0 up. Optimism drained from those of us behind the goal as we all knew what going behind usually means. Annoyance was compounded by the DJ announcing that is was “Kings Langley 1-0 Doncaster.”

Bycroft had to be alert to tip a floated cross over the bar to avoid the deficit becoming two, and we finished the half well but in a most frustrating manner that summed up our season. Our first shot on target was tame but at least worked the home keeper, and some pressure did earn us two corners which we wasted in a fashion that would be comical if it wasn’t so irritating. First George Calverley hit the first defender, the cardinal sin of set pieces, with a delivery at waist height. And then, not to be outdone, Oakley seemed to side foot a corner all along the floor gently to their man at the near post. I have no doubt that neither man was trying to do so, but it was a good summary of our luck from the first 45 minutes. Maybe those short corners from a few weeks back at the way forward…

As The Girlfriend and I visited the burger van for a pleasant cheeseburger each, we were rocked by the news there was no Bovril option. Thankfully, the tea was Yorkshire and has gone in as top rated tea of the season. Our walk to the far end saw the lesser spotted Dabbs join us, and those of us assembled at that end hoped to harness the power of a good moan to power us to victory. “They just look better than us all over the pitch”, mused El Generale. Phil Standfield enquired as to whether I’d have anything to write about, and within six minutes of the restart, I had plenty of material as for the first time in 917 days, we came from behind to move into a winning position.

Less than three minutes into the half an excellent through ball from Harry McGrath would release Alfie Stanley, who had a clear run at goal. A combination of Alfie taking a bit too much time, good goalkeeping as the Lango keeper didn’t go to ground, and some quick covering defending meant Alfie somehow ended up with his back to goal and several Lango defenders between him and the goal. Not to be deterred, Alfie turned and fired a low shot between the keeper’s legs for our equaliser. It was the fast start that we needed and Alfie is now up to 10 league goals for the season, a good return with several games still to go, and when he scores, we tend to win. A matter of seconds later, we were in front.

Alfie Stanley 1-0 Alfie Marriott. 📸 Phil Standfield.

Olaf broke into the box on the left hand side with a jinking run and although his shot was blocked, it fell perfectly for Harry McGrath to sweep home his first goal for the club and put us in the lead. The small smattering of us behind the goal were somewhere between elated and stunned at not only the turnaround but the speed of it. We were so quick that Dave Martin hadn’t even left the clubhouse by the time Harry scored the second goal. There had been no changes at the break but judging by the reaction there had been a rocket of nuclear proportions delivered by Glenn and we looked like a team transformed. The same can be said for the home side who looked shocked and totally went to pot in a manner which must be how we have looked on occasion. Their centre backs, who had been so commanding in the first half, all of a sudden looked like they’d never played together and had forgotten the basics of the game. They weren’t the only ones, as simple things became laboured for the home side. High balls were allowed to bounce, clearances sliced, simple passes missing their target, bickering and arguing amongst themselves, no communication, backpasses going out for corners. It was lovely to see.

📸 Phil Standfield.

Lango’s number 10, who had possibly won a place in the starting lineup via an online competition judging by his ability, was comically booked for dissent as he complained about the amount of time George Calverley took over a throw. Their number 2 blamed all but himself for errors such as his inability to pass to one of his own players, and one of the over hit crosses from a wide area would have threatened the railway had this been at the Avenue. We expected a late onslaught from the hosts. It never came. Changes were made as Yemi, Gunson and Symes (Ben, not Scott…) joined the fray for a clearly knackered trio of McGrath, Purrington and Olaf. Jack Bycroft took one high catch under pressure but was allowed a watching brief as the defence and midfield mopped up all the attempted attacks. Yemi coming on for the last 15 was not what Lango’s already stressed central defenders needed as he was all elbows and arse as he backed in, rolled, held up and generally pissed off the defence. His performance was neatly summed up by The Girlfriend as;

“I like how he was barrelling into people and holding their shirts. I’m pretty sure that’s a foul but he doesn’t seem to mind.”

Despite what was an agonising seven minutes of injury time, we held on comfortably to claim a vital win that lifts us above Lango and out of the relegation places. In truth, we never looked like losing once we had taken the lead.  

I can’t quite put across how much better we were in the second half. We were unrecognisable. Having looked poor first half and to be honest, like we were for the drop, we turned in a performance in the second half that wasn’t just a short burst that got the two goals, it was 45 minutes of us in almost total control. To use the analogy from the previous two blogs, everyone was a five out of ten or worse in the first half, yet those same players were all at least a seven or above in the second. A man of the match is a hard one to pick as you could make a good case for it being one of about six players. McGrath was tireless, took his goal well and was a pain in the arse for the home side until he ran out of gas. Purrington on his return added class and composure, Alfie took his goal well and he and Olaf caused no end of problems. The back five were excellent and its only really Jack Bycroft who went under the radar and he was a spectator for large parts of the game. The standout for those of us there was Billy Lowes, who ran himself into the ground, in cliche terms covered every blade of grass, and was always seemingly in the right place at the right time. El Gen and I agreed that it was either Lowes or Bertrand for MOTM, and Billy probably just shades it. Respectful nods to Harvey, Ash Wells, Oaks and George Calverley, who alongside Calum Buckley, got in the way of just about everything. Well done, Billy. You win our thanks and best wishes.

The bar afterwards for our pint of gloat was enjoyable, with Pip The Dog being the star as she tried to jump up and eat the players’ food. After Pete and El Gen had headed off back towards Dorch, Keith Kellaway joined us a pleasant chat as we discussed the infamous curse of 1994 among other topics. 

“My claim to fame was that me, Stuart Morgan and David Fayle went on the Ester Ranzen show to talk about the curse – I didn’t say anything so I didn’t make it on, Stuart and David did that. But I was there.”

“We need all the help we can get.”

Keith also hopes to be at Farnborough on Tuesday despite it being his 47th wedding anniversary. A search on Google informs me that the 47th wedding gift is garden or plant related. Is there a B&Q near the ground? After our drinks were finished we took a slow mooch back to the station and back to the bright city lights for a pizza and to try and recover my voice.

See it, say it, sort it.

The picture at the bottom looks a lot better now as we leapfrogged our hosts and closed the gap to Hartley Wintney, but games don’t get any easier with the rearranged game at fourth place Farnborough on Tuesday, followed by second placed Met Police at home on Saturday. Met Police, for my money, are the best side I’ve seen us play this season, so it’ll be two tough games, and those are followed by another huge game as we head to bottom of the table Wimborne for a rather important local derby. Seven games to go and there are only cup finals now, no free hits, but with points on the board and a game in hand, the league looks a lot better now than it did pre-kickoff on Saturday. Well done to Glenn for turning it around on Saturday. Three well deserved and bloody vital points.

On the subject of cup finals, a couple of a quick respectful mentions to friends of TSOF. Firstly to our former Conference South rivals now living the league dream at Gandermonium, who we are hugely envious of as Sutton reached the Pizza Cup final and booked their day at Wembley. Enjoy it folks, I’m sure it is only a matter of time before we join you in the 92… And secondly to my old friend Chris Senior and the former Magpies at Hamworthy United. Him and Tim Sills are working wonders there and they’re building an impressive CV that will make chairmen take note if/when jobs become available they want to go for. All the best to them in their FA Vase semifinal in a couple of weeks time. But back to Dorch, roll on Tuesday – I’ll be there with a potted plant should Keith require it. SV.