Today should be eve of the FA Cup final day. One of the most momentous occasions in the footballing calendar. Could it have been our year? We’ll never know now as the season has been voided. And yes, we are totally ignoring the fact that were knocked out in the early qualifying rounds by Blackfield and Langley. But in lieu of there being no final to watch, we here at TSOF aim to provide you with an adequate substitute with part two of the FA Cup review.
Now when we finished part one, we had just had our most successful period in the famous old competition as we made at least the first round proper in five out of six seasons between 1954 and 1960. Sadly, our wait for the next first round appearance would be in excess of 20 years. In the period between first round appearances we lost to footballing giants such as Bridport, Bridgewater, Portland and Barnstable among many others. But the Stuart Bell led Magpies of 1981-82 would buck that trend in some style.
Following the league winning campaign under Bell’s then caretaker stewardship in 1979-80 (as documented in a recent blog on the Tumblr account) there was a brief period under player/manager Martin Chivers at the start of 1980-81. When that didn’t work out, it was Bell who got the job on a full time basis having been assistant under Chivers, and he was able to keep together/assemble a successful squad who knew each other well and played with an understanding to match.
The cup campaign would start out in low key fashion with goals from Paul Thorne and Peter Poore seeing off Hungerford 2-1 away from home, before goals from Thorne, Trevor Senior and Ray Ames would see us dispatch of Frome on home turf. An away fixture at Eastleigh would prove a stiffer task. After coming twice from behind to level the game at 2-2, the Magpies would find an extra gear and eventually grind out a 4-2 success with Senior, Ames, Thorne and Poore once again finding the net.
Into the fourth qualifying round and opponents Cheltenham Town had taken to very forward thinking step of having our previous tie at Eastleigh filmed so they could do some scouting and hatch a plan to defeat us. It didn’t work. A hat trick from the prolific Senior would see us take a 3-1 win at Whaddon Road. What of the video, I hear you ask? Well they sold it to us and it was shown in front of an audience of 100 or so at the Magpies social club. The first round proper draw arrived, and there was some disappointment when Minehead at home was our reward as the bigger sides were avoided. But it did present an excellent opportunity to make the second round and following a thrilling 3-3 draw (Miller, Steele x2) which saw us spurn a 3-1 lead late on. But with the second round draw being made prior to the replay, the incentive of AFC Bournemouth at home was all the encouragement we needed as yet another hat trick from Senior and a Tony Chutter goal saw us run our deserved 4-1 winners.
A crowd of over 5,000 would pack into the old Avenue as the Fourth Division promotion contenders came to town, and they would be reward with a left footed shot from Paul Thorne putting us into a first half lead after a period of sustained pressure. Bournemouth would equalise after halftime having missed a penalty as well at the start of the second half, but it was Dorch who would finish the game stronger and would be agonisingly close to winning it. As tensions rose on and off the pitch, skipper Hedley Steele would see his effort strike the bar, and Trevor Senior was just unable to connect with a late cross in from Paul Thorne. Much to Bournemouth’s relief, it would go to a replay that Tuesday.
The relief wasn’t felt by all as some fans had already booked tickets to see up and coming band ‘Duran Duran’ at the nearby Poole Arts Centre, and they would miss an agonising night for the Magpies. In front of a crowd of 6,766 with well over a thousand from Dorch, it had started well as we took the lead. Pressure from Trevor Senior (playing his last game for the club prior to a £35,000 move to Portsmouth) caused confusion in the home defence and captain Hedley Steele slotted home the ball as it broke to him after 18 minutes. A rising Paul Thorne effort almost doubled the league but the hosts would level as a free kick from out wide would see Andy Crawford equalise.
That’s how it would stay meaning extra time and Dorchester hearts were broken as despite good chances for both sides, Keith Williams would score as Dorch were temporarily down to 10 following an injury to Tony Chutter. There were only four minutes remaining and as Hedley Steele would put it, “it was a great journey that ended in heartbreaking fashion.”
It is a cup campaign still fondly remembered and spoken about by players and fans alike. Peter Poore, who played in both games and is the farther of another ex-Maggie in Carl, would say “the first game at home we were so unlucky and should have won. For us it was just 11 vs 11, they had much more ability but we wanted it more. To lose in the last few minutes of extra time and being so close to that third round was hard to take. We got a standing ovation from the home crowd and that’s something I and many others will treasure.”
In typical fashion, we’d not progress past the qualifying rounds for the next seven seasons. The likes of Clandown, Merthyr Tydfil, Cheltenham and Totton proving our undoing. 1989-90 would see a return to the first round proper, albeit without the dream football league tie at the end of it. After seeing off Chard away from home, overcoming Trowbridge after a reply also away, a home win against Cheltenham would see us in the fourth and final qualifying round away at Bognor.
We’d fall behind after a penalty conceded by Tony White was converted, but the real story was the hailstorm which battered the south coast that night. At nearby Fratton Park the referee had stopped the match as conditions were so bad but the official at Bognor had no such idea and the play continued in farcically dangerous conditions. Despite goal kicks being blown back towards goal and going out for corners, a Pete Morrell penalty was good enough to force a replay. The whole ordeal must have annoyed the players somewhat as they proceeded to hammer Bognor 5-1 in the replay. Sadly, the first round produced no outing against football league opposition and we were drawn away to league rivals Gloucester City. Despite a good team performance and Pete Morrell hitting the bar, we would fall to a somewhat harsh 1-0 deafest against a Gloucester side who beat us five times in all competitions in that season.
It would be the 1995-96 season when we next grace the first round with our presence, but it was the qualifying rounds that in many ways provided the better memories. The first qualifying round would see us held 2-2 at home by Wimborne before safely negotiating the away replay by a 2-0 score line. A 2-0 home victory over Basingstoke would see us advance into the third qualifying round where a tie away at rival Weymouth would await. It would prove to me be one of our more memorable days on the other side of the Ridgeway as an Owen Pickard hat trick would help us come from 2-1 down to win 3-2, dumping our rivals out the competition in the process. There It was a win that would see a selection of commemorative mugs produced, some still used as tea vessels to this very day!
A 2-1 victory away at Sittingbourne would see us back in the hat for the first round proper, and we were rewarded with a trip to Oxford. Oxford were 12th in Divison 2 (League One in today’s money) and one of the better sides in the draw. The travelling support was well over a thousand that day as the convoy of coaches set off from the Avenue, all fans being given a letter from the chairman reminding them of their responsibilities given they were representing the club and the town. However, any hopes of a cup upset were quickly diminished. Although only 2-0 down at half-time, we would end up on the wrong end of a 9-1 scoreline, our 1, a Tommy Killick penalty, coming with the score at 8-0.
In an article when he was at Poole in 2010, Taffy Richardson who played for us that day at Oxford would look back on that first round tie from 1995; “It was one of the worst experiences of my life. What should have turned out to be a good day was an awful day.
“We had a good team at Dorchester and we got Oxford United, who were the best team left in the hat. We got drawn away from home and suffered massive injuries and suspensions. Some of the lads who played were Dorset Combination and reserve players and we were beaten 9-1.
“With 20 minutes to go, I lost count. We got a penalty and Tommy Killick scored and he celebrated like he’d won the FA Cup. I had my head down embarrassed. It could have been 20-1 – our keeper was magnificent. You just wanted to get off the pitch at the end.”
Now seeing the funny side – almost – Richardson continues: “We had a black and white strip and one of the funny lines the next day in the press said ‘Dorchester came out looking like Del Piero but, once the game started, they looked more like Del Boy’! Everything about it was embarrassing.”
It would take the club a few seasons to get back into the cup groove and the next time we’d get to the first round proper would be the other side of the millennium. But as I’ve ended up with far more material than I thought, that will actually be in part 3, which should be out over the weekend. Some big days and famous games in the clubs history to follow… Stay alert and wash those paws. SV.