Saturday 22nd April, 2017
Southern League Premier
Stratford Town 1 – 1 Dorchester Town
Dorchester's celebrations at the final whistle after they had won the point required to keep them in the Southern League Premier for next season, said more about our Town’s current status than it did The Magpies. Dorchester are a big name in non-league football, but to hear and see them singing and dancing as if they would won the league itself, was a statement not lost on our own club. Town finished this campaign in fourteenth place, six points above a much-perceived bigger club in Dorchester, and eight ahead of bigger-spending Redditch, so the sight of black and white striped players leaping around with their fans is a sign of how far Stratford Town have come as a club in the five years since Carl Adams took over at the helm.
Dorchester clearly came for a point and for the majority of the ninety-plus minutes, the game was scrappy and fragmented, and as result, suited the visitors. In fact the game only sparked into life after the Magpies had stolen the lead on eighty minutes which led to a feistily contested last ten minutes or so in which Town equalised – to set Dorchester backsides twitching – and had Simeon Tulloch sent-off.
Town’s walking wounded had somewhat recovered from the 2-1 defeat at Cinderford on Monday so the match-day squad had a ‘fitter’ look about it. Wayne Thomas’s self-declaration of his fitness was a boost to gaffer Carl Adams, who also had Simeon Tulloch and a fit-again Edwin Ahenkorah, on the bench.
The opening half was one devoid of major scoring opportunities aside from a golden one spurned by the visitors on eight minutes. A Dorchester break offered up chances to both Martin and Blair, but fantastic last-ditch defending from Tow skipper, Fry, initially denied the black and whites and when the ball then feel to Jerrard, ten yards out with the goal gaping, the Magpies attacker could only blaze high over the bar.
With the nature of Dorchester’s precarious position on the table going into today’s game, it was always going to be one of those days where eyes were on mobiles phones checking on scores elsewhere. And, within a few minutes of the game starting, Cambridge had taken an early lead in against St Neots which was bad news for the Dorset club and its fans.
By half-time, with the sides in combat at the DCS level at null-null, the Magpies were on course to complete the task of retaining their Premier League status. However, with tight, 1-0 interval score-lines at Kings Langley and Cambridge, Dorchester were still walking a tightrope in their bid to stave off what would be a disastrous relegation.
The second stanza followed a similar pattern to the first and though Town, through supporters and Stratford Herald Player of the Year, Will Grocott, worked hard to forge an opening, Town found the Magpies rear-guard in domineering mood with towering skipper Walker in no mood to buckle or suffer fools as he barked both negative and positive instructions to all and sundry.
The game then flickered into life ten minutes from time when George Forsyth slightly under hit a back-pass to Niall Cooper who decided to try and take the ball around the advancing Jerrard. Cooper though was caught out and Jerrard skipped past him and after composing himself, slotted the ball into an empty net before jumping into the waiting arms of the Dorchester travelling hoards at the Knights Lane end of the ground.
Town then came to life and with Ahenkorah now on in place of a tiring Spencer and Tulloch – who had replaced Stephens earlier on in the half – now marauding down the right, the home-side carried more of a threat. As the ninetieth minute approached and with Dorchester slipping deeper and deeper into their own half and, chancing his arm, Town stand-in left-back, Dan Summerfield, bulldozed his way through the Magpies defence. With the black and whites retreating and ‘keeper Murphy floundering, the Birmingham Uni student suddenly found himself in front of an open net and promptly smashed home from six yards out.
The four minutes of added on time were frantic as Dorchester clung on desperately to the point they had in their possession and would lead them to safety and as tempers flared, Town’s Tulloch found himself embroiled in a touch-line wrangle with Magpies’ Blair which led to a huge bout of handbags as players from both sides wrestled with each other. Once the dust had settled, referee Garratt sent Tulloch off, much to the energetic wide-man’s bemusement; it was Simeon’s second expulsion of the season following his even harsher red at Leamington on Boxing Day.
Frantically and chaotically, Dorchester hung on as Town pressed for a late, late winner, but it was not to be and at the final whistle there was more animosity than amnesty. The upshot of it all though was that Dorchester had survived and Town had finished in their highest league placing in the club’s seventy-one-year history.
And after the game, Carl Adams reflected firstly on today’s game and secondly on the season, “I thought we were a bit flat today and only really got going once they scored but again I can’t fault the effort of the lads, even if we were a bit short on quality today but to finish the season in fourteenth place and above the likes of Redditch, St Neots and today’s opponents, Dorchester, shows how far we have come as a club and as a team. Next season will be tougher again but we have progressed again this season and I don’t see why we can’t do the same next season.”
Finally, the gaffer paid tribute to his players and to the fans who have supported the club so well at home and away this season, “I am really proud of the players whose commitment throughout the season I can’t fault and likewise the fans, we’ve had some ups and downs along the way since opening up at St Ives back in August, but they’ve stuck with us and hopefully be back on board again next season.”
On the eve of what would have been the Brad’s 453rd birthday, the final word of the season goes to the world’s greatest wordsmith, “O, how this spring of love resembleth the uncertain glory of an April day; which now shows all the beauty of the sun.”1
Town Scorer: Summerfield (89).
Marston’s Man of the Match: Dan Summerfield.
Town Team: Cooper, Fry (c), Summerfield, Forsyth, Clark, Thomas, Stephens, Grocott, Taylor, Spencer, Marsden. Subs: Fitzharris (for Marsden), Tulloch (for Stephens), Ahenkorah (for Spencer). Not used: Parker, Martin.
Attendance – 279.
1 Shakespeare – The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Match Stats by Rod Abrahams
||Crosses into Box
Town Yellow Cards – Fitzharris Red Card – Tulloch
Dorchester Yellow Cards – Blair & Ormrod