Sunday, 2 March 2014

Dorchester Town 1 v 1 Staines Town

Saturday 1st March 2014
Conference South
Avenue Stadium, Dorchester
Admission: £12.00
Programme: £2.00
Attendance: 426
Match Rating: 3

After spending much of the week considering which game to take in in the Greater London area, I eventually decided that South West Trains' excellent Winter Sale offer of a day return anywhere on their network for £10 was an offer too good to turn down so instead I set off on a long distance journey to deepest Dorset to visit a ground reportedly far grander than one usually encounters in the Conference South.

The Avenue Stadium is about a 15 minute walk southwards from Dorchester South train station, and indeed the stadium does have a look of real quality and is extremely easy on the eye, unsurprising as it was designed by the Duchy of Cornwall's architects and with Prince Charles taking a keen interest in its construction, although it is showing signs of wear and tear in places. One can enter via the main entrance to the ground or via turnstiles on the opposite side. The main all-seater stand is impressive and imposing, offering excellent elevated views of the action, whilst along the other side, the turnstile block has covered terraces on either side. Behind both goals is terracing, one end covered, the other end uncovered. Triangles and pyramids play a major part of the design of the ground, most of the roofs incorporating triangles, and in each corner there are small towers with a pyramid roof, with similar structures either side of the turnstiles, and most of these small tower buildings house toilets, snack bars, or a club shop. All in all, the stadium has a nice balanced and consistent look throughout, but with enough variety to prevent it from looking bland. The programme consisted of 56 black and white pages inside a colour cover and was rather substance over style, not that that's a bad thing for a football programme. Team sheets were also handed out in the main stand.

Having looked doomed a few weeks ago, three wins from their last four games - including a 3-2 home win against runaway leaders Bromley - have now given Dorchester a real chance of staying up. They're still in the relegation zone, second bottom, but are only two points away from safety, although they have played more games than all other teams around them. They certainly could take plenty of encouragement in increasing their good run today, Staines having lost their last three games, all away, and have picked up just six points from their last seven games. They also have the worst away record in the division, winning one, drawing three and losing the other 11 of their away league games. An excellent home record, picking up 29 points from 36 available, means that Staines are mid table, in eleventh place, ten points from both the play-offs and relegation places. When the two teams met on the opening day of the season, Staines won 1-0.

On a mild, occasionally sunny afternoon, with a bobbly, cut up pitch following the recent weeks of wet weather, the first half saw plenty of intent from both sides but with precious few goalscoring chances being created. As the game entered first half stoppage time, Staines took the lead. A looping cross into the box was headed away, and after an initial shot towards goal was blocked, the ball fell to Louie Theophanous, who curled the ball from the edge of the box behind the keeper's dive and into the net.

Into the second half and Dorchester looked more meancing than they had in the first half, and on 78 minutes a high cross across goal by Nick Crittenden eluded the keeper and Staines defender Sanchez Ming pulled back Mark Jermyn and the referee awarded a penalty to Dorchester. After several minutes of arguing and gamesmanship, Crittenden powered the ball into the bottom left corner of the net despite the keeper diving the right way. Both sides had chances to win the game in the remaining quarter of an hour, the best falling to Staines in added on time, first blasting high and later wide when excellently placed. A point apiece was probably the fair result though and with both teams above them losing today, lifted Dorchester to within one point of safety.

Video match highlights can be found at

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