Monday, 22 November 2010

Weston-Super-Mare vs Dorchester Town (20/11/10)

Match 97

Ground #: 64

Ground: Woodspring Stadium

Competition: FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round

Kick Off: 3:00pm

Cost: £6.50 (student)

Programme: £2

Attendance: 184

Weston-Super-Mare 1

Moss (O.G) 78’, Gilbert s/off 50’

Dorchester Town 3

Devlin 13’, Ings 71’, Moss 85’

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For the 20th November I had several grand plans for games I was going to attend, some were quite far away (Cheltenham) and some were quite close (Crediton). However, once I discovered that there were cheap train tickets to Weston-Super-Mare for £13.50 and that the town’s Blue Square South side were at home in the FA Trophy that day, my trip was sorted and it was another November trip to the seaside!

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Weston-Super-Mare is a seaside resort in North Somerset located right on the Bristol Channel. While there is evidence that the site was there in the Iron Age, Weston was a small village until the 19th Century when it became a seaside resort for the Southwest. With the decline of all seaside resorts during the 20th Century, Weston has been saved from turning into Morecambe by some grand regeneration projects such as the new Grand Pier which only opened last month (October 2010) after a fire destroyed the old one. Other highlights include the Winter Gardens but also for Motocross enthusiasts with the famous Weston-Super-Mare Enduro beach race which is held every autumn.

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The local club of Weston-Super-Mare FC have actually hauled themselves up to the Blue Square South which is Level 6 of the Football Pyramid. Quite impressive for a club that rarely gets over 250 in attendance for its home games. They were lucky enough to finish 10th in their first season in the Southern Premier Division and earn a spot in the newly formed Conference South in 2004. They have actually finished in the relegation places more than once but due to other club’s problems such as Farnborough Town going bust or Cambridge City failing a ground inspection, they lived to fight another day in the Blue Square South. Weston SM actually finished 21st out of 22 last season but due to a monster number of teams hitting the shitter, they were reprieved, again. This time out they seem determined to stay up on merit as they went into this FA Trophy game in 9th place in the league, a whole 12 points clear of the final relegation place occupied currently by St Albans City.

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Their Woodspring Stadium ground is a fairly recent build having opened in 2004 after they moved a short distance from Woodspring Park. It boasts (see above) a mightily impressive covered terrace situated behind one of the goals. It reminded me on Morecambe’s old North Terrace at their now defunct Christie Park. Behind the other goal was a flat standing area that had (in comparison to what was opposite it) a crappy piece of cover sponsored by cider firm Bulmers. A small seated stand runs down part of one side of the pitch while the dugout side of the ground is hard, uncovered standing. For the final round of FA Trophy qualifying, Weston had to get past fellow Blue Square South side Dorchester Town who are actually Weston’s closest rivals in this league as 19 of the sides play in the South-East of the country. They were in 12th, but only 3 points behind Weston so a tight game looked likely. As their Avenue Stadium ground is around 90 miles from my house, it could be a 2011 trip to Dorchester but a hit-list will be released in late December about that!

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With two evenly matched teams and a tie against a possible Conference side in the 1st Round, the match was expectedly tight as it kicked-off and I was just delighted to have not paid the full £10 to watch the ball in the air for the 1st 10 minutes of the match. Dorchester were the slightly better side early on, helped by the fact that Weston could not really complete a passing move and their speedy striker Sahr Kabba was looking quite isolated upfront. Their poor passing was amplified on 13 minutes when an awful clearance from defence found Dorchester’s Danny Ings who ran at the Weston defence and slipped a great ball into Steve Devlin who lofted the ball over the diving Lloyd Irish to give the away side the lead. The rest of the half was pretty much a non-event as Dorchester didn’t really create that many chances while when Weston actually attacked, the final ball was so poor that Dorchester goalie Simon Evans was not tested. 0-1 at HT.

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As it was absolutely freezing I had my first bovril of the season (although the lady did ask if I want pepper in it – eh!?) and moved around from the seated stand to the large stand behind the goal for a great view. The game was plodding along nicely, until 50 minutes when an innocuous challenge caused a Dorchester player to hit the deck. Simon Gilbert was blamed for a jump which caused the away player to be floored and while the referee was going to let the game play on, once the Dorchester players surrounded the ref however he was very quick to get his yellow card out and send Gilbert off for his 2nd bookable offense. (I cannot remember his first yellow at all). This added some spice to the game as Dorchester began to push forward with a man advantage and break up rare Weston attacks with some brutal challenges. Dorchester added a 2nd on 71 minutes when Danny Ings cracked in a shot from the edge of the area that just beat Irish at his near post. The Weston goalie really should have done better, but had just made a great triple save previously to that which kept his side in the match. Then on 78 minutes came the funniest moment I have encountered this season. When Weston won a free kick on the edge of the Dorchester area, Evans was barking repeatedly “NEIL! NEIL! NEIL!” for defender Neil Martin to get into a better position defensively. The Weston fans heard this and so the 30+ fans in the stand began shouting “NEIL!” too which was made even better as when the Weston freekick came in, Ryan Moss got in front of NEIL and headed the ball over Evans and into his own net. NEIL got a huge cheer as if the ball had ended up at him, he would have cleared it away. Dorchester though got the killer 3rd when a throughball put Moss through and he fired into the top corner to send the Dorset club into the 1st Round. NEIL even came over to goad the Weston fans – shit banter.

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Really enjoyed this trip, as after the game I had a couple of hours spare to walk around WSM and it really does look a decent place. Also loved the new Grand Pier and would have spent more time in there if I had it (and money!) WSM are a great little club who have done extremely well to stay where they are with the crowds they get. They aren’t helped being close to the two Bristol FL clubs which must have an impact on attendances. Although Dorchester at times played good football, I really wasn’t impressed with their gobby attitude as it was all a bit Hungerford Town for me. Although, this could have just been a one off, so will give them the benefit of the doubt until I see them next. They have been given a kind draw in the 1st Round as they will play Blue Square South strugglers St Albans City at home where they should make it through. Good luck to them!

Photos from Weston-Super-Mare vs Dorchester Town

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Match Ratings:

- Match: 7/10 (saved by the 2nd half)

- Value for money: 5/10 (I’m thankful I got away with student prices)

- Ground: 6.5/10 (decent, modern ground)

- Atmosphere: 7/10 (was reasonably good for only 184 people)

- Food: 5/10 (pricey, but served with a smile and tasted nice)

- Programme: 4/10 (not worth £2)

- Referee: Kevin Morris – 4/10 (liked the sound of his own whistle and voice)

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