Wanderers progress to take on Barnet

There appears to be a thinning out of midweek games across these two weeks before Xmas despite the fact a lot of teams are not that far in front for games and with the threat of more lockdowns in the new year you just wonder if a few more could have been slotted in.

One club I wanted to get to this season was Dorking Wanderers, for a number of reasons as there have been for most clubs I’ve tasked myself with visiting. The rise for the Surrey club has been nothing less than extremely impressive, I remember them coming to Wick on a Friday night around 10-12 years ago in the Sussex League Division Two as it was then and winning 2-0 under the club owner and manager Marc White.

Rising through the County League, Ryman League and now well ensconced in the National League South Wanderers are looking well set for another tilt at promotion to the top level. Playing now at Meadowbank, home of the Surrey FA they have a tidy very nice ground for the level with a selection of seating and standing areas for all.

Wanderers were the club who really got behind the #LetFansIn campaign which I promoted through this blog and along with others who also joined, in the end it did bear fruit in getting people back inside stadiums from Steps 3-6, but at their own level they’ve had to wait until this month to have their own supporters back inside the stadium.

As I’ve stated in the past this season I’ve wanted to go to clubs who have helped me achieve the success this blog is becoming, be it through interviews with their managers, players, or chairman. My thought with Dorking for really getting this campaign to work, I’m going to head there and put a few quid in the coffers, least I can do to help out.

And with the FA Trophy putting games into quick succession the visit of Hungerford Town was the opportunity to make it happen. With both sides residing at the same level we were in for a good game, as it transpired we got one but not quite in the way I expected.

Right from the first whistle the intent from the hosts was very impressive, zipping the ball around with an option to pass for every player who was in possession, Hungerford really struggled to get a hold of the ball with the Dorking midfield pairing of Kane Wills and Wes Fogden controlling things in the middle of the park.

The first effort went to the visitors in the opening minute, a blocked shot which resulted in a break downfield and skipper Jason Prior having a header saved by keeper Luke Cairney. Wanderers then dominated the ball throughout the first half, chances created from Nicky Wheeler and Callum Kennedy giving Prior more opportunities, but a combination of good defending and the experienced striker unable to hit the target kept the scoreline level.

It certainly wasn’t looking like Prior’s night as two further chances went begging, another good save from Cairney and a header that hit the crossbar.

The deadlock was finally broken a couple of minutes before half time by Dorking, just when it looked as if they would be going in frustrated at half time, Luke Moore controlling Wills’ pass inside the area and sliding it across for James McShane to slam home and give the home side a deserved lead.

No sooner had the teams emerged for the second half than Dorking were two goals to the good, the impressive McShane finishing off Fodgen’s touch across goal to slide in at the far post.

The goal seemed to inspire the visitors to have their best spell of the game, Slav Huk having to save from both Mike Jones and Ryan Seager in quick succession as Wanderers allowed their guard to slip slightly and it certainly would have been game on had one effort found its way into the net despite the fact Dorking should have been out of sight had the chances been put away in the first half.

Ten minutes later Jake Evans beat Huk, but the Hungerford substitute’s effort clipped the top of the bar. Chances came in the final fifteen minutes for Wanderers to extend their lead, Prior having a second effort cleared off the line having rounded the keeper, while McShane was denied by the post for a hat-trick.

One final chance arrived for Prior in the final minute but headed over the bar capping what must have been a frustrating night for the skipper who on another day could easily had four or five goals to his name.

McShane was quite rightly named man of the match, not just for the two goals but also popping up in the gaps and space all over the final third to make it harder for Hungerford to pick him up.

The visitors definitely found it hard to keep the ball against a side who moved it around superbly and Barnet will certainly find it tough this coming Saturday, especially with the Bees being bang out of form. Even I wouldn’t bet against Wanderers progressing this weekend although of course I’m firmly on the opposite side…………….

NB This article was written before the Government placed Dorking and Surrey into tier 3 from Saturday and once again unable to admit fans.

City provide the sting in the tail

Is this to be the last Saturday blog of the season? Fingers crossed it’s only the four weeks we have to suffer and we get back to football soon, not that it’ll stop me until Thursday!

The last game before the March lockdown was full of rain, a complete performance from Barnet at Woking and for a while it looked as if the rain was going to be a big factor once again after a morning deluge in West Sussex and with that in mind it was a first trip to the new Horsham Camping World sponsored stadium.

This one was on my list to get to last season and of course the early finish put paid to that! But no such issues this time around thankfully and with an FA Trophy tie against Welwyn Garden City the possibility of an upset and/or penalties.

The ground itself was pretty decent for a new build, lots have a ‘lack of atmosphere and character’ levelled at them, soulless and something that doesn’t fit in for your average fan, but I was pretty impressed with how this one looked.

Very helpful stewards on the way in set the tone for a pleasant visit, first impressions as a new visitor can make all the difference. Once inside space was never an issue, lots of room and easily capable of hosting 600 people socially distanced, 473 made it in to watch.

The Hornets have had a steady start to their league campaign which is about to be put on hold for four weeks, and hosting a side one step below, they were hoping for a comfortable passage into the next round.

The visitors made the early running and almost took the lead inside ten minutes hitting the post from a free kick which Horsham keeper Brad House was expecting to go wide of the mark.

Horsham though tried to settle into their stride but found it hard to find some sort of penetration through an organised City side but they did eventually find a way through, Chris Smith with a fine finish to give the home side the lead on 18 minutes.

The home side were getting a majority of their attacks going down the right hand flank through former Barnet wing back Tom Day but the City rear-guard dealt with most balls into the box leaving the home side to lead by just a single goal at half time, pretty much a lack of rhythm going forward.

City came out in the second half not in awe of their opponents and looked more likely to give Horsham more of a game for the final 45 minutes, substitute George Ironton forcing a great save out of House on the hour mark.

The visitors however did equalise on 68 minutes when Ironton pulled the ball back onto his right foot and fired it into the top corner. Fellow substitute Jordan Kinoshi almost embarrassed House when he robbed the keeper of the ball and almost put the visitors in front on 72 minutes.

Hornets substitute Aaron Hopkinson thought he’d won the tie for the home side six minutes later having looped the ball over the visiting keeper only for it to bounce off the inside of the post and cleared to safety.

Despite some strong Horsham pressure over the final ten minutes, they couldn’t make the breakthrough and off we went to penalties!

Welwyn dispatched all five into the net whilst Hopkinson saw his penalty saved as the visitors moved into the next round of the Trophy, Horsham left to reflect on a lack of clinical moments in front of goal to be able to put the tie to bed.

With any luck I should get to two more games before the shutters come down, and then it’s back to compiling a blog list to get everyone through another lockdown…………