Dodd: People will tell you I’m the worst loser

Saturday was a break from watching league action and delving into the FA Vase for the first time this season, which tied in nicely with the two week blog update for East Preston and their boss Terry Dodd.

So far this season it’s been a tough watch for EP fans and I think Terry would agree he’s learnt more in seven weeks about managing at this level of football than he did in his spell at Wick last season where things were fairing much better.

That’s not to say he’s doing a bad job, far from it. All of you know money talks in football and even at this level and Step 6 below without even a small budget attracting players is very hard and even more so when you’re in a saturated area for clubs to choose from.

The effect covid has had on these clubs up and down the country is immense, I’ve said it lots of times I am surprised that so few have gone under and that is huge credit to the band of volunteers that keep them going week after week. The latest countrywide restrictions mean football club bars have to be closed by 10pm, which throughout the week and especially midweek match nights are once again crippling and playing with the very future of our footballing pyramid.

In his programme notes on the weekend the chairman eluded to how much the club was losing. The previous Tuesday the bar took around £300 less than usual while the Under 23 game night saw around £200 going through the till which when you consider for a lot of clubs this money is what makes the football work it’s a wonder that all of them will get through to the end of the season.

Despite the reduced prize money in the national competitions this season it still provides some more income at a time when it’s most needed and the visit of Southern Counties East Premier Division side Fisher gave the opportunity for that and a break from league football.

Fisher have had an indifferent start to their campaign and sit mid-table in the predominantly Kent based league despite hailing from South London, EP meanwhile have found the going much tougher and currently sit bottom of the Southern Combination Premier Division.

Not too surprisingly it was a fairly even start to the first half, neither side able to create many clear cut chances although the visitors started to grow into the game the longer it went on. Backed by a very good travelling support Fisher went in front on 35 minutes through Melvin Adesida, pouncing on a loose ball in the area to slot past keeper Keelan Belcher. EP thought they were level just five minutes later through Thaikay David-Day but his shot was cleared off the line while the visitors almost had a second just before the break, hitting the bar much to the relief of Belcher and his defenders.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, Fisher looking the more likely to create chances while EP lived on the counter-attack to utilise the hard running of Conor Bull and the pace of Morgan Day. A superb one handed save from Belcher on the hour mark kept the hosts in the game and you felt with only the one goal still in it a lapse in concentration was all EP needed to get back into the tie.

However, that of course can stretch a game and Fisher finally put the tie beyond their hosts in the 79th minute, Jamie Yila rounding Belcher and slotting home between the two defenders on the line.

Day was the clear outstanding performer for the home side who badly missed Tijan Sparkes and Brad Lewis in the middle of midfield, the young side unable to cope with the physical presence of the visitors.

Catching up with boss Terry Dodd on Monday morning, he’s not too despondent about things and still expects the corner to be turned shortly:

‘The loss of Tijan and Brad is huge for us, it makes it harder to compete in the middle of the park. I think we’re creating the more chances in games and on Saturday felt that we were the better team in the 2nd half but not clinical enough with our finishing.’

‘The injuries are just killing us as there’s not enough time between games to the players fit again but we have got a bit of a break in fixtures in a couple of weeks so hopefully that will give us the time we need to get some more back out on the pitch.’

‘I am working on bringing in some more bodies to add to what we’ve got here and if I can bring in the right players to compliment what we already have here and then we will start climbing up the table.’

‘I’ve got some good lads here and I enjoy every game with them, obviously not the results at the moment! Everyone will tell you I’m the worst loser but I think I am learning more about myself, the team, and the game week by week. I hope they are as well and if they keep giving their all and learning all the time then results will easily turn around.’

Dodd confident of climbing the table

Since I last caught up with East Preston boss Terry Dodd, there has been an improvement in results and things are starting to look a little better as we come to the end of a packed September fixture list.

By the time next Tuesday rolls around the first team will have completed eight league and cup matches with contrasting fortunes in that time. The first win of the season duly arrived in the FA Vase last weekend at division lower Oakwood and the confidence that will bring is needed as we head into what is going to be another busy month in October.

Goals from Harry Franks and Cameron Lineham means EP are now off the mark for the season, but it also means some prize money coming to the club which is going to be a massive thing for all clubs this season in both FA competitions however big or small the amount. A home draw against Fisher in the next round will bring a little more money in as well, win or lose.

Prior to the Vase game a vast improvement saw the team hold Alfold to a 2-2 draw despite squandering a two goal lead but the defensive performance which was much improved on the previous week’s defeat to Loxwood which laid the foundations for the result at Oakwood.

The three new signings made before the defeat to Eastbourne Utd have added some much needed craft and guile while the return of Chad Milner to the Alfold game made a big difference, although he missed the Vase win. Working without a budget at this level does make the job a lot harder than it should be to get results and the club are very much aware and supportive of how things need to be done this season.

Dodd though is pleased with how things are starting to shape up but now expects the team to kick on:

‘I was pleased with the win last weekend, it has been coming with the way we’ve been playing over the last few games, although I didn’t think we played particularly well we still got the win and that’s all that counts.’

‘I am hoping it kicks off for us in the league now and I know I keep saying it but I really feel we aren’t too far away from all clicking together and once we do I think we’ll surprise a few people along the way.’

‘It’s always nice to have a cup run and we’ll be looking to do that, but we are aware we need results in the league and that is our main aim at the present moment. With all the games coming up again in large numbers next month we are going to need to have as many players available as we can, we’re lucky we have the Under 23 side and I’ve already called a few of them into the first team squad this season, I am however looking to bring in more attacking options in the next couple of weeks.’

For most clubs just being able to stay in business after a torrid few months is the ultimate aim, no-one can predict whether we will see everything through to the end of season and if we do how many interruptions we will encounter along the way.

Just a note about the club’s Under 23 side who have beaten a couple of County League Division Two sides in pre-season, they began their league campaign on Thursday evening at the Lashmar against Selsey and won 2-1. Bearing in mind they started the game with four 16 year olds, two 17 year old and one 18 year old and ended the game with five 16 year olds on the pitch, the future is a very bright one for this club if they can keep the players together.

EP travel to Horley Town this coming weekend ko 3pm whilst they host high flying Saltdean Utd on Tuesday night at The Lashmar ko 7.30pm.

Three points not far away

Since 1st September and the re-start for Steps 3-6 in non-league football, the games have come thick and fast and continue to do so for the next few months in order to get the season completed in a timely fashion, this of course is not allowing for any postponements along the way.

Tuesday evening saw another local trip to the featured club, East Preston and with it more goals. Alfold were the visitors in the Southern Combination Premier Division, a very progressive club aiming to follow in the footsteps of Dorking Wanderers. Their facilities are improving every year and looked impressive when I visited with Wick two seasons ago, I believe things now have moved on once again and I might have to sneak in a visit over the course of this season.

EP were on the end of a narrow defeat to Eastbourne Utd at the weekend but having strengthened the squad with the signings of Callum Litterick, Scott Vine and Tijan Sparks a bit more experience has been added to what is still a very young but improving side.

The visitors were always going to be a stern test, a strong tall but mobile outfit who battle for every ball and after you know you’ve been in a game. EP are slowly putting together a side that should eventually finish in a higher position than where they are now.

A muggy September evening but welcome sunshine during the day, the game certainly had the feel of an early August summer night though. East Preston as per last Tuesday night’s game against Loxwood started the much brighter of the two sides and once again drew first blood.

The impressive Conor Bull gave the home side the lead inside 10 minutes, a bit of pinball around the area saw the ball break to Bull to slot home. Plenty of endeavour followed from the visitors but the defence marshalled by skipper Charlie Robinson held firm backed up by keeper Keelan Belcher.

Bull extended the home side’s lead on 42 minutes, a fierce shot from outside the box gave James Stallen no chance and a 2-0 lead for EP. That should have been the half time score, but Alfold had other ideas and in first half stoppage time Devon Fender slotted past Belcher to halve the deficit and possibly change the half time team talks for both managers.

Just past the hour mark the visitors levelled things up through substitute Kelvin Lucas whilst East Preston played very much on the counter attack, Bull had the chance late on to win the game and complete his hat-trick, but an outstanding save from Stallen to tip the ball around the post kept the scores level while at the other end Belcher and his defence stood firm for both sides to share the spoils.

Few things to note from an EP perspective, the return of Chad Milner up front gave the defence something to think about while Bull was a constant menace throughout the first half and deserved his two goals.

The introduction of Sparks into the midfield has given it more bite and determination and Robinson enjoyed a good ninety minute battle with Tiago Andrade, a good bustling centre-forward for this level. The biggest difference for me compared to last Tuesday night against Loxwood was better defending in and around their own penalty area, something learnt from last week which when you have a young team is the hope they don’t repeat the same mistakes.

It was a big ask for a full game press, it worked very well in the first half which contributed to the two-nil lead and although you could still see flashes of it in the second half it wasn’t quite as strong, but Rome wasn’t built in a day! Improvement week on week is all you can ask for and this was certainly a step in the right direction, a break from league action this coming Saturday with a trip to Division One Oakwood in the FA Vase and hopefully much needed income and a first win.

Dodd: We just need to keep working hard and results will come

Tuesday evening saw me and a couple of mates’ head to East Preston for their second league match of the season. For me a little unchartered territory, I don’t think I’ve been to so many games early on in a season when I’ve not been attached to a club, five so far and two more planned before we get to the end of the weekend.

This also marked the first home game where EP were using my paid for services, a programme article designed especially for them and a different one to be produced per home game unless they play two in a few days. They join Langney Wanderers as the second club on board for this and I’m open to any clubs reading this to get in touch, I can produce whatever you like for your programme be it in print or online and it just gives something more to read, I’ll add the email address in at the bottom of this.

Back to the matter in hand and East Preston vs Loxwood and of course some words from the boss Terry Dodd. EP went into the game on the back of a 2-2 draw at home to Little Common in their first league game at the weekend, having surrendered a two-goal lead.

Their visitors were aiming for their first points after a narrow 2-1 defeat at Saltdean and it looked from the first 20 minutes that back to back defeats were on the cards, Chad Milner scoring his second in two games to give the hosts the lead inside five minutes.

EP certainly looked the brighter of the two sides until Loxwood equalised when a bizarrely awarded free kick was despatched in the net on 38 minutes. I say bizarre because it appeared the referee dropped the ball for a re-start in the Loxwood half for them to play back to EP, a half-hearted lob forward fell short of keeper Keelan Belcher, bounced, and the return ball bobbled from a defender into his hands deemed a back pass by the referee with players very unsure as to what he had actually allowed to happen from that drop ball.

The visitors went into the half time break in front when EP failed to clear from inside their box and Luke Brodie slotted past Belcher.

The second half belonged to Loxwood with Fraser Trigwell not forced into a single save. Belcher on the other hand made several fine saves to keep his side in the match but two superbly hit strikes from Lewis Westlake, his second of the game and substitute Bradley Campbell-Francis gave the scoreline a very uneven look and leave Dodd’s side still searching for their first win of the season, but he wasn’t too disheartened afterwards:

‘Tonight was a bit frustrating, I thought for the first 30 minutes we were different class and had we got a second goal in that time I think we would have gone on to win the game, but all of a sudden we switched off and let them get back into the game.’

‘Keelan (Belcher) worked hard to keep us in it and we just need to protect him a bit more as he’s done well over the last 180 minutes. I thought Chad (Milner) coming off injured hampered us a bit because he was looking really sharp and was causing their defence all sorts of problems.’

‘I don’t think we’re too far away as a team, we’ve got the players to do well in this division, they just need to believe in themselves. It may take us a few more weeks but we’ll get there I’m sure of it.’

‘I expect us to head to Eastbourne on Saturday for the players to give it a real go, those sides are always strong, so we’ll be in for a battle but one we’ll be up for.’

‘I’ve made a couple more signings to strengthen us and give us some more bodies, both are available on Saturday and I have another two I hope to complete in time for next week as well, so things are looking a bit better, we just need to keep working hard and the results will come.’

To get in touch regarding any programme queries email me tkenterprises2019@outlook.com

Double dose of action

This moment had been a long time coming, live football on a pitch in front of my very eyes! My last game was back in March, a wet Tuesday night at Woking watching Barnet win 3-1. Three days later or so, we were heading towards a lockdown and that was that!

Now it’s fair to say that while for most lockdown wasn’t the best of experiences, I was lucky enough to still get out to work and had a captive audience for this blog which is still going strong months after (at the time of writing I’ve had over 3000 visitors this month after 2000 each consecutively).

I’ve a whole list of clubs to head to this season, some I didn’t get to last season and some whose managers have been very good and forthcoming during the last few months and feel it’s only fair I pop along and support them as they did me in getting these figures as high as they are.

I had it suggested to me during this period to do a regular feature on a manager with a club and thought that’s not a bad idea to be going along with, something new, something different and a commitment for the season.

Terry Dodd and East Preston FC, who play in the Southern Combination Premier Division, are that subject for the 2020/21 season. Terry, I got to know well during his and my time at Wick FC last season, he parted company with the Crabtree Park outfit during the lockdown period and not long after agreed to become player-manager at The Lashmar.

Not surprisingly as across grassroots football, the shutdown period has hit clubs very hard and Dodd is currently working without a budget until the club is able to allow mass gatherings in their clubhouse which is the goldmine for clubs at this level and similar to keep the football side running, having done my own stint as Secretary and Treasurer at Wick I fully appreciate and understand it.

With fans now allowed back in EP can now start to rebuild slowly and begin to get their club back on track. Saturday saw their first spectators back in the ground since March, 68 of the allowed 150 attended. This midweek saw the club stage two games and I made sure I was at both!

A rather windy Tuesday night in Sussex for the Under 23’s taking on Step 7 Rustington, track and trace done, plenty of room for everyone, I would say around 50 at least inside the ground, maybe a few more. EP are a very young side given the lack of budget, but there were a couple of stand out players, one of whom made his way into Dodd’s squad for the first team Wednesday night game, playing together will give these young guys some good experience and are likely to be needed throughout the season with games coming thick and fast. Like so many people, it was great to be back watching live football again, very safe, and not an issue I could see as to why we haven’t been watching games since early August!

Bognor Regis Town from the Isthmian Premier were the visitors on Wednesday night, designed to help the club gain some much-needed gate receipts with 150 maximum allowed again and a good test for Dodds’ team. The Rocks raced into a 3-0 half time lead but didn’t find the net until the final ten minutes when fitness started to tell, and three more goals duly followed for a 6-0 final scoreline.

I caught up with Terry on Thursday morning to see how he felt the game went:

‘I was disappointed with four of the goals, felt they were avoidable, but they are a particularly good team. We had a game plan and we wanted to stick to that as much as we possibly could, but the level they play at with the players and movement they create, it’s always going to be tough. For us though it’s about getting our boys to a good fitness level and playing minutes, hard minutes is the best way to do it.’

‘Considering seven of our starting eleven could still play Under 18 football I thought everyone worked really hard and all I want is for them to take this as a massive learning experience in their development and keep pushing to be better every game.’

‘I’m hopeful we should have a couple of players back from injury before we take on Chatham Town in the FA Cup next Tuesday at home (KO 7.30pm) and one or two others available as well.’

Lots more to come throughout this season from Terry and East Preston from hopefully a reasonable campaign.

What’s also been crucial in happening is to get a game in to host 150 allowed spectators, that has meant the club can now host 300 people on Tuesday evening having ticked the box on the first exercise. If all goes to plan clubs should be able to increase beyond 30% by the time October comes around and with games happening at such a pace it won’t be long before the winter nights come rolling in.