Weymouth 2 Dorchester Town 1 (29th August 2016)
Oh I do like to be beside the seaside…
…and sadly so does everyone else on a warm Bank Holiday Monday. Plans to have a leisurely afternoon at the front, perhaps with a pub meal, were rather scuppered by joining what was effectively a three hour queue to this corner of the south coast. This left me with about an hour to look round, before having to head up for the game.
That said, Weymouth is a quite lovely little seaside town, and an hour is enough to stroll up and down the promenade, being reminded of a certain song by The Stranglers for some reason. My pub lunch also got replaced, due to time, by a cheeseburger from a beachside hut/cafe called “The View”.
It was aptly named. Not only did it offer a view across the bay (admittedly the same view as everywhere else on the promenade), but the rather pleasant serving girls, and the skimpiness of their attire on this hot afternoon, would have put a Weymouth branch of Hooters out of business. Suddenly, having to wait five minutes for a burger to be cooked didn’t seem a burden at all. Sadly, while the serving girls may have been hot, tasty (other misogynistic adjectives are available) etc, the burger wasn’t, but oddly I didn’t mind.
Had I been going to watch Weymouth just over 30 years ago I’d have had just a brisk stroll from the beach to the ground, half a mile to the west. The same journey now would see me at, predictably enough, a supermarket – an Asda. One day the tables will be turned, and a football ground will be built on the site of an old supermarket, and middle-aged supermarket buffs will turn up at the ground and reminisce about how, just by the penalty spot, is where the self-service checkouts used to be.
Thirty years on and Weymouth are planning to move again, with their current ground being deemed inadequate for modern-day demands. It looks perfectly presentable, if a little rusty in places. It’s not going to make the shortlist for UNESCO listing any day soon, granted, but it has cover on all four sides, a decent amount of substantial terracing on each side too, and (one for the anoraks) four old-style proper corner floodlight pylons. Strung up from a line attached to one, a faded flag of the club crest added a much-needed dash of asymmetry to the place.
Unusually for a Southern League game, segregation was in place. Occupying the away end were fans of neighbours Dorchester, just seven miles north. Their old ground was also built on by a surpemarket – Tesco this time – but at least they didn’t have to move far, with their new ground being built directly next door.
This is a derby that has certainly produced some decent crowds. The record crowd at Dorchester is over 4000, for a derby v Weymouth, but with neither team having a great start this year, a slightly disappointing 1231 were present for this one.
At least they saw a decent and keenly contested derby. Dorchester dominated for the first 20 minutes or so, before the home side got into it, forcing a succession of corners. The pressure looked like it was going to come to naught in the first half, as each corner was defended to the last, until a cleared ball was whacked back in from outside the box, and the Dorchester keeper could only stand and watch as it found the top corner.
The game might have been in England’s 7th tier, but there was a definite edge to it, with plenty of singing from both sets of fans. Weymouth’s seemed to take a lot of delight in referring to Dorchester as “dirty northern bastards” after every stiff challenge, of which there were a few, and I suppose if you are from Weymouth, there’s not a lot of the country that’s not north.
Despite the endeavor, neither side had too much composure inside the box. Thankfully they made up for it from outside the box, for the two other strikes. Both were fine free kicks from over 20 yards. Weymouth made it 2-0 first. The Dorchester keeper did at least dive this time, but still got nowhere near it.
With the game looking safe, Dorchester pulled one back with a long-range free kick of their own. The ball flew into the top corner beyond the reach of the Weymouth keeper’s flailing left hand.
It felt like the game had one last goal in it, but it wasn’t to be, with several half-chances coming to nothing. The Weymouth players celebrated in front of the fans, and you could tell it was more than just three points to them. This derby in this outpost of Dorset might not have the glamour or the fame of some, but it meant something all the same.