Match of the month: Poole Town vs Weymouth

The Dorset rivals, now playing in different divisions, are reunited for an FA Trophy 3rd qualifying round clash. Ollie Heptinstall was at Tatnam on Saturday for ‘El Jurassico’

Action shot of Poole Town vs Weymouth

 

Such has been AFC Bournemouth’s meteoric rise to the Premier League, neighbouring Poole Town’s success has somewhat slipped under the radar. The Dolphins, under the shrewd guidance of long-serving boss Tom Killick, are in the National League South for the first time. And they’re impressing – just outside the play-offs – despite having modest crowds and largely the same squad as last season.

In stark contrast to the Dolphins, Weymouth fans have had little to cheer about of late. The Terras were a Conference Premier side as recently as 2009, but financial problems almost led to the club going out of business. As a result, they tumbled back down to the Southern Premier League where they’ve remained since. After just missing out on the play-offs the past two seasons, Weymouth currently find themselves in lowly 17th, albeit having played the fewest matches in the division.

League form can be forgotten about this afternoon, though, as the Trophy takes centre stage. A short trip on the train from BTG Towers in Bournemouth, Tatnam is a 10 minute walk from the centre of Poole. It’s a former school playing field, with a modest little seated stand on the halfway line and one covered standing end, which strangely seems to be the away end. The 200 or so Weymouth fans are in good voice as I arrive just in time for kick-off.

After a cagey opening few minutes, Poole have the first chance of the afternoon. Winger Luke Burbidge cuts inside from the right and his fizzing effort is tipped over the bar by player-manager Jason Matthews. The hosts then go close again from a couple of corners, but the visitors just about survive the early pressure.

There are a few familiar names in the Weymouth line-up, most notably former Plymouth and Bournemouth centre-back Stéphane Zubar. Ex-Charlton and Exeter striker Stuart Fleetwood is wearing the visitors’ number nine, whilst Terras’ captain Calvin Brooks is the brother of Poole’s chief playmaker Marvin Brooks.

The visitors have grown into the game and Fleetwood in particular is starting to cause problems up top. He plays a teasing ball across the box only for nobody to be there to tap in, then misses a good chance from close range. Poole look slow and lethargic, and they’re given a let-off when Fleetwood acrobatically puts the ball into the net, only for the offside flag to correctly deny him.

But just two minutes later, the visitors’ good work finally pays off. Ben Thomson does well to shrug off the challenge of Ryan Case down the right hand side, and plays a perfectly weighted cross onto the head of Dean Evans. The midfielder duly nods home to give Weymouth a deserved lead.

The Dolphins respond well, Steve Devlin rifling a ferocious drive narrowly wide from 30 yards. Five minutes later Abdulai Baggie, a name familiar to Football Manager players of old, sends in a deep cross for striker Sam Surridge to head onto the crossbar. Matthews’ men manage to squirm it clear and retain their lead for half-time.

The 755 fans quickly head for refreshments, as do I. It’s a bitterly cold afternoon on the Dorset coast and the lack of bovril is disappointing. There is the option of chicken soup but sadly it’s from a packet, so I’ll settle for a tea and take my spot in the home end for the second half.

The hosts, like in the first half, start on the front foot. The lively Burbidge does well on the right and plays it across to Surridge, who should score only for the ball to get stuck under his feet. It’s very much unlike the AFC Bournemouth loanee who’s impressed since arriving at Tatnam. Boss Tom Killick knows a thing or two about strikers. In 2008, he signed a local bricklayer called Charlie Austin.

Weymouth understandably seem happy to soak up pressure and hit the visitors on the break, but it’s a risky strategy. Poole last failed to score at home nearly a year ago, a 0-0 draw with Hungerford last December. They go close again when captain Jamie Whisken heads a free-kick narrowly over the bar.

The Dolphins are starting to turn the screw now. Marvin Brooks, in what might be an FA Trophy first, does a Cruyff turn inside the Weymouth box then fires just wide of the far post. The Terras are living dangerously. Can they hang on for a famous victory?

Into added time we go and Poole have a corner. Baggie, who a couple of blokes next to me have been complaining that he “flatters to deceive”, will take. It’s whipped into the mixer, Weymouth can’t clear, and it rolls through to the back post for Lewis Lindsay to tap in and send the home fans into raptures.

A couple of minutes remain and Poole, having been scrambling for an equaliser, now sense they can snatch a late winner. Brooks is fouled on the edge of the box – free-kick to Poole. Surridge hits it onto the inside of the post, then man of the match Burbidge centres it to the near post where substitute Richard Gillespie heads home. But the offside flag is up. The goal is somehow ruled out despite there being a Weymouth man on the line.

FULL TIME: Poole Town 1-1 Weymouth

The Terras just about hang on for a draw. Poole were much improved after the break and the home fans leave Tatnam in good spirits. The two will do it all over again at the Bob Lucas Stadium tonight.