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Magpies secure survival with a draw despite frantic finale

BY: Phil Spencer – Dorset Echo Sport

STRATFORD TOWN 1 DORCHESTER TOWN 1

DORCHESTER Town had to battle through a frantic finale to record a 1-1 draw with Stratford Town to secure their status in the Evo-Stik Southern Premier Division.

The Magpies went into the game knowing that a single point would be enough to secure survival on the final weekend of the league season, ruling out any potential drama influenced by the results of King’s Langley and Cambridge City, who could pull Craig Laird’s men into the relegation zone if both sides came out victorious.

Town went into the game in decent form, having won four of their last six matches in the league, despite losing to bottom-side Cinderford Town on Easter Monday. 

Dorchester had been hoping to put an end to their run of six games without a win in the league, a streak which had dragged the seemingly safe Magpies back onto the cusp of disaster.

The manager made two changes for the match, reintroducing David Jerrard and Jordan Williams in place of Ollie Davis and Billy Mitchell, both of whom dropped to the bench.

It was clearly going to be a game of mounting pressure, and the size of the task was visible within a few minutes of the game getting underway, as Cambridge City took an early lead in their match with St Neots town.
But Dorchester started brightly as Jerrard saw an early effort hit over the cross-bar.

Town seemed to warm to task ahead, applying early pressure and tested keeper Shane Murphy who denied a low effort from Mike Taylor.
Stratford looked to capitalise on a dominant spell, with Taylor going close again, before an effort from Ben Stephens was spilled by Murphy, who quickly recovered.

Gary Bowles could count himself lucky to not be punished after he took out Spencer, only for the linesman not to flag allowing the defender to escape without a booking.

Chances were at a premium in the first half, although the Magpies did go close shortly before half-time as Jake Mawford fired wide after good work from Jordan Williams and Tom Blair.

At the interval, the Magpies were on course to complete the task of retaining their league status, but only just as both Kings Lynn and Cambridge City found themselves in the lead, meaning that the Magpies were walking a tightrope to ensure survival.

Town went close once again after the break, when Justin Marsden played the ball to Will Grocott who hit his effort harmlessly over the crossbar.

The pressure was building as news broke that Cambridge City had doubled their lead against St Neots Town, leaving the Magpies praying for a goal of their own to alleviate the pressure on them.

Grocott had another opportunity, as he hit a free-kick from 25 yards which strikes the Dorchester wall before being cleared.

The game could easily have gone either way at this point, and Bowles had an effort for the Magpies which was blocked by the midriff of Taylor.

Jason Brookes was then replaced by young winger Davis, in the hope that his crossing ability would carve out an opportunity for the crucial goal which the Magpies needed to guarantee survival.

Taylor went close for Town once again as he hit an effort on the turn, which Murphy did well to stop on the line.

The game started to open up in the closing 20 minutes, as a Bowles ball found Tom Blair who hit his effort high and wide of the goal.

Substitute Davis had another opportunity for the Magpies, but his lobbed effort from out wide went over the bar.

But the pressure was lifted on 80 minutes as Jerrard capitalised on a defensive mix-up to score what will go down as the most important goal of Dorchester Town’s season.

The goal sparked scenes of delight between the players and fans, but the drama wasn’t over for the visitors.

The Magpies were made to sweat as Dan Summerfield scored from close-range to set up a tense finale, and despite a late scuffle which saw Stratford’s Tulloch given a straight-red card for a tussle with Blair, Laird’s men held out for the point they needed, which would secure their Southern Premier Division status for another season, much to the relief of the Magpies players, staff and fans.

Stratford Town: Cooper, Fry, Summerfield, Forsyth, Clark, Thomas, Stephens (Tulloch 65), Grocott, Taylor, Spencer (Ahenkorah 78), Marsden (Fitzharris 65)
Subs not used: Martin, Parker.

Dorchester Town: Murphy, Brookes (Davis 71), Martin, Griggs, Walker, Bowles, Blair, Mawford, Ormrod, Jerrard, Williams
Subs not used: Ayunga, Mitchell, Nicolson

Referee: Sarah Garratt

ATT: 279

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