It was one of the first fixtures we looked for back in summer, an opportunity to visit a town where our team have never played a competitive game. Junction 9 of the M25 had never been so interesting before. At 7.30 am we were off, 236 miles and just over four hours if nobody else happened to be driving on the motorway system. We were finally heading to Dorking Wanderers.
The first half of our journey was dominated by a review of the excitement of the 5-0 demolition of Wealdstone in midweek, an incredible night of goals and good football. Everything clicked in the second half of that game after the Shaymen had dominated the first 45 minutes without too much reward. Even discovering that our usual Northamptonshire breakfast stop was temporarily closed for the morning, didn’t dampen our spirits.
‘Welcome to Milton Keynes’ read the sign across the wall. It was like a zoo, children were running wild, the noise was off the scale, the breakfast was lukewarm and the tea had been stewing for about five minutes before they delivered it to the table. To cap it all, there was just one member of staff serving half of the room, we could not get out of there fast enough. Total bedlam, never again, not ever, ever, unless our usual spot is closed again next week, that is…
After a unexpectedly easy journey around the M25, with some plane spotting as we passed Heathrow, we rolled up into a rather genteel Dorking. We’d passed vineyards and rolling open countryside. There were shops we’d never heard of, and the main roundabout had a 25 foot tall steel chicken in it’s centre. It was all rather nice, the biggest surprise being the location of the ground, bang smack in the centre of town, where the nearest shop wasn’t just any old shop, it was Marks & Spencer. It was that sort of town.
With admission of just £16 for a full price adult, we had access to the Fan’s Zone, behind the main stand with food, beer, music, and portable toilets. Once through the zone we were directed to the left-hand side of the main stand and down a tarmacked path to the corner flag. There was a small metal stand and that was it. Without anyone else inside the ground, we took the chance to ask the groundsman if we could quickly take a picture from behind the goal along the empty spectator area. He was helpful and agreed, but within moments, there was panic with stewards everywhere, we’d apparently broken the cordon. It was dangerous, a building site, unsafe, we were instructed to leave the area immediately. Luckily, we were not ejected from the ground, but it did sound serious. Welcome to Dorking Wanderers!
Dorking’s ground was opened in 1953 and was the previous home of Dorking FC. Wanderers moved there in 2018 and have steadily developed the ground since their arrival. With 11 promotions in 20 years, the club, formed in 1999, have gone from nothing to National League in no time at all. The ground has a capacity of 3000, of which 500 are accommodated with seats. There’s a level pathway down one side of the pitch with a couple of new smaller stands behind the home end and a small stand on halfway. Surrey FA have their headquarters at the ground too.
The first half was dominated by the Shaymen. Lots of decent football, and the home goalkeeper was tested time and time again. As the bar was rattled several times, it seemed there would be only one possible winner. It was, however, goalless at the break. The second half was more even, but the Shaymen continued to create chances. There was perhaps a 10-minute spell for the home side where they really looked on top, the home fans made plenty of noise trying to help the team secure their spot in the league for another season.
As the final whistle sounded, both teams seemed happy to accept a point, and the 137 travelling Shaymen warmly applauded the team’s efforts. It’s now just one defeat in the last six away games and that defeat was to a team pushing for the title, it’s decent record by any standard.
Next up, it a midweek trip to Gateshead, don’t forget your binoculars!
Miles on the road 7880, Goals on the road 18.
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