The Opening Day of the Season
The wait is nearly over. Dorking Wanderers will play their first ever game in the National League Premier this Saturday as Chesterfield are the visitors to Meadowbank.
Wanderers concluded pre-season preparations last weekend with a behind closed doors friendly against a Chelsea XI. Taking place at 'The Blues' training ground in Cobham, Wanderers competed well and dominated play for much of the first half, although neither side carved out too many chances of note. The hosts did find a way through right before the interval though, burying a clinical finish inside the box as the ball broke loose. Stepping up after the break, a second goal quickly followed for Chelsea after good work down the left and a measured cross to the edge of the box, again clinically finished into the bottom corner. Two goals in the last ten minutes rounded out the win for Chelsea, on an afternoon where young keeper Josh Wilson came on midway through the second half for Wanderers and produced two outstanding stops; dashing across his line to deny a likely close range finish before getting down really well to save a shot from the right side of the area. Jack Jebb went closest to reducing the defecit by heading against the post, Harry Ottaway unlucky just missing a deft headed opportunity late on.
The result wrap's up a pre-season schedule where despite winning four and losing three games overall, Wanderers have picked up where they left off in front of goal from last season, scoring 19 goals in all, with new summer signing Ryan Seager off the mark netting 4 along the way. The re-occurring theme of pre-season has been the drop off in organisation and intensity through the latter stages of games, something Marc White has acknowledged throughout recent weeks. The manager has deliberated how much of it is ultimately coming down to 'will or skill', but emphasised again in his weekly update earlier today the squad's collective desire to get back to competitive football, particularly in light of last season's achievements.
Unfortunately it was confirmed last Sunday that captain Barry Fuller will miss the opening several weeks of the season after shattering his big toe late in the first half of the Chelsea game. A devastating blow for Wanderers after what had been a largely injury-free pre-season, we wish Barry a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing him back in action soon.
Marc White did confirm in his weekly update that Jimmy Muitt had not recovered from the muscle injury sustained against Leatherhead a fortnight ago, we also wish Jimmy a quick recovery and hope to see him back in action shortly.
To find out more about our opening day opponents, take a read of our 'Opposition Focus' piece, reflecting on 'The Spireites' recent campaigns in the National League, their summer transfer activity and pre-season form.
The Fan's View
with Dave Garratt ('Legends Of The Spire' Podcast)
Ahead of Saturday's game we spoke to Dave Garratt of the brilliant 'Legends of The Spire' podcast to get a fan's perspective on the upcoming season...
Thank you for taking the time to speak to us. The last two season's have seen Chesterfield get into the play-offs, going a step further last year with defeat to Solihull Moors in the semi-finals. With the new season round the corner, how do you reflect back now on the 2021/22 campaign? It was a roller coaster season like no other last year. We were riding high at the top of the league with an FA Cup game at the European Champions that made us feel like the good times were finally back after years of relegations, bad owners, and poor players. But then manager James Rowe was rightly sacked (after allegations I don’t need to mention), we had an injury crisis of epic proportions and ultimately (and understandably) we just lost our way and ran out of steam. Paul Cook made a return to the club in February 2022, what have fans made of him and his impact on the team since he returned? The fans love Paul Cook. We trust him to build a successful team and to lead the club in the right and proper way, a way that is also echoed in the charitable trust that own the club now. He hasn’t had it easy though. Top goal scorer, Kabongo Tshimanga, dislocated his ankle in his first game back and he’s had to work with a squad of players who didn’t really suit his preferred quick passing and pressing 4231 formation.
It's been a busy close season for the club with several players coming and going, what do you make of the transfer business done so far? Cook has rebuilt a squad to play his preferred exciting 4231, rather than the rigid 343 of the previous manager. More attacking midfielders and wingers have come in with plenty of players leaving at the end of their contracts. It looks like an exciting bunch of players but only time will tell if they can gel into a dangerous outfit (but we do all believe they will). Are there any areas you would like to see the club strengthen before the window closes? At the time of writing we probably needed an additional centre midfielder to cover a long term injury and a back up keeper and central defender but the first team XI is pretty set now. Paul Cook did his business very early this summer.
Any key players from last season we should keep an eye out for? Jeff King at right back will produce goals and assists and is a big character at the club. Joe Quigley is finding his scoring boots after a tough time last season and Jamie Grimes in defence is the kind of centre half you need in this league (with wonderful hair to match)! How have pre-season preparations gone? Very well. The team is looking very exciting. The 3-0 win vs Bradford saw some beautiful free flowing and high pressing football. Goals vs local friends Matlock and behind closed doors wins vs Rochdale and Sheffield Wednesday have all give us huge reasons to be optimistic. What do you think the club will be aiming for this season and what are you expecting? Paul Cook gave us some of the best football we’ve seen at Chesterfield the first time he was here, taking us to the league one playoffs in the process, and although this team shouldn’t get measured against that one, we can’t help but get excited. We hope to be in the top 3 this season, hopefully challenging for the title, but after least season we know all too well that anything can happen! We look forward to welcoming Chesterfield fans to Meadowbank on August 6th. What was the most memorable away day for the club last year?
The trip to Stamford Bridge to play Chelsea in the FA Cup was wonderful. We got spanked 5-1 but the goal scored by Akwasi Asante in the 80th minute, when we were 5-0 down, was magical. I can understand why fans of other clubs would be confused why we were so jubilant when it went in, but it was like the previous years of pain (on and off the pitch) were exorcised in one moment and that’s why we all love the game right? Is there anything else you would like to add? Just to say that I think the game vs Dorking is a great opening fixture. I’m full of admiration of the story and journey of the club and I’m really looking forward to seeing you this season! I wish you all the best for the forthcoming campaign.
LAST FEW HOME TICKETS AVAILABLE!
Please note away tickets are completely sold out.
Entry: Adults £16 / Concessions £13 / U18s £8 / U8s £4
Location: Meadowbank Football Ground, Mill Lane, Dorking, RH4 1DX
Matchday Programme: £3 (physical copies only, available at ground)
Not attending Saturday's match?
Gary Pascoe will be providing matchday commentary via Mixlr, stay tuned to our social media channels for more information.
We will be providing action and score updates throughout the afternoon via Twitter (@DorkingWDRS)