Chesterfield vs Dorking Wanderers
National League Premier
August 5th 2023
We go again.
Dorking will begin their second season in the National League this weekend by going toe-to-toe with the same side they faced almost a year ago to the day to kick-off their first ever campaign in non-league's top division, taking on Chesterfield FC.
Pre-season preparations came to an end just over a week ago for Wanderers with a 2-2 draw away at Farnborough, wrapping up a pre-season run of games Marc White has acknowledged could have been improved upon. Citing the combination of scheduling and timing around the new training model and the return to fitness of key personnel having a baring on overall performances, the manager stated his side were 'not where they needed to be' heading into the new campaign following the final pre-season game in Hampshire last Friday evening. Despite the manager's concerns ahead of the competitive action getting under way, he can take positives in his team ultimately finishing pre-season unbeaten, winning two and drawing four of their six matches, and scoring 14 goals along the way. The failure to keep a clean sheet will of course be a source of frustration though, particularly in light of the strong defensive displays which were key in the club consolidating towards the end of last season.
It's been a summer of minimal new additions into the club, following the departure of Dan Lincoln new goalkeeper Harrison Male has featured regularly despite incurring the setback of a minor head injury midway through the pre-season run of games, whilst defender Tony Craig, so influential in Wanderers survival last season after arriving on loan from Crawley Town, has also played plenty of minutes after signing a permanent deal. Injured ahead of and during the beginning of pre-season, midfielders Niall McManus, Josh Taylor and James McShane have gradually worked their way back to full fitness in the latter matches, and Marc White can take further positives in the fact his strikers have found their form in front of goal early, with Ryan Seager and Jason Prior both scoring four goals each.
Certainly one of the toughest tests to start the season with on paper, Wanderers will look to make a positive start against promotion-chasing opposition they competed well against both home and away last year, and come away with something to build on ahead of back-to-back home games against Maidenhead United and Southend United.
Callum Kennedy (calf strain), Luke Moore (hamstring) and Isaac Philpot (hamstring) are all at least a week away from returning to action after picking up injuries in the final pre-season home game against Horsham. Jimmy Muitt will continue to be side-lined as he awaits results on a stomach scan.
Opposition Focus: The Spireites
Chesterfield will no doubt be eager to get the new campaign under way and hit the ground running after ending last season with play-off heartbreak at Wembley in May. Entering the play-off's for the third consecutive season in a row last term, The Spirerites climbed as high as they have done since dropping into the National League back in 2018, finishing 3rd in the league and reaching the final after overcoming Bromley 3-2 in a dramatic semi-final encounter at the SMH Group Stadium. The final itself would be just as enthralling, The Spirerites leading twice in the contest but ultimately being defeated by Notts County via penalties after drawing 2-2 at the end of extra time.
Following the mid-season departure of Kabongo Tshimanga and the loan signing of Andrew Dallas concluding at the end of last term, Paul Cook has brought in former Northern Ireland international Will Grigg to lead the line for his side this season, the striker having worked with Cook previously at Wigan Athletic and prolific in his time at The DW Stadium, as well as early in his career with Walsall and across three spells with MK Dons. The previous connection between manager and player has also been key in other business completed so far this summer, experienced midfielder's Tom Naylor and Michael Jacobs reuniting with Cook after playing under him before at Portsmouth and Wigan respectively. In the goalkeeping department, there's healthy competition between new arrivals Ryan Boot from Solihull Moors and Everton loanee Harry Tyrer.
The new additions strengthen a strong squad which includes the likes of highly rated attackers Armando Dobra and Liam Mandeville, plus two players who were part of the National League 'Team of The Season' for 22/23, full back Jeff King and winger Ryan Colclough, who joined Chesterfield during the camapign from Altrincham. Former Wanderers midfielder Darren 'DJ' Oldaker enjoyed a strong first season in East Derbyshire after making the move up from Surrey last summer, and is set to continue playing a key role again for The Spirerites this term.
After wins against Matlock Town and Alfreton Town, Chesterfield have gone on to test themselves against high calibre opposition throughout pre-season, suffering narrow defeats against both the major Sheffield sides, as well as Derby County and most recently Bristol Rovers, but The Spirerites did take victory over Accrington Stanley 2-3 away from home in their penultimate fixture a fortnight ago
Last Time We Met...
The two teams met at the SMH Group Stadium last December, the home side running out 3-1 winners after scoring two quick-fire goals in the late stages. Kabongo Tshimanga's penalty in the closing minutes of the first half putting Paul Cook's men in front at the break, but a brilliant team goal finished by James McShane got Wanderers back on terms around the hour mark, Macca arriving on the scene to finish a passing move started by the man himself before Bobby-Joe Taylor's near post cross was cleverly flicked on by Ryan Seager. Second half substitution's paid dividends for though The Spireites late on, proving an impetus which saw two goals scored in as many minutes by Armando Dobra and Joe Quigley.
Tickets are available online and on the gate for Saturdays opening game, priced at Adults £20, Cons £16, Young Adult (17-21) £13 and Juvenile £9. Available: https://t.co/65T2wHX8z9
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