Super sub Clarke snatches Magpies dramatic point

Frankyln Clarke has already wrote his name into Dorchester Town folklore after coming off the bench to score a stunning last gasp equaliser in a dramatic Boxing Day derby.

A typically rapturous ridgeway derby atmosphere welcomed both teams out at 3pm with over 1800 fans turning out in force, most of whom would’ve been hoping to see the Terras claim revenge for their defeat in the reverse fixture.

But it was the visitors who started the better – doing a good job of frustrating the Terras early on, with Weymouth struggling to keep the ball or really cause Dorchester any problems.

Neil Martin had the games first effort – trying his luck with a drive from range but it was comfortably held by Andrew Dawber in the Weymouth goal.

The games first flashpoint then came after a quarter of an hour when Adam Kelly felt he was fouled in the box, but Weymouth’s penalty appeals were waved away, and seconds later their frustrations were compounded when the Magpies drew first blood.

Weymouth failed to clear their lines and Ayunga’s scuffed effort fell for Nathan Walker who stabbed home and gave the Magpies an early lead to the delight of the travelling supporters.

Weymouth tried to muster a response – forcing a string of corners but not really forcing any clear cut chances.

But then on 29 minutes Weymouth were given a golden chance to level things up.

Kelly was sent clear down the right by Chris Shephard. The crowd held its breath, and watched on as Kelly’s attempted chip fell wide of the post. But then while everyone was wondering how he’d missed, the referee pointed to the penalty spot, apparently adjudging that Walker-Harris had fouled the Weymouth man when he charged off his line.

It wouldn’t be unfair to say that the home players were just as surprised as everyone else with the decision, but Chris Shephard kept his composure and calmly slotted the ball into the bottom right hand corner beyond the despairing reach of Walker-Harris to level things up after half an hour.

That stroke of good fortune seemed to spark Weymouth into life, and for the remainder of the first half they began to stroke the ball around nicely, as Dorchester struggled to get out of their own half.

Dean Evans tried his luck from range but his effort failed to trouble Walker-Harris, whilst Stewart Yetton just failed to latch onto a lovely through ball from Shephard.

But then the Terras captain did get on the score sheet right on the stroke of half time.

Shephard’s in-swinging corner was headed towards goal and blocked on the line by Matt Oldring. But it fell perfectly for Yetton to smash a powerful volley into the roof of the net to put Weymouth 2-1 up, setting off wild celebrations among the home fans.

Having ended the first half so strongly, one would have expected Weymouth to really kick on at the start of the second half and try to kill the game off, but instead they seemed content to sit back and let Dorchester come at them, inviting pressure.

It was a stop-start first 20 minutes of the second half with a couple of lengthy stoppages as Calvin Brooks and Jake Smeeton required treatment.

But Dorchester were still looking the most likely to score, and on 66 minutes they went close when Luke Holmes played in Watson, and with his first touch since coming off the bench the big striker flashed a shot across goal but Dawber was on hand to make a good save. The keeper then had to be on his toes again to deny Franklyn Clarke who shot from the edge of the D.

With time running out, the game became really stretched with the Magpies committing more and more men forwards and the Terras trying to hit them on the break.

Five minutes from time Weymouth really should have sealed the 3 points.

Chris Shephard’s initial shot was saved by Walker-Harris, but it was only parried into the path of Tim Sills. All’s he had to do was smash it home from a couple of yards, but instead he tried to lob it over the keeper and put it wide when it looked easier to score, to the complete disbelief of the home fans.

Going into injury time Dorchester continued to launch hopeful long balls into the box which the Weymouth defence continued to deal with, albeit unconvincingly on a number of occasions, whilst Andrew Dawber commanded his area brilliantly – claiming anything that came his way. 

Weymouth then had another chance to finish the game off when Walker-Harris went walkabout and gave the ball away. Surridge’s initial shot was blocked by a defender, before Shephard tried to curl one home from the edge of the box, but Walker-Harris was back on his line in time to make a comfortably save. And those missed chances were about to come back to haunt Weymouth.

Another long ball forwards evaded everyone, but instead of launching the ball into row Z McPhee tried to play his way out, and it proved costly. He was nabbed of possession and the ball fell to Franklyn Clarke on the edge of the box, and he unleashed a stunning curling effort into the top corner of the net that Dawber could only stand and watch – sparking scenes of complete pandemonium among the travelling Dorchester fans behind the goal, with some fans even spilling onto the pitch.

It proved to be the final action of the game, and the contrast in emotions was there for all to see at full time. For Weymouth it felt like a defeat, whilst Dorchester celebrated a famous result that will no doubt live long in the memory.

In truth the point was the very least the Magpies deserved. Even the most biased of Weymouth fans would do well to argue that they deserved to win the game. They were out fought in the second half, invited the pressure and got hit with a late sucker punch.

They’ll need to play much better if they are to get anything next Saturday when they travel to Tatnam for another local derby against Poole Town. They remain 15 points adrift of the Dolphins after none of the top eight won on Boxing Day.

Meanwhile Dorchester are four points off the top five and will be hoping to kick on when they welcome second bottom Bideford to the Avenue on Saturday. The Robins have only won three games all season, so Dorchester will go into the game as heavy favourites, and should be full of confidence. 

James Spring