The first leg of the battle for that coveted 23rd place has gone to Dorchester Town, but never mind, we’ll see them at The Camrose!
Poor versus poorer tonight as the hosts, only 18th last season and humiliated 5-1 by Banbury United just 48 hours earlier, got the better of a Basingstoke Town side that looks destined to struggle this season on the evidence so far.
Make no mistake, Dorchester are mediocre, but we couldn’t score against them and we couldn’t keep them quiet for 90 minutes either.
Manager Terry Brown, who must never in his worst nightmares imagined the autumn of his great Managerial career would pan out like this in such cash-strapped circumstances, set up for this game with Colm McAdden in goal, Shane Hollamby and Dan Bayliss centre backs, Marcus Johnston-Schluster and George Bennett as full/wing backs, Charlie Kennedy also very deep, Dan Collier and Michael Atkinson in midfield, and what looked like Sam Smart in a free role behind Aaron Jarvis and Ben Wright up top.
We started ok and in the very first minute Wright neatly supplied Bennett, who won a free kick which Wright played short to Bennett to win the first of numerous corners.
All of which came to nothing.
The game quickly became scrappy with little quality in the build-up play from either side.
Even so, in the tenth minute Smart made a great run on the left to win a corner.
Which was utterly wasted.
Four minutes later the largely hapless hosts had their first chance as a curling free kick drew a decent save low to his left from McAdden, again mostly sound tonight.
The resulting corner produced a narrow escape, though, as a Dorchester player narrowly failed to get a decent aerial connection on it.
We continued to edge affairs though and in the 21st minute Smart out wide right put in a good low ball pulled back from the byline which Johnston-Schluster at the near post sent way over the bar.
Seven minutes later our new captain almost atoned however as his last-ditch high ball in from the right was met by Bennett at the back post, who headed it back into the path of Wright, whose left-footed effort was cleared from three yards off the line.
We kept up the pressure and a minute later on the half hour Smart, who sure knows how to go to ground under contact, won us a free kick on the left.
That came to nothing as did the corner the nippy diminutive ex-Horndean man won us in the 33rd minute.
It wasn’t quite all us, though, and four minutes later a speculative looping shot on the turn from the right just outside our area almost caught out McAdden as it dipped, but thankfully still went over the bar.
A minute later, Wright, who still doesn’t look entirely matchfit and wasn’t particularly mobile tonight, went on a rare run into the area but his left-footed shot was deflected safely into the hands of the keeper.
And in the 40th minute Wright had a free kick which went straight at the Dorchester stopper too.
Nil-nil at half time, we had shaded a less than vintage encounter, but had nothing to show for it, leaving us vulnerable to a sucker punch.
The words record, change and the spring to mind.
The second half started more even and it wasn’t until the 54th minute that we had any cause for excitement, when Smart won us a corner and the delivery produced shout for a penalty for handball, but the referee wasn’t interested.
In the 58th minute Jarvis, who as always worked hard but had struggled to impact the game, produced a decent pull back from the right to Smart, who was lively throughout but should have done better here, firing well over the bar.
Two minutes later, Atkinson, also energised but who didn’t see much of the ball, fed Bennett down the left channel but the move came to nothing.
Then that sucker punch.
61 minutes in, Dorchester get the ball on the left, in comes the cross, free header and we are a goal down.
Shell shocked, we nearly conceded a second as soon after the restart a ball in from the right this time produced a shot on the turn which was luckily straight at McAdden.
After that we tried to get back into the game, but to no avail.
In the 65th minute Bayliss won us a corner, but nothing came of it.
And in the 71st minute Bennett, one of our better players and a decent outlet down the left, got a good ball in to Smart, who was closed down on his touch and his shot blocked.
Two minutes later the largely ineffective Jarvis was replaced by Conor Davies.
In the 76th minute Smart won us yet another free kick but Wright’s ball in didn’t clear the first man and was headed clear.
In the 84th minute a good inswinging Bennett free kick from the right was headed back across goal by Bayliss to Wright, who didn’t quite make a clean connection and his left-footed volley was deflected for a corner.
And in the 85th minute Davies showed decent skill to win a free kick but Wright’s effort was well parried by the keeper.
Bennett was replaced by Jordan Goater as the game entered stoppage time but he never got chance to impact the game.
And that was it.
Reasons to be cheerful?
We lost our first two games last season and recovered to finish 12th.
Ashleigh Artwell and Sam Deadfield are yet to return from injury.
Our Manager is a living legend at this level.
Reasons to be gloomy?
How long have you got?
We absolutely cannot defend crosses and look likely to concede every time one comes in.
Our centre backs struggled tonight.
We lacked both bite and pass completion in midfield.
We just didn’t offer enough up top – our experience looked too immobile and our inexperience looked, well, as inexperienced as ever.
Two games in and we have yet to score in open play.
There’s a long, long, way to go (bit like the journey home after the game) but this already looks like being a very tough season and tonight even 23rd place cannot be taken for granted.
Match Report by Ian Davies.