Wednesday 13 December 2023

Dorchester Town - Avenue Stadium

Dorchester Town FC
The Avenue Stadium
Weymouth Avenue

01305 262451
Official Website

Ground Number: 89
Saturday 17th July 2004
Dorchester Town 0-3 Wycombe Wanderers
Pre Season Friendly


The club was established in 1880. After playing local football, they became founder members of the Dorset League in 1896. Not a great deal of success was enjoyed here and their sole honour league-wise was when they won the title in 1938. Following the end of the Second World War, the club joined the Western League. They started in Division 2, winning promotion to the top tier in 1950 as runners-up behind Barnstaple Town. They won the title in 1955 and were runners-up behind Salisbury in 1961. In 1972 they joined the Southern League Division 1 South. Though they struggled at first, 1978 saw them finish as runners-up behind Margate and spend a single season in the Premier Division. Dorchester Town would spend another couple of seasons in the Premier Division between 1982 and 1984, coming a respectable 9th in 1983. Three seasons were spent back in Division 1 South before they won the title in 1987. This was their second win, having been denied promotion in 1980 due to the formation of the Alliance League (now the National League Premier). This time they would stay for a prolonged period, coming as high as 4th in 1998, the best in the club's history. Dorchester Town were relegated to Division 1 East in 2001, spending a couple of seasons here before they bounced back as champions in 2003. The following season they finished 17th in the Premier Division but still made the cut for the newly-formed Conference South. An 8th-place finish in 2013 was as good as it got before they were relegated the following year. They've been in the Southern Premier and latterly the Southern Premier South ever since. They've not done well, the 19th place finishes in 2018 and 2022 their worst since the non-league pyramid was established.

In 1954, Dorchester reached the 2nd Round before eventually losing out to York City in front of 5,500 fans at the old Avenue ground, in a season where York went on to reach the semi-finals. Another FA Cup run came during the 1981/82 season. They beat Hungerford Town, Frome Town, Eastleigh, Cheltenham Town & Minehead. They then faced Football League side AFC Bournemouth in the 2nd Round. They took them to a replay at Dean Court in front of a crowd of 8,700. A goal four minutes from the end of extra time was enough to end Dorchester's dreams of a place in the third round. The 3rd Round of the FA Trophy has been reached twice, most recently in 1997 when they lost out to Woking. The record attendance at their current ground came in 1999 when 4,159 turned up for a local derby against Weymouth. Many notable players have turned out for the Magpies and these include goalkeeper Steve Arnold, defender Joe Low and strikers Miguel De Souza, Richard Logan & Jean Ugarte (trialist for the Chairboys)

Local cup runs include the Southern League Cup in 2002, the Southern League Challenge Trophy in 2003, the Western League Alan Young Cup in 1962 and twelve Dorset Senior Cups. A historic market town, Dorchester is on the banks of the River Frome to the south of the Dorset Downs and north of the South Dorset Ridgeway that separates the area from Weymouth, 7 miles to the south. The population is just over 21,000. In 1833, the Tolpuddle Martyrs founded the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers. Trade unions were legal but because the members swore an oath of allegiance, they were arrested and tried in the Shire Hall. Beneath the courtroom are cells where the prisoners were held while awaiting trial. Dorchester's most notable former resident is Thomas Hardy (1840–1928), novelist and poet, architecturally trained and settled in the town where he died at his home, Max Gate.


My first visit to The Avenue Ground came on 17th July 2004. It was a friendly against Wycombe Wanderers and back in the day when we arranged decent friendlies, we would play Weymouth the following week. I went down with friends Paul & Sue and I remember I was on antibiotics after a visit to the dentist. I also remember getting some cherries from a local stall by the roadside which were very nice. The ground was a good one and I had visited back in the 1990s for pictures whilst on a family holiday down there. A particular highlight was the excellent club shop with plenty of old programmes. Wycombe won 3-0 and it was pretty comfortable from what I recall. I have included a match report from the newspaper below.


The options for this day were drawn out on the Thursday before. Ultimately, it boiled down to Fleetlands if the weather was good and Lomgwell Green if it was bad. There were also other options at Bridport and Dorchester but these were further afield. That was for closer to the time though, in the meantime I had another game at Wycombe. Having been to a wonderful groundhop at Briton Ferry, I had elected to go to Wycombe on Saturday. It was against my better judgement as I had been dead set against it. However, I wanted a lie in and six of my eight games on grass fell victim to the bad weather. Of the games that I had on my list but missed, Shawbury United beat Coventry Copsewood 6-1, Norwich CBS beat AFC Sudbury Reserves 3-1, Portland United and Hythe & Dibden drew 0-0 and Warrington Rylands beat Stafford Rangers 7-2. Maybe the last one would have been fun, but pricey and not worth the risk with another weekend decimated by the weather.

I was late leaving but still had the usual happy and convivial pints at the Rose & Crown. I was late leaving there and that was where it all started to go tots up. I needed a quick food option and The Corner Plaice provided me with a disappointing but substantial wings and chips meal, far more expensive than one of my regular places which did a far better job of it. Lesson learned but several places are on my blacklist for us having lost after I have eaten there. Respite was had at the German Sausage stall and an excellent Cheesewurst. But then the game against Shrewsbury. We had been dire in recent weeks, but this was an improvement. We did at least create chances, even if we couldn't score. Rather than ruin my weekend, I was fine after a walk and a pint. I got the bus home but the journey was cut short due to the road being closed in Hazlemere. It turned out a motorcyclist had come off of his bike and it looked pretty nasty. It was an extra 20 minutes on my walk home but the Police were spot on to close the road and I hope the person is OK. The rest of the evening was spent having a few drinks and resting ahead of Sunday.

As usual, it was on the day of Satan that I got to ponder my choice of match and regret going. Fellow hopper Anwar had gone to a basic venue at Stoke Mandeville as they lost 5-2 to Maidenhead Town. It was only a 3G cage but it would have been cheap and local. Monday was not much better, everywhere was still busy and there was so much work I ended up doing a ten-hour day. I was glad of my day off on Tuesday and it was the usual walk to town and back. I picked up a few bits. It had been a pleasant walk but things went downhill rapidly. The blue skies rapidly disappeared on my walk home and down came the rain, rendering me soaked. I then got home and tried to help my partially deaf Mum book a follow-up appointment for her bunion opp. The NHS insisted on using the old-school method of telephone and I was led around in circles being given different numbers and no one wanting to take any responsibility for doing anything. They said they would send a letter but I expect that was just a tactic to get rid of me. The booking of a COVID-19 vaccine was far easier, easy and simple online and done in seconds. I am very nostalgic for the 1990s but if I could have had one thing back then it would have been digital cameras and the internet on the go. Computer games have gone downhill IMO, getting far too clever for their own good though.
I was dealt a further blow when I checked Twitter to see that my first choice of game at Fleetlands had been called off. This did not look on the cards when I checked earlier in the week although I expect that the damage was done before and the pitch had not recovered yet. My second choice was Longwell Sports but that tie was being played at Thornbury, despite what the Football Traveller said. I could have got a new ground at Bridport but closer and on 3G was Dorchester Town v Shaftesbury in the Senior Cup. I messaged Colin but there was no response I expect he'd be happy with the choice. I got jabbed at the local chemist, all very efficient and was with Colin around 4.15. He was delighted as expected and I was looking forward to it. It was tight for kickoff though as we took a slow and frustrating back route up to the M4 at Slough owing to the usual M25 traffic. It was then delays on the M4 and A33 meaning another cross-country diversion. For a journey that at one point had us late for kickoff, I was pleased to be there ten minutes early. By the time we'd been relieved of £2 for parking and walked around to the entrance, it was a couple of minutes until kick-off. I bought my ticket online whilst in the queue, saving a quid on the standard £8 admission.
The game was fairly close in terms of league placings. Dorchester Town were in 17th in the step 3 Southern League Premier South. They had enjoyed a vital 2-1 win at Swindon Supermarine on Saturday thanks to a brace from Will Fletcher to see them through 2-1. They could join Shaftesbury in the division below next season as the visitors were clear at the top of the step 5 Wessex Premier. Shaftesbury had won six in a row, the latest a 2-1 win at felllow high fliers AFC Stoneham. From what was said on Twitter, Dorchester Town had made fewer changes than their visitors. There were chances for both but nothing really tested the keeper. Just after halftime, Shaftesbury got out what turned out to be the winner. I didn't have the best view but appeared to be sloppy defending from Dorchester. Whatever, there was little resistance for the goal that ended in Louis Kellaway netting from close range. They had been the better side and Dorchester had offered little. They did give it a go at the end, sending the keeper up and forcing a couple of good saves. However, it was too little, too late and the visitors were deserved winners.
During the game, I visited the tea bar where I initially had a decent bacon cheeseburger and chips for £5.50. I went back again and had another portion of chips at half time they were that good, nice and golden. Everyone was friendly, even the stewards who were super quick to let you know that you couldn't lean up against the wall surrounding the pitch. We left at 10.40, getting back to Colin's at 11.55. I was home 15 minutes later, getting straight into bed and being asleep just before 1. Four hours later, I was up for work and praying that it wouldn't be a killer of a day like my previous two. It wasn't and I was out almost on time, just as well with me having lots to do.

THE AVENUE STADIUM is currently one of the better stadiums in the Conference South. Opened in 1990 and partly funded by Tesco, who bought their old stadium a few hundred yards down the road. They then built this smart new stadium, which is actually fit for league football, given that AFC Bournemouth played there for a while when their ground was being rebuilt. There is a large main stand on one side, seating around 700. There is further cover behind one goal and along the other side, leaving just one side open terracing. There is a good club shop at the ground with a good selection of programmes and a nice bar too. The only other option for food is the local Tesco, if I recall correctly, the ground was quite a way from anywhere else.



Over thirty years on from its being built, the Avenue Stadium is still a mighty fine ground. It's looking a bit tired in places, taking away from what was a very attractive ground. The highlight is the main stand, huge for non-league and holding over 700 fans. Far better than the modern low metal stands. Some pillars do obstruct your view though. The bar is not as nice as I remember it, though I may have gone in the posh bit last time. It was functional and had lots of club-related stuff on the walls. The highlight was the food, tasty, reasonably priced and served by a mother and her young son. Other food options included a KFC right outside.

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