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Diary of a Groundhopper: Dorking Wanderers 3 Worthing 2

SATURDAY, 2 SEPTEMBER 2017

Dorking Wanderers 3 Worthing 2

THE FA Cup marches into its ‘third’ round – mysteriously called the 1st Qualifying Round, no doubt to help further distort BBC pundits’ massively maladjusted football radars that indicate there is no football outside of the Premier League, so they needn’t bother with any rounds before the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and  Manchester United deign to field their reserve sides in this competition.

I am happy to go with The Fox’s suggestion of taking in Dorking Wanderers before they move from their Westhumble home in November. He has been looking at photos of the ground online and likes the look of the wooded Box Hill towering over the stadium. To the Hopmobile!

I fight my way through heavy M25 traffic to arrive at Westhumble in good time. I am directed to park about 500 yards up a rough track. It turns out to be the entrance for players and officials, so the young steward must have mistaken the Fox and me for some sort of athletes. He really does need his eyes tested, poor lad!

Despite creeping in the wrong entrance, I am warmly greeted by club officials. I make my way right round the pitch to the spectator gate on the other side of the ground. When I arrive I am thanked for making the effort to walk round and pay (£10). There’s also a small table being set up to display club merchandise (£2 programme).

I am starving, so waste even more calories strolling back to where I originally came in. That massive burger van I passed earlier isn’t going to know what’s hit it soon! While waiting for my food to cook, I have a long conversation with the van owner. When I’ve finished the excellent burger and chips, he is eager to know how his cooking compares with other clubs I have visited. I am pleased to be able to inform him: “Definitely well above average.”

“I’m very happy with that!” he replies.

Dorking also have their own tea bar serving hot food and drinks, though I am way too full by now! This newly-promoted club smacks of professionalism. It looks like they have ordered extra food and toilet outlets for their big FA Cup day. All the officials are in touch with each other via walkie-talkie radios. Even the programme is professionally produced. Everyone is very friendly, too.

So far the one downside of this visit is the truly dreadful hip-hop music blaring over the tannoy but that thankfully disappears when the players emerge. Worthing are sporting a sky and steel blue hooped strip, whereas Wanderers are wearing a much more striking Atlético Madrid style outfit.

The Mackerels of Worthing field players called Isaac Newton and Matt Boiling. The latter is very apt: it must be nudging thirty degrees this afternoon! By half-time, where I retire to the shade of the clubhouse, the sides are level after a topsy-turvy half.

The second half swings to and fro as well. Worthing take the lead but are finally defeated by the odd goal in five; a beautiful curler by Matt Briggs. Strangely, the tie didn’t really spark into life, despite the five goals; or maybe I was just too hot to get into the swing of things. I need frost!

Pre-match info: 9

Welcome: 9

Facilities: 6.5

Food: 7

Charm: 7

Match: 7

Fans: 5

Respect 6

programme: 7

Overall trip: 8

Officials: 9

Att: 281

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