Well here we go, it’s mid-April and the Champions step out at Longmead. Ah well, what might have been…..welcome Dorking Wanderers!
From park team to the National League South in 20 or so years is an immense achievement, and the covetous glances at their relationship with Surrey FC, and their flawed but smart new ground, are tinged with a bit of envy. The reality is that Dorking have been the most consistent team this season, not suffering a mid-season meltdown like Tonbridge, and deserve the title.
I suppose it’s too much to hope that success might improve their manager’s cringeworthy dress sense (think middle aged man in homage to the Backstreet Boys and you’ll be about right), so this may be our last chance for a while to snigger at his snap back, unless the Angels can pick their way through the play off minefield. However, one also wonders how far Dorking can realistically progress from here, as the National League South is becoming an increasingly professional league, and the manager will be dealing with a different class of player if they want to add strength in depth to press on rather than just cling on.
Having said all that, you can’t help thinking that long standing non league stalwarts like Leatherhead must be looking at Surrey FA, and wondering what they did wrong not to be given the keys to a smart new ground. Still, at least the suits had more sense than to get into bed with Kingstonian, who’d have spaffed it all up the wall in 18 months, sublet the ground to Brentford Ladies, and then come back for another handout.
As part of their development Dorking have invested heavily in their social media presence to attract new fans, which I believe is a smart move. Appointing a 17 year old to the post of Head of Media is shrewd and progressive, although if you tried to read the blizzard of blurb coming out of the club in the past week you wouldn’t actually have had time to go and see a match. As such, Tonbridge will be hoping for a bumper crowd for the game, but I’m not sure the away fans travel in numbers. Given that the majority of them will have only just found the club in Dorking in the last three months or so, I guess it’s a bit much to expect them to know where to find any of the other teams in the league just yet.
It’s also hard to know what to expect from the match. Tonbridge’s fine run of form came to a disappointing end at Leatherhead last weekend with a lacklustre performance, but they are still very hard to score against and need to win the game to keep comfortable in the play off places. Dorking will be elated after winning the title and are likely to go one of two ways – either looking for an emphatic win, buoyed by the adrenaline of the success, or taking the foot off the gas and giving a few fringe players a run out. If Tonbridge fly out of the blocks and really go at Dorking, how bothered will the Champions be to put up a fight?
My gut feel is that Tonbridge will eke out a win, with Dorking easing off a bit, and with a big slice of luck the two teams will be playing each other again next season, as Tonbridge lift the Super Play Off Final Trophy .
Am I being realistic? Will Sparks fly? Or is the answer in my favourite walk out music of the season……..