The idea of a ‘friendly’ fixture with tomorrow’s opponents Wimborne Town might cause Hornets supporters of a certain age to raise a wry smile, and perhaps even a wince, when recalling the clubs’ only previous meeting.
It was just before Christmas 1991 and the occasion was an FA Vase 1st qualifying round tie at the Magpies’ Cuthbury ground where, despite a festive atmosphere and plenty of bonhomie ahead of kick-off, the mood of the travelling supporters by the end of a bruising tie matched the mid-winter gloom.
On an afternoon when little went right for the visitors, save perhaps from the excellent performance of goalkeeper Duncan Green, Mark Dunk put an early penalty against the bar, fellow midfielder Phil Somers went off with a head wound, his replacement – Karl Stedman – later limped off through injury and Dave Clark, himself the recipient of a painful blow to the head, sent a header against the woodwork. But it was the sight of young Lee Mobsby suffering a broken leg that remains a painful memory for those who were present, their misery later exacerbated by a stoppage time winner for the Wessex League side.
The Magpies went on to claim a notable double that season, reaching – and winning – the final of the Vase and becoming the first Dorset club to reach a Wembley final, as well as claiming the Wessex League title by six points from runners-up AFC Lymington. The team went on to win the league twice more, in 1994 and 2000, before joining the Southern League in 2010, whose Premier Division they are preparing to participate in for only the second season.
Like the Hornets, Wimborne earned their Premier Division status through the play-offs although it took the demise of Northern Premier League Shaw Lane for them to make the step up, having been beaten in the final by Swindon Supermarine. Making the most of their opportunity, 2018/19 saw the Magpies finish in an apparently comfortable 14th place although just three ponts above relegated Basingstoke Town, thanks to winning two and drawing one of their last four matches of the campaign.
Currently managed by their former player, ex-West Ham United and Bournemouth midfielder Matty Holmes, the Magpies have played four times this summer, defeating Verwood, AFC Totton, and Christchurch while going down to a late winner at home to Weymouth. The Hornets have had one more run-out, with last weekend’s impressive defeat of SkyBet Crawley Town one of four straight victories before coming a cropper at Eastbourne Town on Tuesday night. Although the supporters might have felt disappointed at seeing that 100% record come to an end at the hands of our old Southern Combination League rivals, boss Dom Di Paola remains publicly unconcerned. Speaking to the West Sussex County Times in midweek, Di Paola admitted that the success of the pre-season campaign will only become apparent during the first month of the season, recalling how his then East Preston side won just one of seven warm-up games before going on to win the league.
“I just see pre-season as a process”, he said but admitted his side are “slowly getting to where we need to be. What’s nice is a few boys have got some goals and a few boys have defended well and the boys have got to know each other a little bit better”.
Supporters are reminded that they can join the players on the coach for tomorrow’s trip, departing the Camping World Community Stadium at 10:45am prompt, with an additional pick-up at Fontwell at 11:30am. Places are available on a first come, first served, basis at a cost of £12 per person with admission to the ground costing £5 adults, £3 concessions and £1 for U18s.
Wimborne have announced on their website that anyone unable to attend can pick up live coverage on Radio Wimborne from 2.45pm.