the real fa cup

Dorking Groundshare?

Dorking Wanderers 0-1 Slough Town
FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round, 12 September 2015

Two football teams and four train stations – Dorking has it all, plus more trees than you can shake a leafy Surrey stick at.

Dorking Deepdeene is my destination for the FA Cup 1st Qualifying round (or round 3) and time to turn my attention to my home town team, with Slough Town away to Dorking Wanderers for the first time ever.
It’s not surprising that Slough have never played the Wanderers as they are very much the new kids on the block. It’s just 16 years since they were formed and they have made incredible progress and now find themselves in the Ryman League South after promotion last season.

Slough Town, once of the Conference and a non league big hitter, are now entering there 12th season homeless, similar to the other Dorking who’ve were made homeless after their old Meadowbank ground was deemed unsafe in 2013. 135 years old, they are currently sharing with Horley FC in the Combined Counties.

Still good things comes to those that wait and Slough Town, Dorking Wanderers and Dorking FC should all be moving to new grounds next season. In the case of the Dorking teams they could be groundsharing at a revamped Meadowbank, on a 3G pitch which will also be the new home of the Surrey FA.

How important it is to have a home to call your own comes over loud and clear from Dorking FC, now a Community Interest Company. “When the Board took over the club in 2014, Meadowbank – its location, history and everything it can contribute to Dorking’s town centre – was one of the main factors that enthused the local people involved. The ground was threatened with development for retail or housing – but the Board pledged to secure the future of football. When it opened in 1953, Meadowbank was the pride of the town and the local community.

We are delighted that ambitious Councillors and Officers at Mole Valley District Council shared our vision to restore it as a focal point of the town centre. The Council has committed to a fantastic £4 million pound redevelopment with a brand new clubhouse and a 3G all-weather artificial pitch (consigning the famous ‘Dorking bobble’ to footballing history). It will be a sporting facility for use by schools, youth clubs and local people…Consequently, our ten year plan builds a holistic football club that balances football, business, community and social enterprise.

We passionately believe that Dorking FC can not only be seen as a blueprint for how a grassroots football club should be run, but one that people in the Football Association recognise as THE blueprint. We intend to set Dorking FC as the standard against which all other grassroots football clubs are measured.”

A dig at Wanderers or common sense? While the groundshare hasn’t been confirmed and isn’t exactly a match made in heaven, more a shotgun wedding, it makes economic sense.  The current Wanderers ground in Westhumble is a credit to volunteers who’ve worked so hard to get it to Ryman League standard and with spectacular views to boot; but its just a little out of town for my liking.

So the Slough Town Rebels were all set for the proverbial banana skin. Wanderers unbeaten and just 8 places below Slough, who play a level above in the Southern Premier, whose season has so far been one of fits and starts.

On a perfect sunny FA Cup day in front of a decent crowd of 184 Dorkings reserve keeper Slavomir Huk pulled off 2 fantastic saves in the first half as Slough dominated proceedings. But with cup ties, you always just worry as you hit a brick wall, the opposition will deal that killer goal. Then, as it looked like we were heading for a stalemate, Slough got a penalty in the 90th minute. Slotted home by Rebel captain Martin, the travelling fans mobbed him and Slough were through to the next round.

£3,000 in the bank for a homeless club isn’t to be sniffed at while for Dorking Wanderers, they can get back to storming their new league and maybe, just maybe, kiss and make-up with their elderly statesman rivals one day soon.

Words by Warren Carter.
Warren is author of the Slough Town Soapbox also known as @BrightonRebel.

Photos: Gary House.

View more photos from this game and others at Gary’s flikr and at @HorshamRebel.

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