Merrifield 13, Williams 83

DORCHESTER Town face life in the Southern League Premier Division next season after tonight’s defeat to Hayes & Yeading ended their hopes of escaping from the Skrill South relegation zone.

A goal in each half, the first from Frankie Merrifield, the second a stunning free-kick by Luke Williams, condemned the Magpies to the drop in front of their own supporters at the Avenue.

Relegation has been on the cards for pretty much the whole season, but it is still hard to take for a club that has had plenty of good times in recent years.

A severe lack of potency in front of goal has been the Magpies’ undoing all season, and so it proved again last night.

The absence of Nick Crittenden through injury was always going to limit their threat going forward and, as usual, there were slim pickings for Warren Byerley and strike partner Elliott Chamberlain.

Merrifield opened the scoring on 13 minutes. After playing a give and go with Williams just inside the Dorchester box, Merrifield curled a shot into the far corner of Alan Walker-Harris’ net.

Nathan Walker then needed to make a crucial tackle to take the ball away from Freddie Ladapo seven yards out, before a Sam Lanahan effort was half-blocked at the other end.

Dorchester were guilty of giving the ball away far too easily and some hesitation in the hosts’ area resulted in Pat Cox heading over.

It looked as though the ball just wasn’t going to fall the Magpies’ way, while the quality in the final third left a lot to be desired.

Dan Way was booked five minutes before the break for an accumulation of fouls and, other than a second Lanahan effort that bobbled straight at Michael Jaimez-Ruiz, there was little to get the heart racing in the remainder of the half.

The second of two successive corners early in the second half almost brought Dorchester an equaliser.

But, with his back to goal and no more than six yards out, Chamberlain couldn’t sort his feet out and the chance was lost.

Byerley’s night came to an end on 53 minutes when he was replaced by Dan Munday, as boss Phil Simkin looked to add a bit more pace to his front line.

The plan almost worked straight away as Munday nearly got to a ball played through the middle of the Hayes defence.

However, in making a genuine attempt to win the ball, Munday collided with Jamiez-Ruiz and left the keeper requiring treatment for a blow to the head – he eventually got to his feet but had to be replaced by Charlie Crowley.

Less than 10 minutes later, Hayes defender Ben Brown clattered into the back of Mark Jermyn but came out of the incident the worse off of the two.

But what really mattered most for the Magpies was finding goals from somewhere, anywhere, to keep their hopes of staying up alive.

Steve Walker was brought on and pushed up front with 12 minutes to go in a desperate bid to get a goal, but soon after it was Hayes who were celebrating their second of the night.

After Smeeton was yellow-carded, Williams smashed home an unstoppable free-kick from all of 30 yards, giving Walker-Harris absolutely no chance.

Makeshift striker Steve Walker went closer than anyone to pulling a goal back, but Williams’ superb strike had not only secured the three points for the visitors, it had, barring any sort of reprieve from the Football Conference, confirmed Dorchester’s relegation.

Magpies: Walker-Harris, Case, Way, Jermyn, N Walker, McCarthy, Lanahan (S Walker 78), Smeeton, Chamberlain, Byerley (Munday 53), Losasso. Subs not used: Makoni, Twyford, Tennant.

Hayes: Jaimez-Ruiz (Crowley 61), Akubuine, Mills, Harriott, Brown, Inman, McManus, Williams, Cox, Ladapo (Musunga 67), Merrifield. Subs not used: English, Thompson-Wheeler, Gerring.

Yellow cards: Magpies – Way (foul, 40), Smeeton (foul, 82) Hayes – Mills (foul, 64) Ref: Mark Pottage (Gillingham) Att: 316