MOVING house is a gamble of sorts.

Do you know the area well enough?

Will it be a good investment in your future?

Is there potential to build as the years go by?

Dorchester Town manager Tom Killick will have been asking those kinds of questions and more before he joined the Magpies last September.

Killick didn’t actually move houses, just clubs. But the sentiment remains the same as he was attached to Poole Town for 19 years before he was evicted.

READ MORE: Glenn Howes and abdicating the Dorchester Town throne

Ironically, his predecessor Glenn Howes did complete his own real-life house move this season from his Southampton base.

Howes began the 2023/24 campaign fresh off the back of Dorchester’s best finish in a decade.

It may only have been 13th, but the Magpies were stationed in contention for the play-offs for much of the term before falling away in the final third.

While the outcome undersold the success of Dorchester’s campaign, hopes were high that Howes’ renaissance would continue to gather pace.

However, Dorchester were winless in five matches, conceding 17 times.

Their only respite was a 2-1 win over Killick’s Poole side on Bank Holiday Monday, as they crashed out of the FA Cup at Plymouth Parkway the following weekend.

It was after this match that Howes privately questioned his future and, remarkably, began to look at Killick as his heir following events at Poole.

Back on the field, the Magpies did respond to the cup exit with seven points in their next three league games.

But Killick’s exit from Poole had caused massive ructions within the Dolphins as experienced trio Will Spetch, Corby Moore and Jack Dickson all joined the Magpies as part of a growing exodus.

Howes’ plan was beginning to come to fruition and a 5-0 loss at Parkway in the league sealed the deal as Killick was announced as manager prior to the FA Trophy loss at Merthyr.

Killick also took five games to post a victory, coming courtesy of a 4-1 win over Basingstoke in mid-November.

And six losses in seven league games from December into January killed further the buzz that had been evident in his honeymoon period.

That all changed when Dorchester, then in 20th spot, travelled to 21st-placed Harrow Borough.

Dorchester had played down the ‘six-pointer’ status of the fixture but it clearly was and how the Magpies responded.

Goals from new signing Marcus Daws and fellow ex-Poole man Will Fletcher gave the Magpies a precious three points.

While the victory seemed important as the Magpies prepared for another mission against relegation, nobody could have predicted the sublime run of form that was to follow.

Including the Harrow win, Dorchester would taste defeat just once more in 18 matches, thanks to a 3-0 loss to Gosport.

And even after that setback, the Magpies stormed up to ninth with a stupendous 12-match unbeaten streak.

Dorchester’s new-found resilience under Killick was typified by playing a combined 120 minutes with 10 men in just 48 hours against Winchester and Tiverton.

They drew 1-1 with Winch and savoured an astounding 2-1 victory over Tiverton, despite seeing Dickson sent off after only six minutes.

Dorset Echo: Dorchester Town celebrate after scoring a late winner against Tiverton, despite playing 84 minutes with 10 menDorchester Town celebrate after scoring a late winner against Tiverton, despite playing 84 minutes with 10 men (Image: PHIL STANDFIELD)

Towards the back end of the run, Dorchester won eight times in nine matches. These were riches Dorchester fans had rarely seen this millennium.

In fact, in going a ninth game unbeaten when seeing off Hayes & Yeading 1-0, the Magpies were officially on their best sequence of form for 19 years.

Their safety in the Southern League Premier South, which only three months previously had been under serious threat, was then confirmed with a 2-1 win over Hanwell.

Suddenly, Dorchester now had the play-offs in sight but needed their run to continue and others to falter.

Unfortunately for them, both the 12-match journey and those hopes of the top-five were extinguished when Basingstoke won 3-1 in the penultimate game of the season.

Killick’s young side, surely one of the youngest if not the youngest in the league, had done themselves proud and could rightly hold their heads up high.

Going into the season finale, at home to promotion-chasing AFC Totton, the Magpies still had the carrot of their best finish since 2002/03 on the table.

They had to achieve seventh to reach that landmark, set when Dorchester won the Southern League Eastern Division.

Rather unfittingly, though, Totton ruthlessly punished the Magpies for a series of errors not seen in the previous three months and ran out comfortable 4-0 winners.

The result gave Killick a clear indication of the work needed to take his side from top-half team to top-five team next season.

More than that, his decision to figuratively move house to Dorchester was vindicated.

While the timing for him at first was slightly inopportune, he realised it was an opening he could not miss.

Speaking after the Totton defeat, he addressed what has been an extraordinary first season at the Avenue, a stadium he once graced as a player.

“On a personal level, I’ve absolutely loved being here,” he told Echosport.

“I say that because, if I’m honest, when I first came I wasn’t sure whether I was doing the right thing.

“I know that’s a bit of a strange thing to say now, but things ended badly for me at Poole and I did wonder whether I needed a bit more time.

“From the minute I walked through the door and the way I’ve been treated, the way the players and management have been, then the environment, I know it took time to get going, but the crowd saw we were going in the right direction and what the players were giving, there was that connection.

“I’ve absolutely loved it and I do feel overall it’s been very positive.”

With Howes instigating a transformation during the previous season, Killick has overseen his own in 2023/24.

Signing a number of former Poole players and keeping faith with youth, plus a sprinkling of loan gold in Luton goalkeeper Jameson Horlick, Yeovil left-back Ollie Haste and Exeter defender Ed James, this was a Magpies squad reborn and stacked in potential.

“Without being disrespectful in terms of what was here when I arrived, I do believe we have improved,” he insisted.

“I believe this squad of players can be a force. If they’d been together all season, the league position would be different.

“So, I think there’s a lot of positives and also, let’s not forget, we were staring down the barrel.

“If someone had told me that we’d finish ninth, it just didn’t look very likely.

“So, we don’t want to be seen to be celebrating failure.”

As always at the end of a season there is time for reflection, but Killick has already set his stall out for 2024/25.

Seven players have already committed to next season as Killick targets the play-offs.

Will Spetch, Corby Moore, Jack Dickson, Drew Eccott-Young, Luke Roberts, Luke Pardoe and Olaf Koszela have all been convinced to continue to build Dorchester’s foundations.

Dorset Echo: Dorchester Town have already secured the services of seven players for next seasonDorchester Town have already secured the services of seven players for next season (Image: PHIL STANDFIELD)

Killick added: “The players that are here know that we’ve got something that is very worth sticking with.

“It always makes your life easier in terms of retaining players when they’ve got a perception that things could be quite exciting going forward.

“I also think it helps with your external recruitment. People see we’re a lot closer to being a team that can challenge at the top end than has been the case in the past.

“I’m hoping we’re close to that.”

Sustaining a play-off charge for an entire season will be the challenge for Dorchester now.

In 2022/23 they fell away at the business end.

In 2023/24 they gave themselves too much ground to make up.

By the end of 2024/25 can they reserve a plot of land in the National League South?

On their current trajectory, the Magpies could well be moving up the housing ladder sooner rather than later.