DORCHESTER Sports signed off their Dorset Premier League season in seventh place, following a 2-1 defeat at title-chasing Blandford United.

Ashley James’ men needed to win to secure sixth place but found the Royals in no mood to give up their hopes of the title, having slipped up against Balti and new leaders Sturminster Newton in recent weeks.

Blandford had to ride out early Sports pressure as Dylan Ellis guided a shot wide when one-on-one, before Joel Hewitt blazed over.

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Royals’ keeper Sam Pike later tipped over an Alex Godfrey strike and the visitors’ inability to breach the Blandford defence proved crucial as the hosts took a 34th-minute lead.

Former Poole midfielder Steve Smith headed home at the back post from Mark Ford’s recycled corner, delighting the 241-strong Park Road faithful.

Sports’ keeper Sam Duncalf had to save smartly from Elliot Manson before the break, after which ex-Weymouth striker Ford pushed wide of Duncalf when through and then hit the post with a free-kick.

However, Ford eventually got his goal in similar fashion to Blandford’s opener as he finished off a header back across the box.

Sports did score a consolation in the 93rd minute as Hewitt beat Ford, who filled in for the injured Pike late on, in a one-on-one opening.

Speaking to Echosport, James felt his side’s finishing position was an accurate reflection of the 2023/24 season.

“It’s not where we wanted to finish but it’s fair on the season we’ve had,” he said.

“We haven’t been able to beat any of the top six, so we don’t deserve to finish in the top six.

“Again, we’ve just drawn too many games and lost too many games by the odd goal. In key moments we haven’t been quite good enough in a competitive league.

“We’re nearly there, but not quite. It’s going to take a big summer of getting everyone ready, bringing in a few fresh faces and improving next year.”

Sports: Duncalf, Browne (McFetridge 80), Streamer, Coombs, O’Shaughnessy, Brumble, O Peart (Selama 70), Ellis, Kelly (Sheehy 60), Hewitt, Godfrey. Sub not used: J Taylor.