DORCHESTER Town endured another frustrating year at the Avenue Stadium with the club continuing their struggles in the Evo-Stik Southern Premier Division.

It was a case of new year, new manager for the Magpies after former Bridgwater Town boss Craig Laird was appointed as Mark Jermyn’s successor on New Year’s Day.

With Laird watching from the stands, Dorchester secured a 1-1 draw with Basingstoke under the temporary reins of Stuart Heath.

In Laird’s first game in charge, the Magpies slipped to a late 1-0 defeat at home to Banbury United after Neil Martin conceded a penalty for a controversial handball.

Laird quickly set about adding to his squad and made loan signings in the shape of Lewis Powell and Ollie Griggs, while Jon Vance also joined the county town side.

But a winless January was capped by a 4-0 loss to eventual champions Chippenham Town.

Boss Laird made a raft of new signings in February, with Ollie Bassett, Jordan Williams and Oliver Mehew arriving.

However, centre-back Chris Dillon opted to undergo groin surgery and his replacement Gary Bowles then broke his ankle a week after signing for the club, meaning Toby Down was drafted in from Exeter City on a month’s loan as cover.

Amidst the injury crisis, the Magpies went on a five-game losing streak that was only ended by a 2-0 win over Dunstable Town in mid-February as Laird earned his first win as manager in his sixth game.

The win sparked a run of four victories in six matches for the Magpies, who picked up back-to-back triumphs over Hayes & Yeading and Kings Langley.

True to form, Laird was active in the transfer market as he replaced loanees Bassett, Mehew, Powell and Williams with Kyle Egan, Phil Ormrod, Jake Mawford.

Off the pitch, Dorchester announced their plans for a new 3G pitch had moved a step closer after West Dorset District Council offered to fund half the project, leaving the club with £252,000 to find.

However, that news was blighted by the shock of fan favourites Matt Oldring and Franklyn Clarke leaving for Wimborne Town and Salisbury City respectively in the same week.

On the pitch, Bowles returned from his broken ankle on April 1 as Dorchester drew 2-2 at home to promotion-chasing Hitchin, with the Magpies battling the relegation quicksand.

There was further good news to come as young winger Tom Blair signed a deal until the end of the 2018/19 season.

Despite being embroiled in a relegation battle, boss Laird hoped he could make Dorchester “Dorset’s premier non-league club” after the departure of manager Jason Matthews from Weymouth.

But the Magpies would eventually finish 18th, eight places behind Weymouth, after a David Jerrard goal helped earn a nervy point in a 1-1 draw away at Stratford Town in their final game of the season to avoid the drop.

If Laird’s transfer dealings had been plentiful immediately after his tenure began, his off-season would prove to be even busier.

By June, 12 players had been signed or re-signed, including former Leicester City goalkeeper Chris Weale, Billy Lowes, Neil Martin, Jerrard and Ormrod.

Trevor Senior had also been drafted in to the Magpies’ coaching team alongside Stuart Heath, but influential centre-back Nathan Walker was snapped up by Hamworthy United.

The Magpies also agreed an “informal” link-up with Portland United which saw Ed Bastick, Chris Clarke, Jamie Beasley and Max Buckler all feature, only for the latter two to return to the Blues.

Before August, Egan, Jordan Storey, Luke Winsper, Ross Carmichael, Sam Lanahan, Griggs and Dom Panesar-Dower also came in, but the Magpies fell to a chastening 5-1 defeat at Banbury United in the first game of the new season.

Dorchester picked up their first win of the season in their next game, a 1-0 victory against Basingstoke, to halt a winless run stretching back to mid-March.

However, that was to prove Laird’s final success in charge as three losses followed, the last a dismal 3-0 loss to arch-rivals Weymouth. A day later, Laird resigned as boss.

Laird’s assistant-manager Stuart Heath also left after the Magpies were dumped out of the FA Cup by AFC Portchester, before Dorchester appointed former Woking number two Steve Thompson as Laird’s full-time successor in mid-September.

Thompson recorded a 1-0 win at Dunstable Town in his first game in charge and immediately solidified a defence that had conceded 23 goals in its first seven league games.

Thompson then brought in Weymouth winger Aaron Rodriguez and Bristol Rovers loanee Mo Baghdadi to the Avenue, while New Zealand striker Rory Fallon became the club’s biggest signing of the year.

But Fallon was to play just two games for the Magpies, picking up a hamstring injury in a 2-1 FA Trophy win over Basingstoke before retiring from football after twice being an unused sub in the All Whites’ World Cup play-off loss to Peru.

Teenage centre-back Callum Rose also came in as Thompson began to galvanise his squad, losing just three league games in 12 and registering a fabulous 4-1 win over high-flying Kettering Town.

Yet Dorchester suffered a downturn in form at the end of November into December, losing four straight games including a 2-0 loss at lower-league Wimborne Town in the Dorset Senior Cup quarter-finals.

Thompson’s men arrested their poor form with an impressive 6-0 win against St Ives, Baghdadi scoring four goals, before seeing off Farnborough 4-0 two days later.

The club also announced a new two-year stadium sponsorship deal with Clayson Scaffolding Ltd before rounding off the year with a 2-2 draw at rivals Weymouth in the Boxing Day derby, coming back from 2-0 down.