Football finally returned last month, and with it, a sense of normality. Fans were properly back in grounds, and there was a real sense of excitement for everyone involved at Poole Town, with players and fans alike chomping at the bit.
Apart from the obvious buzz around the club, it was hard to gauge exactly what people were thinking – and expecting – from Poole Town this year.
Tom Killick had manage to keep the core of a side that won all but one of their seven league games last season, but the Dolphins’ manager was extremely coy when asked about his own expectations for his charges.
Since arriving at the Black Gold way back in 2004, Killick and Poole have been perpetually involved in promotion battles, with the obvious exception of the 2017/18 season.
Despite a track record implying Dolphins were set to challenge, Killick refused to outright state his side’s goal for the campaign – instead, pointing out the seemingly endless list of challengers in the division.
Poole came up against one of the sides Killick listed as promotion hopefuls on the opening day, when they skipped over the county border to visit Gosport.
A pulsating contest that encapsulated the full range of emotions football has to offer, Dolphins initially fell two goals behind in the opening period.
Tony Lee opened his account for the campaign with a looping header prior to the break, before the game was completely turned on its head on the hour mark.
Starting from right-back, Jack Dickson’s marauding run eventually ended with the wing-back firing Poole’s equaliser from outside the box.
Lee, a former Gosport player, came back to haunt his side even further when he bundled over a corner with less than 10 minutes to go.
Despite the turnaround, Poole wouldn’t be able to hold onto their lead – eventually losing the fixture in dramatic fashion.
Gosport capitalised upon some poor Poole defending twice, grabbing an equaliser and a winner in the eight added minutes.
Questions were obviously raised after four rather cheap goals were allowed, but Dolphins did answer with a victory in their first home game.
Similarly to the Dolphins, Tiverton had a strong campaign during the last curtailed season – but Poole enjoyed a largely comfortable win thanks to another Tony Lee brace.
Another sloppy goal allowed Tiverton a late consolation and led to worries of a repeat of the opening day, but Poole held onto confirm their first three points of the campaign.
The Dolphins had the opportunity to build some form with another home game, with Farnborough the visitors. Boro had recently brought in some attacking talent from higher leagues, but Poole looked solid for much of the opening half an hour.
Lee was seemingly unstoppable as he grabbed fifth in just three games, heading home a Luke Burbidge cross after just 23 minutes.
Farnborough grew into the game, and thanks to a mazy run from Reggie Young, restored parity seven minutes before the break. Combined with a second just minutes later, Poole never truly recovered from the away side’s sucker punch.
The guests made it three half-way through the second half, but again Dolphins contrived to allow three poor goals despite controlling a match.
This then prompted Killick to call for his side to ‘win ugly’ – a rallying cry well met but his charges during their next fixtures.
Ugly certainly described the first 45 minutes away at Harrow, with the ball rarely touching the ground in a hoofball extravaganza. Luke Burbidge somehow grabbed a goal before the break, with his scuffed shot trickling over the line.
Poole quickly put that rough period behind them, with Burbidge grabbing his second, which was of far superior quality.
Tony Lee knocked down a high ball for the winger, who hit it first time on his weaker foot, sending it flying into the top right of the goal.
Now in control, Poole controlled the rest of the game in second gear, eventually adding to their lead via Tony Lee and Will Fletcher.
There was no time to dwell on the result with a local derby two days away – with Dorchester visiting the Black Gold Stadium on Bank Holiday Monday.
It was another ugly win for Poole, with ex-Magpie Sean Wright grabbing the only goal of the game shortly before the break.
The two wins in quick succession bolstered morale amongst the fanbase, but with just five games played it is impossible to gauge what this season might have in store for the Dolphins.
Making any sense of the results around the Southern League Premier South is another tough task, but what we can be sure is that Poole currently sit in 6th place, with nine points.
The only dampener is seemingly the loss of Jamie Whisken for the near future – with the club captain picking up a groin injury in the derby day win.
In terms of the youth teams, only the U23s started their campaign this month. They fell to a 2-1 defeat away at Dorchester, with the hosts seemingly getting the benefit of two tight offside calls for their goals.
Goal of the Month: Luke Burbidge 48′ vs Harrow Borough
A close call between Jack Dickson’s marauding run and Burbidge’s perfect volley, but the sheer audacity and unexpectedness of Burbidge’s second in the win over Harrow means it is our selection for goal of the month.
Player of the Month: Tony Lee
It’s hard to make a case for any other player to receive this nod, thanks to Lee’s flying start to the campaign.
With five goals in his first three games he already met the quota for a goal a game for the entire month of August, but continued his streak to six in four with a header against Harrow.
Perhaps Lee should have had even more, or at least have extended his sequence to five games after his miss one-one-one against Dorchester, but Lee has rarely put a foot wrong this month.
Besides his goal scoring form, Lee has set-up two goals for his teammates. Sometimes cutting an isolated figure up top for Poole, the striker is always a handful for defences, even without the ball.
Performance of the Month – vs Harrow Borough
Whilst arguably the poorest side Dolphins have had to face so far this season, the old maxim of you can only beat what’s in front of you applies.
Poole restricted the hosts to just three shots total throughout the contest, and whilst not perfect themselves, never seem too bothered by Harrow attacks.
The second half really deserves the award, with Poole executing a finishing clinic with limited chances. Burbidge scored the aforementioned stunner, whilst Will Fletcher opened his account after selfless play by Lee.
Sam Jackson looked composed on his first appearance of the season, rightfully earning his side a clean sheet.
If Poole can remain as clinical whilst maintaining clean sheets, they stand in good stead moving forward.