Friday, 24 April 2015

Dulwich Hamlet and Maidstone, United

What's happened?
Dulwich Hamlet Supporters' Team 3 - 3 Maidstone United Supporters' Team

Photo: Maidstone United TV

As the spring morning dew lifted from Belair Park’s hallowed turf, the Dulwich Hamlet FC Supporters’ Team (DHFCST) slowly gathered. The sickly-sweet luminous contents of various sports drinks gushed into stomachs already half-full of pre-game butterflies - the team looked ahead to the biggest game of the day.

Shortly after, their opponents arrived. And arrived. And arrived. A Maidstone United Supporters’ Team (MUST) squad of 11 plus numerous substitutes and a travelling support of at least 20 made their way past the tennis courts and into the changing facilities. ‘We could be in trubbs here’ remarked one Dulwich player to another, perhaps influenced by the indifferent form of the Dulwich first-team over the past couple of months.

That suggestion was blown to smithereens around 30 minutes into the game. DHFCST centre-midfield general Matt Knight had taken the game by the scruff of the neck and it was of a little surprise that he opened the scoring. Taking aim a good 25 yards out, he arrowed a left-footed shot that faded away from a helpless goalkeeper and into the bottom-right hand corner of his net. 1-0.

The game continued at a furious pace in front of the Maidstone United TV cameras, with neither side able to keep hold of the ball for long. Ten minutes after Knight’s goal, Maidstone equalised. As the ball dropped inside the DHFCST penalty area, Sam Reed smacked an angled shot past Dulwich’s vertically-challenged goalkeeper and into the bottom corner. 1-1.

After a series of fruitless long balls out of defence, Dulwich returned to the passing game they know best. From his right-midfield berth, Forward The Hamlet’s (FTH) Hugo Greenhalgh hustled a Maidstone centre-back out of possession - the ball broke to Knight who looked up and spotted the near-post run of FTH’s Ben Sibley. Taking Knight’s Andres Iniesta-style through-ball in his stride, Sibley flicked the ball past his marker and hit a right-footed volley through the legs of the goalkeeper. Ben and Hugo celebrated manically, the rest of the team turned and trudged back to the halfway line. DHFCST lead restored. 2-1.

The halftime whistle blew. More luminous liquid flowed down into now butterfly-less stomachs. Phones were checked for news of the big afternoon game. Dreams of a first DHFCST victory of the season crept into the minds of the pink and blue-clad athletes.

Five minutes into the second half, Dulwich extended their lead. A long ball found Sibley 30 yards out, he cushioned a header to the feet of his striker partner before turning to stride through the middle of a static Maidstone defence. An inch-perfect return arced over the head of the last man into Sibley’s path and he took one touch before hammering a left-foot shot from the edge of the box past the goalkeeper’s left-hand and into the bottom corner. Sibley wheeled away in a Vincenzo Montella-inspired airplane celebration, the other 19 outfield players trudged back to their positions for kickoff. 3-1.

Around the hour mark, Maidstone halved the deficit. A beautifully-executed through-ball from the mercurial Ant Coombes split the DHSTFC defence in two and deadly marksman Neil Sallis showed magnificent composure to round the goalkeeper and slot home. 3-2.

Ten minutes later, it was all square. With the controversial zonal-marking approach causing confusion, a huge long-throw into the DHFCST box was met on the run by a totally unmarked Sallis to glance a glorious header into the far corner. At this point, the referee turned to Sibley and claimed that there had been ‘Six really good goals’ and that if the goals were of such quality every week he’d ‘Be a happy man’. 3-3.

I (Sibley) had to leave the game 15 minutes early to make my way to Champion Hill so I have literally no idea what happened in the final moments. I imagine there was some beautiful football from both sides - full of movement, technique, vision and sportsmanship. At least one of those is surely accurate.

A 3-3 draw. Dulwich’s first point of the season and Maidstone’s unbeaten run extended – happy faces all round. The Maidstone supporters were a great bunch (even the guy who moaned at every decision including free-kicks in his favour, kick-offs and what he was going to have for lunch) and we wish them all the best as they and Maidstone United venture into the Conference South next season.

Highlights of the game will be available online soon. Check out photos here.

Dulwich Hamlet 0 - 0 Maidstone United

Photo: Mike Urban

Believe it or not, there was also a Ryman Premier Division game that afternoon, Dulwich Hamlet v Maidstone United. It was an incredible day, one in which the DHFC attendance record was smashed (3,000 was the official figure) and Maidstone (save for some ridiculous mathematics) clinched the title. We won’t try to review it here, instead we’ll direct you to two brilliant reports. One photo-based, one with lashings of luxury words.

Brixton Buzz's photo match report.

The Luxury Fan’s match report.

Sponsorship appeal
Our campaign to enter the DHFC 2015-16 sponsorship prize-draw continues. We're doing well but there are only a few tickets remaining and so we need all the help we can get! A huge thank you to all who have donated so far.

Find out more here.

What's next?
Tonbridge Angels v Dulwich Hamlet
Tomorrow (25th) Dulwich travel to Tonbridge for a must-win game for both teams. Tonbridge need a win to guarantee survival and DHFC need 3 points to guarantee a playoff place.

There’s a good amount of people making the trip from London, with many jumping on direct trains from Orpington. We’ll post some train times later today.

We’ll also be posting on social media various previews of tomorrow’s game between now and kick-off – keep your eyes open for some stat sheets and infographics. That’s right, we’re jumping on that creaking bandwagon. 2012-style.

Next episode of the podcast
FTH 20 will be out next Tuesday (28th). We can’t tell you what will be in it, as we haven’t recorded it yet. Professionalism, all over. We can tell you that there will be a player interview, a management interview and loads more.

Listen to FTH 19 here.

Injury time
We've added a gallery of DHFC supporters wearing club attire on their travels across the world. Check it out.

Listen to all past episodes here.

Subscribe via iTunes here

Iain Dowie.

Photo: Amazing

Forward The Hamlet.

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