On Saturday, Dulwich Hamlet travelled to Tonbridge where they held their play off rivals to an entertaining 0-0 draw, marred by an appalling pitch and an equally dire ref.
Hamlet’s travelling support pushed the attendance to 656, Tonbridge’s highest league gate of the season.
Tonbridge have got a lovely ground – there’s plenty of covered seating and standing and they have no less than two tea bars in attendance. It seems ridiculous that Dulwich – who regularly get attendances four times bigger than Tonbridge – can only manage one.
Back to the game, the ref was someone who appeared to love shirt pulling. Players were invited to tug away at any passing piece of fabric that took their fancy, safe in the knowledge that the ref wouldn’t mind.
Coupled with a pitch that seemed to be modelled on an meteor-splattered part of the Moon, the game proved frustrating for both players and spectators at times.
Fans of wooden huts would find a lot to admire at Tonbridge, with this elevated, high-rise uber-shed being the star attraction.
Great to see some Maidstone fans coming along to support Hamlet.
The first half was dominated by Hamlet, and Tonbridge were lucky to escape when defender Sonny Miles sliced the ball over his own goal.
The travelling Hamlet faithful.
A ball flies into the stand.
The main tea bar has to be commended for providing a great veggie burger option for just £3. Again, Hamlet please take note.
A fine condiments table.
I was rather hoping that the urinals would continue to decrease in size in a comedy fashion.
Hamlet kept up the pressure but the home defence kept them at bay.
Half time: Tonbridge 0 Dulwich 0.
Everyone loves a red roller.
Given that banging a large drum is likely to draw attention to yourself, this fella was remarkably coy when he saw the camera.
A fine pooch.
I do like a non league ground with this kind of thing going on at the sides. It makes you appreciate the work that goes into keeping the club going, with most of the labour being done by volunteers.
Tonbridge has a splendid covered seated area running the length of the pitch.
Gaze at the majesty of the Director’s Box. No VIP pass = no entry. Not even if you’re Kanye West.
Hamlet fans after the traditional half time end-swap.
Bobble of the Day.
Things were tighter in the second half, with Tonbridge pushing forward.
The whiff of rain was in the air all afternoon, but happily ne’er a drop landed on my bonce.
Preston Edwards is called into action.
Divot Of The Day.
Not sure what this wooden owl thing is for.
The VIP shelter.
The game was to end 0-0, garnering Hamlet a useful point in their play off push.
On the forums, PP added his report:
That referee, who appeared quite young, was depressingly weak and looked out of his depth. He clearly decided he just wasn’t going to penalise anyone for shirtpulling, no matter how obvious, and Tonbridge’s defenders just used this to their advantage.
A stronger referee prepared to give what he saw could have awarded us three penalties for such offences.
There were also a couple of shouts for penalties from the home crowd at the other end; a rather optimistic one for handball when a shot was blasted straight at Drage, and a very loud and spontaneous one when two players went up for a high ball, although I couldn’t tell what happened from 100 yards away.
There was another incident in the first half when Drage stood next to their keeper as we were about to take a corner and a defender began trying to pull him away; instead of letting us take the corner then giving a penalty the ref stopped us, gave the defender a fingerwagging, then he was still holding onto Drage as the corner was taken, but less obviously.
Hamlet were fairly dominant in the first half and this was when we really ought to have got our noses in front, but Tonbridge are the most difficult side to break down that I’ve seen this season.
Their whole team defends in depth when the opposition has the ball, and the man with the ball has two opponents closing him down and stifling his options.
Our best first half chances were an angled low drive from Green that would certainly have tested the keeper, only for a defender to lunge in with a block and deflect the ball inches over the crossbar.
Akinyemi his the crossbar with a near post header from a Green cross, Tomlin just cleared the bar with a chip that may well have beaten the keeper, and Carew had a similar effort turned over the bar by the keeper.
Tonbridge were more assertive after the interval, possibly not fancying their chances of holding out if they allowed us too much of the ball, but on a dreadful bumpy pitch their main tactic seemed to be to hit long balls towards the corners in the hope of forcing set piece opportunities.
Their right footed left winger Nick Wheeler is one of the best dead ball specialists in the league, as well as being a dangerous crosser of the ball in open play, and he’s successfully unlocked our defence on more than one previous occasion, but not this time.
There were a number of corners, free kicks from out wide, and near the end a couple of long throws into the six yard box, but the way we defended these was probably the most encouraging aspect of the whole afternoon.
Team (3-4-1-2): Edwards – Weatherstone, Drage, Chambers – Ming, Kargbo, Beaney(c), Green – Carew – Tomlin, Akinyemi. Subs: Dumaka (for Tomlin), Camara (for Carew), Sekajja (for Akinyemi), Taylor, Erskine (not used). Attendance: 656
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