There was a deeply frustrating day in store for the big crowd who gathered at Champion Hill to see third placed Dulwich take on the already-relegated basement dwellers, Grays Athletic.
Despite the loss, Hamlet have a guaranteed place in the play-offs, but need a victory in their last game at play-off rivals Wingate & Finchley on Saturday to earn a home semi final tie.
For once I arrived early and thus managed to get a drink without queuing up for several millennia. Huzzah!
Teams line up for the handshaky bit.
And so to the game which was far from a classic. Hamlet looked devoid of ideas, while Grays looked little better but remained rock solid at the back with their goalie, Amadou Tangara, putting in an excellent performance.
Hamlet engaged full huff’n’puff mode, but for all their possession made few solid attempts at goal, while at the other end Grays were unlucky not to go one-up when a close strike hit the post.
The big Hamlet crowd strain to get a view.
A splendid Double Divot arrangement.
Hamlet were awarded what looked to be something of a soft penalty towards the end of the first half.
Ash Carew stepped up to the spot, but his effort was capably blocked by Tangara.
A profusion of high balls were floated into the penalty area, but no Hamlet player was able to swivel his noggin in a suitably advantageous manner .
Half time 0-0.
The pooch looks on.
The second half saw Dulwich continue to dominate the game, but would the ball go in the bloody net? Not bloody likely.
An unsatisfying goalmouth melee.
Champion Hill. Where the time is always midnight. Or midday.
I wish the goalie had put a sock in that ‘stopping goals’ thing of his.
Whoosh goes the ball into the crowd. File under, “Close but no cigar.”
At least there was beer.
In the 90th minute, Grays scored the winner with a breakaway goal by Kieran Bishop.
Full time: Hamlet 0 Grays Athletic 1. Full credit to Grays for a strong performance. I hope they get back next year.
The Football Without Borders gang were in town again raising money for their excellent charity,
Players applaud the crowd.
On the Hamlet forum, supporters had their say:
AD: Bitterly disappointing result.
We had plenty of chances to win comfortably, and contrived to let them score in injury time – after being in control of third spot, we could find ourselves finishing fifth, and away to either Bognor or Havant in the semi final if we lose next Saturday and Enfield win.
We missed Beaney, and made too many changes to a team that was playing well – Dumaka and Akinyemi looked off their best, and against a team who were always going to set themselves up to defend, Ming didn’t offer enough going forward. We looked so much better when Tomlin, Sekajja and Clunis came on.
Hopefully that’s the end of the team being ‘freshened up’, and we can go with our best side from this point onwards.
SM: No criticism from me about team selection. We’d have killed for that frontline earlier in the season.
We just weren’t on it and the top three in the supporters’ poll didn’t have a good game between them. Ho hum, so off to Finchley to try and possibly avoid another Thursday night out in Bognor. Next week should have just been a fun afternoon with nothing riding on it really.
PD: That hurt…… really hurt, frustration turning to flat out disappointment with a painful sucker punch at the end.
Grays goal keeper made some outstanding saves but we wasted most of the second half.
Need for a confident win at Finchley to get back our mojo for the play offs.
PP: Biggest flaw in the whole squad for me is the lack of a direct alternative for Beaney & Kargbo. We’ve lost just four of our last 24 matches in all competitions, and the only defeat they both played was at Havant, away to the side top of the league with one match remaining.
Carew was dreadful in Beaney’s usual role yesterday – took far too much time on the ball – the deeper he sits, and the less the opposition press him, the more he faffs around, putting his foot on the ball and looking for a Hollywood pass to the opposite side of the pitch instead of just moving the ball quickly and efficiently to the enarest teammate in space like Beaney does.
He’s far more effective in the more advanced role he’s occupied since the middel fo the season, with less time and space to indulge himself, and with greater chance of being able to make use of his shooting prowess from the edge of the box in open play.
Camara looked our most dangerous forward, but he’s very raw and really a third forward, rather than providing a link between the forwards and the rest of the team as Carew does at “number 10”.
Throughout the first half we just seemed to be passing the ball around in the middle third or our own half while Grays defended in depth; whenever it was passed up to Dumaka & Akinyemi they had their back to goal with a marker right up their backside. No urgency, not enough off the ball movement, although that improved after Tomlin and Sekajja came off the bench.
Grays worked hard for their win, they took the game down to the wire at their place, when our second goal in a 2-0 win only came deep into stoppage time, and they deserved their win here.
Some of their players are fairly limited, but they’ve looked a better unit than some other sides I’ve seen this season. We still created enough decent openings in the second half to have won it though. The goal was a classic sucker punch – poor pass out from the back and a big strong forward showed more determination to win the ball, broke through a couple of flimsy challenges, and set up a teammate for a good finish from inside the box.
Everything that was good about the win at Burgess Hill – efficient without being at our fluent best and still winning 3-0 – was missing yesterday. I really want to finish in thrid place – we haven’t achieved that since 1979/80 in the Premier Division.
That’s worth aiming for regardless of what happens in the play-offs IMO. I’m getting really pissed off hearing some people saying we’d be better off being away in the play-offs. What, like at East Thurrock last year? We now need to win at W&F on Saturday to secure 3rd, which would probably mean a home semi with Enfield Town; a draw will probably leave us with a Thursday night trip to Enfield or a return to W&F, while defeat will probably mean travelling to Bognor or Havant.
Team (3-4-1-2): Edwards – Weatehrstone(c), Drage, Chambers – Ming, Kargbo, Carew, Green – Camara – Dumaka, Akinyemi. Subs: Tomlin (for Dumaka), Sekajja (for Akinyemi), Clunis (for Ming), Taylor, Mascoll (not used).
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