Dulwich Hamlet Match Report

Saturday 30 April 2011. Ryman League, Division One South.

Walton & Hersham 0 Dulwich Hamlet 2.

Swans finish their season sixth in the table, tantalisingly just one place off the fourth and final play-off spot. Nothing less than a win from this match would have done for them to secure that spot and deny their visitors taking it from them. Sadly they could not shake off their recent poor home form, and so it was Dulwich Hamlet that grabbed the coveted position, and they now go forward to play a semi-final at Bognor Regis Town, who finished the season 31 points ahead of them. It has been a topsy-turvy season for Swans, particularly over the last few weeks as they had seen their play-off hopes constantly dashed and then reignited. Certainly few would have envisaged at the beginning of October, shortly after Chuck Martini had taken over as manager and they occupied the second relegation spot, that possible promotion interest would carry on to the final match of their season. One can only speculate that had Swans not lost so many key players to injury over the last few weeks, they would have picked up enough points in the run-in to see them into the play-offs. A few weeks ago the visitors themselves had little thought of making the play-offs, but a fine run of results had put them into contention, and a degree of momentum was with them. They always looked the more likely of the two teams to get the result needed from this match, as Swans seldom looked like breaking through the visiting defence, something symptomatic of their recent home form.

Hamlet’s win was not without controversy however, as the vital first goal should clearly not have stood, as it was set up by a blatant case of handball that was remarkably not spotted by the referee. A surprise return to the home line-up was that of Phil Williams following his long lay-off with injury, but obviously lacking in match fitness he was only able to last until the interval. On another warm, sunny afternoon, and in front of the best home crowd of the season, Williams almost had a chance with just a minute played when Sean Bradley played him in on the right, but his shot to the near-post was blocked. Ashley Quashie then struck a low shot from wide on the right that visiting goalkeeper Stuart Robinson took without difficulty at his near-post. With a quarter of an hour played the visitors had the ball in the net when Gary Drewett converted at the far-post a cross from the right, but he had deliberately handled the ball and was duly booked. A legitimate effort came when Nyren Clunis controlled the ball outside the right of the box and struck a low shot that forced Swans’ keeper Gareth Williams to go down to save.

Chances were at a premium for both sides, and over half an hour had been played when Swans’ Victor Kiri almost stole in, but Robinson was quickly out to claim the ball. The best chance of the match so far soon came when Hamlet’s Drewett got clear into the right of the box, but Williams came out to make a terrific block and turn the ball wide. With five minutes left to the break the visitors took the lead in highly contentious circumstances. The ball was played into Swans’ box and Drewett, who had already been booked for a similar offence, clearly controlled it with his arm before it came out to Ethan Pinnock just outside the area, and he struck a first-time shot into the left corner. Swans were stunned and they almost let Clunis in for another chance. The home side made a double change for the second-half, Reis Stanislaus and Graeme Purdy coming on for Quashie and the tiring Phil Williams, but just six minutes after the resumption their hopes of getting the win they needed were all but over. Hamlet’s Ray Powell, who had started the season at Stompond Lane, sent over a high cross from the left to the far-post, and to rub salt into Swans’ wounds, it was Drewett who leapt to head home.

Jean Michel-Sigere was also brought on in place of Gary Frewen, but Swans still struggled to create openings, and it was Williams in their goal who was next tested with twenty minutes left. Ahmed Deen struck a free-kick from well outside the box, and Williams dived to his left to push the ball away. Swans soon won a free-kick of their own in a similar position, but Chris Wales’ effort dipped over. Stanislaus made a good run into the left of the Dulwich box before getting in a cross, but there was no-one backing up in the middle or at the far-post. Kiri then set up a chance for Stanislaus inside the left-of the box, but Hamlet substitute Justin Bowen just got across to block his shot. Any goal for Swans would now have been a mere consolation, but at last they were grinding out some chances, and more good play by Stanislaus enabled him to test keeper Robinson with a low shot from outside the box. Almost the final act of Swans’ up and down season came in the last minute when Wales was sent-off for picking up his second booking of the match.

Swans’ Team: Gareth Williams, Chris Wales, Shaun Elliott, Ashley Quashie (Graeme Purdy 45’), Damian Matthews, James Nicholls, Sean Bradley, Victor Kiri, Kieran Knight, Phil Williams (Reis Stanislaus 45’), Gary Frewen (Jean-Michel Sigere 63’). Subs. not used: Bernard Asante, Sheikh Ceesay. Caution: Kiri, did not retire (23’). Dismissal: Wales, 2 cautions, foul (69’), foul (90’).

Dulwich Team: Robinson, Morath-Gibbs, Deen, Francis (Rose 79’), Duku, Gonsalves (Bowen 51’), Clunis (Kadi 72’), Gonnella, Powell, Pinnock, Drewett. Subs. not used: Gradwell, Lawson. Scorers: Pinnock (40’), Drewett (51’). Cautions: Drewett, handball (15’), Francis, foul (71’), Powell, foul (90+1’).