It was very nearly business as usual as Lewes almost came away from a jammed-packed Champion Hill with a 2-2 draw and a major dent in Dulwich Hamlet’s Play-off chances, reports Stuart Fuller.
Unfortunately, it was not to be and the hosts absorbed the late Lewes pressure to claim all three points in front of a record Ryman League Premier Division crowd this season of 2,467.
With Alex Malins still unavailable due to the head injury he picked up last Saturday, Jordan Badger slotted into the back four whilst there was a welcome return for Lloyd Cotton from injury at the expense of Lee Carey. The Rooks certainly started positively, with the hosts letting the Lewes wide men push forward and deliver a number of good crosses into the box, with Jonté Smith and Alex Laing both causing the home defence problems.
At the other end, Dulwich posed little threat, with Stacey Freeman and Jordan Badger dealing with the physical threat of the home side. Lewes had a decent shout for a penalty when Muggeridge was bundled over by Jordan Brown, then Brinkhurst’s shot caused Preston Edwards a few issues.
With five minutes to go in the half and Lewes more than holding their own, Hamlet scored. A cross from the left found Clunis who fluffed his first chance before slotting home despite a desperate appeal for handball by the Lewes defence. The Achilles Heel that is our concentration when conceding was all too plain to see when just four minutes later the Rooks failed to clear a free-kick and Ethan Pinnock headed home at the back-post to give Hamlet a 2-0 lead at the break.
The fear for the sizeable Lewes support was the Rooks would crumble in the second half as Dulwich looked to put the game beyond doubt but it was Lewes who settled quicker and started to push the hosts back into their half. A promising Lewes counter-attack was brought to a halt by the referee as a Dulwich player laid prone in the centre-circle, despite having let play run for a good two minutes prior when the hosts were attacking, the decision angering the Rooks and Cotton was booked for his legitimate protests.
With 12 minutes to go a Hammond strike from 25 yards was superbly saved by Preston Edwards and from the resulting corner, Freeman almost got to a superb ball delivered by Redwood. The ball was cleared, but only as far as Charlie Coppola on the edge of the box who smashed his shot into the roof of the net. The final ten minutes saw Lewes on top and Dulwich happy to run down the clock when they could, desperate for the three points that would keep them in the Play-off spot.
It would have been remarkable if Lewes had managed an equaliser (and a fourth consecutive 2-2 draw!) but it was not to be. The eight game unbeaten run had come to an end but there was no disgrace in this performance.
The Rooks will now turn to the final game of the season next Saturday against East Thurrock United and hope to continue the unbeaten home record in 2016.
Dulwich Hamlet: Edwards, Nelson, Brown, James (Murrell-Williamson 84 mins), Drage, Pinnock, Clunis, Carew, Akinyemi (Hibbert 71 mins), Michael-Percil (Scannell 65 mins), Dixon
Subs not used: Moss, Yuga
Lewes: Winterton, Brinkhurst, Redwood, Hammond, Freeman, Badger, Muggeridge, Cotton (Carey – 76 mins), Smith, Laing, Conlon (Coppola – 65 mins)
Subs not used: Okojie, Greenfield, Stroomberg
Booked: Cotton, Badger