THIS AFTERNOON'S MATCH PREVIEW – BURGESS HILL (AWAY) KO 3.00 PM
Make no bones about it, for Dulwich Hamlet the play-offs kick off today, 3.00 pm at Burgess Hill's Leyland's Park. Lose to the fifth placed Hillians and the Hamlet's late challenge for a seat on the promotion charabanc is all but dead for victory would give the hosts an all but unassailable 5-point gap over the chasing rivals. That said whilst Hamlet have occasionally stuttered in recent weeks, Burgess Hill's hold on place in the playoffs, seemingly guaranteed just a few short weeks ago has become increasingly tenuous as the wheels have come of the chariot in spectacular fashion. Three defeats for the Hillians in their last three outings have allowed both Dulwich Hamlet and Walton & Hersham to slipstream back into contention as the season enters the endgame.
Things started going wrong at Whyteleafe back at the start of April, the portents looking fair for the visitors, cruising in the Valley thanks to goals from Danny Curd, Sonny Cobbs and Hillian stalwart, Lloyd Cotton until a nightmarish last five saw the 'Leafe grab a brace back only for the Hill to hang for a nervous three points. As if to reinforce Burgess Hill late game Achilles ' heel, Merstham left Leyland's Park, swag bag laden with all three points, after a crazy bout of stoppage time that saw the Hilllians concede, equalise then concede again all in the space of three outlandish minutes.
No shame in losing to Leatherhead the following midweek as Leyland's Park thronged with 300 plus despite alternative attractions elsewhere though having cracked the crossbar and forced Chico Ramos into an excellent save before the Tanners had built up a head of steam, Hillians' boss Gary Croydon was left more than a little frustrated. That frustration must have paled away last Saturday as the Hillians looked to get back on track at Tolworth only to fall foul of resurgent Corinthian-Casuals, still on heat after bashing the Police on their own manor in the Surrey Senior Cup semis. "We were not good enough, and that includes me," said the Hillians Manager publically as the Hillians were crushed 4-0, only a similar mauling for Walton & Hersham at Bognor Regis keeping them in the last playoff spot. However as the goals were being shipped a new challenger was arising as Dulwich Hamlet held off a spirited Chatham Town to move within two points of fifth spot and set up a monster afternoon at Leyland's Park today.
Throughout the years of change at Burgess Hill that have seem them rise from the Sussex County League, there have been few constants but Lloyd Cotton is one, a versatile player who epitomises loyalty in an age when players switches allegiances quicker than it takes to kiss a badge. Equally adept in defence or midfield, the industrious Cotton has always probed a troublesome adversary for opponents but just as importantly for the Hillians he seems always on hand to chip in with vital goals and will be a man to watch today. Whilst goals have been hard to come by for the Burgess Hill strike force, Cotton has once again added his tup'pence worth finding the net ten times, a tally matched only by forward Danny Curd. At the back Dulwich must navigate a path around the man mountain that is Danny Gainsford whilst skipper Steve Harper has always proved feisty in the engine room.
After some invigorating training sessions during the week, the Dulwich Hamlet players will be itching to get their teeth into this fixture. It seems certain that the Pink and Blues will be unchanged from last Saturday's victory over Chatham with Gavin Rose keen to see his charges exploit early opportunities after it took some time to see off the troublesome Chats ion that last game.
This afternoon's game kicks off at 3.00 pm at Leyland's Park. Supporters should be reminded that the nearest Rail Station to Burgess Hill is in fact Wivelsfield, served by trains on the Brighton line through East Croydon.
Match Day Admission Prices
£6 Senior Citizens / Concessions
£2 Junior (under 16)
Anyone attending with his or her carer, carer is admitted free.