DULWICH OFF TO A FLYING START
Dulwich Hamlet 2 Whyteleafe 0
Ryman League Division One South
Methinks the clouds of gloom were still lingering over Champion Hill as the latest campaign began in torrential rain that left the greensward, splashed and sodden, throughout an opening 45 minutes that belonged almost entirely to the Hamlet, even if they only Frankie Sawyer's exquisitely taken solo goal after 24 minutes to show for all their efforts. But come the second half and clouds parted, the elements obliged as the celestial deluge that had sent the crowd scuttling for shelter abated, bathing the Hill in sunshine as Dulwich moved through the gears in a dominant performance that deserved more than just a second goal, a corker indeed as Nyren Clunis showed a clean pair of heels to panting defenders before blasting the ball into the roof of the net from a few yards out.
With victories over the likes of Isthmian Premier side Canvey Island and all-conquering Wingate & Finchley in the preseason preamble, Dulwich had showed themselves fit for purpose for promotion, now they had to prove their worth in true battle to reclaim they seat at Isthmian's top table. Against a Whyteleafe side that had suffered a torrid prologue to their season as a greenhorn side, bolstered by a few old dogs, had slipped to defeats against supposed lesser opposition. Still they had that Indian Sign over the Hamlet, victorious in half their two dozen meetings with the men in Pink and Blue, unbeaten in another four, but under the Rose regime the curse of the 'Leafe seems to being slowly exorcised from the Dulwich.
That said it was the green-clad rustics who threatened first as Dan Firth loaded the mortar and slammed a fierce long-range free kick just wide of the target. Alarm bells sounded, Dulwich roused themselves and went to work. At the heart of things, the little and large partnership in the engine room. Peter Adeniyi, tall, rangy and elegant on the ball, spraying the passes but never afraid to get stuck in when defensive duties called. Alongside him, Charles Ofusu-Hene, a street fighter footballer, pugnacious, prosaic but with a keen eye for the cutting pass to release the Hamlet strike force.
It took a time but having made most of the running, Dulwich deservedly grabbed the lead after 24 minutes as a viperine run from the deadly Frankie Sawyer saw him dart past a brace of defenders on the left , accelerated into the box and drive a sweet low finish low past the Michael Lidbury from 15 yards. No more than the Hamlet deserved but as the rain continued to lash down, it seemed to cool Hamlet's ardour. Stronger sides might have taken advantage but with the 'Leafe's could find little opportunity to break through the Pink and Blue lines until almost half time when James Tedder, perhaps lethargic at lack of action, spilled a regulation free kick, allowing the much vaunted Fabian Batchelor to snatch a shot a goal from 16 yards out. All hands to the pump as a phalanx of Pink and Blue bodies threw themselves in the way of the strike to send the ball spinning away for a corner.
As the clouds split and the sun smiled on the Hill, Dulwich came out for the second half, their ears ringing and their targets set on added to their advantage. If the final 45 minutes was a tale of Hamlet, it was also one of missed chances and misfortune, but with 'Leafe impotent in attack this mattered little in the final tally.
Sawyer was unfortunate not to add to his earlier goal as a close range header beat Lidbury but bounced back out off the far upright before the striker dragged a shot across the face of goal after scampering away down the right flank, leaving left back Frith in vain pursuit.
However just beyond the hour mark it was 2-0 to the Hamlet as Kevin James slipped the ball outside into the path of Clunis, galloping in the area, before let ripping with a steaming drive, the roof of the net ballooning as Lidbury stood powerless to stop the strike.
Still the Hamlet came as 'Leafe defended with all their might, crowding out the likes of Sawyer, Clunis and substitute Omarr Lawson as Dulwich attacked from every angle. Debutant Ofusu-Hene twice worked his way into excellent positions at the back of the box only to twice snatch at the shot, dragging the ball across the face of goal and wide of the back stick whilst Junior Kadi, making a late cameo appearance singed the wrong side of the paintwork as he hammered a last minute free kick a fraction over the crossbar.