NEVER TOO LATE
Eastbourne Town 1 Dulwich Hamlet 3
Ryman Isthmian League Division One South
Hamlet bounced back from their winless run of late with a final five full of fight to do for a dogged Eastbourne Town side who, having been given the run-around in Dulwich dominated first 45, sprung back into life in an effervescent second half. A poacher's goal from Frankie Sawyer had given the men in Pink and Blue the lead after nearly half an hour of hard graft and handsome football, no more than they deserved but not enough to still the nerves of the raucous travelling faithful. Nerves justified as Town battered down the doors of the Hamlet after the break, smashing through thanks to persistence and the precision of Scott Kirkwood in front of goal. Rallied by this the hosts put Dulwich under constant pressure, forcing them out of their stride with unbridled tackling and harrying but failing to take the chances that fell their way. Dulwich made them pay for the squandering as a bullet header from Kalvin Morath-Gibbs followed by some fancy footwork and fearsome finishing from André Costa at the death gave the travellers all three points.
After the lush carpet of the Casuals last week, it was back to basics on a Saffrons park, left tufted and lumped after the ravages of the weather. Swanky soccer would be at a premium as the ruts and ridges did their dirty work. Yet Dulwich still found the opportunity to swing the ball around. An early corner forced gave Lewis Gonsalves the opportunity to outleap Nathan Crabb at the back of the box only to direct his header wide of the back stick.
Out on the left Costa was giving former Hamlet man, Steve May, a torrid time regularly cutting in from the flanks to crave holes through the home defence. Dancing inside and zipping off May, with a blistering turn of pace the wingman smacked an effort into the side netting.
Corners were forced with regularity, Ishmail Kamara bludgeoned his way past a stuttering defence to spank a header just beyond the back post. A slipped pass from Sanchez Ming, drifting in from the margins sent Sawyer scampering in on goal but his shot into the body of 'keeper Kieron Thorp failed to provide the breakthrough.
On 27 minutes, Dulwich finally found a way through to goal. From 25 yards out Kamara cracked a direct free kick, the ball clouting the crossbar and the recoil latched upon by Costa whose drive was smartly saved by Thorp. However the ball dropped kindly for Sawyer and from six yards out he swooped to slam the ball home.
Dulwich continued to heap on the pressure, Sawyer a whisker away from his and the Hamlet's second late in the half as he flicked a close range header just over the bar. Half time seemed to stultify the Hamlet onslaught as if the half time tea had been switched for Horlicks. By contrast, the Town were a team transformed, lively where they had been lethargic, belligerent where they had been blasé. Dulwich tried to play their way out of trouble but six minutes after the restart, they were made to pay as all the pretty patterns counted for naught under an Eastbourne press. Peter Adeniyi was robbed of the ball in the Hamlet half, Eastbourne pushing the boost button and hammering against the Hamlet back door. Phil Wilson kept the ball out with a spectacular save at full stretch but the Town kept plugging away and eventually the ball was worked inside to midfield slugger Scott Kirkwood who found the net with a shipshape shot from in front of goal.
The Town were firing on all cylinders now, Hamlet hassled and harried forced by necessity to swap the artistic for the agricultural. Things looked ominous as opportunities came and went for the hosts, Kirkwood and Crabb both throwing away openings when well placed. Elsewhere scores filtered through from Hamlet's promotion rivals, table toppers Bognor were ahead, so too form team Folkestone. Only moneybags Whitehawk trailed. In ten minutes all that would turned on its head.
A ruthless attacking change for the Hamlet as
centre half Francis Duku made way for Kevin James, the Hamlet
inspired to find their feet once more in the game, battling back
against truculent opposition. Five minutes remained on the clock
when Dulwich earned a corner, the ball lashed into the keeper's No
Man's Land on the brink of six-yard box. Bulldozing through the
yellow swarm to meet the delivery was Morath-Gibbs a hard-hitting
header giving Thorp not a prayer as the ball blazed past him into
the net. 60 seconds left of normal time and Costa iced the cake,
zipping into a pass, mesmerizing a brace of covering defenders with
some deft footwork before a low whiplash
shot punished the Town for the final time.