Cruel late defeat at Walton
Look not back on this contest save but to inspire not to despair. A point claimed but then victory pursued and ultimately a dagger through the heart as the Swans claim triumph late on an chill, autumnal eve as a goal executed with the swift stroke of the master, or perhaps laced with luck, only the hour of the night Adam Moriarty will know for sure. Ah Moriarty, the Napoleon of Crime, nemesis to Sherlock Holmes, and purloiner of the points to end Dulwich's long run of invincibility but amidst the gloom of Stompond Lane and the gloom of defeat, Hamlet's dejected players will find the strength to start again.
One might have been forgiven for a swift call to the old turf accountant for a hefty wager on a scoreless night. Dulwich as frugal as Harpagon grudgingly giving away goal, the Swans ferociously protecting their nest – in the League only the Nuts'n'Bolts of Ashford Kent had cracked the locks of their miserly defence more than once in a game. Such then was the surprise that Dulwich began carving through the home defence from the early exchanges with the lightning pace of Sebastian Schoburgh slashing through in the 7th minute only to hammer a drive wide of the exposed Stuart Searle's left hand post as he let rip from the edge of the penalty area. Showing a lightness of touch on the ball soon after Shawn Beveney danced away from a crowd of Swans to set up Benson Paka who in turn fed Schoburgh overlapping down the right. A change of gear swept him past an ineffectual challenge but his cross from tight to the goalline smacked into the face of Aaron Nowacki and after a moment's worry the ball was hoofed to safety.
Little in the way of riposte from the hosts, challenging in the league but not on the pitch. Smothered by a host of defenders Billy Chattaway won a free kick 25 yards out, though Beveney's strike had the power the wall failed to buckle. Half a half had almost elapsed before the Swans would the ruffle the feathers of the Hamlet rearguard as Tommo Carter machine-gunned in a freekick, a Dulwich header repelled the first thrust, but Walton piled forward in the pursuit of the ball only to leave themselves short of number behind as a long clearance relived the pressure. That pressure was suddenly upon the shoulder of Searle as Ryan Bernard's back-pass proved too hot to handle for the Swans' custodian, the ball snaffled from his feet by a rampaging Beveney. With Meshach Nugent, replacing Scott Edgar in attack, waiting in the middle to deliver the killer flourish, Beveney, having rounded the struggling, lingered too long as he seemed to ponder whether to stroke the ball inside the near post from the acutest of angles or to feed his teammate. The latter option came too late as his pull back was intercepted by Bernard, galloping back to larrup the ball behind for a corner. A magic twist on Chattaway's delivery sent the corner curling low towards the near post but Will Jenkins on sentry duty there did his job.
The pedantic refereeing that seems to blight the Hamlet's venture into the milds of suburbia bared its polished teeth when a clumsy, innocuous challenge from Sol Patterson-Bohner saw the first flourish of yellow amid the falling golden leaves. It would not be the last.
Nugent's, fast and powerful down the left, had defenders gasping for air as he left them in his wake but as he cut the ball back to waiting colleagues, a flailing foot stretched out, a defender's touch enough to turn the ball back to a relieved Searle. The lacklustre Swans attack, muzzled by Hamlet's defensive Rottweiler's, were gifted a glimmer of light as the half hour drew near, winger Carter overlooked in space on the left whistled in a peach of cross, Dan Nwanze unable to do the necessary with a header before Jenkins was hassled off the ball at the ball by Ricky Dobson at the expense of a corner. As the guided missile failed, the big bombers came in. Searle launched a clearance up field; Rob George nodded on with the master goalpoacher, Phil Ruggles, hotfooting in a futile quest to reach the ball before Sheikh Ceesay. Williams'' bombing raid five minutes before the break was likewise fruitless but at least this time a red-shirt reached the ball first, Jenkins flicking a close range header harmlessly into the side netting as Ceesay watched impassively. Having held the upper hand for the bulk of the first 45 minutes Dulwich were almost undone at the death as a rapid counter saw George charge pell-mell from behind his own lines deep into Hamlet territory slipping a pass down the throat of Dulwich defence as Ruggles galloped on. Ceesay called but Steve May had other ideas; cool as chilled snow, sweeping the ball from the foot of Ruggles before calmly clearing the ball to safety.
Parity at the break but portentous omens of a Walton revival could be read in that late home flourish. Harsh words must have spouted from the lips of Les Cleevely at the half for Walton seemed re-imbued with self-confidence. Peppering the Hamlet goal in the early exchanges, the Hamlet were shaken not stirred, even when the man in black reached for the card twice more in the opening five minutes to book both May and Jermaine Hinds for purported dissent, offending the sensibilities of suburbia with their raised voice presumably. Moriarty hammered in a shot that was blocked into the path of Jenkins, the ball catching under his feet when the goal loomed. A deep delivery to the back post from Moriarty's freekick was sent zipping over the cross by Nowacki, the fullback flinging himself courageously at the ball to connect a flying header at the back of the box. The pressure was mounting, but for once fate had a twinkling in her eye and a kindly glance for the Hamlet. It would not last. Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity; there never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity – Moriarty wheedling his way his way through the Pink and Blue swarm. A ball tapped into the six yard box where his henchmen waited to pounce, George stabbed the ball goalwards, Ceesay swiftly down to turn the point blank effort against the box but with Ruggles in waiting a goal seemed inevitable but none had reckoned on the valiant Ceesay, who amidst the muck and bullets, smothered the ball on his goalline as awestruck applause rippled around the running track.
A quarter hour under the cosh was at last broken as the siege was lifted and Dulwich threatened once more. A freekick broke to Beveney standing in the D but his snatched at his stabbed strike on the turn and Searle was little troubled by the save. Walton responded with a creamer of drive from big Dan Nwanze, fully 30 yards from goal, but like his experienced counterpart young Ceesay was ready and pouched the ball. Almost a hero then a villain for Nugent, first a scuffed effort from Chattaway's delivery had Searle stretching to snuff out then an overzealous challenge landed his name in the book.
Like London buses no sooner had a Hamlet chance manifested itself than another appeared on the horizon. Walton's had waned away to that of the Surrey County Bus Company, once a day, with the dawn special on market days. Released left Chattaway slipped the ball inside to the goal-focused Paka, his sizzling low drive too hot for the hands of Searle, the ball slithering through his seared fingers but cannoning back off the inside of the post, bouncing across the face of goal but first to it was a red-clad shape, the ball lashed to safety for a corner. Territory belonged to the hosts, chances to the Hamlet. Next up was Beveney, scampering down the right, bulleting in another screamer that left Searle for dead but fizzed wide of the top far corner of the next by a fraction. Patterson-Bohner soon followed but his 40 yard strike was from the Johnny Wilkinson School of finishing.
Five minutes from time, Dulwich signalled their intentions to go for victory as Henry Darko made a welcome return from injury. Hamlet pushed forward in search of that elusive winner, a corner deep in stoppage time, had the Hamlet pummelling the Swans goal but then the ball was lost. A hurried clearance and the ball was back in the possession of Dulwich. Lost again, not once but twice and suddenly Dulwich were backpedalling, struggling to regain ground. A grateful Glenn Boosey latched on the loose ball in the middle of the park, fed the ubiquitous Moriarty in full flow down the left. What happened next is a matter of conjecture. Some might say a stroke of genius, a well pitched chip out of the rough that left Ceesay stranded as the ball looped and curled over his head, dropping just below the crossbar behind him. Others less charitable might have seen a shank, a cross aimed for Boosey who'd continued his run to the back post. It mattered not a jot, nor did the yellow card brandished at Moriarty as he and his colleagues piled into the crowd to celebrate. If the assassin's dagger had pained Hamlet, a final twist of the handle left Hamlet was ten men as Nugent flung himself after the ball, the assassin now the victim as Moriarty crumpled under the challenge. A flurry of red shirts around the prostrate was followed by a flurry of red as Nugent was sent for a slightly early bath but not by much.