YOUTH TEAM CUP FINAL REACTION
Daniel Francis's last gasp equaliser against Godalming was somewhat overshadowed by the monumental achievements of Ian Neal's youth side on Sunday, as they disposed of Millwall Albion to reach the final of the London FA Youth Cup, giving Dulwich a possible chance of success this year.
A mesmerising battle was fought, in the depths of East London at Mile End Stadium, Dulwich taking an early lead through midfielder Ruen de Silva. However, the Albion fought back, striking viciously into the heart of the Hamlet defence and netting twice, to take the score to 1-2. As the final whistle loomed closer and closer, it seemed that the valiant Hamlet youngsters were to miss out on the final, until centre half Olly Bell rescued Dulwich, netting late in the 2nd half, to force the game into extra time.
Tussling like caged beasts, Millwall and Dulwich battled and clashed, each desperate for the honour of a place in the final. But neither could slice the oppositions defence in half, and were forced to the heartbreaking thrill of a penalty shoot out. Thankfully, keeper Danny Baldwinson made some smart saves to deny the Albion, leaving the terrifying task of the winning penalty to defender Ike Nwanokwu; who duly stepped up, with nerves of ice and sent the Hamlet through to the final stage of the competition.
Team: Tom Gothard (Danny Baldwinson), Metin Ramadan, Michael Mullane, Olly Bell, Ike Nwanokwu, Dean Grant (Roger Rutana), Louis Sprosen, Ruen de Silva, Daniel Craig, Tom Pratt, Arnel Maga (Regis Gnaly).
Speaking exclusively to dulwichhamletfc.co.uk, right back Metin Ramadan spoke of his delight in reaching the final.
"Obviously the squad is tremendously proud and excited. To be in the final of any cup competition is a big accomplishment but reaching the final of the London Cup by beating Millwall Albion who had appeared in 3 previous finals in a row is something a little bit more than special. On top of this, I feel the experience gained from this cup run has given the first year player's a platform on which they can build for next season as well as allowing us second year player's a final chance of winning this competition, which I believe the whole squad deserves for the hard work and determination we have all put in."
Of course, the big question now circulating round Champion Hill is whether the Youth side has what it takes to go on and win the Cup.
"I am positive we are capable of winning the London Cup. The hunger and determination that we displayed in order to win the Semi Final from an unfavourable position has convinced me that we have the quality to beat anybody. In addition to this we have already beaten our opposition once this season and therefore it could be argued that we have the upper hand however the pressure that coincides with the magnitude of the game can affect player performance so we must make sure we keep our nerve and end the game victorious."
Overall, it seems that the performance and the result were truly outstanding and despite Millwall's temporary domination of the game and some uncharacteristically direct football from the Hamlet, it seems that Neal's young outfit showed great determination to heave themselves back into the game.
"I felt during the opening twenty minutes we were by far the better team and kept the ball well with some neat passing, however once we had taken the lead our passing game became sloppy and we decided to begin playing long balls which is how our opposition wanted us to play. As a result of this we found ourselves two one down with around 20 minutes to play and thankfully Olly [Bell] scored the goal we needed. Overall I believe the performance wasn't the prettiest we have put in this season, but I think it demonstrated that we have a physical side to our game despite our reputation for playing good football."
For those Dulwich fans that made the trip to Mile End, it seems that a few players in particular hauled the plaudits for a magnificent performance, and the young defender agrees that the win was due to some marvellous efforts by some individuals, as well as the great team effort.
"Regardless of coming on as a substitute for injured Tom Gothard, Danny Baldwinson made two great saves at the end of the game to keep us in the game at 2-1. He then went on to save us a penalty in the shootout also.
Personally I thought I had one of the best games of my season so far, despite the fact I was playing at right back instead of my favoured position at right wing. I felt that I did my defensive job well by not allowing my winger to get around me. Moreover I believe that I helped the side build attacks by putting balls into dangerous areas and finding a team mate with most of my passes.
Regis [Gnaly] came on as a substitute for Arnie [Arnel Maga] in the second half and his pace immediately changed the game, running at players with the ball and delivering the ball into the box successfully on several occasions.
Overall I felt the team did a great job to battle past Millwall Albion and we deserve our place in the final!"
So it looks like if Dulwich can maintain this majestic team effort and show the steel will that forced them through in to the final then Dulwich have may have a chance of completing their conquest of London.