COMING TODAY, THE TERRORS
Please read the disclaimer. Past performance is no guarantee to future results but Champion Hill will be on goal alert this evening as the Terrors come to town, Hamlet's fierce rivals Tooting and Mitcham itching to claim a victory that, along with reinforcing their own promotion pretences, would also deal a deadly blow to that of their hosts for this evening's entertainment.
This is the first league meeting of the season for the two protagonists, the first attempt to play the game on New Year's Day, a victim of angry elemental forces that rained down upon the Champion Hill sward, forcing that day's match referee into an early postponement. However the two sides had crossed swords twice before in the FA Trophy when back in early October, goals rained down like confetti, first at Imperial Fields then in a remarkable 13 goal thriller at the Hill. Inseparable in the first meeting that saw Dulwich lead twice through Daniel Jones, Paul Vines cancelling that one out within 10 minutes, then a Chris Dickson penalty, before Matt York tucked away the contest's second spot-kick 9 minutes from time, the two sides were equally well-matched in a rematch that will live long in the memory. Barely two minutes gone before Vines put the Terrors ahead. 13 minutes Phil Williams equalises but another York penalty sends Tooting in ahead. Five minutes of the second half, Dickson dispatches penalty number 2, but a minute later Hamlet drift off and Jamie Findlay restores the visitors' lead, one that is doubled when former Dulwich striker Simon Mitchell claims the fourth. A Sol Pinnock double in the space of 8 minutes restores parity. A second yellow for the incendiaries Allan McLeod reduced Tooting to ten but with 3 minutes to go York nodded in a free kick to put the visitors ahead once more, only for Daniel Jones to pop up in the final minute of normal time to level things at 5-5. Into extra time and Jones put the Hamlet ahead for the very first time only for a Vines rocket shot to level things once more. With defensive strategies torn up and drifting away on the wind, both sides went hell for leather for the winner but that honour fell to Henry Darko, who spared the agony of penalties tucking away the night's THIRTEENTH goal and match winner with just three minutes remaining.
That defensively-challenged encounter proved a catalyst in the Hamlet's season, a run of four league victories pushing them into the forefront of the promotion hunt, whilst Premier Division AFC Wimbledon were comfortably beaten on their own turf despite Dulwich giving them a 2 goal head start. Meanwhile Tooting were languishing in the lower reaches of the Division, unable to buy a goal in league, but chasing silverware left, right and centre. Come the New Year and all that started to change, though not before a single goal defeat at Hasting United's Pilot Field. Seven straight league victories powered them to the fringes of the play-offs before a run of three successive draws against Kentish opposition put the brakes on their charge up the table. At the same time they clinched a place in the London Senior Cup Final where they will take on Premier Division Bromley at Imperial Fields, whilst enjoying victories over first Crystal Palace and then Ash United to set up a Surrey Senior Cup semi-final clash at home to Merstham. Success creates its own problems though as the Terrors face late season congestion with postponed league games against Walton Casuals (Home) and Corinthian-Casuals (Away) to be rescheduled.
Though the ever-dangerous Paul Vines leads the scoring charts with a healthy return of a dozen goals from 24 league games, perhaps the greatest contribution to the Terrors post-2006 revival has been the arrival of goals from unexpected sources in particular midfielder Vernon Francis who has contributed seven goals since the turn of the year. Add to that a strong defence, rarely breached more than once, marshalled by Danny Carroll making perhaps his final visit to Champion Hill before he retires at this season's end and boasting a solid 'keeper in the shape of Dave King. Both sides expect to be at full strength with no injury worries or suspensions though perhaps Tooting will be relieved not to be facing the fire of Chris Dickson following his dream move to the Valley yesterday. Kick-off this evening is 7:45 pm, goals not guaranteed but entertainment is!