BY STEFAN FROST
Dulwich Hamlet suffered their first National League South defeat since August yesterday, a shock 2-1 reverse at the hands of rock bottom Billericay Town.
A record attendance of 3,334 fans flooded to Champion Hill for the fixture which began with a minute’s applause before kick-off to commemorate the passing of club legend Duncan Chapman.
Having been the former Dulwich Hamlet Supporters’ Trust chairman and sitting club director of the South London club, Chapman was a renowned figure beloved by fans and players alike.
News that Chapman had lost his battle with cancer broke in midweek.
Darren McQueen started sharply, skipping past Billericay’s pairing down the left before delivering a lofted cross to the back post. The ball was met by Jordan Higgs, whose powerful headed effort forced an acrobatic save from Bailey Vose.
Minutes later Giovanni McGregor played a delicate ball through to McQueen, who used his strength to break free from the grasp of defender Michael Chambers before firing the ball at Vose’s feet.
This spell of early dominance dissipated once Billericay began to settle and control the movement of the ball. The away side made the most of this turn after a wayward lofted ball towards Dulwich’s goal was poorly dealt with by Jazzi Barnum-Bobb, as he tried to head the ball back to goalkeeper Charlie Grainger. Anderson Pinto pounced on the light header and steered the ball around Grainger into the bottom right corner.
Dulwich’s Community Lead Rob Hyneman acknowledged that the opener played a huge part in the trajectory of the match.
“I think the first goal probably turned the game,” he said. “It was a fantastic finish should he [Jazzi Barnum-Bobb] have headed it back?”
Defensive errors continued to plague the back four as miscommunications almost led to Kweku Lucan doubling the visitor’s lead. Lucan’s shot was straight at Grainger but he quickly made amends after receiving a through ball from Rowan Liburd. Finding himself in space, Lucan rolled the ball forwards before striking it into the right corner of the net to double his side’s lead.
When asked whether the passing of Chapman played into Gavin Rose’s side falling to an early two goal deficit, Hyneman said: “Duncan was a huge part of this club so I can’t say no to that but they are professionals on the pitch.
“They were match ready and focused on the task in front of them but you can’t underestimate the impact which Duncan had on this club.”
Darren Foxley fumbling a throw-in served as the high point for many home fans heading into the break, with many dubbing the mishap ‘Spillericay’.
After being subbed on at the end of the half, Jordan Green impressed down the right wing, delivering an early cross aimed at Danny Mills whose headed effort bounced off the bar. Minutes later Green skipped past Foxley and laid the ball off to McQueen, who calmly slotted the ball past the outstretched hands of Vose.
With the score at 2-1 in favour of the visitors, Dulwich continued to pressurise the opposition goal. Mills had numerous chances to score, coming close when his header from a corner was cleared off the line. Barnum-Bobb then set up Mills with the clock edging towards 90 minutes. Mills’ effort was thwarted by Chambers and Fowley who managed to steer the ball wide of the left post.
An equaliser evaded Dulwich as the final scoreline left the home side rueing defensive errors and missed chances.
Hyneman remained positive in spite of this: “We can take huge positives from the match. This was a non-league match with over 3,000 fans here, filled with young children and family. Yes of course the result is important, but you have to look around the ground and what we’re doing in getting our local community down to our games.
“The players gave it a decent crack today, it didn’t go our way but there are some really exciting times ahead for this team.”
The loss means that Dulwich drop down five spots in the table to 10th, but they still have games in hand and will be looking to make up the difference in their upcoming league match against Braintree Town next Saturday.
PICTURES: KEITH GILLARD
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