BY JACK BURGESS
George Porter’s late winner earned Dulwich Hamlet a massive three points in their fight for survival in National League South against play-off chasers Havant & Waterlooville.
Hamlet went into the game on the back of Monday’s thumping defeat at play-off chasing Chelmsford City.
With the game passing a late pitch inspection, it was played in difficult conditions at Champion Hill in front of almost 2,500 fans.
Dulwich had a penalty appeal within the first 45 seconds when goalkeeper Danny Grainger’s long ball over the top of the Hawks defence saw forward Josh Fawole, who made his full debut, go down after contact from centre-back Joash Nembhard. But the referee deemed it not to be a foul.
After the early Dulwich penalty shout Havant & Waterlooville took control of the game and forced impressive saves from Grainger, with the pick of the bunch coming after a header from Paul Rooney following a teasing cross from right-back Josh Passley.
The game turned on its head in the 17th minute when 21-year-old left-back Joe Newton was sent off for a second yellow card after he caught Sanchez Ming with a late challenge just inside the Havant half.
The red card gave Hamlet added impetus in their pursuit of the opener and they dominated until the break with 19-year-old Chelsea loanee Teddy Sharman-Lowe impressing between the posts for Havant, making a number of fine saves following relentless Dulwich pressure.
Dulwich’s first big opening came on 44 minutes. Ming played through top-scorer Danny Mills, who was in one-on-one with the goalkeeper, but Passley made an outstanding recovery tackle just as he was about to pull the trigger with the ball then falling to Porter, who hit wide of the goal after an effort on his weaker left foot.
Just before the end of the half Havant had a rare foray into the Dulwich half, which saw Rooney’s deflected shot send Grainger scrambling and producing a fine save to keep the scores level.
In what was almost the final kick of the half, Mills was again denied after he controlled a long ball played over the Hawks defence before lobbing Sharman-Lowe, only for Passley to clear off the line.
It was a scrappy start to the second half as Dulwich failed to initially utilise their one-man advantage.
Their inability to impose any control on the early stages of the second half resulted in Havant taking the lead through forward Mo Faal just shy of the hour mark. The goal came directly from a Dulwich corner, which was cleared, with substitute Ethan Burnett latching on to the ball and running into a defenceless Dulwich half before squaring the ball to Faal , who slotted home into an empty net to give the 10-men visitors an unexpected lead.
The goal took Faal’s season tally to 17 goals and was his 100th goal of his career.
While Hamlet pushed for an equaliser, they were struggling to break down a rigid Havant defence with Malta international defender Sam Magrie, who was once a room-mate at England U18 level with Raheem Sterling, particularly standing out.
Hamlet finally got an equaliser on 84 minutes. Sharman-Lowe emerged from his penalty area to try and clear a speculative Dulwich long ball, only to fire the ball into the direction of substitute Johl Powell, who composed himself to finish from 35 yards out.
Dulwich continued to pile on the pressure in the closing stages and almost got the winner on 86 minutes after Joe Felix’s ball into the box wasn’t cleared, with the ball eventually falling to Porter, whose shot hit the post from close range.
After resolutely withstanding a wave of Dulwich attacks, Havant’s defence finally caved in. In the first minute of stoppage time, a long ball into the box caused a goalmouth scramble, with the ball again falling to Porter, who made no mistake this time.
Dulwich boss Hakan Hayrettin said: “It’s been a week since I’ve been here, we’ve had three games and I haven’t had a lot of time to work with the team. We’ve tried to instil a little bit of discipline, desire and passion.
“I’ve tried to tell the boys that when you’ve got 3,000 supporters here, it’s a massive privilege and we’ve got to just roll our sleeves up, fight as hard as we can and the fight’s not over.”
Despite a massive victory, Hayrettin refused to get carried away with the win.
He said: ”There’s still a lot of work to do, we know that and everybody knows that. But my job is to keep them on their toes and keep pushing”.
Asked how well he feels his players have bought into his methods, the newly-appointed boss has been impressed.
“Brilliant,” he said. “It’s going to take time. You’re going to ruffle a few feathers. You’re going to get some plusses and some negatives. You’ll upset a few. But it’s not personal.”
Dulwich showed their support for international women’s day and the Her Game Too initiative by wearing a special one-off shirt with #HerGameToo appearing on the shirt, demonstrating the clubs support for equality.
Hamlet travel to in-form Bath City on Tuesday evening.
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