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Dulwich Hamlet 1
James (10')
1 Kingstonian
Sweeney (45')

K’s Dul the Hamlet edge

Kingstonian secured second place in the league and home advantage in the playoffs with a 1-1 draw at Dulwich Hamlet.

In an afternoon where supporters spent as much time looking at their phones figuring out positional permutations, as they did looking at pitch, Ks’ ecstasy contrasted with the hosts’ disappointment as Dulwich fell one goal short of the playoff places.

It was a difficult start to the afternoon for Alan Dowson’s side. Bruce Hogg took a knock while committing a foul that led to a reshuffle as Josh Casey dropped back into the left-back position and the early change seemed to upset Ks rhythm as Hamlet’s pace and energy put them on the front foot. It took just ten minutes for Dulwich to take the lead, Kevin James stepped inside the flu-ridden Sam Page and fired a bouncing ball low into the bottom corner from the edge of the area to send the majority of the 1400-strong crowd wild.

For the next few minutes it looked likely that Hamlet would extend their lead, but as the game went on Kingstonian settled and grew into the contest. Chances were at a premium for the rest of the half, Andre McCollin’s drive from distance flew wide and a Daniel Sweeney effort was palmed away by Wilson in the host’s goal. However, just before half time Ks were on level terms. The disruption and presence that Ryan Moss has brought to the side all season was crucial again as he knocked down a ball into the path of Sweeney who sweetly volleyed home from 20 yards.

The second half was a much nervier affair. With an incredible East Thurrock comeback against Bognor Regis, Kingstonian knew that a draw would see them finish runners-up, while Dulwich were heading out of the top five thanks to Hornchurch and Maidstone winning. As such Ks sat back and invited the hosts onto them and as the minutes ticked by Kingstonian got deeper and deeper. Matt Drage and Sam Page were imperious in the air as Dulwich’s famous ‘beautiful game’ was dragged down to long balls and crosses in the desperate hunt for a goal.

The pressure was all Dulwich’s but aside from some corners and headers being dragged narrowly wide, Kingstonian’s backline was never truly opened up. In fact the best chance fell to Sam Akinde off the Ks’ bench, but he failed to control the ball when sent clear by Charlie Knight as the Ks’ faithful pleaded for him to take it into the corner deep in injury time.

Lowestoft’s late goal meant that a Dulwich winner would see Kingstonian fall to fourth and a long midweek trip to Suffolk but the final whistle brought sweet relief and some muted celebrations. The first part of the job has been done, the real work starts at Kingsmeadow against Hornchurch on Wednesday. On current form, as Ron Saunders said as his Villa team faced a tricky run-in to secure the title, ‘Do you want to bet against us?’

Report: Jamie Cutteridge

Published Wednesday 12th September 2018