A good night out in Dulwich

Tim Allman, Capital Canaries I had a conversation with my boss last Wednesday lunchtime. In his possession were three complementary tickets to the Arsenal vs AZ Alkmaar Champions League match at the Emirates Stadium.

Tim Allman, Capital Canaries

I had a conversation with my boss last Wednesday lunchtime. In his possession were three complementary tickets to the Arsenal vs AZ Alkmaar Champions League match at the Emirates Stadium. “Do you fancy coming along?” was his casual offer as he explained that some clients have let us down at the last minute.

There was absolutely no hesitation in my response at all. “No thanks, I'm going to see the City youth team play at Dulwich Hamlet this evening”. He laughed and was not sure if I was serious or not. He soon found out I was. The lure of watching our youth team at a non-league ground in South London was definitely a more attractive option than joining the prawn sandwich mob in N5.

The ticket was snapped by the next person who was offered it. There was no going back.

In my very small world, Dulwich Hamlet FC are famous for three things. They were Wealdstone's (my “second” team) opposition in the first ever football match I attended sometime in the late 1960's. Thirty five years on they were the losers in a heart-stopping penalty shoot-out which cost them a place in the Ryman Premier League. Wealdstone were once again the opposition. Finally, their most recent export to the football league is Chris Dickson who joined Charlton and is now on loan at Bristol Rovers. He played against City in the 5-1 demolition earlier in the season, and has also featured in previous Charlton vs Norwich matches.

In summary, the name of Dulwich Hamlet FC has some significance to me, but I'm not sure to how many others.

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We arrived an hour before kick-off, paid our �5 admission and squeezed through the narrowest turnstile I've ever seen. I know I could do with losing a few pounds but even I found it a struggle to get in. Perhaps there's an unofficial ban on heavyweights at Dulwich or maybe they had opened the player's turnstile for the game? We wandered through to the main stand and just as we were about to walk up the stairs, out trooped the youngsters, resplendent in their club tracksuits, along with Coach Neil Adams. Resisting the urge to say, “Helloo Neil”, we let them all through before finding the bar.

In the bar we spotted Paul Lambert who was on his phone. By the time we were being served he had finished his call so we offered him a drink, but he declined, as a couple of seconds later Crooky turned up with the coffees. We settled down with our beers and as we were enjoying our pre-match pints, quite a few City fans turned up including several from the Capital Canaries. I thought that there may have been as many as fifty City fans in attendance.

I persuaded Paul Lambert to sign the programme from the Wycombe match, his first game in charge when his picture was on the front cover, and I asked him a couple of questions about how he was settling in at Norwich.

Despite the massive difference in levels between the two teams the first half was fairly even. Dulwich were pacy and direct, and their right winger Nyren Clunis caused City plenty of problems. The Dulwich captain, Ellis Wilson-Joseph also looked a classy player, but a little one-paced, though he may have been carrying a knock in the second half.

City had their best period of the match in the last fifteen minutes of the first half and the first fifteen of the second and during this time should have put the game to bed. After going ahead through David Nwaogu, a number of good chances were squandered and City paid the price with twenty minutes to go and conceded an equaliser which, to be honest looked on its way. Both teams had decent chances win the game in ninety minutes, and also in extra time, but there were no more goals so penalties were required to decide the outcome.

Overall City were the stronger side, and should have won, but Dulwich were a spirited and committed team, and it was not difficult to see why they had already won through three qualifying rounds for the right to host the game.

Jed Steer, who had made one excellent save in the first half, made a brilliant one-handed stop to keep out the first Dulwich penalty and with City scoring their first four spot kicks, the shoot-out ended 4-2 in their favour. The next round is Torquay away. Nice.

The pick of the City players were Sam Habergham, Tyree Clarke and Ryan Oakley.

I didn't regret not going to the Emirates. Nor did I regret paying a fiver to squeeze into the ground or having missing out on some dinner (the burgers there looked very unappealing). I also didn't mind missing a train back to London by ten seconds and having to wait half an hour in the cold for the next one or getting back home at half past twelve on a school night.

Wednesday night was about real football.