Sports Take the New Year Honours
By Kevin Anderson
Handbags at dusk as Hamlet fall on their sword at the Lane
A thriller at the Lane – with some New Year fireworks thrown in – saw Eastbourne Borough break their losing sequence with a 2-1 victory over Dulwich Hamlet in National South.
A goal in each half, from Joel Rollinson and new loan striker Joe Quigley, proved just enough to claim all three points for the Sports – their first league win since 8th December – but a big, robust Dulwich side chased them all the way to the final whistle, and beyond.
As referee Dean Skipper brought six minutes of stoppage time to a close, some visiting players were fired up enough to exchange more than simply handshakes. Winger Anthony Cook, who had just been cautioned for a rash challenge, appeared to be in the thick of altercations, while (from the distant viewpoint of the press benches) goalkeeper Preston Edwards seemed to be shown a red card by Mr Skipper – subsequently reported as a yellow. Confrontations continued into the tunnel, but Jamie Howell was diplomatic with his comments later.
“It took us by surprise, to be honest. It had been a really close contest, and maybe one or two feelings rose a little bit high. My players did not initiate anything, and I think our conscience is clear. By the time we all got in the clubhouse, it was all perfectly civil again.”
But this New Year’s Afternoon should not be remembered for the handbags at dusk. A tight and even contest had the 700-plus spectators gripped. Never more than a single goal in front, Borough had chances to put distance between them and Hamlet, but the South London visitors clung on and were still launching their aerial bombardments until the end.
Howell started with both of his new signings, and fittingly both played crucial roles. Impressive striker Joe Quigley, in from Bromley, clinched the second-half winner, while new keeper Sam Howes fully earned his Man of the Match accolade. And it was a third loan player, the lively Joel Rollison, who had given Borough a 28th minute lead.
In front of a cheerful holiday crowd, with a good number of Dulwich visitors – and even one or two Pier Pressure scarves visible – the Sports began brightly. Twice, right-wing moves released Rollinson behind the full-back, but his crosses were cleared, and on the opposite flank Kristian Campbell advanced to hit a 25-yard range-finder wide of the left post. Kristian, who with Tobi forms possibly the best full-back duo in the division – and certainly the most exciting – has done everything this season but score. It will happen...
Hamlet responded with the quick and dangerous Nyren Clunis skipping across the face of the Borough defence, before striking a low shot across goal. Then the afternoon’s first corner fell to Dulwich, but Harry Ransom headed it away.
Joe Quigley was already winning headers – a lost art amongst Eastbourne strikers this season – and showing equal skill with the ball at his feet, swerving past three opponents but shooting too high. Joe is a graduate of AFC Bournemouth, an Ireland U-21 international, and at 22 a man who surely has a great future.
On 27 minutes, the match itself took a significant swerve. First, Jason Banton picked Tom Gardiner’s pocket and zoomed in on goal, but Sam Howes was out to spread himself for a terrific save. And then within seconds Borough were ahead. A crisp exchange of passes opened up the Hamlet defence and Kane Wills’ inch-perfect cutback from the byline was drilled in from ten yards by an exuberant Rollinson.
Now it was all Eastbourne, and it might literally have been three or four. Mr Skipper turned down a credible penalty claim with Gardiner pulled down at a corner. Then Charlie Walker – who put in a keen and vigorous shift all afternoon – played a classic one-two with Rollison but scorched his first-time shot inches over the crossbar. And, with Dulwich ripped apart like Christmas wrapping paper, Wills was skilfully played in by Quigley and Adebayo-Rowling, but his strike veered just wide of the near post.
Hamlet should have been dead and buried – but instead, a minute before half-time, they poached an equaliser. A cross from the left was headed high but not very far, and with defenders wrong-footed it fell to Dipo Akinyemi, popping the ball in from ten yards.
Time to start again, then. Hamlet were the first to threaten after the break, Howes saving smartly from Clunis at his front post. The Sports responded with a rampant Rollinson run, rewarded only with a corner, and a couple of Dean Cox crosses which Dulwich scrambled away out of their crowded penalty area.
The visitors broke out only fitfully, with Gardiner – redeeming himself after a nightmare afternoon at Woking – producing one immaculate tackle on a breaking Akinyemi. But Borough were full of purpose and in no mood to throw away yet more National South points. On 57 minutes, Tobi conjured an astonishing run, searing down the right touchline and then conjuring the perfect cross, met by Quigley’s confident header for 2-1. A goal worthy of winning any game.
Holding a lead has sometimes been beyond Borough, and half an hour is a long time in football. It was Hamlet’s turn to press, but for once the Sports did not weaken. With three central target men, the visitors went direct, but they were playing in straight lines and the home defence handled them pretty well; but there were some nervy moments.
Another goal-saving tackle by Gardiner denied Clunis, before Nathan Ferguson headed over from a corner and Howes confidently saved a dipper-and-swerver from Cook. The minutes were ebbing away and Hamlet, with hardly a player under six feet tall, still hammered forward to the One Direction soundtrack.
As the big red clock ticked over to 90 minutes, the visitors won a free-kick, very central and just 22 yards out. Up stepped star man Ashley Carew – the man who had broken the deadlock on Boxing Day – and fired a torpedo of a strike at the bottom right corner. But Howes, hero of the hour, flung himself full length to beat it away.
Five minutes of added time turned into almost seven, as Hamlet grew visibly more frustrated, and Anthony Cook was fortunate to escape with only a yellow for an awful midfield lunge. It should have been the last action of the afternoon, but as Mr Skipper’s final whistle blew, tempers flared and the South Londoners, so rightly admired for their ethos of community action and their good relationships, were poorly served, perhaps, by some of their players. The Sports – far more sinned against than sinning – left the field to the acclaim of a home crowd who, in the final weeks of 2018, had grown all too used to disappointment. If 2019 brings more performances like this, they will be more than happy.
Borough: Howes; Adebayo-Rowling, Gardiner, Ransom, Campbell; Rollinson (Briggs 76), Wills, Torres, Cox (Liddle 83) Walker (Dawes 79), Quigley. Unused subs: Blackmore, Earl.
Referee: Dean Skipper Att: 702
Borough MoM: Sam Howes – a class debut in goal
With acknowledgement to the Hamlet supporter whose very fine photo we have borrowed from the Dulwich forum...