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Deflated In Dulwich

Tuesday 2nd September 2014

—Dulwich Hamlet 2 Margate FC 1—

Recently, some friends and I were discussing the possible outcome of the next two games (against Leiston and Dulwich Hamlet) and the overwhelming feeling was that we would be happy with four points from these two games.

Leiston proved to be a very hard nut to crack, with their goalkeeper and defence in particular putting in superb performances, although I felt Margate were worth at least a draw – which was gained courtesy of a late equaliser from talismanic midfielder Charlie Allen.

The Gate faithful, who had once again turned up in their droves (another 700+ attendance, many wearing costume beards in honour of prolific striker Ryan Moss – these were kindly purchased by Margate Youth Secretary Beth Marshall) recognised that the team had put in a superb performance, which was reflected as they applauded the players from the pitch.

Fear The Beard! (All credit to Beth Marshall for the photo)

Fear The Beard! (All credit to Beth Marshall for the photo)

It was superb to hear the Choir in full voice, and there was an excellent atmosphere at Hartsdown Park, one which I hope can be continued at future games – I genuinely feel it does make a big difference.

There was another reason to feel proud of the Margate supporters last Saturday, and it really showed the ‘friendly family club’ image that makes me proud to be a Margate fan.

At our home game against Billericay, a young girl unfortunately was hit by a football, following a clearance by an opposition defender – after concerned enquiries regarding her wellbeing on Facebook, the girl’s mother was pleased to say that her daughter (Abby) was fine, and already looking forward to the next Margate game!

A whip-round last Saturday to get Abby a Margate home shirt was promptly organised, with many fans chipping in – coach Simon Pridmore offered to get the shirt signed by the squad too, which really went down well – Abby’s mother referred to Margate fans as ‘true stars’, and I really would have to echo her sentiments there!

Our point gained against Leiston kept us top of the League by a point, although this was soon relinquished following a difficult away trip to Dulwich Hamlet on Tuesday night.

Meeting up with Dan Boyle beforehand was a pleasure – and the young man was in fine spirits as he recounted the Interseptors gig he’d attended at the Britannia recently – to say he enjoyed it was an understatement!

Someone's back on form!

Someone’s back on form!

I must confess to feeling nervous before our journey to South London – although the Dulwich fans are a great bunch, the memory of losing to them three times last season still weighed heavily on my mind – I was definitely hoping we could break the hoodoo!

As Dan & I met Wendy at Whitstable station, before she picked up Finney (much to Dan’s delight!) we ended up talking about my birthday that had just passed – it really was a brilliant night, and Pridders’ feeding Dan ice-cream in the time honoured plane fashion will live long in the memory!

*Insert plane noises here*

*Insert plane noises here*

On our way through Whitstable, in which the always delightful and mild-mannered Wendy didn’t have a single attack of road rage at all, we were soon cruising down the motorway to meet Chris & David.

Despite Wendy offering to share the back seat with me and Dan (or a rose between two thorns, as she kindly put it) David was a true gentleman, and offered her the front seat with Chris.

The journey up to South London was mainly spent discussing our hopes for the game ahead, not to mention that the cabbage patch at Aveley would work against Maidstone, as they played Hornchurch – but not even the crop circles at the Mill Field could stop the fellow Kent side winning 2-0.

On arrival at Champion Hill, after Chris had negotiated Sainsbury’s car park, both Wendy and I were lucky enough to get in as concessions – I knew my student card would be good for something!

I indulged in my usual pre-match geekery and took some pictures of the ground, a couple of which are included below –

Champion Hill - home of Dulwich Hamlet

Champion Hill – home of Dulwich Hamlet

Dulwich Hamlet - Main Stand

Dulwich Hamlet – Main Stand

All this before I was greeted by a friendly rugby tackle by Stu, not to mention catching up with the familiar faces of the Gate faithful – it was great to see Jake and Mark there in particular, as they led the singing in the second half. They were also joined by Ivesy, Sarah & Ivesy’s new beachball, which just so happens to have a rather artistic picture of Mickey Mouse on it!

Before kick-off, I had to apologise to Wendy, as it turned out that Inigo Echepare, Dulwich’s Spanish keeper, wasn’t playing – he was replaced by the friendly blonde chunk Phil Wilson – he still claims he’s 30!

As the game kicked off, Margate were playing some beautiful football, pinging the ball about almost at will, and showing why so many people have backed them to win this League – a good start was made even better, as Lewis Taylor curled a sublime effort past the despairing dive of Wilson – we even had time for a quick Poznan!

It must be said that Dulwich grew into the game, as time went on – our cause wasn’t halped by Lewis Taylor having to depart the field due to a facial injury – I felt this disrupted the rhythm of the team, somewhat.

Worse was to follow, as a hot-dog deprived Ivesy vented his frustration by tipping my rather stylish cap (ahem) onto the pitch – cue the tweet below!

As the half time whistle blew, Dulwich custodian Phil Wilson kindly handed me back my cap, as Dan and myself made our way to the other end of the pitch, indulging in some random Inbetweeners impressions on our way – well hey, it kept us entertained, anyway!

(Just to clear up any misunderstandings, we didn't jump on any cars, unfortunately)

(Just to clear up any misunderstandings, we didn’t jump on any cars, unfortunately)

In truth, the second half seemed to go by with a bit of a blur – although this might still be the heartbreak talking, and I have no doubt that I’ll be re-telling this story on a therapists couch, in the distant future.

"You see, we were 1-0 up, and then..."

“You see, we were 1-0 up, and then…”

Dulwich continued where they’d left off in the first half, and snatched a deserved equaliser, when their player ghosted past a static Gate defence, who were left appealing for an offside flag that never came, and slotted the ball calmly past Nikki Bull.

Many of the Gate faithful weren’t impressed with the referee’s performance, and let him know in no uncertain terms – this later led to me having a rather odd dream that night about screaming at the referee for awarding Dulwich goal after goal for no reason at all, and I believe we were 705 goals down while Mark Sandwell and myself discussed these events while sitting on a bridge, in the middle of the pitch.

But I digress.

Stu and I were both praying for the final whistle, when in slow motion, this happened;

* A long, somewhat hopeful clearance upfield*

*An otherwise solid Charlie Wassmer letting the ball bounce, before a weak header back to Nikki Bull allowed the Dulwich striker to nip in*

*The Dulwich fans roar of delight, as their striker finished calmly*

*Margate having just enough time to kick off, before the ref blew his whistle – we had lost with the last kick of the game*

As the Dulwich players celebrated a touch too emphatically for my taste, especially as we’ve only just reached September (Although this might be me being a tad bitter!) I have vague memories of shuffling to the exit, passing our beaming ex-player Dean McDonald, and wishing him and a couple of Dulwich fans the best for the season, before I passed a pink & blue blur which made up ‘The Rabble’ (Dulwich’s most fanatical supporters)

Reality hit when we reached the sanctuary of Chris’ car, and the normally cheerful & chirpy occupants were utterly deflated – the silence was occasionally broken by a mournful sigh from one of us, and not even Dan’s good-natured attempts at lifting my mood helped – Dan, I can only apologise for sulking, mate!

Reading Facebook when I got in helped a little, and I managed to send a congratulatory tweet to the friendly Dulwich fan I met last season – and possibly the only football fan I know that has been banned from Kingstonian, for rubbing his nipples at one of their matchday stewards – he was in Budapest at the time, but I thought I should congratulate him all the same – stiff upper lip & all that!

While I have to credit the Dulwich fans (811 really is a superb attendance for a midweek game, not to mention the carnival atmosphere they created) it really was heartbreaking to lose the match with the last kick of the game.

In a way, I feel this could well be a blessing in disguise – if any of the Margate fans and players thought that winning the League was but a mere formality, think again – to say getting promotion won’t be easy is an understatement.

I can only echo the wise words of the MFC Beach Ball – with a game against Hornchurch at the weekend, before a Tuesday night home fixture against Witham Town (Olly Murs’ ex-club, no less!) it really is important that we pump ourselves up, ready again for our promotion push.

Up The Gate!

*Many thanks to Wendy Malkinson for her help with the Away Day Keeper Arse-O-Meter*

Wendy’s Away Day Keeper Arse-O-Meter

“He was a big lad, but had good banter and was friendly – 7 out of 10