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Tuesday 1st October 2013 ko 19.45

Isthmian League Premier Division


DULWICH HAMLET 4 (Oztumer 35 75p Walker 35 57)

Att 273

Entry £10

Programme £2

Badge £3

On the way home from Bungay I’d actually stopped for petrol in Bury-St-Edmunds without realising I was less than a mile from Ram Meadow. Nevertheless, regular readers will know that if I pass by a town, the chances of me returning to watch their football team increase dramatically!

The town is dominated by the Bury St Edmunds Abbey, where in the early 10th century, the relics of the martyred king, St Edmund, were transported to from Hoxne. The town originally called Beodricsworth, had its name changed to reflect its new status.  In 1214 the Barons of England are believed to have met in the Abbey Church and sworn to force King John to accept the Charter of Liberties, the document which influenced the creation of the Magna Carta, a year later

In more modern times the town saw the Britain’s first internally illuminated street sign, the Pillar of Salt which was built in 1935. It still stands, at the end of the A1101, listed from 1998 to prevent its removal due to traffic planners seemingly having more of a sense of rules and regulations than history.

Sadly, you’ll see none of the above from Ram Meadow, as the ground is dominated by the Sugar Beet processing plant owned and operated by British Sugar. The irony of it being it a town known for a pillar of salt was not lost on me, and the factory has a reputation for emitting some fairly strong smells! I was fortunate that on this occasion the factory made itself known only by the occasional sigh of steam.

As was the case on Saturday this was once of those grounds you have to stroll around and find the nooks and crannies. There’s cover on all four sides, but undoubtedly the centre piece of the ground is the highly unusual and iconic main stand. And as so often the case the club would like to see to see the back of the whole lot. They commented in the programme,

“When the ground was built 30 years ago it was done as cheaply as possible, using second hand buildings and……. the facilities at Ram Meadow are no longer suitable and in urgent need of serious repair.”

The club seem rather ill-at-ease, with the programme admitting that the move to a new ground has been delayed due to funding issues and the board are divided as to the way to move the club forward. That was in complete contrast with visitors Dulwich Hamlet, last year’s Division One South champions, and on a 6 game unbeaten run. They’re a cosmopolitan bunch but my gaze was immediately drawn to Phil Wilson, the 30 year old Hamlet keeper.

He started his career at Oxford United, but he’s probably best remembered for a bizarre game at Bristol Rovers. It was April 2001 and Oxford United had already been relegated from what’s now called League 1. In fact the only shred of comfort was that Swindon Town were also in relegation trouble. With Bristol Rovers also in the mire, a home win would greatly improve the chances of the Gasheads sending Oxford’s biggest rivals down too, so the away fans became “Gasheads for one day!”

And Bristol Rovers didn’t let the fans down, beating their beleaguered visitors 6-2. But there was a rather odd passage of play. Oxford United keeper that day was Richard Knight, but he was sent-off for hauling down Nathan Ellington, denying the striker a clear goal scoring opportunity with 13 minutes left. Defender Jon Richardson was sacrificed so that Wilson could make his debut. But in the 90th minute Ellington was put clean through once again, and was hauled down by Wilson in a near carbon copy of the Knight incident. Referee Eddie Wolstenhome, looked at the horrified Wilson, smiled, and booked him. His mercy was limited, as a few seconds later former Liverpool, and yes, Swindon midfielder Mark Walters slammed home the penalty! For the record, Swindon did stay up that season too!

Wilson only appeared once more for the club before playing for the likes of Oxford City and Sutton United before signing at Champion Hill. I had a brief chat, and mentioned that game at the Memorial Ground, his comment was “I didn’t touch him….honest!”

The friendly goalkeeper was to have a quiet night as Hamlet took the game by the scruff of the neck, and he was left to deal with the sporadic home attacks. Undoubtedly the star of the show was Hamlet midefielder Ehun Oztumer; what he lacks in stature he more than makes up for in vision and passing ability. He ran the midfield for the visitors, and his first goal, a sublime 25 yard drive will live long in the memory. Watching was Southend United manager Phil Brown, no stranger to Oztumer’s talents, although with finances being as tight as they are at Roots Hall, I wonder whether they could afford to sign him?

The win puts Dulwich in second, a position the 30 or so fans behind the goal regarded as little less than unbelievable. But then when they sing “No-one knows us” instead of “No-one likes us, we don’t care,” perhaps there’s a touch of self-deprecation there…