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Tuesday 25th February 2013 ko 19.45

Isthmian League Premier Division

CARSHALTON ATHETIC 0

DULWICH HAMLET 4 (Clunis 21 Lodge 30 Daly 39 51)

Att 277

Entry £10

Programme (reissue from postponed game on 1st January with insert) £2

Badge. Carshalton Athletic I am NOT paying £5 for a badge.

Tea £1

My original idea was to visit the War Memorial Ground a couple of weeks ago, but then it was suggested to me by Mishi Morath that it would be more interesting to wait for Dulwich Hamlet to be the visitors. I diverted to an interesting evening at Tunbridge Wells, including a supporter reinforcing a cliché by complaining that I’d referred to them as Tunbridge, something she found, “Tres Annoying!” Mishi’s advice proved to be sound, and my trip to the ground just off Colston Avenue proved to be far more interesting than I expected.

As I pulled into the car park a Carshalton fan asked me to take a leaflet, I acquiesced, and popped the paper in my bag thinking no more of it. I did wonder why there were 4 Police officers there, but I only found out the full story when I sat in the bar with a tea and read what I’d received.

The club sent letters to 6 Carshalton fans banning them indefinitely, two for allegedly verbally abusing former manager Ian Hazel at their game away at Lowestoft, the others for reasons unknown. The fans have asked for personal hearings in front of an independent panel, a request that the board have refused to sanction.

Whilst it would be highly unfair to judge the situation on one 2 hour visit I would make a few observations. Firstly in any court of law there is judge, jury, and the right of appeal. Secondly in these straightened times refusing custom is seldom good business sense, and that by banning 6 a lot more have been put off by going, judging by published attendances. I noted with some interest that Dulwich Hamlet fans shouted “Lift the ban, on your fans,” and many home fans very quietly said “Thanks lads,” as they left.

It rather took the shine of the ground itself which is a cracker, with the terrace stretching the entire length of one side of the pitch just slightly reminiscent of Benburb’s covered side. Opposite is the hotchpotch of stands, bar, club shop and café that I love. I even loved the ramshackle cover behind the near goal, an edifice of scaffolding and corrugated iron, that looked in danger when the Dulwich fans used it as a percussion instrument during the second half.

Carshalton’s issues run deeper than the board’s treatment of their own fans. They are only playing Isthmian Premier football this season after Thurrock’s demotion due to playing a banned player, more here. It’s been a real struggle for them, but in new manager Stuart Massey they have a man of character. I saw a lot of Massey during his stint as a player at Oxford United, and I never saw him shirk a challenge or score an unimportant goal. If he can instil those qualities into his team, then I’m such they’ll find a way of surviving in this league. However what I witnessed on the pitch would suggest he’s got his work cut out. Put simply, Dulwich made the tie a home game.

They supplied the majority of the supporters, and were utterly dominant on the pitch. At the centre of it was star player Erhun Oztumer. He’s been heavily linked with a move into the Football League, and once again he showed what the scouts have come to see. He was heavily involved in the first goal, Ian Daly slipped a ball through the middle of the home defence to put him clean through . He drew keeper Michael White before rolling it to his left for Nyren Clunis pass the ball into an empty net.

Carshalton’s defending was woeful as two similar goals ended the tie as a contest. Clunis was unmarked as Daly found him and he drew White before sliding the ball past him, for Dean Lodge to tap home. The third goal again saw Clunis clear on the right but this time the beneficiary was Daly, and he needed no encouragement!

The second half was little more than a training session once Dulwich had scored again, with Clunis’ sumptuous cross just asking for Daly’s thumping header. I’d long since decided to join Mishi and his pals behind the goal, I hadn’t stood with any Ultras in years, and whilst I greatly enjoyed the experience I felt a little lost!