Isthmian League

Match Report | Dulwich Hamlet 0-0 Whitehawk

Let’s say it without equivocation: Whitehawk were excellent on this Saturday afternoon. Oh, what a prospect – thousands of fans flooded Champion Hill for today’s meeting between two sides who stand for so much, and was that certainly seen in the packed terraces on this day where the clouds shifted to force the sunglasses off the many faces.

So, 0-0 it finished. On the carapace this would have seemed a dull, tepid affair. Though once the shell was lifted and the facts revealed, there was more to the eye than the scoreline suggests. Indeed, Dulwich Hamlet revellers might have slipped from craft beer heaven feeling relatively underwhelmed, for throughout the 90 or so minutes they created very little. Mitch Walker mostly unperturbed, it’s a fine sign when one walks off the field not needing a shower.

It’s an interesting place, Champion Hill. A club so incredibly well-run and well-liked, it’s easy to see the charm. Though for a ground that isn’t far off many in this league, one might expect the mammoth crowds to have made a little more noise, shown a little more desire. We’re not harking back to previous interpretations of this place — for this is a model we included aspire to have — yet there is something missing despite its messages, morals and direction: a ubiquitous love of football.

It wasn’t as if this was Whitehawk dominance, though if one side were to be victorious on the beautiful turf, it would have fallen the way of the Sussex Hawks. Opportunities arose in both halves, though the first arguably carried a little more weight. Lloyd Dawes returned from a few months out, and he was absolutely wonderful in an attack that caused myriad issues in the Hamlet’s final third.

The Hawks began with great urgency, slicing through the purple and pink backline with real effect as Hamish Morrison enjoyed the freedom of Dulwich’s box to fire straight at goalkeeper R’avan Constable. That happened, and then Morrison delivered a low cross this time, fizzing it into the feet of Imran Kayani, who saw an effort fabulously blocked from just a few yards out. 

Dulwich Hamlet have enjoyed a fine second half to the season. They were third in the form table after 10 games before today’s encounter, but they displayed a toothless edge. The cliché goes that a well-rested side are likely to perform better, and even though they’d have enjoyed just a few extra days’ rest than Shaun Saunders’ Hawks, you’d have thought they’d have played in midweek.

As we journeyed deeper into the match, the fatigue from both sides was evident. But Whitehawk began the afternoon with greater urgency, and with more of an idea. Dawes’ movement was a menace to the Hamlet defence, and he spurned his side’s two finest openings shortly before the break: firstly failing to connect to a low pass into the box before scuffing an effort when slipped through on goal. Everything else of the fine player he is was present, but what only lacked was the finish to match.

Following the restart things were about as even as had been witnessed. It was cagey, but on their travels Whitehawk have found keeping the ball out of their own net a hard task. This wasn’t the case here. The game was there for the taking, it just needed the finish. How close it was, then, that Dawes came within a fabulous save to keep the scores level with 53 minutes played.

Finding a yard of space just outside the box, it’s wonderful, whirling effort that is tipped expertly over by Constable. That would prove to be the closest either side got to stealing the three points on a gritty, attritional day. Ryan Worrall and Charlie Lambert arrived, though there would be little immediate impact as the day fizzled out into a draw.

Whitehawk’s defence were immense on the day. Something that was barely noticeable, yet in moments such as those you just know they’ve made an impact. It’s six games unbeaten in the league now for Saunders’ side, who continue to move further toward mid-table. One must not forget the form Dulwich have been in, and to halt their attack while making chances of their own demonstrates the prowess of this side.

Whitehawk depart having earned a deserved point, yet on another overcast afternoon this could certainly have been a contrasting story.

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