Billericay Town 4 Dulwich Hamlet 1 (12th March 2016)
It was a day of contrasts. It started good in the morning, managing to pick up a 6th Euro 2016 ticket in the current blink-and-you’ll-miss-it ticket resale phase. Not so good was realising I had a crack in my windscreen going round the M25, compounded by some BMW-driving idiot (the idiot part, I guess could be taken as read) smashing my wing mirror as he sped at high speed through a tunnel under a railway line just off the A12, who clearly felt I should maybe drive into the wall to avoid the portion of his car on my side of the road.
It carried on with the game. To some extent, it wasn’t a great game. The quality of play was actually quite poor. Maybe there was a touch of nerves about this play-off six-pointer, but neither team looked like one near the top of the table.
Yet, despite that, the game featured five goals, three penalties, two disallowed goals, one sending off, and two other very good penalty shouts turned down for good measure. It was certainly eventful.
After buying a pre-match burger, whose £4 price suggested the positioning of the menu inside the tea hut to make it invisible until you were at the very front of the queue was no accident, I took up a spot behind the goal Dulwich Hamlet were attacking. At both ends, prefabricated metal terracing units had been built, which might be quite ugly but do at least provide a decent view here due to being raised a few feet off the floor. The decent contingent of the “pink & blue army” who’d made their way up to Essex would have long to wait to get singing in earnest.
They got the game’s first penalty inside five minutes, to take the lead, but that was to be about as good as it got for them.
Within 10 minutes the home side were level, when some AWOL defenders left the Dulwich keeper exposed, and gave an attacker a chance that was effectively one desperate defender away from being an open goal. And 10 minutes after that Billericay were in front, from the game’s second penalty. A free kick from the right of the box would probably have missed everybody, but defender and attacker tangled beyond the far post, and the spot kick was awarded. It was just leathered in, and it was 2-1 to Billericay.
Dulwich thought’d they made it 2-2 just before half time, but after the ball was bundled in from close range, a rather long chat between ref and linesman saw the goal ruled out.
Half time offered a chance to read the programme, which was quite delightful in some of its straight talking. I liked how it dispensed with usual formalities, talking about the match at Dulwich Hamlet earlier in the season as “the game at their gaff”. The photo of the Billericay manager managed to make him look like a character in a Guy Ritchie film as an ex-bare knuckle boxer, while tales of the Billericay player who’d just been awarded an 8 month ban for fighting with a supporter who’d chased him down the tunnel seemed a different world.
Going into the bar also mean passing the back of the tiny main stand. It has a little charm, mainly due to its diminutive size, from a distance. From the back, up close though, the recladding looks like somewhere there’s a Matalan warehouse missing a section of its wall.
The 2nd half was only a few minutes old before the game’s third penalty came along, made worse for Dulwich by having a player sent off for arguing the decision. 1-3 down, and down to 10 men, there didn’t seem much hope of a comeback, and that’s how it proved. Billericay made it 4-1 after 66 minutes, and from them on, even if the score might change, the result clearly wouldn’t.
No more goals though, but a couple more incidents. Dulwich had what looked a clear penalty turned down, and their player booked for “diving” as well, and Billericay had a very late “goal” ruled out for offside.
The admirably enthusiastic Dulwich fans had to resort to singing about a “moral victory”, although a “moral draw” was probably closer to the mark. It was hard not to feel a degree of sympathy, especially with them being “taunted” by a group of teens stood about 50 yards away, displaying the kind of wit that not only makes you want to weep at the future of the nation, but also wish corporal punishment could be reintroduced in some certain cases. Or maybe that’s just age talking.