By Jack Peat – Editor
Continuing TLE’s focus on non-league football, editor Jack Peat travelled to see Hampton & Richmond Borough take on Isthmian League high-flyers Dulwich Hamlet.
A cold winter’s afternoon welcomed Dulwich Hamlet to Hampton & Richmond Borough FC, south London’s pink and blue transporting their army of left-wing ultras to the quiet suburban Beveree Stadium on the banks of the river Thames.
Hampton is a small hamlet that lies a short distance from the renowned Hampton Court. The streets were quiet with a sparse collection of pubs and a row of cafes and off licenses the only sign of commerce, Teddington, Kingston and Fulwell seemingly the go-to spots for local residents. Richmond, despite being part of the club’s signature, is some five miles away from Hampton and was only incorporated within the name in 1999 in an attempt to draw a wider support base from around the Borough. With an average attendance of 358 it seems the marketing ploy hasn’t enjoyed much success.
But today the Hamlet were in town, bringing their old faithful of fanatical fans championing a new, positive spin on modern football. The tea ladies in the café before the game seemed prepared for the invasion of the pink and blue army, “we’ve done enough to cater for 600” one said as I lined up for some pre-match chips, “if they bring any more than that they’ll have to go without”.
Some 639 people, it turned out, were in attendance at the game, at least half of which were Dulwich fans. The teams were welcomed onto the field and the small seated terrace behind the goal closest to the entrance became littered with pink and blue flags and the usual lefty slogans before an unfortunate coin toss initiated a mass migration of Dulwich fans to the less glamorous shack behind the opposite goal.
The game got underway and Dulwich piled on the pressure from the off. “Is that THE Terrell Forbes?” I heard a home supporter exclaim in a strong cockney accent, re-capping his 114 appearances for QPR between 2001–2004 that was the peak of a 520 game career spanning clubs such as Yeovil, Leyton Orient and Dover Athletic before his move to Dulwich at the start of this season.
Hamlet played impressive, flowing football using the flanks to expose gaps in a Hampton and Richmond Borough team that were found wanting on numerous occasions. But for all the impressive ball work the visitors were unable to find a finishing touch. Harry Ottaway struggled to stay onside for the lightning fast breaks, clearly more suited to a long-ball system and was consequently substituted on 67 minutes.
The noise from the Dulwich crowd was maintained at a pulsating level throughout the game. “We’re the famous Dulwich Hamlet and we look like Tuscany!” the pick of the chants as Gavin Rose’s barmy army did their utmost to spur the team on. But it wasn’t to be. On 40 minutes Charlie Moone was played in by Ben Hunt and turned the ball into the net. Despite more second half pressure Dulwich were unable to convert and came away, unjustly, without any points to show for their visit to west London.
A great game for a neutral in a lovely part of London’s suburbia, but heartbreak for Dulwich who deserved a lot more from the game.
Jack is the founder and editor of The London Economic