Saturday 23 April 2016, Needham Market 2 Dulwich Hamlet 1 - Ryman Premier Division - Bloomfields
Back in November 2014 I upset a few Dulwich fans with my comments about them their fans when comparing them to the ultras at Clapton - you can read the original post here.
But with Ipswich away in the North East and Dulwich coming to 'rural' Suffolk for an important end of season game I decided to take another Dulwich game in - I was even dressed to blend in with the large away support from South London as i proudly wore my Dulwich - FC Assyria t shirt. A short train ride to Needham with Ginge (my Colchester supporting travelling companion) saw us arrive a local pub which already had a few Dulwich fans in, thought there may have been more but when we arrived at the ground we found out why so few had arrived by train. The game could see Dulwich secure a play-off place (and maybe see the Marketmen relegated) so 3 coaches had been hired to bring both the team, officials and a big away support to Bloomfields. the Suffolk club were well prepared with plenty of programmes and more importantly it seemed for the Dulwich fans, a well stocked bar!
We stood with the Dulwich fans, and they sung and cheered the whole first half but it seemed their efforts were not being matched on the pitch as Needham were not put under any real pressure and deservedly took the lead. In fact the highlight of the half was when the PA announced that the Dulwich Deputy Chair requested that the Dulwich fan please get down from the roof of the (small stand) the fan said he would get down as long as we caught him! Drink rather than the excitement of the game had encouraged him to climb on the roof. His antics were the main topic of conversation among the Dulwich fans and he would continue to be the centre of attention in the second half!
A few beers at half time and we returned for the last 45 minutes of the regular Ryman League season - Dulwich looked more threatening but it was Needham who scored again, playing on the break - Dulwich did get one back but Needham did not look in any real danger with ex Ipswich reserve and Cambridge Utd skipper, Ian Miller having a great game at centre half. For the last 10 minutes he had the help of ex Colchester player Kem Izzet in midfield as Needham secured the win and their place in the league.
The Dulwich fans continued to sing and cheer but even they seemed to have given up any hope of their team getting a much needed win. Their attention was again drawn to our drunk/punk roof of the stand climber, as he decided to have a sleep behind the stand - which created a queue of fans lining up to take his photograph - he may not remember much of the day but he will have many who can remind him along with the photographic evidence.
Dulwich fans increased their singing when they heard that other results meant they would be off to Bognor for the play-off game. So a good day out but the match never seemed like the important game it should have been possibly as Needham thought they may be safe anyway as Farnborough may be demoted for financial reasons and Dulwich may have known that it was unlikely that Enfield would get the needed win at Hampton and Richmond.
A beer fueled trip home meant a small headache in the morning ( thanks to a German smoked beer - from Bamberg) but i bet it is nothing like a the headache a certain Dulwich fan will have woke up with this morning!