A football match was played on the morning of Saturday 3rd September at Belair Park &, even more than usual, the result was of little importance.
For the Dulwich Hamlet Supporters' were gathered to play & pay tribute to Ian Wright, against some of the congregation of the church he attended, our friends from Camberwell Evangelical Church, who included a number of Hamlet fans among their pews on a Sunday.
When Ian died so suddenly in the summer I suggested to Jack McInroy of both 'congregations', & he thought it would be a lovely idea. The initial plan was really to take on some of the Church footballers who had laced up their boots alongside Ian down the years, but most of them had long since consigned their dusty pairs of mud encrusted leather to the back of the cupboards, or tatty cardboard box in the attic, as old mother nature caught up with their creaky knees.
So it was the 'next generation' in the main who formed the 'God Squad' against 'The Rabblers'.
We weren't as big in number as them, as we had no less than SEVEN cry-offs & one no message at all, in the few days prior to kick off!
Firstly I asked the Church for a group picture, once they got ready!
And then ourselves:
It wasn't a worry about players missing out. As one player reassured me, everyone who played enjoyed it immensely, & it was a fitting tribute to Ian.
Prior to kick off both teams surrounded the centre circle & Mishi Morath invited Jack McInroy forward to lead both teams in prayer, in Ian's memory, followed by a one minute silence.
Then Phil Baker blew the whistle for the start. 'The Rabblers' started with our youngest & most exciting forward trio for many a decade! Joel Virgo, Louis Grater & 'guest' Callum Smith, who was making his debut, had a younger combined age than some of our older players, albeit the ones who weren't actually down to play in this instance!
Early half-chances fell to both Jack McInroy & Chris Garrett; & Callum Smith was foiled by a lack of power in his shot. The Church also had their moments, one well-worked move going just to the right of a relieved Matt Hammond in our goal. Just after Callum burst down the left, his attempt palmed away. In truth Callum looked a little 'too good' compared to what we are used to, pleasantly so, & his enthusiasm helped everyone. We had another attempt when a throw from Chris found him & he flicked the ball to young Louis, who was just wide.
We then had a bit of a 'let-off' as some of our defence stood still, crying "He's off!" instead of concentrating on our game & playing to the whistle. Fortunately we cleared the resulting danger, but when, oh when will we learn that we rarely play with lino's, the referee Mr. Baker does it for fun, free of charge & is not a badge holder? Give him a break, or save it for the bar at Champion Hill!
By now we were around half an hour into the game & the first goal was due. Ball played through from Callum, reaching Chris Garrett whose shot rippled the back of the net! One nil 'Rabblers'!
It wasn't all one way traffic, by a long chalk. Matt was kept busy at the other end. One attempt he touched for a corner, the resultant shot once it had been played in whooshing across the goal from an acute angle. The equaliser wasn't long in coming. A corner from the left was floated on a Church head & powerfully nodded into the back of the old onion bag, past Matt, who wasn't at fault. A slight change in our formation followed as young Louis asked to come off, having taken a small knock, though he did return in the second half, with big Steve Rickerby replacing him.
Some first half action:
After the break we had some more good chances, Callum going just wide with one; some superb passing between him & Joel too, as they built up a good understanding. Phil Doyle, on the pitch now having arrived late-but at least he turned up!- hit the target with a long range punt, & another from the trusty boot of Callum was just over the bar. Despite that the Church went ahead, a screamer of a strike that was without a doubt the goal of the game. time for Mishi Morath to make a 'cameo',allowing Jacko to switch over to his other side. Unfortunately a quick sliced attempt at a hoof upfield was simply intercepted by a Church player, & their push forward in one big 'offside' wave ended up in our net. Cue lots of protesting, though you have to ask if we hadn't stood still & screamed, stamping our feet like little children, then the goal might have been prevented.
By now the youth of the opposition was starting to show, as we tired a little, but there was some life left in the old dog yet! A punt from Matt found Callum, who broke forward, with Joel & Lawrence Marsh linking up with Louis, the ball ending up with Phil Doyle, who reduced the arrears. The last goal of the game restored the two goal cushion for the Church, a good parry from Matt but he could to nothing to stop the follow up.
Now for a few second half snaps:
It's hard to single out anyone, but if I had to it would be the tireless Alex Margolies in the middle, along with the 'evergreen' Jacko McInroy; as well as Callum Smith, making his debut as a 'guest' player, being a groundhopping Eastleigh fan who travelled all the way up from Hampshire to play! (I can hear you all now...'but he seemed so normal'!)
Dulwich Hamlet Supporters' 2, Camberwell Evangelical Church 4.
Game over, time for a joint team photo:
Thanks once more to Hamlet fan Tony Squires for coming along to watch, it must have seemed a bit lonely at times...
And I don't think everyone appreciated his presence... ;-)
(Attempt at a...) Report & all photos by Mishi Morath.