the real fa cup

From Champion To Greatness

We journey from Champion Hill to the replay at Greatness Park, disgorging from public transport amid the teenage flotsam and jetsam that litter suburban London like feral Reebok shop dummies. Jumpers for goalposts, men in bushes, Jolley’s fish and chips, dog shit and a ball in the face.

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“Next station is Bat & Ball” says electro train lady. Good name. Fish supper wolfed down in the early evening sunshine where t-shirts dare. Not for long though, brrr … Autumn officially arrives on this windswept piece of public land at some point in the first half.

Now … you are the owner of a football club and in order to survive you need to generate some wedge by getting people to pay money to watch your ‘product’. Do you build an 8ft high fence around your pitch to enclose said product? Yes, good start. Do you make that fence see through? No. Doh! Do you then have a 15ft high skate park next to the fence so that people can stand on it and watch the game without paying? No! Doh! Do you build your fence next to a 30ft high hill so people can stand on the hill and watch the game without going in the ground? No! Doh.

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We’re not criticising, we know Sevenoaks are aware of and can do little about this scenario – but it is worth noting from an outsiders point of view that this isn’t the ideal state of affairs at a club which is, after all, in quite a large London suburb. Basically, you don’t have to pay to watch Sevenoaks. We did, it was £6, and about 100 others also took the charitable route. But about 30 chose the cheap option and, frankly, we all got our money’s worth.

The parky was called to remove some dog turd from the centre spot and off they went. It was very even, each side had periods of dominance, each had good chances to take the lead and both defences just about repelled. The Sevenoaks keeper, Funnel, made a good save from a corner and at the other end a penalty was for handball was rejected. Dulwich’s Thorp made a tidy save from Shinners in a one-on-one and tipped over a goal-bound header from Demaertalaere. A sweet backheel, a gallic shrug and a very good run from Sanchez Ming (below) took us up to the half hour.

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The first of the quartet of cupsters (me) touched the ball with a text book trap. The Sevenoaks right back Tony Webb fared less well and made his first error of an unfortunate night by bundling Ming off the ball and moaned about the resultant free kick. The ref said, with a hint of sarcasm “well you’ve got to play the ball, not the man”. Sevenoaks no16 then headed an easy chance embarrassingly over.

Both sides passed it around neatly and applied pressure without wasteful Hollywood balls. Just before half time Sevenoaks faded shot across goal from the left after the no9 had beaten the Dulwich right back. That narrowly missed the post, as did an off target turn and shot after good work from the no9 who carried the ball across the 18 yard line before slipping it inside.

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With seconds left on the clock, Webb (right) unnecessarily removed the standing leg of Stefan Cox. His team mates made him well aware of his error. From the touchline free kick Gonella floated the ball into the mixer and it dropped behind Obamwonyi on the 6 yard box, who turned and shot low past the keeper.

Sevenoaks Town 0 Dulwich Hamlet 1

A barely deserved lead, not because Dulwich were bad but because it was so unfeasibly even. Both sides had played decent football and created chances. The teams trooped off to their portacabin dressing rooms, the infirm retired to the tea cabin and a dozen menfolk traipsed the 100m or so out of the ground and across the park to the clubhouse for a swift pint and a glance at the trophy cabinet.

The second half started with a kamikaze Dulwich backpass that the Sevenoaks no12 should really have tucked away. He didn’t and that was perhaps the end of the match because Dulwich upped the ante and dominated for most of the half.

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In the 50th minute a 50/50 ball on the touchline in front of me caused me to take a cautionary step back, being 3 yards from the touchline leaning on the barrier. The middle aged man next to me took a more relaxed view and took the full force of the deflected tackle in the face. THWACK! The Sevenoaks physio attended but he had no spray for a bruised ego.

It was getting nippy. Woohoo, number 2! Not a goal, Cupster no2, Andy, touches the ball back to the Sevenoaks keeper, Funnel. We were now lurking behind the Sevenoaks goal, it was getting a lot of attention (below). Funnel was busy, he tipped away a shot from Ming, Sevenoaks 6 put in a great ackle on the penalty spot, one of sseveral lat ditch tackles that stemmed the constant Dulwich pressure. Cupster 3, Matt, returns the ball to Funnel after another narrow squeak.

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After a brief bit of Sevenoaks adventure, Dulwich broke down their left and a cross floated into the six yard box but dropped behind the right back. Webb tried to get underneath it and clear but only managed to blast it across the face of goal where the grateful Dulwich no20 stood still as the ball rocketed towards and back off his chest and into the goal.

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Sevenoaks Town 0 Dulwich Hamlet 2

When the celebrations subsided (left), the game was over. Or was it? Sevenoaks had shown few signs of being able to muster a significant chance in the second half but suddenly countered and scored. Offside. The lack of appeal confirned it. That really was game over.

In the last 10mins possession was fairly even but Dulwich kept Sevenoaks at bay fairly comfortably. Over the two games Sevenoaks gave a very good account of themselves but the higher level team won through with some pretty attractive football.

Full Time

Sevenoaks Town 0 Dulwich Hamlet 2

MOM: Sean Funnel – Sevenoaks

We had to run for the train – and we had to ask the driver where the train was going. Just like the old days at Bat & Ball.

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