It was an interesting game last night, as the Dulwich team contained a few youngsters I’d not seen much, or any, of previously.
Oshane Brown, Jordan Brown, Saido Khan, Diallang Jaiyesimi, and Jamie Mascoll were all brought into the first XI alongside more established players.
Of those, I knew I’d seen Mascoll make a couple of late sub appearances, and Diallang Jaiyesimi started the game against Thamesmead Town, back in August. Oshane Brown hadn’t played any minutes until last night. I’m not sure whether Saido Khan had played at all, before last night’s game. Jordan Brown started against VCD at the weekend, although I’d not seen him play before then.
It was great to see Josh Fernandes starting the game also. He continued to impress.
Staines apparently played a youthful team as well. The quality of the game wasn’t impaired by alterations to either team; it was an enjoyable match played out in front of a crowd of 224.
Watching the first half, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Staines would catch us on the break with what might prove to be the crucial goal. It was competitive, characterised by some promising build up play from the Hamlet, and quick, incisive forays into the final third by Staines.
They had players with some pace behind them, who knew how to turn their man. The wet conditions played a part in that regard, and there were a couple of occasions where we let them snip through our midfield too easily. Danny Waldren saw a notable example, where the oily surface underfoot contributed to his letting a Staines man waltz past him to put pressure on the defence.
On that note, however, it’s only fair to say Waldren had a good game last night. He put some quality tackles in, and looked like a captain. There have been some questions over him thus far, but not so last night, in my opinion. Once or twice, watching him defend doggedly reminded me of watching Michael Dawson. He has a similar heart.
Staines’ goal in the 22nd minute happened in slow motion. You could see it all unraveling, seconds before it actually did. A searching pass found the Staines number 9, Prince M’bengui, and he took the ball past Matt Drage before, as memory serves, poking it towards goal as he began to fall to the ground. Oshane Brown should have done better, the ball rolling teasingly past him like a one night stand who laughs as she leaves your flat in the morning, nicking your last bagel on her way out, depriving you of any breakfast.
Sitting in the Tommy Jover, avoiding the drizzle, we were well placed to observe the exploits of Khan and Jaiyesimi on the right wing. They were a lively pair who looked promising. It looked like they could produce a bit of magic, and we were 1-0 down. So I went off to the gents, and Dulwich duly responded, Jaiyesimi finding Mascoll with a neat pass, who then carved his way through the Staines defence and produced a fine goal. Or so I heard, as I settled back into my seat.
I thought we were by far the better team in the second half. Not to subtract too heavily from Staines’ efforts, as I thought they were a decent team, but our play seemed to go up a notch after the interval.
Josh Fernandes stood out for me again, with his composed ball handling and tricky little turns. I shouldn’t get carried away with the comparisons to ex-Spurs players but dammit, he’s clearly the second coming of Luka Modric.
Matt Drage continued demonstrating his attacking instincts, even back playing centre half, alongside Mitchell Nelson. At one point he made a run all the way through midfield and only desisted when he was cruelly robbed by a Staines defender.
Ash Carew and Callum Willock came on later in the half, replacing Khan and Erskine. Among the several youthful imps on the pitch, they looked like giants. We were chasing the winner we deserved, hoping to avoid penalties, which would have happened immediately in the event of a draw at 90 minutes.
The introduction of Carew and Willock proved vital, as with stoppage time running out, Willock received the ball in front of goal and was brought crashing to earth by a Staines defender. The ref pointed to the spot, and up stepped Carew.
“To the left, to the right”, came the chants from behind Harry Churchill (or something like that anyway), and sure enough, he launched himself to the right as Carew coolly slotted the ball past him in the other direction.