Bognor Regis Town 2-1 Dulwich Hamlet - I'm obviously just gutted that I weren’t able to help get the club into the league above, says Dulwich Hamlet boss Gavin Rose

Monday 01st May 2017
Bognor Regis Town 2 – 1 Dulwich Hamlet
Location Nyewood Lane, Bognor Regis, West Sussex PO21 2TY
Kickoff 01/05/2017 15:00

Ryman Premier League Play-Off Final
Bank Holiday Monday 1 May 2017
Stephen McCartney reports from Nyewood Lane

DULWICH HAMLET manager Gavin Rose vows to bounce back after suffering heartbreaking back-to-back Ryman Premier League Play-Off Final defeats.

Runners-up Bognor Regis Town sealed promotion to the Vanarama National League South along with champions Havant & Waterlooville, leaving third-placed finishers Dulwich Hamlet picking up the pieces of their shattered promotion bid.

Havant & Waterlooville claimed the title on the final day of their 46-match campaign with 94 points on the board, two points clear of Bognor Regis Town, while Dulwich Hamlet finished with 80 points in the bag.

Dulwich Hamlet impressed during their 4-2 home win over fourth-placed Enfield Town at Champion Hill in the Play-Off Semi-Finals, while Ollie Pearce scored a last-gasp winner as Bognor Regis Town beat Wingate & Finchley 2-1 on Thursday night.

Dulwich Hamlet brought at least 1,000 fans down to the West Sussex coast for this winner-takes-all clash, as the 3,119 fans that were packed into Nyewood Lane was the home club’s biggest crowd since 1984.

This was to be the fourth time that these two clubs have met in the Ryman League Play-Offs, with Bognor Regis Town now winning both Finals, the previous one was the Division One South Final in 2012.

Jamie Howell’s side started on the front foot and took the lead through striker Jimmy Muitt’s 11th goal for the Rocks, before his strike partner Pearce drove home his 17th goal for the season to put the home side in the driving seat going into half-time.

Dulwich Hamlet keeper Preston Edwards saved a penalty halfway through the second half to deny James Fraser, before Dulwich Hamlet pulled a goal back through a stunning volley from Sierra Leone midfielder Ibrahim Kargbo, 35, with 13 minutes remaining.

But Bognor Regis Town held on to seal their return to the National League South for the first time since 2009, while Dulwich Hamlet will remain in the Isthmian Premier.

“Obviously sheer disappointment. I’m not disappointed in my players. I thought my players were fantastic today,” said Rose, who has turned around the fortunes of the club since his appointment in August 2009.

“We lost to a counter-attack and we lost to a clearance, that on another day, we don’t get punished from.

“But I thought by and large we were a credit to the club today. We didn’t embarrass ourselves and I thought we were worthy to take it into extra-time but I’m just obviously gutted that I haven’t been able to help get the club into the League above.”

After winning here 1-0 in last season’s Play-Off Semi-Final, Dulwich Hamlet then went to East Thurrock United and suffered a 3-1 defeat.  Dulwich Hamlet are ready to stage Vanarama National League South football at Champion Hill but they must wait at least another 12 months before doing so.

“Yes, they say what don’t break you makes you stronger, I feel that’s definitely the case,” said a dejected Rose.

“Once you learn to bounce back you do get stronger mentally so I know myself and my management team and the players’ are capable of bouncing back and being better, so yes it’s hard to take but the one thing I do know is we can bounce back and we can be better.”

Kick-off was delayed for 15 minutes to help cram late arrivals into the stadium, while Rose had to sit in the directors box owing to his one-match suspension.

Dulwich Hamlet created the first chance of the game with only 24 seconds on the clock when Gavin Tomlin’s pass released Semi-Final hat-trick hero Ibra Sekajja, who cut the ball onto his right foot before dragging his shot past the near post.

Bognor Regis Town were a threat from set-pieces as Dulwich Hamlet’s defence failed to pick up their man on many occasions.

Pearce floated in their first corner from the right and Sami El-Abd came up from the back to plant his free header drifting past the left-hand post from 10-yards.

Bognor Regis Town’s skipper Dan Beck floated in a free-kick from the right and El-Abd rose above Marc Weatherstone to send his second header just over the crossbar from 15-yards.

Dulwich Hamlet left-back Nathan Green advanced down the line before keeping possession of the ball before checking back and rolling the ball back to Michael Chambers, who played the ball into Tomlin’s feet, who cut inside and curled his shot across the diving keeper and also around the far post from 25-yards.

Bognor Regis’ right-back Harvey Whyte played the ball down the channel, Pearce put over a cross, which was cleared out by Matt Drage and James Crane took a touch before hitting his right-footed drive which screamed over the crossbar from 25-yards.

Pearce’s hanging free-kick from the right was met by Gary Charman who rose above Chambers to send his header over the bar.

“Yes, they were, they were (a threat from set-pieces).  They were good on set-pieces all season to be honest so it wasn’t a surprise. We could’ve defended those a lot better,” admitted Rose.

Bognor Regis Town settled their nerves by deservedly taking the lead with 20 minutes and 28 seconds on the clock.

Left-back Dylan Barnett slipped a ball down the line, which Dulwich Hamlet’s right-back Weatherstone failed to cut out and this released Pearce down the left.  He cut into the box and played a great low ball across the face of the goal for Muitt to ghost in unmarked at the far post to steer into the bottom near corner from three-yards.

Rose warned his players’ about that move but Bognor Regis Town still found a way in.

He said: “We spoke about that situation in training on Saturday, about the ball not going in behind us on that side of the pitch and we only made that mistake once and got punished and that’s what happens in football, you know.

“I think it’s a bad start but I still felt we could get back in the game.  It’s just one goal, it wasn’t the way you want it to go but it’s football, it’s not the end of the world at that stage.”

Sekajja cut inside and his cross was cleared out to Kenny Beaney, but the Hamlet skipper cracked his right-footed half-volley over the crossbar from 30-yards.

Fraser dived low to his left to use his left arm to block Sekajja’s driven shot on the edge of the box and Tomlin went despairingly close with the resulting right-footed free-kick from 22-yards, which only just cleared the top of the right-hand post.

Bognor Regis Town squandered another excellent chance to get another free header on target.

Pearce drove in his second corner from the right and no one picked up Charman’s cutting run into the box and the former Horsham stalwart sent his free header across goal and past the far post.

Dulwich Hamlet were to be denied by the crossbar in the 35th minute.

Sekajja released Tomlin, who sent two Bognor defenders sliding in on to their backsides as they attempted to win the ball inside the penalty area and Tomlin clipped a cross towards the far post where Sekajja sent his free header against the top of the near post from six-yards.

Rose said: “I thought we created a few half chances, looked a threat.  It hit the bar. It didn’t seem to be going our way in terms of chances, especially in the first half.”

Within three minutes Carew was to be denied, this time by Dan Lincoln, who dived to his left to push the midfielder’s free-kick away towards safety.

“Sometimes they come back out and on the rebound then you follow it in.  It just didn’t seem to be going our way in terms of chances in the first half,” replied Rose.

Pearce swung in another corner from the right which was met by another free header from El-Abd, which he planted just over the crossbar from six-yards.

Bognor Regis Town doubled their lead with 41 minutes and 35 seconds on the clock, courtesy of a mistake.

They swept forward and Drage’s poor clearance bounced into Pearce’s feet, who was inside the box, he took a touch and drilled his left-footed shot, just to Edwards’ left, to score from 15-yards.

“I think a mad mistake. It’s not one that he’s meant to make in terms of his clearance and then Pearce latches onto it with a good touch and a finish, it’s unfortunate,” said Rose.

Despite his one-match touchline ban, Rose was allowed to go into the dressing room to instruct his players at the break.

“The boys were down on themselves to be honest with you.  We didn’t have any time to be down on ourselves so we just spoke about the things that we could do to get back in the game.  Everything about the positive things that we could do and not worry about the negatives as much really.”

Bognor Regis Town created the first chance of the second half when Pearce’s right-footed driven free-kick from 30-yards deflected off Weatherstone’s heels and flashed across goal and past the far post inside the opening four minutes.

Dulwich Hamlet were enjoying the possession but another free-headed chance came Bognor Regis’ way in the 58th minute.

Pearce floated in another corner from the right and this time El-Abd got his free-header on target from 10-yards, which was pushed over the bar by Edwards’ right-hand.

“Matt Drage got underneath the ball and he’s (El-Abd) got a good header on the ball attacked it and Preston’s done well to save it,” said Rose.

Chambers and Beaney linked up and Tomlin came to life by skipping past three Bognor players to get into the box before curling his deflected shot around the top of the far post.

Bognor Regis attempted to hit Dulwich Hamlet on the break but Muitt chose the wrong decision, hitting a rushed speculative shot harmlessly wide from 35-yards.

Dulwich Hamlet played the get-out-of-jail card in the 64th minute

Fraser played the ball out to Whyte, who drove forward, cut into the penalty and was pushed over by Beaney 12-yards from goal.

Referee Ryan T Atkin inevitably pointed to the spot.  Fraser stepped up and his right-footed penalty was pushed towards safety by Edwards, diving to his right. 

“We’re going to win 3-2,” sang the travelling fans at the other end of the pitch.

“It was a good save,” said Rose.

“The boy (Whyte) should’ve been stopped a lot earlier and wasn’t and we got punished for that.  You can’t really hardly blame Kenny in that position because the guy ran across him and he still has to try to play the ball. It’s a penalty but it’s not really one you can point the finger at him.

“Sure, you do think that’s game over – Preston saves it and you think you’ve got half a chance!”

Rose responded by bringing on Panutche Camara and Sanchez Ming, taking off Beaney and Drage.  Ming slotted in at right-back, while Weatherstone slotted in beside Chambers at the heart of defence, leaving Green at left-back, leaving Dulwich Hamlet with more firepower further up the pitch and pace at full-back.

Muitt took on and won his battle with Green to reach the by-line before wrapping his right-boot around the ball to whip in a great cross towards the far post which was met by Pearce’s acrobatic over-head kick which only just cleared the crossbar from six-yards out.

Kargbo played the ball out to right-winger Clunis, who whipped in a cross where Lincoln nipped in to collect the ball as it bounced inside his box as Sekajja was ready to pounce on any miss-judgement.

With the travelling fans giving their team excellent vocal support throughout, Dulwich Hamlet should have then equalised following intense pressure.

They threw bodies forward in search of the goal and Carew slipped the ball into Clunis, who from the edge of the box got the ball out from underneath his feet but scuffed his right-footed shot on the turn, which was held by Lincoln, smothering the ball low to his right.

“Probably didn’t hit the ball as true as he would’ve wanted to. He seemed to scuff his shot and then didn’t get the real power that you would’ve expected in that area,” said Rose.

Dulwich Hamlet’s goal came from a brilliant strike from Kargbo, with 31 minutes and 7 seconds on the clock.

Ming turned back the clock by running down the line to leave Barnett in his shadow. He played the ball inside to Clunis, who floated over a cross in the middle for Kargbo to smash a stunning right-footed volley into the top right-hand corner of the net from 25-yards. Brilliant!

“Ibrahim’s got that type of quality so it’s no surprise he controlled his shot very well and there was every reason for us to believe that we could get an equaliser,” said Rose on Kargbo’s third goal for the club.

“I thought they slowed the game down really well after that and stopped us penetrating them as much but there was still a few half chances where we could’ve probably done better with.

“It was pretty much a bit of hope because if the ball had dropped to our players, great, but it just didn’t seem to be that day for us today.”

Dulwich Hamlet upped their urgency levels but Charman, 32, marshalled the Bognor back-line, which was growing in numbers as time ticked on.

Ming clipped substitute Alex Parsons and Barnett placed his free-kick around the Dulwich wall and into the base of the side netting with seven minutes left.

Dulwich Hamlet created one final chance in stoppage time but Lincoln held Carew’s deflected drive from outside the box.

Bognor Regis hit Dulwich Hamlet on the counter when Doug Tuck released tall substitute Jimmy Wild driving forward through the heart of the pitch, but hs struck his shot over the crossbar from 25-yards.

The final whistle brought a pitch invasion and green/white flares being released into the sky as Bognor Regis Town’s fans were signing in the rain celebrating their well-deserved promotion.

“When you lose in a Final it hurts the same way. It makes no difference really, it’s the same feeling,” added Rose, when asked whether today hurt more than their defeat in Essex a year ago.

Rose praised the fans that made the trip to the Sussex coast.

He said: “Yes, they were great, they were great, nice and loud. Even at 2-0 down, very positive, cheering the boys on and the energy from them is always appreciated by the staff and the players’.

“I’m just taking a bit of emption of losing today. We’ll take stock a little bit over the next day or two and go from there.”

For goalkeeper coach John Macrae, 65, it proved to be a bitter sweet final game before his retirement.

“It’s the first time I’ve never got promotion with a club,” said the former Dartford coach.

“We gave it all and they say it wasn’t to be but the league table doesn’t lie, does it? Bognor were second, only just missed out on the championship and we were third and small little errors, small little moments that change games and unfortunately it wasn’t our day today but we gave a fabulous effort.”

Reflecting on Edwards’ penalty save, Macrae added: “The save that I thought was the game changer, changed when Preston made that penalty save.  I thought it really raised us, we scored, we couldn’t get the second goal.

“I was delighted! What a fantastic penalty save, though not a scruffy one, fabulous save.”

Reflecting on his one season at Champion Hill, Macrae, who now lives in Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, said: “Absolutely a dream. It’s been a lovely Indian summer. I’ve worked with some really quality goalkeeper and players working with Gavin and Kads (assistant, Junior Kadi), it has been a dream. 

“If anybody wants to come to a club, a really well-run club with fabulous supporters, come to Dulwich.  You couldn’t get a better one in London or in the surrounds.

“Oh yes, you can’t fault them (our fans). Luckily, I’ve experienced a great set of fans at Dartford in my career there.  These match them all the way and that’s high praise for them.”

Macrae has every confidence that Rose, Kaddi and Kevin James will ensure Dulwich Hamlet will not got through such heartbreak again in 12 months’ time.

“I’ve experienced management teams in the ascendancy at Dartford with Tony Burman, Skip (Paul Sawyer) and Steve Moseley and Gavin and Junior are just fantastic to work with.  They know the game, it’s just been a pleasure.  It’s just a pleasure. I look forward to coming in training every time and games and I just felt as if I was learning off them because you never stop learning.  It’s been a great time.

“I’ve never lost in a Play-Off Final.  I just feel stunned, I feel stunned. All the hard work everybody in the club (has put in) I am just stunned but it will hit the players’ and the management and the fans for a few days. We’ve got the summer off, re-group. Gavin and Junior will be working hard and that’s a really good dressing room in there.  I tell you that’s a really good dressing room. There’s a lot more in it.”

And on his future, Macrae added he has been contacted by Brighton & Hove Albion, who have been promoted to the Premier League after winning the Championship title.

“Personally, I’m joining an amateur dramatics society in Bexhill and I’ll be doing walking football.  I might be doing a little bit here and there for Brighton as well, a bit of scouting or what have you, obviously just goalkeepers but one chapter closes, another one opens.”

Bognor Regis Town: Dan Lincoln, Harvey Whyte, Dylan Barnett, Doug Tuck, Sami El-Abd, Gary Charman, Dan Beck, James Fraser (Jimmy Wild 85), Jimmy Muitt, Ollie Pearce (Alex Parsons 76), James Crane.
Subs: Darren Budd, Ed Sanders, Calvin Davies

Goals: Jimmy Muitt 21, Ollie Pearce 42

Booked: James Fraser 31, James Crane 37

Dulwich Hamlet: Preston Edwards, Marc Weatherstone, Nathan Green, Ibrahim Kargbo, Matt Drage (Sanchez Ming 67), Michael Chambers, Nyren Clunis, Kenny Beaney (Panutche Camara 66), Ibra Sekajja, Ashley Carew, Gavin Tomlin (Dumebi Dumaka 90).
Subs: Afolabi Oladipo Akinyemi, Jacob Erskine

Goal: Ibrahim Kargbo 77

Booked: Kenny Beaney 63, Marc Weatherstone 89

Attendance: 3,119
Referee: Mr Ryan T Atkin (Farnborough, Hampshire)
Assistants: Mr Andrew Bennett (Woking, Surrey) & Mr Andrew Dunn (Portsmouth, Hampshire)
Fourth Official: Mr Simon Finnigan (Maidstone)

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