Margate 2-1 Dulwich Hamlet - Lady luck blessed us, admits Margate boss Terry Brown

Thursday 14th May 2015
Margate 2 – 1 Dulwich Hamlet
Location Hartsdown Park, Hartsdown Road, Margate, Kent CT9 5QZ
Kickoff 14/05/2015 19:45

Ryman Premier League Play-Off Semi-Final
Thursday 14th May 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Hartsdown Park

MARGATE boss Terry Brown admits to feeling relieved that lady luck was on his side after progressing through to the Ryman Premier League Play-Off Final.

The game was delayed for fourteen days following the long-winded saga involving Enfield Town, but these two sides put on a high-quality game in front of a crowd of 1,073 at a windy Hartsdown Park.

Margate drew first blood through Ryan Moss, who came back from his holiday in Dubai to score his 25th goal of the season, just five minutes before half-time.

Dulwich Hamlet equalised through a solo goal and curling finish from 23-year-old winger Nyren Clunis, who scored his seventh goal of the season, before Margate sealed their passage to Sunday’s winner-takes-all clash away to runners-up Hendon, courtesy of an own goal from Dulwich Hamlet keeper Phil Wilson.

“Very relieved! I thought they were probably the two best footballing sides in the league and for us to be playing each other I thought it was always going to be close,” said Brown, 62.

“I thought there was very little to choose between the teams.

“The saves that Nikki Bull pulled off, if he didn’t pull them off, we don’t win today!

“I think it was an even game that could have gone either way and I thought Ryan Moss’ first goal and his presence really for the second goal was great.”

Dulwich Hamlet manager Gavin Rose was disappointed following his side’s heartbreaking elimination from the promotion race.

He said: “Obviously disappointed to lose but we all knew what the outcome of the season is if you don’t go up as champions – you have a tussle of a play-off.

“I thought it was a good game. We’ve played three games this year against Margate, which I think have all been hard fought and entertaining games and to be honest with you I thought tonight was no different.

“Both sides like to play good football. We haven’t played for two and a half weeks but I thought the standard was good considering that.

“I thought we played well at times, passed the ball well and we were a good threat on goal and maybe, with a little bit of luck, we probably could have scored one or two goals more.”

Brown added: “I think both sides try to get it down and play. We had a plan today and that was not to press them too high because we’ve got beaten twice by them before and they’re capable of passing round you.

“They’re probably the only side that’s capable of playing round us.  They stuck to that to the letter even when we went to one-all. That’s when we stepped up a gear and we took the game back to them on our front foot again.

“I’m really pleased with the performance and obviously relieved and delighted with the outcome.”

Dulwich Hamlet, who finished their campaign in fourth-place on 76 points from 46 games, started the game on the front foot and created their first opening inside the opening five minutes.

Albert Jarrett swung in a corner from the left and striker Harry Ottaway directed his free header screaming just past the left-hand post – with goalkeeper Nikki Bull diving to his right – from 12-yards.

Dulwich Hamlet keeper Wilson was called into action after only 11 minutes to deny a Margate side that under-achieved in third-place on 85 points.

Left-back Sam Rents swung in a corner from the right and Brett Johnson rose to plant his header towards the top right-hand corner from 12-yards, but Wilson dived to his left to use a strong left hand to deny the 29-year-old central defender.

Brown said: “I thought both sides were quite dangerous from set-pieces. I’m just pleased that we’ve managed to keep our composure and keep to our game plan and that was important today.”

Rose added: “Phil’s been good all year.  We know they’re a strong team from set-pieces and you have to be careful with them in that respect.  It was a very important save for us, especially early on.”

Margate started to shade the game and another set-piece from Rents, this time a free-kick from the right, skidded off Johnson’s head to fly comfortably past the post.

Dulwich Hamlet produced a slick move on the wet playing surface at the halfway point of the first half.

Jordan Hibbert, Clunis and Jarrett played the ball about at a fast tempo and Kevin James fed the ball to overlapping left-back Frazer Shaw, who whipped in a first time cross towards the near post, which Ottaway glanced his header just over from 12-yards.

Rose said: “I don’t think there wasn’t much between the two teams. Margate have showed us a lot of respect as well. They dropped off a little bit to try to deny us a bit of space behind.

“I thought we did well, we passed the ball well at times probing and always looked a threat.  Maybe our final pass or cross or shot probably let us down a little bit.”

It was then turn for Margate to play sublime attacking football which involved Lewis Taylor, Tom Phipp and Freddie Ladapo, which resulted in Lewis Taylor whipping in a low cross which just evaded the onrushing Moss at the near post.

But Brown was relieved when Dulwich Hamlet struck the foot of both posts with 31 minutes on the clock.

Ottaway slid the ball out to right-winger Jarrett, who cut inside and was given time and space to drill his left-footed shot against the foot of the near post from 25-yards.

The ball rolled agonisingly along the line kissing the other post and Margate put the ball behind for a corner, leaving the yellow shirted Hamlet attackers and fans behind the goal in despair.

Rose said: “Very disappointing!  Fine lines from Albert, he comes inside and hits a very good shot, which looked like it’s beaten Bull in goal but very agonisingly hits both posts which is quite unusual. It’s just how our luck went a bit.”

Brown admitted that Margate received a huge slice of luck: “Credit to both their wingers, they’ve got two good wingers. There was a couple of times when they cut inside and let loose.  Nikki, nobody would have saved that!

“I’ve been to the play-offs enough times to know that you’ve got to have a little lady luck in the side – that could have gone either way today and lady luck blessed us!”

Lewis Taylor was released down the left for Margate before he cut inside onto his right-foot and drilled a right-footed drive screaming just over the bar from 30-yards.

Dulwich Hamlet went close when Jarrett swung in another corner from the left, which Matt Drage came up from the back to loop his towering header towards the top far corner, which was flicked over the bar by Bull.

The Hamlet were awarded a free-kick down the right flank and Jarrett tried to sneak his left-footed free-kick into the bottom far corner, which Bull read well and gobbled the ball up beside his near post.

But Margate drew first blood with 39:57 on the clock, courtesy of a fine attacking move.

Striker Ladapo and central midfielder Phipp linked up inside Dulwich’s half and Lewis Taylor played the ball into Charlie Allen.

The versatile midfielder - watched by his Barnet championship winning dad Martin - dinked a lovely ball in behind Drage and Ethan Pinnock and Moss rose to reach the ball before Wilson, looping his header into the far corner of an empty net from eight-yards.

“Really pleased that Charlie’s back in the frame now because his energy, his legs give you the edge in midfield,” said Brown.

“Ryan Moss is always going to get his head on those type of crosses and got there before the keeper and obviously made the best of it.”

“He always manages to score against us Ryan Moss. He always seems to do well against us,” Rose said of the former Kingstonian hit-man.

“The cross could have been contested by the defenders before Phil really has to come for the cross.  Phil’s put his hand up and apologised. He made a decision.  He’s made some really good decisions for us this year as well so we back him 100%.”

An honest Wilson admitted: “I’ve got to shoulder most of the blame for the first goal.  It’s absolutely killed us!

“We were on top of the game. If I came for a cross, I’ve got to get there!”

When asked whether the goal changed his half-time team-talk, Brown admitted: “It was basically about keeping to the game plan regardless of what happened. 

“They got the equaliser and you think blimey, they’re going to be on the front foot now, but we kept to the game plan and we pushed on and I thought we created the better chances in the second half.”

Rose admitted Moss’ header hit his team hard and he had to calm his players down inside the portacabins during the interval.

“I thought we had a slight panic after the goal. We were making some bad decisions after the goal and we looked like we could have conceded again so we tried to settle them down a bit and gave them some realisation that we were only one goal down,” said Hamlet’s longest serving manager.

“We were only one goal down in the game and (I told my players) not to go crazy and chase after the ball and give away a silly goal, which I felt we were doing after the goal so we calmed down a little bit in the second half and I thought we were much more composed at the start of the second half.”

Bull produced a world-class save to frustrate Dulwich Hamlet inside the opening five minutes of the second half.

Kevin James played a short free-kick to Shaw, who played the ball inside to Clunis, who cut inside to unleash a stunning right-footed dipping drive from 35-yards, which was destined to scream into the top far corner of the net.

But the 33-year-old keeper dived to his left and used his left hand to push the ball over the crossbar.

When asked what he was thinking as the ball flew through the air, Brown simply replied: “I’m thinking I’m glad I’ve got Bully in goal! Bully’s the best goalkeeper in this league by miles and he proved it today!”

Rose praised both the shot and the world-class save from the Margate stopper.

He said: “Very, very good save but again an excellent run and shot from Nyren.  We know he’s capable of that sort of play.  It was very good from him and probably another keeper, an average keeper in the league doesn’t save that!”

Dulwich Hamlet squandered an opportunity when Jarrett curled his left-footed free-kick around the near post from 28-yards.

But Dulwich Hamlet deservedly equalised in the 67th minute when their most impressive player on the night scored.

A poor touch from Margate’s right-back Tambeson Eyong gifted possession to Clunis close to the half-way line inside Margate’s half and the tricky winger  paced forward 40-yards before curling a right-footed shot around Bull to find the bottom far corner from 20-yards.

“To be honest it gave me a bit of confidence really because it’s good to see your team going forward at the time doing well and have opportunities to score,” said Rose. 

“It’s more frustrating when you don’t make any attempt on the other team’s goal and we looked like we were and it feels you with confidence.”

Brown said: “We had good possession and Kane (Wills) was feeding it to the full-back. Tam’s given it to Kane and Tam’s first touch got him in trouble and they break away and scored.

“If you ask them to play football, they are occasionally going to mess up and it’s going to cost you dearly but credit to Tam, later on in the game he was instrumental in winning the ball back and creating our second goal so credit to Tam for that.”

It was now game on but Brown was pleased in the manner that his side stepped up a gear.

Brown, who guided AFC Wimbledon into The Football League through the Conference play-offs back in 2011, said: “That’s when I thought we switched on the gas and took the game to them.

“I was really pleased. I thought we were able to make the change with Jamie Taylor and he probably was more at home in that little hole behind the front two than what Charlie Allen is. I thought he made a little difference there and Charlie Allen done well sitting back in his midfield slot.”

The Hamlet cleared away Rents’ corner from the right and the ball fell nicely for Allen, who skipped past Shaw to bend a low left-footed shot towards the bottom corner, which Wilson did well to dive low to his right to parry before the ball was sliced away by Drage.

Margate – who lost both league games to Dulwich Hamlet during the season - grabbed the victory through a fortuitous goal with 13 minutes left.

It was a three-on-three counter attack as Eyong recovered from his earlier mistake to feed Lewis Taylor through the middle who swept the ball out wide to Moss on the right, who powered his cross towards the far post.

Lewis Taylor jumped to power his header towards goal, Dulwich defender Drage attempted to clear the ball away and the ball ricochet off the unfortunate diving Wilson, the ball bouncing over the line to the delight of the Margate fans behind the goal.

Brown admitted he didn’t care who claimed the last touch – the club are now just one win away from returning to Vanarama National League South (Conference South in old money) for the first time since 2004.

“Our boys are saying Jamie Taylor stuck it in, so I’ll have that,” said Brown.

“It was a lovely move. It was a nice real move and a good pull back. I though Lewis Taylor was going to head the ball in but football being football, it took a couple of bounces.

“To be fair I don’t care if Jack The Ripper stuck it in!”

Rose felt his side should have done better when they had possession of the ball before Margate broke away in devastating fashion.

He said: “After our goal we got a head rush again and tried to attack at every opportunity and not sort of control the game and that actually was our Achilles heel tonight.

“We gained possession. Kevin (James) picked it up and played a short pass to Xavier (Vidal) when he probably should have gone square and looked after the ball and Xavier lost possession and they countered on us.

“Our players were out of position and we were also scrambling to get back in. They worked the overload well, crossed the ball and the header came back across. We got a block but unfortunately it got a deflection and went in.

“At the end of the day you have to take it. We’ve probably had a bit of luck during the season and you ride your luck. When it goes against you and you have to hold your hand up and move on.”

Wilson added: “It hit Matt and it hit me and it hit me as I was diving. He did well to get there – (but it hit me last).”

An unmarked Clunis drilled a right-footed shot over the Margate crossbar from 30-yards, before double player-of-the-year Pinnock came up from the back to glance Jarrett’s free-kick into Bull’s hands.

Margate created the final chance when man-of-the-match Lewis Taylor played a fine diagonal pass, which sailed over Moss’s head and substitute Jamie Taylor’s angled drive was saved by Wilson, diving low to his left.

Brown added: “I thought we had a couple of real good chances towards the end and I think it would have been a bit of an injustice.

“I think it was a very narrow result and that was a fair result for me.”

Margate will travel to Harrow to tackle Hendon on Sunday to see who will join champions Maidstone United in the Vanarama National League South last season.

It will be the fourth time that the Kent side have come up against Gary McCann’s side – who finished runners-up on 95 points, three points adrift of The Stones.

Hendon defeated Metropolitan Police 2-1 in tonight’s other semi-final.

The north Londoners have the upper hand going into the game with two wins and a draw in the games that the two sides have faced each other.

Brown said: “You’ve got to take your hat off to Hendon, they haven’t been beaten for 24 or 25 games and that’s an incredible run to achieve that.

“We’ve got to be the team to beat the favourites now. They’re the team that everyone fancies and the team that finished the closest to Maidstone so we have to be at our best to beat them on Sunday.”

Play-off tussles are great when you win them and heartbreaking when you don’t but Rose put on a brave face following his side’s cruel defeat.

“Margate finished a lot higher than we did in the league in terms of points and sometimes that’s a bit of a factor,” said Rose.

“We’ve got no axe to grind. We felt we worked really hard and the league season was a bit of an improvement on the year before. 

“Unfortunately we couldn’t carry it forward and get promotion but the players’ have done themselves and the football club really proud.”

When asked about his plans for next season, Rose replied: “Well to be honest with you, I’ll speak to the club on Friday regards to their aims and reflections for next season and of course see where I stand from there.

“Maidstone are up and they’re a very strong team out of the league and Hendon and Margate have got the final to play so one of those will be up and one will be down.

“There’s many good teams in the league so you can’t take it for granted.  Even teams at the bottom can beat you so we’ve got to start again. We’ve got teams coming down from Conference South (Farnborough and Staines Town) who will be good teams as well.

“You have to start again and try to get a team that betters what we’ve done this year.”

Margate: Nikki Bull, Tambeson Eyong, Sam Rents, Tom Phipp (Jamie Taylor 75), Charlie Wassmer, Brett Johnson, Lewis Taylor, Kane Wills (Anthony Riviere 90), Ryan Moss, Freddie Ladapo, Charlie Allen.
Subs: Ryan James, John Beales, Jack Bennett

Goals: Ryan Moss 40, Phil Wilson (own goal) 77

Dulwich Hamlet: Phil Wilson, Jordan Hibbert (Dean McDonald 69), Frazer Shaw, Jack Dixon, Matt Drage, Ethan Pinnock, Nyren Clunis, Kevin James, Harry Ottaway (Joe Benjamin 85), Xavier Vidal (Kershaney Samuels 77), Albert Jarrett.
Subs: Terrell Forbes, Shawn McCoulsky

Goal: Nyren Clunis 67

Booked: Matt Drage 15, Frazer Shaw 16

Attendance: 1,073
Referee: Mr Paul Howard
Assistants: Mr Jamie Gilham & Mr Michael Ryan
Fourth Official: Mr Paul Yates