Luer rescues point for Eastbourne Borough in Dulwich Hamlet clash
Four goals shared, and a Priory Lane afternoon that never stood still. Eastbourne Borough and Dulwich Hamlet played out a cracking National South draw on Saturday.
Danny Bloor had no complaints. “There are losing draws and winning draws and this was a winning draw. We showed terrific character in coming from behind in the final phase, with another great goal from Greg Luer, and the score was about right.
“You could argue for a win, with Curtis Anderson not having a shot to save, but we are still a work in progress. Last season we scarcely had an injury, and now we are beset with them. Some of our best players are not quite at their very best currently, but it will all come together.”
The Sports manager had watched last year’s top scorer Chris Whelpdale notch his first of the season, and the home side might have been further ahead before conceding a car-crash equaliser before half-time. And when Dulwich grabbed a 64th minute lead, Borough might have faded to defeat.
But an impressive final phase saw Luer drill in the equaliser six minutes from time – and in added time, when substitute Charlie Lambert went sprawling in the Dulwich box, hearts missed a beat all around the ground. Penalty? Referee Tom Danaher was not persuaded, and the final 2-2 was a fair reflection of a gripping afternoon.
To call Hamlet fans a rabble is no insult. It is their own adopted label, with a capital R, and the visiting South Londoners were joyously boisterous as always. Dulwich and the Sports are not identical clubs but they are on parallel paths, sharing a love of community as well as the sport.
At kick-off, taking the knee was ringingly applauded all around the stadium, and even those spectators with reservations about the gesture itself would surely share the unflinching commitment to racial and social justice, in the football family and beyond.
And on to the match: a swaying, pulsating 90 minutes of action. Hamlet are a formidable side, big, quick and really hard to play against. They started strongly, but Anderson dealt comfortably with two early strikes by Andrew Harris-Sealy, and the home defence grew in confidence.
Further forward, Bloor had been forced into a last-minute team change when Charlie Walker pulled up in the warm-up. Leone Gravata slotted in behind spearhead Greg Luer, and there was an impressive return for Charley Kendall, who had enjoyed a superb loan spell from QPR in last year’s curtailed campaign.
But it was last season’s top scorer who broke the deadlock. The tall, rangy Chris Whelpdale had already combined sublimely with Kendall and Luer to set up a 10th-minute chance for Gravata, whose cracking shot was brilliantly tipped over the bar by Charlie Grainger. And on the half-hour Whelpdale latched on to James Hammond’s long free-kick to drill in a shot from 12 yards, for 1-0.
Like a wounded tiger, Dulwich struck back within minutes. Anderson and full-back Kasim Aidoo had almost contrived a comic own goal, the keeper scrambling back like a volleyball player to divert Aidoo’s header wide. Then from a steepling left-wing corner Anderson – surrounded by giant opponents – missed his punch, and the ball spun achingly over the crush of players and just under the bar.
1-1, and so it stayed until half-time. Danny had to tweak his back line yet again, with Steve James replacing the injured Jake Elliott – and another Danny was lurking. Lean, hungry and lethal, Danny Mills has scored against Borough for four different clubs. On either side of half-time he had come close to giving Hamlet the lead.
And, ironically, following a bright Borough spell with Kendall finding good space and young James Beresford overlapping keenly, it was Dulwich who went ahead. As a looping ball came in, Mills outjumped Anderson who, well off his line, could not prevent Darren McQueen from pouncing on the loose ball and ramming it home for 2-1. Behind the goal, the Rabble went into raptures. Not that the Sports ever wish to concede – but what a joy to hear a football ground ringing with noise after all those months of empty stands and locked turnstiles!
The final quarter, now, of a physical high-paced contest: and urged on by their own faithful fans, Borough battled back with real commitment. Whelpdale hit a phenomenal 40-yarder, like a mortar-shell, but too high, and then Luer saw a shot blocked before substitute Dom Hutchinson swerved in from the left but struck wide.
And with Dulwich visibly wilting, Luer struck like a silent assassin. After two of his probing passes were blocked, Greg retrieved the ball 25 yards out and struck a low and lethal shot, spinning off the right post and into the net. Two apiece, and no complaints from either side, or from 752 happy spectators.
Borough (4-2-3-1): Anderson; Beresford, Elliott (James 46), Dickenson, Aidoo; Hammond, Ferry; Kendall (Lambert 73), Whelpdale, Gravata (Hutchinson 61); Luer. Unused subs: Holter, Towning.
Referee: Tom Danaher Att: 752
Borough MoM: a towering Mitch Dickenson