Dulwich Hamlet’s frustrating start to the Ryman Premier campaign continued as they conceded an injury-time equaliser to draw 2-2 with Burgess Hill Town on Saturday.
Despite comprehensively outplaying their opponents on an afternoon heavy with humidity and the threat of rain, the result means Gavin Rose’s side have now dropped twelve points from their opening 7 games.
Coming into the match the teams had identical records having both won two, drawn two and lost two of their opening six fixtures – the Sussex side two places ahead of their rivals on goal difference – but it was Dulwich who started the stronger.
Attacking midfielder Kadell Daniel was at the centre of everything good for the Hamlet, first drawing a smart save from Josh James in the Burgess Hill goal before crossing for Ibrahim Kargbo whose header was cleared off the lined. A disguised pass with shades of Andrea Pirlo then just evaded Tomlin’s spell when he was put through on goal.
Dulwich’s first goal eventually came just before half time. The game’s other bright spark, Roman Michael-Percil, played an incisive pass through to Tomlin who brought the ball under control and sloted calmly into the bottom right corner.
Burgess Hill posed virtually no attacking threat in the first half. Striker Sam Gargan looked to be carrying the extra baggage checked-in on his summer holidays, and their first shot on goal came in added time at the end of the first-half when full-back Lee Harding blasted high and wide from 35 yards.
Having let a half-time lead slip through their fingers and fall to the floor in defeat in their last home game against Canvey Island, Dulwich started the second half strongly. Winger Nyren Clunis drilled a cross from the bye-line which just evaded Tomlin before Daniel arced a shot wide from the edge of the area. Spurned opportunities continued to flow when centre-back Michael Chambers headed down from a corner only for Sanchez Ming to blaze over from six yards.
Burgess Hill replaced the labouring Gargan with forward Daniel Thompson ten minutes into the second half and the injection of match-fitness gave the side a lift. Bereft of ideas for most of the afternoon, a moment of magic drew them level in the 60th minute when midfielder Dan Pearse cracked a looping volley with nut-like sweetness off the underside of the bar and into the back of Preston Edwards’ net.
Rose looked to shake things up by bringing on new signing Alex Teniola who joined from National League South side Concord Rangers on a one-month loan last week. The change instantly paid dividends as the rambunctious forward chased down a ball on the right wing and drilled into the middle where the ball ricocheted off Burgess Hill centre-back Cheick Toure and into the back of his own net.
Teniola almost secured the three points for Dulwich in the 85th minute when he rose to meet a cross from the evergreen Clunis and saw his header come back off the inside of the post and into the grateful arms of Josh James.
But in the 91st minute Dulwich were made to pay for their missed chances. A lack of concentration at a corner saw Dan Pearse’s delivery evade everyone on its way to James Richmond at the far post who prodded home.
Speaking after the game Burgess Hill manager Ian Chapman expressed his relief: “I’m delighted with a point to be honest, we were lucky. Dulwich will definitely be up there come the end of the season.”
Gavin Rose struck a more frustrated tone. “There was not enough consistent end product – it’s not good enough,” said the Dulwich manager. “We didn’t manage the game well and there are a lot of questions that need to be answered.”
Already 10 points off the top of the table, Dulwich need to start answering them quickly.