Town Stage Dramatic Comeback

Enfield Town 3 Dulwich Hamlet 2

Report by Andrew Warshaw

Sometimes playing against 10 men can be a curse rather than a blessing.

Not this time as Enfield Town took advantage of numerical superiority for the last 35 minutes on Saturday, hitting back from two goals down to end Hamlet’s 10-match unbeaten league run and move into Christmas in third, a fantastic achievement and something to be proud of.

Tactical nous by the management team combined with a collective reaction from the players turned what looked like a potential defeat against strong opponents  into three massive points that set us up for the holiday programme.

Dulwich’s tall defenders gobbled up much of our early play whilst their long ball game kept us on our toes at the other end.

The spaces we usually find were hard to come by and on 37 minutes we fell behind. Mickey Parcell sold Rhys Forster short with an underhit  backpass and Josh Okotcha impeded Danny Mills as Hamlet’s danger man prepared to shoot on the turn. Luke Wanadio made no mistake from the spot.

We should have equalised straight away when Reece Beckles-Richards was clean through but slipped at the vital moment though Dulwich got lucky when a crude foul on Ollie Knight by Joshua Okpolokpo earlier in the same move went unpunished.

H-T 0-0

After an even first half, Town emerged with far more ideas and fluency and were immediately denied a stonewall penalty for a blatant handball by Okpolokpo that incensed players and management alike.

R’van Constable then pulled off two smart saves but on 54 minutes we were given the perfect encouragement when Okpolokpo, booked in the final minute of the first half, was finally sent off for a second yellow.

Yet it was Dulwich who struck again, doubling their lead as Mills’ strength took him into the area before unleashing a powerful drive beyond Rhys Forster.

Town needed a lifeline and Sam Youngs almost provided it, only for Constable to get his fingertips to a rasping drive.

Parcell then saw a volley flash wide while Marcus Wyllie, uncharacteristically, missed our second one-on-one of the afternoon as he poked the ball straight down Constable’s throat.

A change of formation saw us move to 3-5-2 with Parcell in central midfield and on 69 minutes we halved the deficit.  

Seemingly keen to atone for his previous blunder, the referee harshly pointed to the spot for a hardly visible handball and Youngs sent the otherwise commanding Constable the wrong way.

It was exactly the tonic we needed if only we could improve our finishing to round off our attacking play.

Youngs had a 25-yard volley tipped over but on 81 minutes, debutant Jonathan Hippolyte, signed only on Friday, levelled from close range just moments after coming off the bench when Wyllie’s soft shot was deflected into his path.

Even now it seemed Dulwich, despite being pegged back, might hold out with ten.

Instead,  in the last minute of normal time, Lewis Taaffe, another well-timed substitution, collected an uncleared corner and fed James Richmond who smashed the ball  home from the edge of the box (pictured, celebrating).

There was still time, after the final whistle, for Dulwich boss Hakan Hayrettin to be dismissed for what appeared to be some choice language to the referee after declining to shake hands with our dugout.

Gavin Macpherson had also fallen foul of the ref by being booked at halftime for seemingly simply standing up for his players but was delighted with the win, especially after training on Thursday had been disrupted by floodlight failure.

“I think our tactics were spot on,” said Gavin citing the change in system that arguably won us the game as we went wider when 10-man Dulwich played narrower.

 “All we were lacking early on was that bit of quality and sharpness in trying to break them down. We had got into good areas but then fluffed our lines.”

“Would we have won 11 against 11? I’ve no idea to be honest but I don’t think anyone can deny us the win. They’re an experienced side with Step 1 and 2 players.

“I wasn’t happy with the goals we conceded because it gave us a mountain to climb. It’s not every day you manage to come back from two goals down.

“But in terms of character and desire I can’t fault the players.”

Forster: Parcell, Okotcha, Richmond, Payne; Adjei-Hersey (Hippolyte 73), Youngs, Thomas, Knight; Beckles-Richards (Taaffe, 82), Wyllie (Donnellan 90)