In 1863, Ulysees S Grant’s Union forces squared up to Pemberton’s Confederates between Jackson and Vicksburg. A thousand men would die that day, with three times as many injured in what became known in the history books as the Battle of Champion Hill. Well the historians can chuck those history books in the bin and start re-writing them, because on 6 December 2022, on the northern escarpment of SE22, 908 of us saw something more befitting of that name.
Picture the scene. The Pink and Blues, slowly but impressively regrouping after an early season shellacking, took to the pitch on a cold Tuesday evening to take on high-flying Chelmsford City. The Essex backwoodsmen were huge, looming over the Sons of Edgar Kail like a winter energy bill. Their number 5 had feet like an outsized Hobbit looking every inch Richard Kiel’s stunt double. And their goalkeeper filled the goal like an ill-judged second slice of Stollen. The watching Rabble let out a collective gulp as in the chill still night the whistle blew to unleash hell.
It soon became plain why the leviathans of the Essex steppe were high up the league. Direct and forthright, the Hamlet goal was under siege for large parts of the game, with Hamlet stopper Charlie “The Cat” Grainger more than earning whatever we pay him. But East Dulwich’s finest were not for rolling over, regularly outflanking Chelmsford’s heavy artillery to launch raids on the rearguard. Indeed after 19 minutes sharpshooter Jayden Clarke latched onto a cross from Sanchez “the Emperor” Ming and slotted the ball home. The second half started cautiously, cagily even; and then exploded (for reasons we know not) into a one-in-all-in skirmish near and about the domed dugouts. As the smoke cleared, two players were sent off along with both managers. Rumour has it the Hamlet’s gaffer was sent to the stands because in answer to demands from the ref that he come clean on which Pink and Blue had thrown a punch, a stolid Paul Barnes answered “I’m no grass.” This probably isn’t true. But we sincerely hope it is.
With the carnage cleared, and the match back underway, the Pride of Camberwell Borders quickly doubled their lead through Clarke again, who leapt celebrating into the broiling crowd like Cronos at an early Venom gig. Chelmsford got a late goal back, but to no avail with Hamlet taking all three points. What a night under the lights.
Meanwhile, the women’s teams’ heroic progress in the FA Cup came to an end against mighty Gillingham, in a 2-1 loss. Roared on by a record crowd of 631, the Hamlet battled hard, and scored a right worldie of a goal. But couldn’t find an equaliser. What an effort nonetheless. The club is proud of you.
With this flip dark chill winter continuing unabated, it may be some woolly hat and scarf action is what you require. In which case take a look at the online Dulwich Hamlet Supporters’ Trust site at https://dhst.org.uk/ for a bit of that. And of course keep apprised of all team and ticket news at https://www.pitchero.com/clubs/dulwichhamlet.
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, and cry God for Paul Barnes, East Dulwich and The Hamlet.