Leiston hold Dulwich Hamlet as play-off dream disappear

Leiston (blue shirts) V Dulwich Hamlet.
Tom Bullard

Leiston (blue shirts) V Dulwich Hamlet. Tom Bullard

Leiston recorded their fourth consecutive draw to end their slim play-off hopes, but in doing so dented their opponents Dulwich Hamlet’s own play-off ambitions.

Leading scorer Christy Finch notched his 20th goal of the season as the Blues remained in eighth place and on course for their highest league finish in their history.

Hamlet, and their large travelling support, will be disappointed not to have taken all three points back to south London, a failure which saw them drop to sixth, and outside of the play-off places.

Leiston started brightly, playing into the wind and rain, with Leon Ottley-Gooch winning an early free kick in a dangerous right wing position, a cross which was cleared at the back post.

The Blues broke the deadlock on seven minutes. Gareth Heath was released down the right-hand side and his quick, early cross was met by the studs of Finch, who had nipped in front of his marker to prod home.

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The lead could have been doubled on 16 minutes, this time Finch crossing low for Heath, whose first time shot was well blocked.

Ronan Michael-Percil was the central playmaker for the visitors, looking to make things happen going forward.

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He had a sliced left-footed shot that was the closest Dulwich came in the opening half hour.

On 32 minutes they were presented with a better opportunity with a direct free kick right on the edge of the box. Jack Dixon lined it up but his driven effort was blocked by the substantial wall.

The unrelenting rain and one-goal deficit didn’t dampen the spirits of the die-hard away support, who could have seen their team fall further behind before the break. First, a Billy Clark corner was turned goalwards by Joe Jefford with an improvised back flick and then Heath was played through after a nice reverse pass from Finch, but he lost his footing at the crucial moment.

The second half saw a drop in the wind and the introduction of Damien Scannell for the visitors.

He made an immediate impact, putting Hamlet on the front foot and causing Leiston to sit deeper.

They got their just rewards on the hour mark, Kevin James picking the ball up 30 yards from goal and firing low and hard past Ashlee Jones.

As the game wore on, the conditions started to take its toll and both sides tired.

Hamlet had a penalty claim turned down on 72 minutes and Kelsey Trotter and Patrick Brothers both had shots cleared for Leiston.

On 83 minutes, Leiston broke out of defence and Heath was released through on goal with the Hamlet defence very high.

Preston Edwards, in the away goal, was quick to close down and he made a good block, although it was a real chance for the Blues to potentially snatch all three points.

This was a fantastic advert for the Ryman Premier Divison, where Leiston will play for the fifth consecutive season.

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