By Mark Caswell
GAVIN ROSE said Dulwich Hamlet have their “destiny” in their hands after seeing his side edge through to a third successive Isthmian League Premier Division play-off final.
Ashley Carew’s 71st-minute winner direct from a free-kick against Leiston on Thursday night sets up a decider against Hendon next Monday.
The prize is a place in National League South, the sixth tier of English football.
The Hamlet had to work hard for this play-off semi-final win after a disputed free-kick goal.
It was a tight, tense game with chances at a premium. Leiston’s only worthy attempt on goal came in the 35th minute, when the all-action Carew blocked Byron Lawrence’s shot from the edge of the six-yard box.
The visitors’ goalkeeper Marcus Garnham then made a couple of impressive saves from Nathan Green and Carew.
Leiston paid special attention to Player of the year Nyren Clunis, who had celebrated 400 club appearances in the previous game against Margate.
Clunis was involved in the controversial and deciding moment when the referee gave a free-kick to the home team for a hotly disputed foul on the edge of the box, which left Carew to curl home from 20 yards nineteen minutes from time.
The only real concern for the Dulwich management team was the ease with which Leiston made continual forays down their right-hand side, but the visitors were unable to create any chances with Michael Chambers outstanding in the centre of the hosts’ defence.
Leiston assistant manager and former Millwall midfielder Tony Kinsella said after the game: “Dulwich are the second-best footballing team in the division and I hope that they get promotion.”
There were 1,285 fans at the semi-final, the vast majority of them in Hamlet colours. Rose said that support was crucial as he felt his side didn’t play to their maximum.
“This was not a good performance, but we found a way through,” Rose said and confirmed key defender Ricky Hayles was to be checked in hospital after the ball was kicked into his eye.
Rose added: “Our destiny is now in our own hands, we have a good opportunity to prepare mentally and tactically and we will be no different.’
‘”We had two topsy-turvy games with Hendon this season.”
The final will be at Hamlet’s temporary home ground at Tooting & Mitcham and will kick off at 3pm on Bank Holiday Monday.
Hamlet: Tangara, Weatherstone, Green, Kargbo, Hayles, Chambers, Clunis, Carew, Allassani, Tomlin, Beaney.
Subs: Ming, Akinyemi, Acheampong, Ferguson, Faal
Image: Duncan Palmer Photography