By Ben Henderson (@benhenderson96)
DULWICH HAMLET will open their National League South campaign this Saturday with a trip to Welling United.
Following their historic play-off promotion from the Isthmian League Premier Division last season, Dulwich will be looking to show their credentials in National League South with a fast start to the season.
Welling finished tenth in 2017-18 and so the game could be an even match-up.
Pre-season friendlies are more akin to training ground exercises than accurate indicators of form. However, the two clubs’ recent divergent results make ominous reading for Hamlet fans.
Following a close defeat to a Charlton XI and a penalty shoot-out victory over Bromley, Dulwich were beaten by AFC Hornchurch and Maidstone United, 3-0 and 4-1 respectively.
Welling, on the other hand, battled hard during a 1-0 defeat to Championship outfit Millwall, before dispatching a QPR XI 4-1 last weekend in impressive style.
Much rests on the shoulders of Dulwich’s key men, who must step up to the plate. Also under the microscope at The Rabble will be new signings Anthony Cook and Byron Lawrence. Cook, in particular, is an exciting player who turned down offers from bigger clubs to join Hamlet, so much is expected from him.
The season begins against the backdrop of the club’s woes surrounding their stadium. Their landlords, Meadow Residential, claimed to have written off the club’s debts in July.
Meadow want the local council to let them construct 224 flats on Hamlet’s Champion Hill ground, and have locked the club out in the meantime. Meadow says it will build a new stadium on an adjacent piece of land, but Southwark are refusing to countenance those plans.
Gut-wrenching photographs of Champion Hill’s dilapidated pitch circulated on social media this summer. Dulwich, therefore, will continue to play their home games at the home of Tooting & Mitcham United.
Dulwich manager Gavin Rose and his team must put these issues to one side on Saturday.
They have a more immediate task at hand – beginning this season’s instalment of their march up the football leagues in positive style.
The game will kick off at 3pm at Welling’s Park View Road ground.
Image: Duncan Palmer Photography