It seems like a long time ago, but until the 1990s if you wanted to see a top football match you could simply turn up a few minutes before kickoff and pay at the turnstiles. This was the case even for top games such as Arsenal vs Liverpool. The game would kick off at three o’clock on Saturday afternoon, not at some far less convenient time chosen by the TV companies. If the game wasn’t featured on Match of the Day or ITV’s Big Match, the only way to see it was to be there in person. Furthermore, it was no more expensive than going to see a movie.
But those days aren’t entirely gone. On 8 September, more than 1,100 fans saw Dulwich Hamlet play out an entertaining 1-all draw against high-flying Wealdstone at Dulwich’s home from home, Tooting & Mitcham United’s Imperial Fields stadium.
Newly-promoted to the National League South, Dulwich had been finding life tough at the higher level, and had lost their last three home games. The most recent defeat, a poor performance against Hampton & Richmond Borough, had prompted manager Gavin Rose to make wholesale changes to the team.
The most vociferous Dulwich fans, known as the Rabble, take up position behind the goal the home side will be attacking in the first half.
At this point, the Wealdstone end is only modestly populated, but with a only a few minutes before kickoff many ‘Stones fans are still queuing outside the ground.
The teams shake hands before kickoff.
The visitors have the best of the first half, and lead by a penalty. Half time sees not only the teams but also the fans change ends. Wealdstone have brought around 200 fans, and they are in good voice.
But the Rabble are also in good voice, urging the Hamlet to stage a second half comeback.
The second half gets underway.
A much better second half performance ensues from Dulwich, but Wealdstone hold on as the clock runs down. It is beginning to look like another afternoon of frustration at Imperial Fields.
Then, on 80 minutes, Anthony Cook levels for the home side with this superb strike – his first goal for the club.
There are further chances at both ends, but no more goals and the match ends all square.
The two teams leave the field. Both sets of fans are happy with the result, which has seen the Hamlet end a run of three successive home defeats.
All this for twelve quid, or if you are over sixty like me – a fiver. What not to like!