Hamlet 2 Margate 1
A memorable win in a high quality contest that could have swung either way at the end of an exhilarating second half. As it happened a goal from the last meaningful kick of the match gave Hamlet the kudos of being the first club to defeat what is reputedly the most expensively assembled team in Isthmian League history. Having a couple of our injured players back (Samuels & James) plus the reliable Wilson in goal in favour of the more unpredictable Echepare made all the difference, although we still looked a bit light up front with Clunis, Ottaway, Lodge and McDonald joined on the injured list by latest signing Graham.
To begin with Hamlet looked a bit overawed by the visitors, sitting very deep and soaking up a lot of pressure in our own half, something I don't recall seeing at Champion Hill since the first part of our very first game back in the Premier Division against Lowestoft last year. We fell behind after fifteen minutes when Margate's number 7 beat Wilson with a stunning first time shot from outsdie the box that whistled into the top corner. For a while after that it looked like a damage limitation exercise, but towards the end of the half we gained a foothold, enjoying more possession in their half and Vidal troubled the keeper with a ferocious long range strike that was rather unconvincingly beaten out.
A cynical foul around 35 yards from goal paved the way for a Hamlet equaliser just before the hour. Carew chipped the free kick into the box where it was headed away back to him. Given a second chance to deliver he lofted a high ball back towards the penalty spot; possibly distracted by James loitering well offside but remaining static the Gate defenders failed to track Gonsalves, drifting forward, who trapped the ball dead near the penalty spot before confidently slamming it past the keeper. The rest of the second half was end-to-end stuff with chances at both ends and nothing to really choose between the two sides. As stoppage time approached I had the fatalistic feeling that Margate's extra depth of quality and experience would enable them to snatch a late winner, but instead it came at the other end. Hamici chased down a long ball up the left flank, muscled his marker out of the way, then carried the ball into the box and drilled a fierce shot past the keeper from a tight angle to send the home crowd into ecstacy. I thought there would inevitably be several more minutes of stoppage time to play and was surprised the referee didn't attempt to curtail the lengthy celebrations of our players behind the goal, but when play did restart the final whistle blew immediately.
A great victory for our manager and players. Our squad of 16 included six Academy products, with teenagers Mansaray & Boyle playing a full part as substitutes during the finale, using their pace and enthusiasm to good effect on the wings to stretch the visiting defence. By contrast the 20 pen pictures for Margate players in the programme revealed not one of them was homegrown, and 19 of them have first team experience at Conference or Football League level. Only the left back Jack Bennett (recruited from Hendon in the Summer) has never played above Isthmian League.
Team (4-3-3): Wilson - Kamara, Forbes(c), Pinnock, Gonsalves - Carew, Samuels, Vidal - Hibbert, James, Neita.
Subs: Mansaray (for Neita), Hamici (for James), Boyle (for Hibbert), Patterson, Hysi (not used).
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