It was a tale of two halves for the Peacocks as Hamlet became the sixth side this season to leave the Cygnet Health Care Stadium with an addition to their points tally. A lacklustre opening 45 minutes from the hosts saw them trail at the interval before they emerged for the second half with far greater purpose and quality, drawing level through Dave Sims-Burgess but frustratingly not able to translate their superiority over the visitors into further goals.
The Town side showed two changes from the trip to Eastbourne, Jake Wannell slotting back in after his ban in place of skipper Nick Grimes who was rested with a knock while Lee Lucas returned and Cameron Evans dropped to the bench. Going into the game after two highly impressive results, there might have been hope that the crowd would have surpassed the 687 in attendance but obviously a chilly night, the new series of Waterloo Road (surely not) or some other excuse for the football fans of Taunton took higher priority. The early exchanges were pretty bland, Hamlet winning the first corner of the evening after five minutes from which Cameron Thompson glanced a header well wide of the target while a deep cross from Wannell was played back in by Sims-Burgess, but Joe Guest couldn’t capitalise at the other end.
Stearn, hoping to continue his goal habit from Saturday’s trip to Sussex, steered a header comfortably wide from Wannell’s cross while Thompson deposited a shot into the food outlets behind the goal, summing up a tedious first quarter with neither side able to conjure up anything meaningful. Play continued in the same vein for a time, a Zac Smith ball in from the right evading a claret shirt before Peacocks’ keeper Jack Bycroft palmed away a cross-shot from Nana Owusu. Town then had appeals for a penalty dismissed after Jay Foulston’s corner had been prodded at goal by Dan Ball but blocked on the line. No handball decreed the referee.
Two minutes later Dulwich were ahead. Thompson played in Owusu who got there just ahead of Bycroft to prod against the post and when the ball came back to him he found George Porter in the middle who had the relatively simple job of scooping the ball into an empty net on 35 minutes. A sluggish Town attempted to find a quick response, with Sims-Burgess at the forefront of most of the home side’s initiatives. He got the better of Quade Taylor on the left but fired into the side netting when a pass to a team mate might have been the more productive option and a Lucas cross was too high for Stearn at the back post before Guest found Sims-Burgess on the inside right and his powerful strike skimmed the angle of the bar as it flew over. Hamlet had the last say of the half when Thompson’s 20 yard shot was safely held by Bycroft, with Town leaving the field knowing they needed to do an awful lot more.
Thankfully the Peacocks emerged with a new shape and a new desire after the break. The formation in the first half along with a distinct lack of tempo became a thing of the past, well 15 minutes ago, with Town reverting to their more familiar three at the back. The visitors did post the opening effort of the half, Will Wood shooting well wide, but from then on Town took control as they pressed the visitors back as Smith and Foulston began to profit out wide. Stearn’s 20 yard shot was parried by Charlie Grainger in the Hamlet goal and gathered before Sims-Burgess could get there but the Dulwich keeper was an onlooker as the home side hit the woodwork for the second time five minutes in. Stearn’s cross in from the left was cleared as far as Foulston on the edge of the box and his first-time volley struck the base of the post as the static Grainger glanced nervously sideways.
Whilst that was bad luck, the next opportunity will go down as bad finishing (sorry Ross). Lucas’ effort deflected into the path of the unmarked Stearn but after controlling the ball and with just Grainger to beat he sent his shot the wrong side of the post. Stearn then broke down the right to send a cross straight to the Hamlet keeper before a revitalised Town drew level on 58 minutes. Smith did the donkey work down the right after receiving a throw-in, getting to the byeline to find Sims-Burgess at the near post. The Town striker did the rest, turning neatly to drill home into the opposite corner for his 7th goal of the campaign.
The Peacocks were left cursing the woodwork again three minutes later when a Lucas cross from the right saw Jarvis lunge to connect and send the ball against the crossbar from close range. Two substitutions within the space of three minutes added some fresh legs for the final twenty minutes or so, with Dylan Morgan replacing Stearn and Nick McCootie taking over from Jarvis. Morgan nearly had an assist to his name soon after coming on, a clearance falling to him and from his chipped ball forward, Wannell met the ball sweetly on the volley, only for Grainger to deny him with a fine reaction save as he tipped over the bar.
The one way traffic continued into the final ten minutes as Town looked the only likely winner. Whilst they managed to make inroads into the Dulwich box, they just couldn’t produce that clear opening as Hamlet hung on, taking every opportunity to waste precious seconds to help avoid a fifth successive League defeat. McCootie’s low strike from distance was clutched at the second attempt by Grainger while a Lucas shot deflected for a corner during five minutes of stoppage time. Dulwich might even have snatched an unlikely winner when Frankie Raymond’s free kick was flicked on by Porter and just missed a touch at the far post. However an offside flag would have cancelled it out.
Seven points from nine is not a bad return for the Peacocks from their last three games but they will know it should have been nine from nine against a Hamlet side that were nothing out of the ordinary. The point keeps Town in 16th place but with ample scope to climb much further up the table if it falls into place in front of goal as they start eating their way through their backlog of games.
Taunton: Jack Bycroft, Jay Foulston, Dan Ball, Jake Wannell, Lloyd James (captain), Nat Jarvis (Nick McCootie 72), Joe Guest, Ross Stearn (Dylan Morgan 69), Zac Smith, Dave Sims-Burgess, Lee Lucas. Unused subs: Cameron Evans, Ollie Tomlinson, Lloyd Irish
Dulwich: Charlie Grainger, Will Wood, Jack Holland (captain), Frankie Raymond, Cameron Thompson (Danny Mills 82), Nana Owusu (Andre Blackman 77), Quade Taylor, George Porter, Dominic Odusanya, Joe Felix, Johl Powell. Unused subs: Ronnie Vint, Kreshnic Krasniqi, Aaron Jones
Referee: Daniel Lamport (Swindon)
Referee’s Assistant 1: Mark Senior (Plymouth)
Referee’s Assistant 2: James Gould (Plymouth)
“Very proud of the second half performance, not proud of the first half performance…..” watch Rob Dray’s Match Reaction on Peacocks TV HERE
Match highlights can be seen on Peacocks TV HERE
Mind In Somerset MOM
Lee Lucas receives the Taunton Town Man Of The Match award from Peacocks’ supporters Richard Smith and Adrian Scott