It’s impossible not to be impressed by Princes Park, Dartford’s home ground. The place might be small, with a capacity of just over 4,000, but pound for pound it’s arguably one of the best grounds in the country. It’s painstakingly eco-friendly in its design, with grass on the roof, a sunken pitch, solar-powered loos and its own water recycling system. It has its own golf course and all-weather training pitch too. And, for no apparent reason, it has a giant wooden man, who stands opposite the main stand, propping the roof of the terracing up on his powerful timber arms. If he held you, you’d get all splintery, but Goddammit you’d feel safe.
That said, it’s not all good. Ask for a sausage roll at the food bar and they’ll send one for a spin in a microwave for you until it’s all sad and floppy, just the way absolutely no one on the planet likes their sausage rolls. And, worse than that, there’s a hoarding along one side of the pitch boasting that the place was built by a Conservative Council. So those sausage rolls aren’t just sad. They’re Tories. Which means that, in many ways, they deserve to be sad. Up yours, Tory sausage rolls. You took away my milk and my future.
I came here to watch my adopted team, Dulwich Hamlet, take on the hosts on a cold, grey January Saturday. The last time I wrote about the Hamlet, back in September, they were ruffling National League South feathers with their impressive start to the season. Unfortunately, since then it’s been a depressing old time for Gavin Rose’s team, and they came into this match teetering dangerously close to a relegation battle. Dartford, on the other hand, have had no such worries, and look destined for a comfortable top-half finish.
When Dartford’s Darren McQueen found the net in the 23rd minute, it was to be the game’s only goal, which doesn’t really paint the full picture of just how dominant the home side were here. While McQueen and his team mates spent the 90 minutes chasing, harrying and making sure they were first to every loose ball, Dulwich looked cumbersome, clumsy and disinterested. Exactly what has happened to Dulwich over the course of the last few months is anyone’s guess, but the swagger they displayed in those opening matches has long since deserted them. And, to rub salt in the wounds, they were beaten here by a team containing more than a few of their own former players. Maybe the grass is greener on the other side after all.
Dartford 1 Dulwich Hamlet 0
National League South
Saturday 25 January 2020