On Tuesday evening, Dulwich Hamlet put on an extraordinary performance to defeat Braintree Town 5-2 in the FA Trophy third round replay. The result, against a team two divisions higher, puts the Hamlet through to the last eight of the competition and a home match against Macclesfield Town, also of the National League.
Braintree Town have had a number of incarnations since their foundation as the Crittall Window Company factory team in 1898. As Crittall Athletic they actually visited the old Champion Hill ground during the 1937/38 season. See Paul Griffin’s notes about that game here. On that occasion – the second round of the FA Amateur Cup – the cupholders Dulwich Hamlet were victors by 3 goals to 1. Despite being dismissed from the premier ‘non-league’ cup competition the visitors went away remarkably happy, due to their great experience at Champion Hill.
Murray, Robbins, Morrish and Hugo with the Amateur Cup in 1937
Indeed, the Iron’s next matchday programme referred to the visit the club made to South London. The following are extracts from that programme:
"Our departure from the Amateur Cup at the feet of Dulwich Hamlet was a fair result on the play. Three weeks ago we referred to Dulwich Hamlet as the Arsenal of Amateur football. This generality was evolved more from the fame of Dulwich Hamlet than from a practical knowledge of them. To us they were a name to be treated with every respect, and as a club were generally recognised to be adversaries fit for any amateur club challenge, and worthy foes for a large percentage of our professional brethren. We now possess practical association with them and cannot say enough of the pleasant recollections of our visit to Champion Hill.
We readily acknowledge defeat by a better side. Everything was done to make us especially comfortable. There was a refreshing absence of artificiality and an abundance of the real spirit of amateurism. Sceptics may think Dulwich can afford to do things well. Perhaps they can. Good manners, honest amateur enthusiasm and hospitality are not assets engendered solely by the possession of wealth. They emanate from those who consider the game paramount to any prize. It was especially good to feel we were doing battle with a club really and definitely amateur. Champion Hill is a genuine amateur 'football oasis'— there are few of these today!
The band even entered into the spirit of things by discoursing 'Any Old Iron' and 'I passed by your window.' Dulwich Hamlet went clean through our window, and they did so in a 'Football Raffles' kind of way, or a sort of half-apologetic, 'We hate to beat you, but we have, and we hope you won't mind!’ We wish to express our appreciation of the Dulwich spectators, officials and players. Congratulations are also due to them for their excellent programme, which told spectators everything they could possibly wish to know of ourselves as visitors.
We noted the compiler of the programme did not swamp his patrons entirely with sugar ripened by Dulwich partisanship. We have received a cheque for £234 as our share of the gate, which is easily a record with us and will be talked of in local football circles for many a day. Thank you, Dulwich!"
Whether Dulwich Hamlet will receive similar praise from the present day successors, Braintree Town, remains to be seen. They are at home tomorrow (Saturday 11 February 2017) to North Ferribly United. Someone please keep an eye on their programme.