The 3-0 win for Dulwich Hamlet at Pagham may have followed the formbook, but on another day, with decisions going for them, Pagham may just have pulled off a surprise win.
That’s taking nothing away from the visitors, who looked every bit the senior side in this tie.
As early as the sixth minute Kenny Beany shot over the Pagham bar, with James Binfield looking set to be kept busy throughout.
Keiron Pamment put Ryan Morey through for the Lions on eight minutes, but Hamlet keeper Preston Edwards came out to clear the threat.
A few minutes later Pagham could have gone ahead. Pamment raced toward goal and was clearly bought down just outside the area, but with howls of derision in his ears, the referee said ‘play on’.
More home jeers came on the quarter-hour as Hamlet’s Ibrahim Kargbo had his heels clipped. A few seconds delay, and he sank to the ground clutching his ankle. He was okay to carry on after a moment’s reflection.
Perhaps the save of the game came on 19 minutes after Gavin Tomlin hared towards Pagham’s goal. Unleashing a powerful shot, Tomlin could only look on in awe as Binfield pulled off a tremendous save.
The deadlock was broken on 26 minutes, Tomlin showing a clean pair of heels to smack in the opener.
The restart saw Scott Murfin chasing the ball as Edwards raced from his area, with Edwards just managing to get to there first.
Goal number two for the visitors came on the half-hour. Ashley Carew’s shot was parried on to the bar by Binfield only for the rebound to fall to Mark Weatherstone. With many in the crowd sensing a sniff of offside, Pagham’s poor luck continued as the goal stood.
The visitors were stretching the Pagham back four, with Michael Chambers heading well over the bar from a corner and a shot pinging back off the post.
The final moments saw Nathan Green booked for Hamlet after a succession of niggling fouls on Pamment.
The Lions may have got one back a minute in as Dan Kempson stuck just over Hamlet’s bar.
Binfield was again on form as Roman Michael-Percil’s chance ended in the Pagham keeper’s arms.
A Hamlet free-kick was wasted by Tomlin, who hit well over.
The visitors were bossing the game, and could have got at least two more before the hour. Sanchez Ming, who’d been imperious in defence, had to undergo lengthy treatment for a blow to his nose. With tempers fraying, cross words to the referee could have seen a red card shown to the Hamlet player, but the official chose to let the matter lie.
Daryl Wollers and Scott Murfin left the field just after the hour for Pagham as George Bingham and James Thurgar added fresh legs. Hamlet were still hunting for that third goal and they got it with some ease on 74 minutes, Michael-Percil hitting home from the right.
Josh Irish came on for the Lions as Morey went off, Pagham boss Mark Bennett looking for at least a consolation goal.
This they could have had as Kempson gave Edwards something to think about with a timely shot.
In time added on, Kempson was in action again at the other end, clearing the ball off the line with his shoulder, never mind protests in the Hamlet crowd that he’d used his hand.
There was just time for Pagham skipper Shay Wiggans to collect a yellow card for a pull back on his opposite number.
Pagham: Binfield, Wiggans, Van Driel, A Brown, Wollers (Bingham), N Murfin, Block, Kempson, Pamment, S Murfin (Thurgar 67), Morey (Irish 82). Subs: Hayes, Swain
Dulwich Hamlet: Edwards, Ming, Green, Kargo, Weatherstone, Chambers, Michael-Percil, Beaney, Tomlin, Carew, Daniel. Subs: Carr, Clunis, Drage, Mason, Cunningham, Thompson, Fernandes.