Report by Scott Hately
THE Millers suffered their first defeat of pre-season against a very impressive Dulwich Hamlet side thanks to a brace from Erhun Oztumer.
A penalty just before the break and a delightful curling effort 15 minutes from time from the diminutive Oztumer was more than enough for Dulwich to record victory at Mill Field.
Dulwich’s possession football meant that Aveley found it increasingly difficult to get hold of the ball and create many chances as they were restricted to just the one attempt on goal the entire match.
Justin Gardner was still delighted, though, with his side’s work rate, seeing the game as ideal preparation in terms of fitness as they look towards the start of the new season against Wroxham just 14 days away.
But after beating Erith Town in convincing fashion on Tuesday night, the Millers would have been looking to build some momentum going into the season.
Their visitors though took control right from the off, passing the ball around crisply.
For Dulwich this was their eighth pre-season match of a packed calendar and their superior match sharpness showed in the early stages.
Despite all their possession Dulwich were unable to carve out anything that would be considered a clear opportunity and it was the Millers who had the first attempt on goal through Jay Leader.
A corner from the left, swung in by Michael Begg, was met by the head of leader who rose highest above a crowd of players but he could only direct his header straight down the throat of the Dulwich keeper for a simple save.
That was to be the Millers only attempt on goal as Dulwich began to dominate.
Despite their superior possession it looked as though Justin Gardner’s side were going to get to the break level, but with just a matter of seconds remaining in the first half Jerome Walker was upended by Bryan Okwera in the box and the visitors were awarded a penalty.
Erhun Oztumer stepped up to emphatically convert the spot kick, sending Jack Giddens the wrong way, as the half time whistle blew with Dulwich a goal to the good.
The second half provided a similar story to the first with the Millers spending the majority of the half chasing the ball as Dulwich continued to show why they will be one of the favourites to win the Ryman Premier league next season.
Perhaps the only criticism you could have of the Ryman South champions is that despite all the time they had with the ball they created very little to trouble Giddens in the Aveley goal, as the Millers defence remained resolute and organised.
Eventually though the visitors got their second and killed the game off and it was Oztumer once more with a superb finish.
After having the ball played into him just inside the box, the little forward dragged the ball back on the spin before curling a delightful effort with his second touch that nestled in the bottom corner and giving Giddens no chance.
From here on in the contest was over and Dulwich could have further extended their advantage if Olu Lapite’s effort had of been an inch of two inside the post after his long range effort from 30 yards smashed the face of the post with Otzumer unable to complete his hat-trick with the rebound.
Despite the defeat, Gardner was delighted with his side’s efforts, saying afterwards “what I got out of it today was what I wanted which was the boys to be really worked hard and you’ll see they’re busted, they’re tired.”
“This is what I’ve wanted, we’ve run them close. Yeah, we’ve not created much today but they’re a good team and they’ll be up there in the Ryman Prem.”
Teddy Nesbitt also took plenty of positives from the game, despite the defeat, saying “they’ve come here and passed the ball a bit better than us and it was a good work out for us and the boys.”
“I don’t think we could get the ball up to our forwards quick enough, so we weren’t able to create changes, but I thought (defensively) we were all organised and thought we done well.”
During the post-match team talk Gardner said that he told his players that “you’ll get more out of this than you did at Erith because you’ve run them close. We play like we did against them in the first half in the Ryman One we’ll be very good.”