TONBRIDGE ANGELS bowed out for the FA Cup in the second qualifying round after a red card in the first half. But the contest was in doubt until three minutes from the end.
Dulwich Hamlet were promoted from the Bostik League Premier last season and were always likely to pose a stiff test.
The encounter was to prove a typical end-to-end cup tie but the first big chance only came in the 21st minute.
Hamlet’s evergreen former Angel Jay May should have done better with his attempted conversion of a Nyren Clunis cross from the right.
On 32 minutes a sublime backheel by Angels striker Alex Read found Tommy Whitnell whose well-timed run put him through with just Preston Edwards to beat but the Hamlet keeper saved well.
Two minutes later May forced a decent save from Jonny Henly at the expense of a corner. At the set-piece Nathan Ferguson rose highest to head the ball past Henly for the opener.
Three minutes before half-time a Tonbridge free kick was well delivered by Joe Turner and captain Tom Parkinson headed narrowly wide.
The Angels were to rue that missed chance as just before the interval another former Angel, Nathan Green, picked up a loose ball in the area and fired home to double the hosts’ lead.
There was controversy about the build-up, in which it appeared that James Folkes had been fouled; he went down injured but the referee saw nothing wrong and the goal stood.
There followed an altercation between Folkes and the referee which ended with the official showing the player a red card.
Two goals and a player down, facing a National South side on their own ground, Tonbridge had a mountain to climb in the second half.
But this squad are made of stern stuff and in the 52nd minute Sonny Miles reduced the deficit, converting Turner’s corner to open up the contest once more.
With the numerical advantage, Dulwich enjoyed more possession but the Angels were dangerous on the break and their defence stood firm.
In the 85th minute substitute Jared Small outpaced his marker and delivered a searching low cross that Read was inches away from converting. From the resulting corner Turner’s delivery saw a desperate clearance off the line.
With Tonbridge pushing forward Dulwich found gaps and made the game safe in the 87th minute through substitute Dipo Akinyemi.
Angels manager Steve McKimm said: “I was very proud of my players today. Sometimes decisions just don’t go your way and we are out of the FA Cup. We are all disappointed, but I cannot fault the team.”
The Tonbridge side, who are top of the Bostik League Premier, now return to league action at home to Bishop’s Stortford on Saturday [September 29, kick-off 3pm].