Canvey Island recorded a credible 1-1 draw against National League South side Dulwich Hamlet at The Frost Hire Stadium on Tuesday night.
With new manager Mark Bentley watching from the stands, assistant manager Brad Wellmen gave a start to James White in midfield on way back from injury, with Jake Jolliffe also re-entering the fray having recovered from a knock.
The first chance of the evening came after nine minutes when a long clearance from Conor Gough allowed Jordan Cox to have a run at goal. Cox broke into the box from the right and fired a shot a couple of yards wide with his right foot.
Dulwich launched an attack straight from the subsequent goal kick, with former-Hullbridge Sports and Great Wakering Rovers forward Liam Nash surging forward. Jake Jolliffe did well to hold Nash up, but the pacey striker managed to get to the touchline before driving a low ball across the face of goal.
The ball found the run of Sanchez Ming who was unmarked at the back post, but he was only able to fire over the crossbar from inside the six-yard box.
The visitors began to increase the tempo following this near miss, with Ashley Carew hitting a sweetly struck shot inches wide of the top corner on 15 minutes and Liam Nash forcing Conor Gough into a save with his legs two minutes later.
Canvey had the ball in the net on 28 minutes when Jordan Cox was fouled out on the left wing. The free kick found the head of Gabe Kellum who found the target but was denied by goalkeeper George Kamurasi. Frankie Merrifield was on hand to tap home the loose ball from close range, but to his disbelief the flag was raised for offside.
They had a similar chance two minutes later from a free kick on the opposite flank which Ryan Melaugh whipped in to the back post. George Allen headed back across goal and found Frankie Merrifield, but he was unable to force the ball the right side of the upright.
Soon afterwards Gabe Kellum made himself a nuisance inside the box and created an opportunity for Jordan Cox, but his shot from eight-yards was smothered at his feet by Kamurasi.
Both goalkeepers were worked again before the break, with Conor Gough denying Liam Nash before George Kamurasi kept out James White’s 25-yard effort.
Canvey introduced Jose Figura and Martin Tuohy in place of James White and Jordan Cox at half time, while the Hamlet changed all eleven players.
Dulwich started the second half quickly and scored four minutes into the restart. Josh Hutchinson gave away possession in midfield and a pass was slid through for Dipo Akinyemi who fired across goal from the right and into the bottom corner.
Akinyemi was very lively and could have scored twice more in quick succession, but on both occasions his shot was kept out courtesy of two excellent saves by Conor Gough.
Gough was in fine form and pulled off another excellent save on 82 minutes when he kept out Nathan Green’s shot from a tight angle on the left. He was beaten moments later when Nathan Ferguson curled a shot back towards goal, but fortunately his shot drifted a whisker wide.
Having played so well it was a big shame to see Conor Gough go down injured with five minutes to play with a reoccurrence of the knee injury that blighted his 2017/18 season. With no substitute goalkeeper on the bench, Sam Collins donned the gloves for the closing stages.
Canvey levelled the match in the 89th minute when a ball down the right was run onto by Martin Tuohy. He crossed low towards Gabe Kellum, forcing defender Chieck Toure to stick out a foot to deflect the ball away. However, in doing he inadvertently set the ball up perfectly for Frankie Merrifield to dispatch from eight yards.