It just so happens that one of David Ijaha’s two Football League starts came against Carlisle United. It is fair to say he hopes tomorrow’s encounter goes rather better.

“I was struggling in that game massively,” says the Dulwich Hamlet midfielder and captain, who is recalling Plymouth’s 1-0 defeat at Brunton Park in August 2016, his second game in League Two after a summer move from Whitehawk.

“In my first game I’d done well, but afterwards I was carrying an injury. I didn’t want to tell anyone, because I was so desperate to play and impress. I got to the Carlisle game and basically couldn’t run. I got subbed and it cost me a little bit. But that’s life.”

Ijaha was 26 then and, three years on, has better experiences to bring into this televised, sell-out FA Cup tie. His season at Plymouth did not particularly work out but in non-league he has built a reliable career and this summer joined National League South side Dulwich from Welling, immediately appointed skipper by manager Gavin Rose.

There are always stories to tell at this stage of the competition and Dulwich, a strong community club, have many. For Ijaha it is an opportunity to make his mark after an eventful football journey.

“I started at Chelsea when I was 12, and at 16 moved to Wolverhampton,” he says. “After that I went through a funny period where I didn’t really play football for three years.

“I don’t know why. It was probably the worst mistake in my life. I was kind of just done with football. I then saw a lot of my friends still playing and I wanted to get back in. I worked my way through non-league and got my move [in 2016].

“That year with Plymouth was mixed emotions. It was a great season in terms of the team – we got promoted and were a really close group – but I got injured in October and was out for the season. It was frustrating because the games I did play, apart from Carlisle, I did well. I learned a lot, and I still feel now I can play at that level.”

The challenge of matching League Two opposition will motivate everyone in Dulwich’s pink and blue tomorrow night – while the tie has wider significance. Ijaha only joined them a few months ago but is aware of the recent history which makes the game so rewarding for all associated with the south London club.

The men from Champion Hill had a period in 2018 when they were forced out of their stadium by its owner, property developer Meadow, who also trademarked the club’s name. As a dispute between Meadow and Southwark Council over a proposed development unfolded, Dulwich played in exile at Tooting & Mitcham, eight miles away.

They earned promotion to non-league’s second tier but their existence remained in peril until the dispute was resolved – with the help of sports minister Tracey Crouch – and, eight months later, a return to their 3,000-capacity ground was confirmed.

The place routinely attracts some of the better crowds at their level (their last home game was watched by 2,816) and the club has grown not just around football but wider causes. Through pro-active fans, Dulwich have highlighted campaigns covering, for instance, mental health, LGBT rights and homelessness and it has the sense of a hub in an area which is far from London’s most affluent; a football centre also attractive to some who cannot associate themselves with the far-off Premier League.

The club has, too, found itself attached to a “hipster” image of craft-beer supping, artisan food-munching fans which those closest to the Hamlet feel is an over-worn cliché.

Whatever Carlisle supporters find at Champion Hill tomorrow night, one thing is certain: this is a proper cup tie, one that will surely examine United whilst generating a lively atmosphere.

“The fans are wicked,” says Ijaha. “I’d say they’re by far the best in the league. Even though the boys haven’t performed to our standards recently, you never come to the ground and find a negative feeling.

“I wasn’t here last season, so didn’t feel the full effects of not being able to play at your home ground, but I did hear about it and for those people involved in it, it is an extra special occasion.

“The gaffer’s been here 10 years and there’s a real family feel. At a lot of clubs in this league you are just there, doing a job, but here it feels like a project, and to get 2-3,000 crowds at times, that’s the same as some in your league. I’m sure the Carlisle fans won’t be too disappointed.”

That, in the end, will depend on how Steven Pressley’s team perform – and whether Dulwich also deliver. They have not won in the league since August but have reached this stage of the cup for the first time since 1998, having not played League opposition since 1948.

There is League experience in their ranks not just with Ijaha but the likes of Marvin McCoy (Wycombe, York), Dominic Vose (Colchester), Ben Chapman (Gillingham), Dipo Akinyemi (Barnet), Jack Connors (Dagenham, Republic of Ireland Under-21s) and Jeffrey Monakana (Preston, and one game for Carlisle in 2015). The 28-year-old, 6ft 4in Danny Mills, once of Crawley and Peterborough, is a threat up front.

Any of these men could be heroes, and Ijaha admits the thought of a glorious victory, and its aftermath, has crossed his mind. The tie, though, was kept off the agenda in the dressing room until this week, due to Dulwich’s faltering league form. They are 16th in the table and the captain says: “We know we’ve let some games slip that we shouldn’t have, but we feel we’re more than capable of putting a run together.

“You can be having a bad season but still put an amazing cup run together. That’s the cup for you. It always brings that bit of excitement to everyone.”

While Dulwich continue preparations, Ijaha and his team-mates are balancing anticipation with the need for level heads. They train almost as regularly as professional sides and the captain says they are “a good footballing team, fit, with bags of personality, a good mix of experience and young boys who want to push on”.

He warns those younger men against playing to the TV gallery. “I don’t think that’s a good way of thinking," Ijaha says. "You can’t start doing things you wouldn’t normally, like trying Hollywood balls just because the cameras are there.

"Everyone wants to impress that little bit more, because you’re on TV and playing against a better team. But at the end of the day it’s a football match and you have to do what you’re good at, and do it for the team.”

Carlisle’s difficulties in League Two this season lead Ijaha inevitably to state that “all the pressure’s on them”. His experience tells him the two-level gap between the teams’ respective divisions is not huge. “Because they’re struggling in the table, confidence obviously isn’t high. If we get off to a good start and rattle them a little bit, anything can happen,” he says.

“As in most games, it’s about who wants it more. We’ll work hard, get in their faces and see how they react to it. We’re going to go out there fearless on Friday.”