ROACHE IS KING OF THE HILL
Ampthill Town 2-3 Dunstable Town (HT 2-1) Att 102
Dunstable made their first visit to Ampthill’s Woburn Road since 1 September 2008, where they were more than ample in a 4-0 FA Cup win, with goals from Nolan, Strange, Billy and Sinclair.
Tonight’s game was a lot closer and was something of an untidy win, after the Duns lost the lead to go into the interval 2-1 down. Set pieces were their undoing in this half and the victory was as narrow as the score suggests.
Starting in the Dunstable team tonight was new signing Leon Cashman – a player who has played both for and against the blues in former seasons.
The Amps gained promotion last season and by the looks of it have a useful team full of fight and vigour. But from the opening it was strongly suggested that the Blues would win comfortably as they took a third minute lead from another remarkable goal from range from Jonathan Barnett, his second in two games. For the rest of the half there was concerted pressure from Dunstable and they were somewhat frustrated at not being able to add to their score, and they had a goal disallowed as well one effort rattling the crossbar.
Jonathan Cooper tried to open his account with a shot which brought a corner - Barnett was able to collect a return pass and his angled shot stunningly made its way to the top right corner.
Lee Roache and Nathan frater tried to capitalise on half chances as Dunstable sought to increase the early lead. Ampthill found considerable promise in their fee kicks, but not the first one from a promising position just outside the area which was an unintentionally comical sliced effort harmlessly off-target.
But Lee Coulter was well positioned to receive a number of long balls forward and Taylor with one shot cleared the bar with ease. Graeme Buchanan, nearly celebrated his new hair-do with a goal and was unfortunate when his shot hit the crossbar – and it did seem that a second goal would be forthcoming given the dominance at this stage by the Blues.
The Amps were not shy of long clearances and these were turned to good effect and from one of these Buchanan conceded a corner and from this Taylor headed wide. An Amps’ throw in was seized upon for a chance and the cross that came from it bounced awkwardly and beaten away.
Some interesting but dubious refereeing decisions from the earnest young referee began to excite some critical comments – mostly that he was awarding free kicks where the offence was not clear and not awarding the when clearly expected. His errors were honest and being assessed I expect he was anxious to keep a firm grip.
After twenty-five minutes Ampthill were level – I would say surprisingly, but they had already threatened from set pieces and this next one counted when skipper Robbie Goodman produced a deft flick from the free kick – or perhaps that had best be described as a glancing header.
Dunstable were a little shaken by this as they had so far been the better side. Chances continued when Frater shot well and the keeper, Tom Kennard did well to save with his legs – a further chance for Frater was thwarted and Roache on a run was dispossessed at the expense of a corner.
This was beaten away for another and from this Cooper shot wide. Cooper and Roache got moving with an exchange of passes but the latter was intercepted. Moses Olayeye, now beginning to make his mark in midfield was able to put in a cross that was partially cleared before Roache slipped the ball to Frater who blasted way over the bar.
Then came the incident of the disallowed goal – which I think we can attribute to Shane Wood as the ‘scorer’. There was no prolonged dispute over the referee’s decision – but some were mystified- was it a foul or off-side – I was not sure.
Another well-taken free kick from the Amps saw Taylor again have a chance and this brought a good save from Lewis Kidd who had plenty to do tonight. From a Paul Lyons throw Coulter tested Kidd who went to smother the ball and lost some control and Coulter was there to complete matters to put the Amps ahead. The goal was allowed despite the reasonable claim that Coulter had kicked the ball from Kidd’s grip – this was the Regimental view and I suppose we will not really know as Scottie was filming for the other end.
But it was an opportunistic move and the home side had now the lead after being called upon for some strong defending in this first half. The home side had made the most of the advantage conferred by free kicks and had given some indication of their potential to score, creating chances from long clearances. They did seem a little lethargic at times in defence but they were certainly there when it mattered – blocking shots and intervening courageously when required.
For the above average number of Dunstable travelling supporters – always a good sign, the half was ultimately disappointing. A great start and prolonged pressure had only brought one goal and two had been conceded….was this going to be something of a Biggleswade…well yes in a way, as the Amps fought hard and well in a second half of pulsating football that had a number of exciting moments.
I do not think that the promoted side were in any way underestimated. Their 4-1 reverse in the FA Cup against AFC would have rankled with them since they led at one stage. To have a defeat like that sets you fair for a more determined effort next game and that is what happened.
Dunstable had made no substitutions but I expect they had partaken of a meaningful half-time talk. They did not come out and take the game by the throat – as Ampthill gave as good as they received- except score again. This game was won by two goals of individual brilliance by Lee Roache – both from seemingly impossible angles.
Ampthill had their own periods of pressure, especially after they conceded. A header went wide from a Barnett corner – and another chance went to add to all the near misses. Buchanan was needed to make a vital interception from a lively home attack and every tie the Amps had a corner it seemed much was expected and there was danger even though the moves were unfulfilled.
A typical piece of Roache skill in holding off challenges and keeping possession as he moved towards goal brought the Blues’ equaliser. Barnett’s long pass seemed to be destined to give Roache the chance to be a provider but he kept on going as well as eluding and shot from such a tight angle it made the goal all the more thrilling.
This was a much needed piece of relief but the Blues had no time to consolidate as the rampant Amps – now playing without the leisurely pauses before throw-ins and goal kicks, went at it – as they had to. Coulter’s fierce shot brought a one-handed save from Kidd – and he was needed to repeat this feat a few more times before the final whistle. I will add to that one shot did hit the post.
For the Regiment a draw was not acceptable as what they want is a better start than last season where points were needlessly shed in draws that ought to have been victories. A draw against the Blues would have been a creditable result for the promoted team and full marks to them for playing the game out in the belief they could still win.
There were a couple of unsavoury moments in the frenetic action when Cashman was cashiered and the cynical challenge brought a caution for Coulter. The fee kick was palmed away by Kennard. Hatley Mercer was the only other booking and that for a similar piece of illegitimate play.
These isolated incidents did not affect the timbre of the game which was full of pace and attacking intent from both sides. Cooper gave a hint of great form to come with some excellent work. On this occasion he was just not able to break free long enough to give shape to the kind of snap shot that has brought some remarkable goals. Shane Wood exhorted the Blues for more efforts and this was adhered to and it was needed as the upbeat home side had a spell of menacing impact that called for some stiff defending.
Roache looked likely to run onto a loose forward ball but it bounced unkindly for hi and the chance was gone – but his goal that gave the Blues the lead for the second tie in the game was astonishing. He again took possession from a clearance and began to make his way into the area closely attended – again he was elusive and again the angle was acute and again he managed to score – and that was his third goal in two games. This was after sixty-seven minutes and it was the signal for a storming finish – apart from some Dunstable farting about by the corner flag in stoppage time.
Roache’s goal had found the top left corner and was appropriately greeted. But Ampthill hit the post threatened still from corners and ran at everything – Kidd had to put a hooked shot out for a corner and he saved a firm header from Taylor. There was another corner and it was dealt with but with some uncertainty. In the course of this finishing spell Dunstable brought on Chris Francis, Tony Burnett and Damen Pickering and they found themselves well into the affray – with Francis missing a great chance for a header and Pickering was shoring up the defence.
Roache was combining well with cooper but their artistry was undone in roustabout fashion. Coulter scampered and crossed to no-one such was his pace –and Roache had a further shot saved.
There was a good deal of stoppage tome to add and this added to the tension as the amps still believed they could salvage a draw right to the last kick. The fact that the visitors resorted to keep ball by the corner flag is evidence enough that the home side had given a good account of themselves in what was a tough game and I think it will be replicated in games to come against different opponents.
But there were still chances for both sides – Dunstable had two late corners and Francis rose for what was an air header – and the amps lofted the ball into the Dunstable half and chased until the final whistle. Dunstable had won a tough game and have maximum points from their two league games.
Perhaps that very early lead was not the best of things – yet to be stretched as they were the Blues showed that they will be a hard side to beat- and it does take some force if character to come back from 2-1 down when they thought they should be about 3-1 up.
Ampthill will, I feel, achieve some good results in this league of they play with that degree of passion. Graeme Buchanan told me afterwards that the game had been a tough test but in his view it was good for the team as it reminded them that they will have to work hard for every result and there would be no easy games- which implies that Dunstable Town would be a fine scalp for any club in the division.
I feel it sets us up well for our meeting with Hadley on Saturday – always a tough game in the few league meetings we have had. They held us to a goal-less draw right at the end of the season with a somewhat dour defensive display – and the Blues will need to create some of the sparkling attacking play of tonight – and make it pay dividends.
Tom Kennard, Rocky Williams, Paul Ericson, Robbie Goodman, goal 25 minutes, captain, Hatley Mercer, cautioned, Steve Flux, Paul Lyons, Olade Yinkahinde, Tyrone Taylor, Lea Coulter, goal, 45 minutes, Kyle Durcan.
Substitutes- Adam Taylor, Danny Nicholls, Ash Perry, Jamie Bewick, Adenio Brown.
Lewis Kidd, Shane Wood, captain, Daniel Mead, Graeme Buchanan, Fabio Bufano, Jonathan Barnett, goal, 3 minutes, Moses Olalaye, Jonathan Cooper, LEE ROACHE, Blues’ man of the match, two goals, 55 and 67 minutes, Nathan Frater, Leon Cashman.
Substitutes used – Chris Francis, Tony Burnett and Damen Pickering. Not used – Warren Plowright and Adam Mead.
Officials – referee N CARTMAL assisted by J CAMPBELL and R DIX.