DUNSTABLE SUB-SONIC AGAINST RESILIENT JETS
Dunstable Town 1-1 Oxhey Jets Attendance 86
From a Dunstable point of view this game was like the curate’s egg – good in parts. But maybe that should be in part, as the best spell, some fifteen minutes before the end of the first half saw a fine equaliser and a firm grip taken on the game so far. This grip was relinquished in the second half and it was the visitors who battled fiercely for their well-deserved point.
Yet again it was an indifferent start to the game for the home side. These mediocre starts are something of an enigma. Recent performances have seen a surge of spirit and play in impressive second halves - but that was not the case today in what was curiously below expectations.
Oxhey Jets were third in the league table and had conceded only three goals before this game and they kept close to a game plan that successfully closed down the Blues except in the last fifteen minutes of the first half when Dunstable had seemed to shake off the defensive shackles imposed on them.
On a pleasantly warm and sunny afternoon at Creasey Park we soon settled to the action which was indeed largely that of Dunstable elaborately going forward with Jets intervening snappishly and responding with full-paced counter moves. It was soon apparent that optimistic crosses were easily dealt with by Jets and they persisted with their own ideas that exposed some vulnerability in the Dunstable defence.
This vulnerability was tested in full by the rather sprightly Lewis Putman who as well as scoring the first goal was a would- be architect of others. His persistence on possession was reminiscent of our own Lee Roache, who, being charitable had a quiet time of it by his exacting standards. Tony Burnett adequately showed a good turn of pace when he made temporary inroads before being closed down by defenders.
The opening goal had a touch of simplicity and cunning about it with a central through ball that was inviting enough for Putman to chase and put away adroitly, and thus show that much can be made of a moment’s inspiration on the one hand and some hesitancy on the other. When I heard the remark that it was a bad goal to concede, it did occur to me that there never is a good goal to concede. The Blues went behind at the Aylesbury game at Bell Close and went on to play an inspirational second half. Not so today and it could be said that the Jets were a fine match for the Blues and their stubbornness in conceding was not broken until the thirty-ninth minute.
Before Dunstable’s best spell there was a plethora of under or over hit passes and a singular difficulty in getting the better in midfield. Intended moves were read all too easily and I am not forgetting that had Jets had their shooting boots laced up they might well have sneaked another on various occasions.
Roache, after all the hard work he does in encroaching into penalty areas sent one cross or shot across the goal with no connection but a flick off a defender for a corner. Cashman put in two successive corners that favoured defenders. Frater had shots blocked or charged down and it seemed that the breaking down of this defence was too long lasting.
Orlando Rodrigues and Chris McIntyre looked strong in defence for Jets and Andy Lomas had a hand in many a promising forward move. Olaleye, embattled as always did get into some combinations but final shots tended to be weak or straight at the goalkeeper.
I noticed that Frater and Roache were quickly dealt with when they attempted an exchange of passes, but as the half progressed they were earning some freedom with intelligent running to lose their markers and it was an unmarked Frater who levelled matters for the Blues after thirty-nine minutes. It was a goal of some quality from this prolific marksman, but it was one of the few times he evaded defensive attention.
Receiving the ball on the very edge of the box on the right, he turned well and found the top corner. This breakthrough had been suggested as the Duns had almost painfully gained the initiative and if the half had lasted another ten minutes they may well have fully exploited their apparent ascendancy. Roache had two decent efforts, Cashman and Barnett were making inroads but the Jets held out, the whistle ending the half had unwittingly brought to a conclusion the suggestion that the Blues would score again.
They did have plenty of chances in the second half and right up to the end they could have nicked another gal but they were profligate and frustratingly so for the Regiment. Substitutions were not made by Blues until the seventieth minute and it altered little of the games structure.
Having weathered that significant bit of Dunstable pressure, the visitors regained a good deal of composure and they came close to scoring as well but were guilty of the same profligacy as their hosts. Putman and substitute Ben Poulter came closest.
Frater’s best effort other than his goal, drew a fine one- handed save from Sam Styles and in one Jets attack Barnett too one for the team insofar as he blocked a shot and took the full impact which nearly split him asunder. Lewis Kidd was called upon to make routine saves but there was one tricky moment when Poulton looked likely but the bounce of the ball deceived him and those around and a resulting shot went wide as if the moment had gone in any case.
Both Kidd and Styles had plenty of aerial combat within their area and generally they or defenders came off better. Bufano did well to stand tall against a Putman shot, deflecting it for a corner. But a number of free kicks in this half – fussily given or so it seemed interrupted the flow of the game and for all the hoo-hah most free kicks today were instantly forgettable.
The Dunstable trio of substitutes consisted of Brinkman, Francis and Cooper – all of whom were to squander the chance of a goal that may well have won this game. If they had, I would not blush at robbing the Jets even if one had gone in during stoppage time. The prospect of dropping the first league points was looming and that makes matters a little easier for our nearest competitors for the coveted top spot.
I think our chairman summed it up best by taking the view that too many of the team were at seventy-five rather than one hundred per cent.
Frater’s miss in stoppage time was alarming as he was well wide when the goal beckoned and he did have an unchallenged shot as well. Cooper did the same and he had one fine shot earlier that was beaten out. Keating did the same for Jets – and all this was in the very last few minutes. Either side could have nicked a cheeky winner which would have caused all kinds of recriminations. So a draw was an equitable result and not really wanted by either side who hunt for maximum points every game.
Perhaps if set pieces had possessed more quality it might have prised this tight game open, but both sides simply had to settle for a draw, with, I imagine, the visitors the happier. To drop two points is not disastrous, but given how close matters were last season, Dunstable cannot afford to do this too often.
A glance at the current league table will reveal just two unbeaten teams – Dunstable Town and London Colney, who have two games in hand, and like us have dropped two points so far. They, like the other promoted side, Ampthill Town, have settled well and will be challengers.
Whilst today’s performance by the Blues lacked the vision and subtlety of the notable win against Aylesbury (who won away today), we can realistically say that a point is a point and move on from there.
The Blues travel to Holmer Green on Tuesday and on Saturday face Southern Central side Ashford Town (Middlesex) in the First Qualifying Round of the FA Cup, at Creasey Park. Both games bring a pressure of a different kind and the team is capable of meeting both challenges in a confident manner.
Lewis Kidd, Damen Pickering, Daniel Mead, Shane Wood, captain, Fabio Bufano, Jonathan Barnett, Moses Olalaye, Leon Cashman, Lee Roache, Nathan Frater, goal, 39 minutes, Tony Burnett.
Substitutes used – George Brinkman, Chris Francis, Jonathan Cooper (replacing Roache, Cashman and Burnett) – not used Adam Mead and Warren Plowright.
Sam Styles, Orlando Rodrigues, Andy Lomas, Steve Brown, Chris McIntyre, cautioned, Ron Keating, Ian Bywater, Gavin Hart, Luke Beardsworth, LEWIS PUTMAN, goal, 15 minutes – this reporter’s man of the match, Darren Butler.
Substitutes- Tom Inch, Scott Pugsley and Ben Poulton.
Officials- all of whom had a sound game- Referee, James Killen, St Albans, assisted by John Nettleton, Barton-Le Clay and Andy Loe, St Albans.