• Paul Harris

ROACHE HAT-TRICK SEES OFF SAINTS IN TENSE GAME


Duntable Town 5-3 St Margaretsbury (HT 1-0) Attendance 91

Recent matches against St Margaretsbury have been of a controversial nature and whatever else is the cause, a finger of blame is pointed at the officials for uneven and often erroneous decisions. Paul Taylor was back in goal for his first league match since recovering from injury, but he will remember his dismissal at the Recreation Ground in the last game, when he was adjudged to have stamped a player whereas he was simply pulling a leg away from a striker who had blatantly tried to restrict the keeper’ movement. But it looked suspicious and, as we know, official must make a decision on real time.

When officials err even in part they are subject to a barrage of unseemly comments and suggestions, but this game ought to have been put under control a lot earlier than the dismissal of the Saints’ substitute Billy Baird – in his debut, apparently. It seemed to me that players were pushing the referee to the limits and clearly there were occasions when the award of a free kick ought to have been complemented by the production of a yellow card. It also needed the two captains to be taken aside and given a fair warning that there would be no more nonsense.

As it was the game was annoyingly punctuated by some play that not just lacked finesse but was as dangerous as it was unsporting. Call it co-incidence but this particular referee on his last three visits has presided over the game with a notable lack of real authority and has indeed made a hash of some major decisions. With players, managers and supporters expressing their concern and later derision, I did not envy the officials’ tasks one bit.

The niggly second half saw a number of bookings and one dismissal, and the resentment continued beyond the final whistle, with one booking made after the match. Watching it, I find it difficult to defend players who direct abuse at the referee, but at the same time it is necessary to realise that a better and more even performance from the referee might have saved the game from the more unsavoury scenes.

If it is perceived that a referee is not instantly punishing the more overt style of physical play, then players commit themselves to challenges that become more and more robust, and it helps if they can get away with a mere free kick. Early bookings would have helped here as well as a calling together of the captains and a firm statement made. It will be seen as home bias but the Saints were the greater sinners in this respect.

The great irony was that after their player Baird was dismissed, the ten men of St Magaretsbury played their most productive and exciting football. True, they were chasing the game at this stage, but they were relatively close to succeeding when they brought the score back to 4-3. It did cross my mind that this ws a very diffferent game from last sesson when the Blues romped home 7-0.

The sense of resentment about a number of decisions (or lack of them) that many spectators and club officials, felt tended to override the excitement of the finish – and the second half had seen seven out of the total of eight goals.

It might conceivably be co-incidence that this referee’s last three visits have engendered complaints and severe controversy with a full range of dismissals, penalties and worrying levels of confrontation with club officials. I can also report that the officials themselves gave full rein to their view of the scathing comments and ebullient attitude of a section of home supporters. But I feel that the lecture I received on the Regimental shortcomings was negated by the officials’ use of the same industrial language they complained of in the first place. The fact that normally these officials maintain a fair degree of professionalism under strain shows how far the resentment cut both ways. Allegations were made and denied and I just hope that we can bury this one along with the debacle that saw ugly scenes when Colney Heath were the guests.

The odd thing was that for a greater part of the first half we had a close and hard fought game of football. Dunstable made the better inroads into the opposition’s penalty area with Roache finding it hard to get in his usual turn and shoot move as defenders were successful in disposing the Blues’ top scorer. Lee Roberts had tested Taylor from some range, and the returning keeper was tested gain from generally well-taken corners.

The Saints tried from range but the Duns were keener to get into the area and this was achieved a good few times by Jonathan Cooper. Tony Burnett was lively in endeavour and his contributions though notable were met by sound defending. Cooper was able to turn for a shot that was on target but too high. Newman Carney’s free kick was similarly on target but straight at the waiting Matt Deamer. Moses Olalaye had some enterprising moments in attack and he fell victim as others in blue did to some spoiling tackles. It was at this stage that the referee ought to have asserted himself legitimately, but it was not forthcoming and in a sense the game degenerated. Yet despite that there were some real moments of genuinely thrilling play – one of these leading to Dunstable’s opening goal from the top marksman Lee Roache. To see a player hold off four defenders before turning and shooting successfully is gratifying. It did reflect Dunstable’s greater keenness to attack the penalty area, but this was a game where they did not have matters all their own way. The Saints put up a decent show and deserve credit for the spirit they showed. After twenty-two minutes there was an outstanding piece of combinational play involving Davey Emdee, Anthony Anstead and Leigh Rose and the last named player’s shot had eluded Taylor and was goal bound but for the spurt of athleticism from the experienced Wayne Mills who just cleared from the goal-line.

In defence Adem Salih skilfully picked Roache’s pocket when the striker fancied he might get a second. Burnett and Roache combined soon after resulting in a deflected shot and a ong free kick from Dunstable picked out Olalaye who just could not connect in time. A St Mage free kick in a fin position was long in coming and almost reached the training ground, which would have been embarrassing as their height is of Colditz proportions. ‘no-one has cleared the fence yet’ was the Regimental riposte.

This was not an easy time for the blues who needed another goal as the Saints were lively in the counter and Anstead, a strong forward, needed close attention from defenders. The willingness of defenders and midfielders from the Blues to give it a go in attack was pleasing and Burnett set up Buchanan for one of these, which was a fair effort even if unsuccessful.

There was at this stage some curious falling over off the ball from both teams, with the supine player appealing in vain for a decision in his team’s favour. Roache was the recipient of one challenge that brought a very reasonable shout for a penalty as contact was audible, but the referee was indifferent and dismissed the claim by ignoring it.

By the interval it was clear that the referee would not be on the Christmas card list of many within the ground, and both assistants also received a fair amount of unsolicited ‘advice’ from the terraces and from the Dunstable managers.

It was an uneasy atmosphere compounded by varying views depending on what team you favoured. But it did need sorting out properly, and if the first half had its moments of controversy then the second superseded that with ugly ease. There was no easing off in the zealous challenges and sense of frustration.

After just three minutes of the second half Roache added his and his side’s second with a cheeky lob over the keeper from a fine pass from Cooper. This ought to have bought some breathing space but after fifty-on minutes the Saints to their and everyone else’s surprise, were awarded a penalty.

Taylor had gone for a cross and sensibly held the ball aloft with both hands. The whistle went and the assumption was that he had been infringed. There was a supine Saint and it was adjudged that he had been impeded, but by whom I am none the wiser. Ricky Light made light of the conversion and as they say on the telly’ - game on. This is fact marked a period of legitimate aggression from St Mags and they looked seriously for an equaliser. This was interrupted when Saints’ substitute Billy Baird, playing in his debut was given a straight red card with a challenge that deserved the punishment.

But as is so often witnessed, the team down to ten men played out of their skins and pushed this one all the way. Olaleye was cautioned for dissent, and that accumulated total will mean he will miss a game soon, and he has been ever present so far. He was substituted by Chris Francis soon after. Anstead put in a fair header gathered by Taylor, d the linesman ought to have seen his excessive leaning on the defender. Light seemed through on goal, calling for an astute intervention from Fabio Bufano at the expense of a corner.

At the other end Francis won a corner after a spirited run at the defence, and Emdee in a fine piece of play shrugged off all comers only to see his cross have too much pace for any chance of connection. Emdee repeated this soon after and it was a worrying moment for the Blues still with a slender one goal advantage.

Danny Hutchins, a regular in the Duns side that were runners-up last season, came on as a substitute for Buchanan. Hutchins is on a short loan from Southern premier table-toppers Hemel Hempstead Town, and he turned out for the reserves midweek. He took a leaf out of the Roache manual of goal scoring by netting one on the turn to restore the important two goal lead after seventy-eight minutes. Damen Pickering then came on for Wayne Mills in a like for like replacement.

We had reached the last five minutes of normal time when a frenetic end saw more goals and distinct possibilities of a notable piece of point grabbing for the visitors. A Saints’ free-kick from the right flank was literally flicked into the goal by substitute Stevie Tutlalamo from non-existent marking caused by momentary lapse of concentration. That sort of thing can turn out to be expensive. So 3-2 with a few minutes to go plus stoppage time.

Minute later Chris Francis enjoyed a failure to mark by the Saints and made it 4-2, but we were not done yet and there was no pussyfooting by the corner flag either. Leigh Rose rose in stature and made it 4-3 on 90+ 1 and in the third minute of stoppage time Lee Roache again unmarked made it 5-3 but it took two goes as Deamer parried the first shot.

Then right at the end Maybury was cautioned for what I was assured a goolie-grabbing foul on Roache who remonstrated to the referee who blew without permitting the fee kick which was close to goal. Roache made fulsome comments, unusual for him and he too was cautioned

After the whistle both teams delayed their exit as there appeared to be a robust exchange of views by several players with various others in the mix and thus we had a sour ending to the match, which Dunstable deserved the win but were made to work hard for it.

It is rather odd that there has seemed to be a degree of animosity between these two teams on recent meetings but it must be said that an unfortunate allocation of officials has meant that some patently poor decisions has resulted in some hot-headed moments. Of course the allocation has been made with all integrity but it has just happened to turn out poorly. It is a shame too that it has been something of a highlight in the last two games as it tends to obscure the any fine moments of competitive football.

The fine attempts by the Saints to grab a prestigious point must not be overlooked and it was with ten men, but you would not think so.

The lack of proper marking was evident in th late goals but I feel the players’ nerves may well have been frayed by then. Dunstable thus extend their unbeaten run to thirteen league games, with ten wins and three draws.

But elsewhere Aylesbury United did not duck the challenge and had a home win and trail still by one point, having played one game more than the Duns. If today’s result was quite remarkable, it does give way to the astounding result at Ampthill Town who lost 4-6 at home to AFC. Our neighbours have lost just the one game and are like the Ducks, within a point of Dunstable Town.

These results and I include our important and vital win today amply demonstrates how close it is at the top of the table where it seems no-one can afford a blip in form.

There were still simmering feelings at Creasey Park that stretched the bounds of diplomacy but I hope that the unsavoury moments of today can be consigned to perdition. Let us not forget that this was Roache’s third hat-trick of the season and his goal tally for all competitions in now twenty in as many appearances. This is just as well as his strike partner Nathan Frater is still hors de combat as he recovers from his foot injury.

On Tuesday 23 October the club is involved in the Second Round of the Challenge Trophy, a domestic competition, and they face First Division Stony Stratford Town at Creasey Park. Next Saturday the Blues travel to the Gosling Stadium at Welwyn Garden City to face Hatfield Town, so remember to bring your binoculars.

DUNSTABLE TOWN

Paul Taylor, Wayne Mills, (Pickering), Daniel Mead, Shane Wood, captain, Fabio Bufano, cautioned, Graeme Buchanan, (Hutchins, goal, 78 minutes), Newman Carney, Moses Olaleye, cautioned, (Francis, goal 86 minutes,) LEE ROACHE, Blues’ man of the match, three goals, 17, 48 and 90+3, cautioned, Tony Burnett, Jonathan Cooper, cautioned.

Substitutes not used – George Brinkman and Jonathan Barnett.

St MARGARETSBURY

Matt Deamer, Michael Cooper, Simon Grove-White, Sam Ruff, Adem Salih, Joel Maybury, cautioned, Ricky Light, penalty goal, 51 minutes, Davey Emdee, Anthony Anstead, captain, Leigh Rose, goal, 90+1,

Substitutes – Billy Baird, dismissed, straight red card, Stevie Tutalamo, goal, 85, Danny Charles, Tony Neilson.

Officials- referee Daniel Richardson, Middlesex, assisted by Tony Butler and Chris Scott, both Hertfordshire.


 

Dunstable Town Football Club is a members owned football club that is run by the Club Committee

through its annually elected Club Officers, constituting the Chairperson, Treasurer and Secretary.

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