MATCH REPORT: DUNSTABLE TOWN 3-1 STRATFORD TOWN
This was the first ever meeting of the two clubs. Stratford-Upon-Avon is world famous as the birthplace of William Shakespeare... and of course, for Stratford Town, founded in 1941. The Warwickshire club came to Creasey Park with a number of games in hand and were defeated tonight by the better team and also by a lack of discipline, by one player in particular. Jack Roberts was given a straight red card for violent conduct at a time, when they were only trailing by a single goal. The penalty conceded by Roberts and converted by Danny Talbot, really put the game beyond the visitors reach, but curiously they had their better chances when reduced to ten men.
On an inclement evening, the swirling rain, made dramatic by the floodlight glare and a swirling wind eased considerably and Dunstable were able to extend their current unbeaten run. If there had been some concern about the lack of goals scored lately, this is finely balanced by the stout defensive play and a fourth successive clean sheet was denied as the game entered stoppage time. Yet once again, the woodwork denied the visitors on a number of occasions – but there were two stylish goals tonight as well as a successful penalty conversion.
The only change for Dunstable from Saturday’s narrow victory over Dorchester Town was Steve Wales making a start in place of Chris Vardy. Among the visiting team was a former Dunstable player (of short duration), Anthony Charles, who ‘celebrated’ his return with a caution, but had a sound game nevertheless. Stratford Town were playing in their change strip of tangerine and black and they made a fine start with a shot in the first minute from Dior Angus, which was wide but served as an adequate warning. There were several forays forward from Dunstable and, notably, Connor Calcutt, as a spearhead striker, saw a lot of the ball and made good use of it. He had some pleasing interchanges with Adam Watkins and indeed provided the valuable assistance for Adam Watkins, who scored the opening goal after thirty-three minutes.
This was indeed a vital breakthrough as up until then, the sides were quite evenly matched in terms of creativity, with Dunstable perhaps edging it in midfield. There was also a notable piece of trickery from Zack Reynolds, reminiscent of his superb run on Saturday that deserved a goal. On this occasion Reynolds sent the ball to Calcutt whose shot cleared the cross bar.
Watkins also replicated this, and in the course of the game had his usual effort from range as well as the ‘regulation’ blocked shots. Of note was Steve Wales who showed he liked to get forwards – and there was a moment when he seemed to be dispossessing the goalkeeper but after this was achieved he found he had run out of pitch. David Keenleyside was also in the hunt but also too high with his effort which was also aided or rather abetted by the wind. Given the conditions, this was encouraging stuff from the hosts, but there was one unforced error from Adam Pepera that almost let the opposition bag a soft goal. Pepera had a generally sound game, but he told me later that he was a little disappointed with himself overall.
The goal, when it came was well worked. Calcutt did well to grasp and retain possession and he espied the prowling Watkins who finished in typical style. It did not signal an all-out assault on the Dunstable goal, thanks to the precise defending from the hosts, with good stuff from Howard Hall ( who contuse to impress) and the skipper James Kaloczi whose defensive headers brook no interference. Stratford were far from unimaginative – with Angus, Ahenkoran and Sheldon eager to snap up anything on offer, often supplied by Westwood and Tulloch. But as we got closer to the interval, the visitors lessened in the impact they had imposed in their better moments. But a one goal lead never seems enough but Dunstable were unable to add to their tally before the half ended.
The game had been free of any controversy or cynical challenges, and if it had been impeded by the blustery wind, the players did their utmost to adapt. Stratford would have the nominal advantage of the wind upon resumption and no doubt their manager half-time speech would have had a suitable peroration, given the slender lead held by their hosts.
Having said that there were a number of incidents in the second half that added to the excitement or frustration, depending on whom you favoured, but there is no doubt that Stratford proceeded to make matters hugely difficult for themselves, first with the dismissal of Roberts, which brought some deserved wrath from their bench and then by the needless conceding of a penalty, when Danny Talbot was brought down and had the fine riposte of converting the penalty. We had played sixty-seven minutes and although Dunstable pressed when they could, with good counter play – an equaliser could not entirely be ruled out.
One of their crosses locked good but landed on the roof of the net. For Dunstable a neat through ball from Kaloczi gave Calcutt a lot to do, but he did it, yet he was stranded with no-one to pass to, since the clearance had done everyone for pace. Good preparatory play from Stratford was in evidence, but it became more and more sporadic as they could not outwit the waspish home defence. Now two goals to the good, Dunstable were comfortable and looked the likelier to add to the score.
But a corner from Stratford struck the underside of the bar before being ushered away. At the other end, Talbot supplied substitute Gary Wharton with a fine chance but this brought a fine save from Andy Kemp. Roache had replaced the industrious Calcutt and again his play was suggestive, but still inconclusive – but his effort to regain his prowess is never in doubt. There were a couple of occasions when he almost beat the last man.
The best chance from Stratford came when substitute Delfooueso hit the foot of the post and the follow-up from Fagan was tipped over the bar by Jamie head for a corner. Wharton was wonderful on the flank and eager to run at the defence – and indeed his strike was the goal of the game – as it was the culmination of a superb solo run and this third goal came with just a few minutes left of normal time.
It was to Stratford’s credit that although the game was obviously lost they persevered, and did gain the compensation of a rather remarkable goal in stoppage time. A shot or cross, you choose, rebounded off the bar and Fagan netted from the loose ball. It was scant compensation for them since there was very little time left. But the perennial irony of the ten men ‘upping their game’ had been in evidence as the game drew to a close.
Their rhythm had clearly been upset with Robert’s dismissal and the hot-blooded and avoidable challenge that led to the penalty left an unstaunched wound. But they were clearly not at their best tonight, but at the same time a little unfortunate that the woodwork had denied them. Dunstable were solid, organised and weaknesses, apparent at the opening games have been neatly ironed out, as manager Fontenelle and his assistant Talbot have strived successfully to give the team a creditable balance.
It was a more comfortable performance overall and players I spoke to were plainly disappointed that they had conceded so late even if they admitted quietly that they may have rode their luck a little. Watkins gave another polished performance and it was also pleasing that not one home player was cautioned. Challenges were clean and fair, positional awareness was notable and team work had a satisfying edge to it. By way of contrast there was a degree of frustration shown by the opposition, who trooped off seemingly more annoyed at themselves.
It has been a good revival since the last defeat, in November, away to Chippenham. In the seven games since then, Dunstable have won six and drawn one, with a goal tally of sixteen with just five conceded. The result tonight means they move up fifth position, but Hitchin have two games in hand. Not even the most optimistic among us expected to us to be vying for a play-off place at this stage, but it is a credit to the management for good team building, sensible and careful signings and a good internal policy of discipline. As Zack Reynolds said in his recent interview – there is a good spirit in the dressing room and this is also underlined in James Kaloczi’s ‘Captain’s Blog’.
Here is a good place to mention that the away game at Chesham has been moved to Tuesday 2 February. I say this, as, despite my announcing this (well shamefully plugging it) over the public address system, some spectators were asking me when the game was to be played. But before then there is a third successive home match against Cambridge City this coming Saturday, 30 January, weather permitting of course.
Jamie Head, Zack Reynolds, Howard Hall, Danny Talbot, penalty GOAL, 70 minutes, James Kaloczi, captain, Adam Pepera, Adam Watkins, GOAL, 33 minutes, Steve Wales, Connor Calcutt, (Lee Roache, 63 minutes), Steven Gregory, David Keenelyside, (Gary Wharton, 72 minutes – GOAL, 87 minutes.
Substitutes not used – Luke Pennell and Gedeon Okito.
Andy Kemp, Gary Moran, captain, Kieran Westwood, Jack Roberts, dismissed, straight red card, 67 minutes, Liam Francis, Anthony Charles, cautioned, Simeon Tulloch, Michael McGrath, Dior Angus, (Emmit Delfoeneso), Edwin Ahenkoran, (Tyrone Fagan, GOAL, 90 +1, Jamie Sheldon, cautioned. Substitutes not used – Richard Gregory, Charlie Faulkner and Alex Price.
Referee – Mark wardell, assisted by Doug Lawson and Mark Wetherall, all three had sound games.