MATCH REPORT: DUNSTABLE TOWN 0-2 KING'S LYNN TOWN
One must always accentuate the positive, and in so doing we may say this was a much better performance than the last match, where Dunstable received their heaviest defeat of the season against a Chesham United side that has not won since. The Linnets, by way of contrast are in form and were deserved winners today with a goal of quality in each half.
This second successive defeat for Dunstable, after their fine unbeaten run is yet another reminder of how competitive it is in the Premier Division. Earlier in the season Dunstable were held 1-1 at The Walks and might well have snaffled all three points in the last minute. But today they were definitely second best despite a praiseworthy rally at the start of the second half where their sustained pressure suggested that they would eradicate the visitors’ sixteenth minute opening goal.
With two successive postponements, manager Tony Fontenelle was eager to get his team in action to dispel the gloom of the still startling loss to Chesham. Connor Calcutt return to spearhead the attack (and, as it turned out, he was an isolated figure) and Howard Hall gave way to Luke Pennell.
The start was characteristic – with Dunstable needing to defend a series of somewhat eager early attacks, where an early goal was only just avoided. We have become used to this both home and away, but we usually have the consoling factor that the team improves noticeably over the course of the game. Needless to say the ponderous start is not a planned tactic and it is something we could well do without.
In what was almost their first foray Lynn came very close to scoring when Jacek Zielonka’s fine headed effort only just cleared the cross bar. This lively player was also a claimant of a penalty a little later but found himself correctly cautioned for simulation. The referee dismissed all other claims for penalties – with one or two being reasonable claims.
The Linnets piled forward on the heavy pitch and each cross seemed to have the potential of a goal and, indeed they very nearly got one when James Kaloczi cleared one attempt right on the goal line. At this stage, the hosts were poor and their token efforts at attack seemed to be limited to hopeful ball forward to Calcutt who, at best, could only hold the ball with no-one to help the move along.
By this time the Linnets had established control of the midfield and were enjoying the greater possession and fruitful ideas. Zielonka, Lee Stevenson and David Bridges were showing a good turn of pace – and were well supported in forward moves. Dunstable supporters were nonplussed at their team’s overall ineffectiveness at this stage and it was no surprise that a goal was conceded after sixteen minutes.
A warning – or rather declaration of intent came from man of the match Liam Hurst whose first effort was a sumptuous diagonal lob from range which looked goal bound until Jamie Head managed to reach it. In a replicated move from similar distance Hurst let fly again and this second attempt was successful and no-one could deny that the better team was leading and in command. Adam Pepera made another vital clearance under pressure and Lee Stevenson was thwarted in another dangerous move.
Being dominated in midfield Dunstable were almost forced to play their long clearances that gave Calcutt only the slimmest of chances to exploit, but the tactic was too naïve to be effective in any case and it was happily abandoned in a much better second half showing for the home side. But before the revival there were a few scares, one in particular when Stevenson combined well with Bridges whose effort was just deflected for a corner.
After one Lynn attack the ball went out of play into an unpeopled corner of the ground (the soft, cold rain was unceasing) and we saw another first for Dunstable when the ball was retrieved by a small child on a scooter and returned to play before the child continued his or her circumnavigation of the chilly stadium, weaving in and out of the sparse, under average attendance. It was about the only thing that raised a smile for the home contingent. Well, I say that, but the sight of our physiotherapist John Bell wearing black tights under voluminous shorts finished with diddy white ankle socks left me in a haze of indecision as to whether I should either whistle or shake his hand.
David Keenleyside did raise a flicker of anticipation when his fine work with Calcutt resulted in a shot of undesired weakness that landed gently in the gloves of Alexander Street. He did not stir when Watkins blazed wide and watched when the midfielder had two successive shots well blocked. Perhaps the best effort for Dunstable came from Steven Gregory’s header that was on target but also straight at the keeper.
A late corner in the half for the Linnets was keenly suggestive but cleared robustly but it was not pleasant to finish the half more or less under siege. ‘We were lucky,’ said one wag, ‘to get the nought’. He was queuing for a hot dog or hamburger and must be a Zen follower as he asked for ‘one with everything’.
But this less than impressive display hitherto no doubt served to add fuel to manager Fontenelle’s half-time morale raising speech with a needful peroration to have them patting their badges and narrowing their eyes for the task of rehabilitation. This was slightly added to by ‘Yella’s’ jocular comment to the Lynn manager Gary Setchell (dressed as if he was just popping out to the pub – no track suits for him – or black tights). Setchell was routinely moaning to the referee about the booking and divers other incidents when Yella said ‘Come off it Gary, you lot are battering us.’ So there it was, straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak.
We felt the same, but the Lynn officials were mostly keeping their own counsel, aware that a game can take on a different texture when a lead is just one goal. The battering was to cease and be replaced by cunning and augmented by confidence. I was not the first to make the observation that Dunstable played better in the first five minutes of the second period that the whole of the dismal first half. It was indeed good stuff with a number of chances suggesting that an equaliser would be forthcoming erelong. And it would have been deserved as well since King’s Lynn did not play to hold on to the lead as they broke whenever they could.
There had been a substitution for Dunstable – with Steve Wales giving way to Gary Wharton whose exuberant pace presented the Linnets with a number of problems. For a while the midfield was reclaimed owing to good work from Adam Watkins and Danny Talbot. There were a number of chances coming directly in the penalty box (with routine appeals for a penalty, of course), some good work by the goalie and equally good work from a resolute Linnet’s defence. A blocked shot from hot-shot Wharton was deflected for a corner, and from this Watkins essayed a low form shot that was well monitored. A trademark long throw from Luke Pennell afforded the tall Kaloczi with a header that Street held comfortably. Keenleyside was showing the same urgency as Wharton and his contribution was pleasing – but despite all this and it was sustained pressure, the visitors still looked relatively comfortable.
There was another substitution for the home side that brought on Chris Vardy for the hard-working Talbot. The midfielder had given his all and he was looking a little tired but not as someone said ‘blowing it out of his ass’. Vardy added to the attacking prospects but already this commitment to attack in search of the equaliser was exposing a bit of a weakness. Indeed it was this that led to the second goal which really ended the game as a contest.
Lynn had also utilised two of their substitutes and they patiently awaited their chance to break effectively when the defence was stretched. Sweet are the uses of adversity. Their second goal came when Stevenson received a through ball out from midfield and he controlled the ball well, shot on the turn and seemed to take Jamie Head by surprise. A Punch always says, ‘that’s the way to do it’ and it was indeed a goal that hurt the hosts, who although they still tried until the whistle they could not penetrate. I felt it said much for the resilience of the Linnets whose confidence in the ball never faltered. Mind you we could have done with a slight tapping of the ball into touch for a defensive move rather than launching the ball towards the empyrean and thus incurring the wrath of the footy sec who has to go and collect them, distance notwithstanding. But overall, Lynn did not waste time – they were timely.
Home supporters were disgruntled as the timely goal came in the seventy-sixth minute and they clearly felt all was up with the lads. Mind you, on such occasions our loyal band can suck melancholy out of a game as a weasel sucks eggs, to paraphrase the Bard. We must not be too dispirited as there was much about the second half (in particular) that was praiseworthy. Good Lord, do we not recall our shipping two goals in as many minutes in that second half opening spell at The Meadow? This was much better and against a very good side who played well and fairly. There were no bookings apart from Zielonka’s Olympic dive and the teams showed a mutual respect.
That second goal seemed a cue to the Linnets’ supporters at the covered end to evoke a four worded chant that observed that our ground was modest and we lacked support, which is partially true but a little uncharitable, as was the view that one of Dunstable’s way over the bar efforts was ‘effing, effing useless.’ They gained in boastful confidence, first singing that The Lynn were ‘going up’ and then that they were ‘gonna win the league’ and now we are going to believe it. They even offered to sing a song for us. Nice of them to ask. But you cannot blame them for crowing over a thoroughly professional performance away from home and, as I have said a deserved three points.
No, this was not Dunstable even near their best, but I emphasise the improvement and but for really good defending they might well have got at least a goal back. The problem is in the starting – they really do need to close down the opposition at once rather than later and gradually.
Today’s result still leaves Dunstable in a fragile fourth place as others have games in hand and there is the trip to Kettering Town next week, who still play at Burton Park Wanderers’ ground. Fontenelle and Talbot have no doubt drawn much from today’s performance and will no doubt be seeking an improvement and an avoidance of a third successive defeat.
Jamie Head, Zack Reynolds, Luke Pennell, Danny Talbot (Chris Vardy), James Kaloczi, captain, Adam Pepera, Adam Watkins, Steve Wales, (Gary Wharton), Connor Calcutt, Steven Gregory, David Keenleyside, (Lee Roache). Other sub- Howard Hall.
KING’S LYNN TOWN
Alexander Street, Ryan Fryatt, captain, Jordan Yong, Kern Miller, Matthew Castellan, Lee Smith, Michael Clunan, (Liam Fryatt), Liam Hurst, GOAL, 16 minutes, this reporter’s man of the match, Jacek Zielonka, cautioned, (Sam Gaughran), Lee Stevenson, GOAL, 76 minutes, David Bridges, (Sam Mulready).
Other substitutes – Luke Pearson GK and Jack Friend.
Referee – Neil Morrison assisted by Jonathan Bolland and John Nazari.