MATCH REPORT: BIDEFORD 0-0 DUNSTABLE TOWN
This was only the sixth meeting of these two cubs since 1972/3, and the statistics are now two wins for Dunstable, one loss and three, including today, have been drawn. The Robins, sixteen points adrift at the bottom had been soundly beaten 5-0 at Creasey Park, but in their last game they had a prestigious win against Dorchester, whilst Dunstable’s away form has not been overly impressive. The game was preceded by a minute’s silence to honour Denno Ellery, a former senior official of the club. This was respectfully observed, apart from the unwitting seagull squeals in the background. Once underway we saw an eager foray or two from the hosts, who seemed keen to prevent Dunstable from settling, which was soon remedied by the visitors who had ab early go with a shot , albeit soft, from Howard Hall. Another chance was provided when Steve Wales was brought down on the edge of the area by Dan Harrison, who received a caution. This chance went begging but Danny Talbot’s later free kick was of excellent quality but it clipped the cross bar. Had that gone it then I feel that Dunstable would have secured dominance in this match noted for its work rate from both teams. On a bobbly pitch control was often rendered more difficult, and a ponderous lack of creativity in midfield often led to hopeful long passes that tended to ask too much from the front runners. James Kaloczi seemed to recognise this and a remarkable lob from range went over the bar. This was not a bad tactic as later Steve Wales tried one himself, having espied the keeper off his line. The ball seemed goal bound and had the pitch been wet the eventual bounce that set it onto the roof of the net would have been kinder and a notable goal would have been the conclusion. Making his Dunstable debut was striker Jonathan Edwards, signed from Peterborough United, and who had some good early touches and he too came close to scoring – denied by the save of the match from Kyle Moore. This came late in the game, but it would have been a winner as Bideford, despite some impressive preparatory work would not finish cleanly. But for a team facing probable relegation they showed tremendous spirit matching Dunstable in both effort and enterprise. Dunstable’s goal keeper Jamie Head reprised the old Paul Taylor habit of straying from the goal to make clearances and appearing to take his time returning between the sticks – but his unorthodox approach in the first instance was covered by Adam Pepera and he had to make a notably few saves from direct shots or headers. Chris Vardy joined the injured list (along with Lee Roache), and he was replaced by Gary Wharton – and David Keenleyside was suspended following his dismissal against Merthyr Town. With Dunstable being marginally the side looking likelier to score there were some fine moves from Bideford, with Ian Sampson and a pesky Billy Tucker causing a few problems in the move but not the finish. Indeed when Tucker placed a pass into an area peopled only by Dunstable players a rather genteel supporter let forth with ‘Billy Tucker you silly f-f-f fellow,’ as if struggling for a rhyme. Too many moves from both sides had this inconsistency in the finish. This gave the game a curious instability. An example of this was a quick move involving Wales and Wharton but the shot was far too weak. At this point Dunstable worked their way up field with a series of throw-ins that gained territory but little else. What should have been telling passes were all too easily intercepted Already it seemed remarkable that Bideford had been destroyed at Creasey Park in Dunstable’s highest scoring victory. Had they not been so wasteful with chances (many ballooned over the bar) and some at close range as well.There was a further irony that some of Dunstable’s best shots were executed simultaneously with the whistle for off-side. The best chance for Bideford came when a firm, low shot from Angus Wilson needed a precise save from Head. With Wales’ cunning lob nestling on the roof of the net, there was little else of note in the remainder of the half. Yet it was not a dull game so far, but a goal from either team would have livened things up considerably. I was pleased to meet our former player, Tony Ley, who had been, along with his brother, who later turned professional. He told me an amusing story that following his marriage on an Easter Sunday, he was asked to play for Arlesey on the Monday. He did and bagged a goal, and, as he told me he could boast that he had scored on his honeymoon. He was enjoying the game, but like us all he wanted to see a surer touch and perhaps just a little bit of good fortune. This was in evidence later when Wharton hit the bar just as the whistle ruled him off-side. The Regiment had spread their flags at the other end and had only a minimal amount of verbal jousting from the ‘Biddy boys’, who had done their best to urge the hosts to better efforts. I will also accede to the request of our Supporters’ Club guru, Ian Bateman, who insisted over his post -match fish and chips that the referee was the man of the match. We treated this as an ironic remark but old Baters was in earnest and for the first time in my hearing has praised a referee. I tend to agree with him though, as it was clear that the ref was uncompromising and dealt with player dissent in an unequivocal manner. Had he heard the Biddy manager all him an effing bottle-job for turning down a dubious penalty appeal, that gentleman might have been sitting in the stand for the remainder of the game. You know a game is becoming when penalty appeals come as regularly as the call of ‘owzat? in cricket. But to be fair they mostly came from spectators. The need for a goal for the games sake was very nearly provided right at the start of the second half when tucker got in a shot following a close approximation of a goal mouth melee but it brought was a corner. With Adam Watkins bundled over, Talbot essayed a free kick that was resolutely punched clear. There were some niggly tackles but also the niggly feeling that the defences would triumph today since so little was getting cleanly through. Kaloczi was immense for Dunstable, ably assisted by the persistent Zack Reynolds who showed later that he could run from defence in possession and set up a good chance or two. Hall made one vital interception. A corner from Wales brought a rather awkward overhead from the beleaguered Wharton, but he got his pass to Wales who finished the move meekly. Edwards, with a striker’s instinct was getting more of the ball, but he needed to chare his intuition at times or at least look up since towards the end his run into the box and blocked shot would have been better had he seen the unmarked Connor Calcutt, who had come on as a fresh substitute. Calcutt had been twice in advantageous positions and went unnoticed, and it was Edwards who had the best chance with ten minutes remaining but Kyle Moore made a masterful save. The applause was loud at this point both for the shot and save and for the provision of some real excitement. Measured defending had ruled the day but diffident finishing was still in evidence unto the last kick. Ian Sampson had a weak header from close range that was plucked to safety by Head, then Sampson provided a decent cross that won a corner. A worrying moment for Dunstable came when Bideford won a free kick right inside the ‘D’ and their free kick guru, Stephen Reed was called upon to provide. He did bit ineffectually this time as his shot hit the wall. Dunstable relived this bit of late pressure with a couple of late corners where once again the defenders held sway. Shortly after the whistle went and Dunstable had been held, but it cannot be denied that Bideford had fought hard and deserved their point – and they had played as hard as they could for three. But they were lacking in front of goal and do have a huge task ahead to avoid relegation. I hope they do for the selfish reason that I like going to Bideford despite the seven –thirty start. They have an enthusiastic and friendly committee as well. That is all very well but it did not prevent a somewhat irate elderly homer supporter prodding me in meaningful admonishment.‘You’re rubbish’ was his opening gambit, knowing it would provoke response. I think he meant the Dunstable team and me by association. He wanted to know, rhetorically why we were eighth and they were bottom. But I circumvented the rhetoric by stating the obvious – namely that we had won more games than them and, do not forget was my rejoinder, that we walloped you five-nil at our place. This he ignored and concluded that we ‘could not travel’. I said I thought it was coach lag, but he did not see it as merely facetious. ‘Travel’ was his riposte, ‘we’, he paused,’ have been to King’s Lynn’. This was said in the tone that conveyed the Norfolk town as Ultima Thule. I was about to tell him that I had an aunt in The Hague, but he wandered off grumbling to his companion, but not before he cast a baleful glance over his shoulder. I met the match officials in the board room and complimented them on the handling of the game. I wished I could have told them of the great Bateman pronouncement that the ref was the man of the match. Ian told me later that he did convey his opinion to the ref but that he, the ref had merely thought it a sarcastic comment. The Dunstable supporters were foregathered around the coach eating fish and chips and I had wrongly assumed that they had been turfed out of a nearby pub. There was a suspicious chinking of can and bottles in back packs and I envisaged a noisy ride home with antics and ‘muzac’. I tried to nod off after my lap top battery died but Scottie assumed I was quietly dying of grief at another game without a win. He even composed an elegiac ditty which he sang ‘in the club style.’ This was accompanied by Dean Fallah whose conversion from sugar to alcohol intake has been virtually total, but not without tiresome consequences. I am glad to say we had some new supporters on the coach, one of whom surveyed me darkly and said quietly that he recognised me from somewhere. The supporters also implied strongly that the day had been spoilt by the football insofar as the game had been instantly forgettable. But I do not agree. What struck me was the dedicated work rate of the players of both teams and it was end to end stuff. What was wrong was that when it got into the danger areas almost all attacks were nullified, shut down, snuffed out – when they were not wasted in a frustrating manner. Dunstable have a home game next week, against Paulton Rovers, and you may recall that those in blue and white hoops had a narrow 2-1 win there when Paulton briefly occupied the basement position. It means, of course that Dunstable will need to be approaching their best to get a positive result as again, results today threw up a few more surprises. Dunstable slip a place down the table to ninth, but we only need one more point to exceed the total for last season. So, a point and a clean sheet are far from disastrous and the coach drivers efficiently ejected us at Creasey Park having not spared the horses, so to speak. Thus ended our longest away trip and if we did not go away empty handed, the rewards were comparatively meagre. BIDEFORDKyle Moore, Nick Milton, Stephen Reed, Angus Wilson, Chris McGrath, Dan Harrison, cautioned, Matty Bye, captain, Matt Andrew, Kevin Squire, (Ben Wood), Ian Sampson, Billy Tucker, cautioned, (O’Neil Odufin), other subs – Jamie Chamberlain, Joe Barker, Nick Barker.DUNSTABLE TOWNJamie Head, Howard Hall, Zack Reynolds, Danny Talbot, James Kaloczi, captain, and this reporter’s man of the match, Adam Pepera, cautioned, Adam Watkins, David Longe-King, cautioned, Jonathan Edwards, Steven Wales, (Connor Calcutt), Chris Vardy, (Gary Wharton), other subs Gedeon Okito and Tony Fontenelle.Referee – Mark Whaley, Eggbuckland, assisted by Neil Lane, Plymouth and Neil Hunnisett, Saltash. All three had sound games.