THE PIPEMAN'S REPORT AND POST MATCH INTERVIEWS: HUNGERFORD TOWN 2-3 DUNSTABLE TOWN
WALES WINS IT WITH WONDER STRIKE
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The energy-sapping nature of the game owed a lot to our mad March weather, which today comprised swirling wind and persistent rain that tended to worsen rather than lessen. Hungerford Town occupied the fourth spot and maximum points today would have enhanced their play-off chances, whereas Dunstable in tenth position could simply do with a prestigious win, since any kind of victory had eluded them since the edgy 2-1 win at home over Merthyr Town.
With striker Connor Calcutt not in the squad today, there was a chance for Jonathan Wylie of the Development Squad (the current posh name for the reserves), to be included, and he came on as a late substitute. Top scorer Danny Talbot gave way to David Longe-King, who went on to distinguish himself in what was a memorable performance by Dunstable Town.
Just before the players emerged into the gloom of the weather, spectators were amused, or in some cases, bemused, by a lady of advanced years cavorting around with a couple of pom-poms and an umbrella. This was a slightly genteel British interpretation of a cheerleader and I spoke to her before the kick-off. She had, she told me, joined the Ugly Model Agency, but, she insisted, not because she was ugly. She was also involved in a programme called ‘OAPs Behaving Badly’, and I could well believe the badly bit. Her commendable zest for life was exhibited by her posing, well striking a pose, in front of our video man, Charlie Hanson. The players were amused and so were many spectators whose views ranged from ‘good on yer girl’ to ‘shameless self-publicist.’ I simply thought that we have plenty of room for all this sort of thing and there was no denying her vitality and, well, evanescence, since we moved quickly on to the serious, important stuff.
Quite simply, Hungerford were hungry for points and may well have reflected on their visit to Creasey Park a couple of months ago, where David Keenleyside laid the ghost of that awful 2-6 defeat the season before by scoring a stoppage time winner with the only goal of the game. Dunstable’s form had been indifferent and the team diffident. This proved to be an ideal setting for the match and it turned out to be a memorable one.
There was a thorny choice for the choice of which way to kick, being either down the slope or against the wind or up the slope and with it. Dunstable had the former, and, judging by the number of times the ball was held up in the air, they had a hard time of it. The pitch was muddy but with little standing water, but by the end of the game it was a quagmire.
History also repeated itself insofar as for the second season running we had a sartorial dispute. Dunstable had arrived with their away kit of red and black stripes. All very well, but their black shorts clashed with Hungerford’s new strip of white shirts, black shorts and socks. Referee Paul Evans ummed and aahed a bit but was pleased to note that Crusaders’ secretary Ken Holmes produced some blue shorts and in doing so avoided the clash but made Dunstable players look like Spiderman with fluorescent footy boots. Here I thank our commercial director Pete Mills who peeled a tenner off his wad to donate to Hungerford’s cleaning bill of the provided shorts.
The eagerness of the Crusaders was exhibited within minutes and a fine move involving James Rusby, skipper Matt Day and Mark Draycott almost brought a goal, but for Jamie Head, who tipped it over the bar for a corner. This ran free and potentially dangerously and it is fair to say that Head was initially the busier of the two keepers. Rusby was an able exponent of the long throw and again this admirable tactic caused a few problems for defenders.
A free-kick from Matt Day was only just wide of the post and Dunstable in these opening ten minutes were finding it hard to emerge from their own half. James Kaloczi who was again notable in defence also had a few goal attempts to add to his repertoire. Significantly, both he and Adam Pepera both made vital interceptions that prevented Hungerford from regaining the lead, late in the game.
Clearly Dunstable needed to settle and clear their lines with a greater level of effectiveness, which was not really in evidence until the second half. But they had their chances once they had settled and none better than an inspirational run in possession from Chris Vardy, whose body shape suggested a shot of quality - and so it was but Paul Strudley in the Crusaders’ goal performed an equally admirable save.
This move brought a Keenleyside corner, aimed at Kaloczi, which was punched clear. A Head clearance was held up in the wind but fell fortuitously for Jonathan Edwards to have a go and this was well held by Strudley. Garyn Preen sent in a free-kick that had James Clark stretching in vain to connect. Clark also had a header go wide from another free –kick. Amusement was occasioned when Adam Pepera tightened the laces of his goalie, since Jamie obviously did not want to take his gloves off. The referee pointed somewhat sternly at his watch and the time was added on.
The rain worsened and so did the wind , and the floodlights were on, with all but a couple responding to the call. The ‘unclashing’ shorts were soon of a similar muddy colour and we still awaited a goal. Keenleyside and Vardy had a flash of inspiration but Strudley rushed from his line to clear. A free-kick from Hungerford, on the left, level with the eighteen yard line and taken by Mark Draycott was held by Head.
Dunstable manager Tony Fontenelle was cussing allegedly poor refereeing decisions, and it amused me to hear one Hungerford supporter to suggest that he, Fontenelle, wash his mouth out ‘with a bar of effing soap.’ Irony is alive and well in Berkshire, then. I thought that our manager had embraced a bit of Easter evangelism as he was heard to shout ‘hallelujah’ several times. It transpired this was ironic praise for a refereeing decision that went his way.
We were very close to the interval and after a bit of a go from Vardy and Edwards, Hungerford struck, and Dunstable conceded their first ever goal at Bulpit Lane….and yes I know this is only our second visit, but it eases the pain a little. But it was a good goal with James Clark latching onto a perfect pass that gave him a clear run on goal and time to pick his spot and, with two minutes to go, the hosts were ahead.
So, half-time came and most sought the shelter of the clubhouse. I related to an acquaintance how my border collie had turned out for Totternoe on Good Friday. I had forgotten it was the Bank Holiday and a game was in progress. So, during a routine walk, we had descended a leafy green lane that leads to Totternhoe’s ground (which is really a glorified park pitch), my dog invaded enthusiastically with a yell of ‘on me head, son’ and her antics brought the game to a halt. The Spartan League players took it very well indeed (sign that bitch up!) and encouraged me onto the pitch to get the lead on her. Easier said than done and several of us chased the dog, who thought it all quite a jolly lark. I rattled off profuse apologies as I ran and eventually secured my pooch with a rugby tackle. Well it was all a bit more spontaneous than pom-poms and a shade more amusing.
There must have been some mustard in ‘Yella’s’ half-time perorations, because, before I had even managed to fill and light my second half pipe, Dunstable had taken the lead in dramatic style. Two goals in two minutes and it was remarkable stuff. Keenleyside had again combined with Vardy and the latter was fouled in the penalty area. Steve Wales converted the penalty with some force and there was a good deal of optimism for the Regiment behind the goal.
No-one expected the hammer blow from David Longe-king who decided to have a go a minute later and his shot rebounded off the cross bar into the goal and Dunstable were ahead for the first time. But, like a decent bottle of wine, it did not last for long because by the fifty-second minute, the hosts were level from the second penalty of the game, conceded by Howard Hall. Jonathan Edwards was booked for a later foul and he was quite fortunate to receive only a yellow card. Some supporters (away ones I mean) claimed that the offence was outside the box, which is great eyesight when you are behind the other goal. From the stand my view was that it was on the line and, as I understand it, if it is on the line it is in the box. However, Mark Draycott despatched the spot kick successfully and we were again on level peggings.
Dunstable then had a fair chance but finished with as soft shot and shortly after this two home players collided off the ball and Dunstable physio John Bell went on to mop their brows, like the sporting chap he is. A cross from Gary Horgan looked the business but Preen hoofed the ball out of the stadium. Crusaders then brought on Alan O’Brien for Mark Jones. Kaloczi and Pepera made their aforementioned interceptions as the hosts pressed and Howard Hall was also the vital defender in another chance. After another Hungerford corner was headed over the bar, Dunstable brought on Roache for Edwards, who already on a yellow card might have been a liability.
Kaloczi had two bites of the cherry following a Dunstable corner but Strudley parried the first and caught the second. Stefan Brown slid in following a cross but he failed to connect. Wales hit the side netting with a shot and a Watkins shot brought a corner, following some characteristically good work from the midfielder. Naturally, both sides were keen for a victory rather than a draw, but it seemed that the latter was the more probable.
There was a first team debut for Jonathan Wylie, with about ten minutes to go – he replaced Longe-king whose contribution had been monumental. We had reached a rather soggy eighty-eight minutes when Wales reprised his Bideford style lob , but this one was just forward of his own half. I have said that of the pitch had been wet at Bideford his lob would have found the net. This one made amends and at such a crucial moment. The ball sailed towards the goal in what seemed slow motion and it eluded Strudley and Dunstable regained the lead with just a couple of minutes and some appreciable stoppage time. When you are in front stoppages time lasts a good deal more that you feel is justified and when you are behind you feel the ref has blown too soon. But such a dramatic winner was something to savour for the travelling supporters.
Yet Dunstable prevailed and bagged their first victory in four games and their tenth position remains unaltered owing to some rather surprising results elsewhere in the Division. Dunstable players celebrated fulsomely and referee Paul Evans shooed them back to formation. I was reminded of a conversation I had with Steve Wales after the defeat against Paulton Rovers, who staged a choreographed celebration of their stoppage time winner. Steve Wales told me ‘Well, if we get a last minute goal at Hungerford game, that turns out to be the winner, we would do the same’. They did and they did if you pardon the construction.
On Easter Monday, Chesham United, who beat King’s Lynn today, are the visitors to Creasey Park, and there is a great incentive to seek maximum points, which is made a little more difficult, given the Buckinghamshire side’s recent good form – and I just hope it is as good a game as today’s, despite the conditions. When I called at the officials’ dressing room to collect the crime sheet, it was pleasing to hear all three officials express how much they had enjoyed the game, and it reminds us that they do not just blow whistles and wave flags but can enjoy a match from their necessarily neutral involvement. As I drove home through the unceasing rain I thought how appropriate to today was my in- car audio book – Great Expectations.
Paul Strudley, Gary Horgan, Diak John, James Rusby, Matt Day, captain, Mike Jones, (Alan O’Brien), James Clark, GOAL, 43 minutes, cautioned, Ian Herring, Stefan Brown, Mark Draycott, PENALTY GOAL, 56 minutes, Garyn Preen.
Other substitutes- Harry Goodger, Rhys Tyler, Scott Rees, Jon Boardman.
Jamie Head, Howard Hall, Zack Reynolds, David Longe-King, Dunstable star man, GOAL, 47 minutes, (Jonathan Wylie), James Kaloczi, captain, Adam Pepera, cautioned, Adam Watkins, Steve Wales, TWO GOALS, PENALTY – 46 minutes and 88 minutes, Jonathan Edwards, cautioned (LeeRoache), David Keenleyside, Chris Vardy. Other substitutes – Danny Talbot, Tony Fontenelle and Gary Wharton.
Referee, Paul Evans, assisted by Andrew Hitchcox and Luke Scott – and all three had good games.