BLUES RETAIN TOP SPOT WITH STYLE
Dunstable Town 4-0 London Colney (HT 1-0) Attendance 89
This was a much anticipated game since it was first versus second in the table and both sides were the remaining Premier League sides that were yet to lose a game. It is a pity that many chose to see televised European football on the television as this was indeed a scintillating display by Dunstable and well worth watching.
It was expected to be a hard game as London Colney, with a high score without reply, could have seized the top spot with a game in hand – something that would not be acceptable to any self-respecting Regimental. Dunstable were in need of casting aside the memory of their indifferent display at Stotfold on Saturday, where two valuable points were dropped in a 2-2 draw. There the effort was present but not the finishing – tonight it was, happily, a different story and even the most cynical of home supporters lapsed into superlatives over tonight’s notable performance.
In an interesting move, George Brinkman was placed in midfield, a role he appeared to relish. For London Colney there was the much praised marksman Matt Newman who was seen as a likely spoiler of the fun for the Duns tonight. The game begun with a short-lived shower which made the surface yield a degree of pace and zip.
Sotto voce I reveal that the Blues had actually gone three games without a win, with the two FA Cup games and the Stotfold league encounter bringing two draws and a first defeat at Ashford Town.
Naturally both team wanted to extend their unbeaten league runs, but for Dunstable a win was perhaps a psychological necessity and London Colney would not lack the incentive to do some damage to their hosts’ title aspirations. It is, of course premature to talk of that with the season not a quarter of the way through but as we found to our cost last season, early results had a pivotal effect in the race for the one promotion spot.
If we were underwhelmed on Saturday we were indeed treated to a masterly performance by the Blues tonight as they maintained an exhilarating flow of play, being dominant throughout and continuously creative in all areas. The onus was on them to attack and in setting about this task with immediacy they never allowed their opponents to settle. Dunstable were crisp in the early attacks, which although it brought relatively negative results with two efforts clearing the bar, they had set out their stall and they meant business, if I could mildly mix a metaphor. Tony Burnett and Lee Roache were intent on taking on all-comers on their way into the opponents’ penalty area, and already the midfield had a stamp of authority being marshalled by the peerless Moses Olaleye, who just seems to get better every game.
The relentless attacks brought a number of corners faced by an already unsettled Colney defence, who often struggled to clear before the next foray was implemented. I was aghast at the pace hardly believing that this could be maintained – but it was with only periodic lapses. Colnet tried to counter using Callum wright on the left flank, but Newman was a lone figure up front and lacked any meaningful service. Frater tried a shot, Burnett almost got through on his own, and the pressure facing the visitors meant they were forced to concede free kicks in dangerous areas just outside the penalty box. From one of these came the first goal and it was a peach. It also has an additional anecdote. Danny Mead patiently waited for the referee to do the usual moving of the wall, since none of us really knows how far ten yards is at times, and once everything was established, Mead lobbed it beautifully and, after twenty-one minutes, Dunstable were deservedly ahead. The anecdote – well full-back Mead was under a pledge that if he failed to score a goal he would have to come to a match in a lady’s dress. What larks eh?
Shortly after this welcome fillip Olaleye set up Brinkman whose header was saved by Whitmore. Colney had to react positively and they had a couple of opportunities which did feature the Duns keeper Lewis Kidd with some safe handling. Kidd also dived bravely at the feet of Keenleyside in the second half to keep a clean sheet and I must say that this was a confident performance from Kidd who has been perceived as error prone on occasions – which is not disastrous from someone still in his teens. Callum wright was able to get in a cross or two but found no recipient or it was cleared. Roache had a difficult angled shot that went wide and an effort from frater was deflected for a corner.
But there was no denying Dunstable’s ease of dominance which was not entirely expected. There was another free kick for the blues in more or less the same spot that brought the goal but Pickering was selected for the chance and this tie the defensive wall did its job.
Keenley side was cautioned for a late challenge, this was one of two Colney bookings in a game that was largely free of crunching incidents but Shane Wood was fortunate not to have his name taken after his challenge that brought a Colney free kick, which went wide as did Brinkman’s effort in stoppage time at the end of the half.
The interval gave plenty of talking points, one important one being that Dunstable despite their verve and pace did have just the one goal lead and were thus relatively vulnerable if they did not replicate their blistering form of the first period. Five minutes into the second half there was an answer and, almost inevitably it was supplied by Lee Roache. He came on as a substitute at Stotfold and did not really get into gear but he was in top gear all through this game. Ne shot was deflected, but he poached a ball just outside the penalty area and was able to turn in possession and strike successfully with another piece of individual skill. That gave a degree of comfort and yes, the form of the first half was emulated and the pace did not lessen.
Each player was doing his job and when the full three substitutes were employed it enhanced an already notable performance. But the substitutes were players of calibre – Graeme Buchanan, Chris Francis and Jonathan Cooper. Buchanan had been outstanding on Saturday and I imagine that one idea was to let Cooper roam and add zest to the wily skills of Roache. With Wood merely reprimanded by the referee, we saw the last of the would-be cynical challenges and the flow was restored. Colney had some isolated moments of attack and were quite resolute in attack but they seemed to lack the conviction that brings an attack to a successful conclusion. In any case, Kidd was playing with confidence and, as always, bellowed encouragement to his defence.
Yes, there were wasteful moments from Dunstable, the over hit cross, the speculative shot that almost announced how far wide it would go, but he blues were rampant and exuberant in their passing moves – often content to rebuild, by a square or backwards pass. Burnett was through on one move which brought a fine save from Whitmore who was happy to concede just a corner.
Roache added variety to his repertoire with a headed goal after sixty-seven minutes, and at 3-0 only a real optimist could see Colney getting anything from the remainder of the game. As well as the graceful play from Olaleye we also noted the inspired performance from Fabio Bufano in defence – in contrasting style to Mead or Wood, but always quietly effective.
Although clearly enjoying themselves, Dunstable did not add the fourth until four minutes from time, and inevitably it was Roache again who completed his hat-trick with only modest celebration. Most of us would have done a lap of honour. There were good things from Cooper and fine work from Francis, but the real key was the harmonious team work where it was evident that the players have adapted well to one another and in this kind of form they are indeed awesome.
Neutral observers, league officials, assessors, etc were quick to praise the quality of the game and its pace and skill. The assessor picked out Moses Olaleye as an outstanding performer, but well, the accolade of star man must go to the bloke who scored a hat-trick bearing in mind that he received excellent service from midfield.
This handsome win by four goals without reply is beneficial to goal difference as well and we do recall how last season that this factor increased in importance as we relentlessly chased Royston who topped our final tally of 132 goals and just kept ahead of us. It could have been a deciding factor had we levelled on points which was always possible.
Dunstable Town thus retain the top spot and now have seven wins and two draws from nine games. Yet a glance at the table shows that there are teams that are playing with almost the same consistency. AFC have only lost once in eight outings and remember that tonight brought London Colney’s first loss- and the other promoted team, Ampthill Town, have also lost just the one match. Form therefore is vital and third placed Oxhey Jets who lost recently 0-8 at home to Haringey Borough, had a fine 6-2 win over Hillingdon.
But where we are is a good place to be and on this kind of form we hope it is maintained. If each game can be as exciting to watch then we will be doubly rewarded. Roche now moves up to be top marksman with ten in his friendly rivalry with Nathan Frater who has seven. But we do not care who scores them as they all count.
On Saturday the Blues travel to Cow Lane where they take on Tring Athletic who, it will be recalled effectively ended Dunstable’s title challenge with their first ever win over the Blues, late in the season.
So nothing is taken for granted and as always, a win must be earned or even better imposed – as it was tonight in one of the best performances I can recall, and Dunstable are now the only unbeaten side in the Premier Division. Let us hope it may continue.
Lewis Kidd, Damen Pickering, Daniel Mead, goal, 21 minutes, Shane Wood, Captain, Fabio Bufano, Leon Cashman, Moses Olaleye, George Brinkman, Nathan Frater, LEE ROACHE, HAT-TRICK, 50, 67 and 86 minutes, Tony Burnett.
Substitutes used – Jonathan Cooper, Chris Francis and Graeme Buchanan. Not used – Jonathan Barnett and Paul Taylor GK.
Mark Whitmore, Ken Hull, Dan McCafferty, Mark Paradise, Bobby Armstrong, Dean Adams, Callum Wright, Greg Shaw, Matt Newman, Captain, Dave Keenleyside, Craig Knightly.
Substitutes used - Ant Burns and Andy Murphy. Not used - Dean Thompson, Dean Parrett and Lewis Fosters.
Officials – Referee J Wynne, assisted by J Fowler and P Hazell.