REPORT: BANBURY UNITED
There was nobody with a bigger smile on their face on a soggy and bitterly cold Boxing Day afternoon in Oxfordshire than Tony McCool, who with only 15 available players, including a fit again, Casey Harker, had masterminded a well deserved victory against Banbury Utd. There was nobody either who deserved to have had the biggest smile on his face than Tony McCool, who has stuck manfully to his task of developing a strong group of talented young men in order that they can achieve their own individual potential and in doing so produce a Team of skilled footballers proud to be wearing the Dunstable Town shirt. Through adversity beyond all description, Tony & his management Team have gone about their business and done it with style and huge dignity and humility.
Make no mistake, this result was no fluke. This was no undeserved last minute own goal or debatable referee decision which went in our favour. This was a performance of grit, courage, determination, hard work and skill. Lots of skill. YOUR Dunstable Town players, every single one of them stood tall, stood proud and gave their all, and more than matched their higher placed opponents. Every single one of our players was immense individually and collectively. Everything clicked. The passing and movement at times was awe inspiring and breathtaking. “Bottom of the League “? I was asked by a friendly local,” Do you play like this every week” ? I think he thought I was pulling his leg and trying to not hurt his feelings when I answered him. And all credit is due to our gracious hosts who are good football people who were respectful and sporting in defeat. Banbury playing staff, management and Committee were all congratulatory and their kind words were greatly appreciated.
It would have been a big ask for anyone to have got to grips with the whirlish brilliance of Andrew Osei-Bonsu who was credited with assists for both our goals, Ryan Young’s skilful trickery, the strong and never say die hold up play of Arel Amu, Ty Ward’s “getting things done everywhere” play, Ethan Lamptey’s positional nouse, clever dribbles and eye for the through ball. And what can you say about our outstanding siblings, Gedeon Okito and Peter Kioso, who scored our second and winning goal latching on to a loose ball parried by the goalkeeper who had saved Ryan Young’s shot, and buried the rebound from what appeared to be an impossible angle. Gedeon wore the Captain’s armband in the absence of the unavailable Captain and Leader of Men, John Sonuga and played a Captain’s performance, sticking to his task and encouraging his colleagues at every stage of the game.
I will remember this match for all the right reasons and up there with Peter’s goal and after goal celebrations I will fondly recall Kieran Ogden’s rallying cries of “ Come On Dunstable” as the game wore on and the heavy rain began to make the playing conditions the type of pitch fans love to see as it begins to cut up but players must hate to play on. Kieran & Daniel Trif were solid. Solid as in rock, solid. They played as if their very lives depended on it. They were everywhere. Strong, resourceful and playing as well as I’ve ever seen them.
Ben Collins looked comfortable in the tackle and on the ball and played his part admirably as he always does. Then there was Nick Hayes, making his penultimate appearance for Dunstable Town before he returns to his parent club, Ipswich Town FC after our New Year day fixture against Biggleswade Town. Nick was immense. He made important saves at key stages of the game and brought the quip from Tony in the post match huddle that one of his saves had been for the cameras. It would be easy for a player like Nick who has a bright future in the professional game ahead of him to come into a Club like Dunstable Town and just go through the motions. Turn up every week, play 90 minutes and then go home. But Nick is a young man who cares about Dunstable Town. I just about survived the bear hug Nick gave me at the end. The fact he cares so much about the Club was written all over his face. This is a man who would walk through walls for this Club if Tony asked him. We will all miss Nick and are grateful for every minute he has played for the Club. We’ll also miss his father Jeremy whose smile said everything about his son’s performance. However his hearty congratulations after the match were for all the Team and not just for his son.
On the bench were Development Team player Ben Carter, Charlie Black, Casey Harker, and also returning after a prolonged break through injury, Aaron Hudson. Charlie featured as a late second half substitute and added speed and fresh legs when it mattered most.
The opening 10 minutes was a pretty even contest with both sided playing the ball around neatly but with no clear cut chances being created. Conor McDonagh for Banbury Utd was impressive and looked dangerous every time he had the ball at his feet. The first goal after 13 minutes went to Banbury Utd following some neat work on the Dunstable right hand side by Conor McDonagh & Tom Winter who pulled the ball back from the goal line for Jack Self to finish from the edge of the 6 yard box.
The lead lasted only 6 minutes when Dunstable scored an equaliser from a towering header by Kieran Ogden following an inch perfect cross by Andrew Osei-Bonsu. This was no more than Dunstable deserved.
Daniel Trif made two important tackles in the next couple of minutes as Banbury sought to go ahead again. It was while watching this passage of play that you could see the confidence flow through our players and the feeling grew that a late Christmas present of three points might be returning to Creasey Park. Nick Hayes produced a wonderful stop from Conor McDonagh who was at the heart of Banbury’s creative play. A few minute later Peter Kioso produced a stunning tackle to nullify a dangerous Banbury move. Play moved swiftly with both sides playing well and creating half chances. Ryan Young demonstrated an eager willingness to have a shot on goal with one shot well blocked and one just clearing the bar.
Half time, all square. The lads left the field of play looking positive and returned after the interval to carry on exactly where they had left off with crisp attacking football, biting tackles in the centre of the park and a sturdy backline which was determined that no further breaches would occur.
On the hour mark a shot from Ryan Young had goal written all over it as it headed towards the bottom corner only to strike a colleague in a blue shirt. Was that going to be the golden chance to secure all three points with Lady Luck determined to find a black cat somewhere at the Banbury Plant Hire Community Stadium ?
On 71 minutes Andrew Osei-Bonsu did what he does best and tore down the left hand side at pace keeping the ball at his feet before delivering an inch perfect pass for Ryan Young to control the ball , make room for himself and shoot low and hard to the goalkeepers left. The shot was parried but springing first to the ball was Peter Kioso who slid in and tucked the ball home from the narrowest of angles. I dropped my papers in a puddle my voice rose an octave and the Deputy Chairman hugged me gleefully. Our boys celebrated as footballers do, in the far corner and in a mass huddle. 2-1 to Dunstable and the home fans sank into a stunned silence.
Banbury continued to plug away and nearly grabbed an equaliser with Nick producing another super save from just under the crossbar and defenders throwing themselves at every ball that came their way. 4 minutes of stoppage time were added. But still Dunstable held firm. The final whistle blew and for me that was as satisfying a game of football you could have wished to see and a result every single one of those players and their colleagues not available for selection so richly deserved. Cue celebrations all round. Handshakes, hugs and loud cheers of celebration. Sporting behaviour from our opponents and our thanks to all at Banbury for their hospitality to all in our party and our very best wishes to them for the rest of the season.
If you’ve been a regular watcher this season you will know exactly what I mean when I say this result has been coming. The highlights of the game are now up on the Banbury website and their very fair minded report of the game can be found here;
New Years Day sees us entertain Biggleswade Town at Creasey Park with a 3pm kick off. I’m reliably informed there’s nothing worth watching on TV, the shops are all closed, the inlaws have decided to visit other family and you don’t have a post New Years Eve hangover, so you have no excuse not to come and watch live football at Creasey Park and cheer Tony’s boys on. We are again grateful to have secured both Match Day sponsorship from Andrew Amu and Match ball sponsorship from Jeremy Hayes. Thank you gentlemen for your generosity and unwavering support. See you on Monday, thank you for your support and of course a very Happy New Year to you all.