Written by Andrew Madaras
Photos by Chris White
Dunstable returned to winning ways on Saturday thanks to a last-minute goal from substitute Jack Percy to send the away support behind the goal into raptures and bring the curtain down on what has been a long and eventful season.
Percy’s 92nd minute winner was no more than the Blues deserved and made for a celebratory return home with everyone in fine voice on the players’ and supporters’ coach.
48 hours earlier it had been a very different story with Ardley Utd securing a deserved place in the semi-final of the Premier League Cup, with a convincing and emphatic 4 – 1 over the Blues at Creasey Park.
Head Coach, Joe Deeney, responded to the second consecutive defeat on home territory by giving a debut to Axel Piesold, who rewarded the faith shown in him by turning in a calm and assured performance in the middle of the park which earned him the supporters’ Man of the Match award. Not a bad accolade for a young man who’s just turned 17.
There was good away support again. Numbering just over 40 the Dunstable fans urged the team on from start to finish and helped boost the attendance to 124, a sizeable increase on Ardley’s season average of 87.
Our hosts couldn’t have been friendlier or more accommodating. Ardley is a well-run, professional club who look after visiting teams in a manner which ought to shame one or two clubs higher up the food chain.
Set in the picturesque countryside the Nolan Oils Ground has all the charm and warmth of a proper non-league ground. There’s a slope from goalmouth to goalmouth which rumour had it that the home side preferred to play up the slope in the second half towards the magnificent clubhouse.
If that were true then Saturday proved to be the exception to the rule, with Dan Gould having a busier first half than the second when the home team played down the slope.
Gould needed to make two good saves within the first 20 minutes, although Dunstable weren’t without their own forays into the home side's penalty area in what was proving to be a well contested and absorbing game of football, with both sides keen to sign off on a winning note.
Although Piesold was the supporters’ Man of the Match, the supporting cast of his teammates all did their jobs, showing urgency and bite in midfield, resolute defending at the back and the desire to push forward and get shots away when the opportunity arose.
Ex Cheltenham stopper, Freddie Lapworth in the Ardley goal, saved his side from going a goal down with a magnificent save from Kelvin Osei-Addo, before the break.
Dunstable pressure had seen skipper, J’Ardell Stirling send a teasing cross into the box which evaded the head of anyone in a red and black shirt, while Kyle Faulkner always looked threatening and ready to capitalize on even a half chance.
All square at half time. When the teams returned after the break, Joe Sellers-West had replaced Benji Gray who had taken a knock in the first half.
Dunstable kicked down the slope and applied plenty of pressure. The longer the game went on without a goal, the greater the feeling that Dunstable’s greater possession and creating chances would ultimately reap their rewards.
On 70 minutes, Jack Percy replaced Kelvin Osei-Addo.
A minute later, Lapworth again saved his side. Faulkner advancing at pace attempted to lob the keeper who stayed tall and denied the chance.
Lapworth did the same to Joe Sellers-West and it looked as though he’d done enough to earn his side a point and keep his sides remarkable second half of the season record of only being beaten three times in the previous 21 games intact.
However, it was not to be, as up popped the predatory Percy to force a loose ball home deep into stoppage time.
There was still sufficient time for referee, Adam Jackson, who had an excellent game to play an additional couple of minutes, but Dunstable weren’t going to let this one slip away and held out until the end.
Ardley will host Flackwell Heath in the semi-final of the Premier Division Cup on Saturday 30th and were wished all the best for that tie as the team and supporters made their way back to the coach for liquid refreshments, karaoke and Regimental ditties.
The players and coaching staff can enjoy a few weeks off before arriving back at Creasey Park on June 30th for pre-season training.
Head Coach, Joe Deeney & Assistant, Kyle Durcan, took up their posts in early October last year & achieved their goal of getting the Club off the bottom of the table, finishing in 9th place.
They have transformed the training and playing culture at the Club. Attendances have risen by over 70% and to a level higher than when the Club played in the Southern Premier League.
Off the field, though the Club will continue to operate as a social enterprise during the summer months and offer activities free of charge to help people lead happier and healthier lifestyles under the banner of Improving the Lives of Others.
The Club currently provides 30 hours of activities every month and helps support nearly 100 people every week.
Ownership of the Club continues to rise with numbers expected to reach three figures by the time of the first AGM in June when the Club’s owners will be given the opportunity to make decisions on the Club’s direction over the next season.
There’s never been a better time to get involved and become an owner of Dunstable Town FC and support not just a semi-professional football club, but also the people of the town as well. Owner’s packages start from just £30 (£15 for U16’s) and can be obtained online using the link below.