Dunstable Town returned from the County Ground, Letchworth, with points on the board and wounded pride restored, after a thrilling encounter with Baldock Town, which the Blues narrowly edged thanks to a last-minute goal by Joseph Debayo.
It meant that the Blues started & finished this Covid affected season with victories and some excellent 90-minute displays to reflect on and savour over the next few weeks until the Club’s first confirmed pre-season friendly away at Yardley Gobion on July 10th in a charity match to raise funds for Mind BLMK.
Saturday was all about playing for the badge. That was evident from kick-off under a heavy, grey Hertfordshire sky.
Baldock Town were excellent hosts and did everything in their power to make their temporary home as accommodating as possible for players and staff.
The Baldock players played their part in making this an exciting end to end spectacle. On another day, having the lion’s share of possession and shots on goal, two efforts against the woodwork, a win would be the expected outcome. However, the Baldock forwards couldn’t convert their chances while Gale & Debayo showed clinical finishing when it mattered most.
The League game at Creasey Park had finished in a 1 -1 draw with Baldock equalising late on. Louis Octave’s wonder goal had given Dunstable the lead. However the most upsetting sight that evening was seeing Dylan Fitzpatrick carried off with a broken leg.
Fitting therefore that as one of the four Dunstable teenagers in the side, Dylan should come on with half an hour to go and play his part in this much-needed victory.
Gianluca Sinatra, in goal again to cover for Dan Gould’s suspension, put on another outstanding display. With only a couple of games for the former Development Team under his belt and his First Team debut last week, Gianluca was a giant on Saturday. Beaten only by a 62nd-minute penalty, his display was outstanding, pulling off several impressive and important saves.
But while Sinatra and Byron may get special mention, every other single player did their job and lifted their individual performances and deserve praise.
Player availability again meant there were two spare seats on the Dunstable subs bench.
An injury to midfielder George Mulonda with the game less than a quarter-hour played meant L’kharmi Gale came on his place.
In the first minute of the game, Dunstable showed their attacking intent. Good work down the right flank saw Dan Trif cross for the advancing Chris Stapleton to head narrowly past the post.
Another Stapleton header this time from an Adam Sawyer cross again went wide, but at the other end the outstretched leg of Sinatra saved Dunstable as he was able to get down quickly, another let-off for Dunstable on 25 minutes when Baldock hit the post for the second time.
A third Stapleton effort was just wide as was a Gale header from a Tyler Fry cross.
At the other end, a tackle from Jeremiah Debayo was timed to perfection while Sinatra needed treatment from Physio Rebecca Hawtin after an important double save.
All square at the break, but with both teams looking dangerous in attack, goals were always going to be likely in the second half.
And that proved to be the case as L’Kharmi Gale drove home with power and precision following excellent work by Adam Sawyer on the left-hand side. Having had an effort ruled out away at Biggleswade this was L’Kharmi’s first goal for the Club at this level and will do the 18 year old’s confidence the world of good.
The lead was short-lived with Baldock getting parity from the penalty spot just five minutes later.
It was end to end stuff with Baldock still in with an outside chance of getting through to the knock out stages of the Gladwish Cup if they could get a win.
There was no lack of effort from the men in red shirts, but Dunstable were their match and a Davide Pobbe effort which whistled the wrong side of the post was a reminder that the Blues wanted to end the campaign with a win of their own.
And when it did come, with 90 minutes on the clock, it came from the cultured foot of Joseph Debayo, on as an 82nd substitute for the injured Chris Stapleton, who blasted home following great work from Leo Pedro to engineer the opportunity.
There was insufficient time remaining for Baldock to recover, and Dunstable played out the remaining stoppage-time minutes safely and sensibly.
A very satisfactory performance and well refereed by Jordan Lee and his two Assistants.
The Blues now go into the close season lay off with the Club looking to restructure off the field as a Fans owned Community Benefits Society by the time the SSML season kicks off on August 2nd.
Manager Gareth Jackson & Assistant Manager, Anthony Christophi, will have learnt much about the squad from the five Cup games and two friendlies.
As an exercise in seeing who was committed to training and playing purely for the love of the game, who was prepared to double down on fitness during the third lockdown, then this has been a valuable learning experience.
While second-half performances against Shefford Town & Campton & Biggleswade Utd fell way short of acceptable, the performances against Baldock, Newport Pagnell and in Harlow, were much more in tune with what we know the squad is capable of.
One of the keys to success is consistency and that has been in short supply through unplanned and unexpected squad rebuilds & extensive injury lists.
It’s a timely reminder that the final thirteen games from the periods before the first and third lockdowns produced twenty-seven points with a record of, P 13. W. 8. D 3. L 2. GF 29. GA 21. GD +8. PPG 2.07.
After slow starts to the past two seasons, Dunstable fans will be hoping and expecting to see a better start and greater consistency over the course of next season.
Written by: Andrew Madaras Photos by: @cupcake99footballphotography