A point apiece was a fair reflection of an absorbing contest between the Blues, now unbeaten in their last six outings, and an attacking minded Flackwell Heath side who had beaten the Blues 5-0 on home turf in October.
Dunstable started the game with seven of the starting X1 that had played in the Halloween Eve game at Wilks Park.
Dunstable were without skipper Jamie Nicholls and missed his influence in the middle of the park. However, despite having first half midfield dominance, Flackwell were unable to break through the mean defensive line.
Terrence Muchineripi, Ruari Mills, Dan Naylor and Benji Gray saw plenty of midfield action and battled valiantly to wrestle control from their opponents. First half chances were limited with Kyle Faulkner and Joe Sellers-West getting little change from their defenders.
The game sprang into life in the final 15 minutes with two goals, one disallowed goal and an agonizingly close call with Kyle Faulkner’s piledriver hitting the side netting.
In truth, this was not a vintage Dunstable performance but it said everything you need to know about a Joe Deeney team. There was maximum effort and pride in playing for the badge and that “never say die” attitude instilled in the dressing room and on the training pitch.
The first half was a well contested affair with both sides giving no quarter. Heath had the better chances and Dunstable were grateful to keeper, Dan Gould, pulling off a couple of important saves to keep the scores level at half time.
Despite recent rain, the pitch held up well and did not stop either side trying to play football.
Flackwell Heath took the lead in the 75th minute and murmurs of “it was coming” were hard to disagree with. However, it galvanized the Blues who launched probing forays into their opponents half and were level 10 minutes later.
The Heath’s opener, a header, superbly finished by Aiden Higgs at the far post, Higgs had only been on the field for 4 minutes and squeezed his header home from a tight angle.
Up until then, it looked as though the Blues defensive backline might not be breached. While credit is due to the defence collectively, supporters were mentioning the efforts of Dan Gould, Liam McCrohan & J’Ardell Stirling as worthy of special mention. Stirling receiving the MoM award from the games sponsors, The Glider and Completely Sound.
Stirling, a shrewd acquisition from Step 3, Wingate & Finchley, played with a maturity and assurance which belied his 21 years. Head Coach, Joe Deeney, and Assistant, Kyle Durcan will have been delighted by the fight and determination all their players showed.
Dunstable picked themselves up and got back on level terms when pacy substitute, Jack Percy, making his debut as a second half substitute, was pulled back when advancing on goal. The resulting free kick hit the wall and went out for a corner. Dan Naylor’s inch perfect corner was met firmly by Joe Sellers-West to score his 7th goal in just 11 starts.
“Playing for the shirt” and “throwing bodies on the line” are two of football’s well known cliches and get bandied around liberally, but in this case, there is a palpable sense among the Creasey Park faithful, who again came out in their numbers, that Deeney & Durcan can both talk the talk and walk the walk and mean serious business.
Half time saw two changes with Gray & Mills replaced by Kelvin Ossei-Addo and Joe Mead.
Mead’s steady hand on the tiller was evident but Ossei-Addo limped off painfully clutching his hamstring after Dunstable had made all three substitutes, and looks like having several weeks on the treatment table.
Most supporters agreed this had been a case of “a point won” as opposed to being two points lost. It’s always encouraging when you don’t play particularly well but still have the collective fight and determination to get a point which was very much the case today.
A crowd of 201 braved the elements, pushing the home average up to 167, a 45% increase since last season and a pleasing vote of confidence for the Supporter / Community owned club and the appointment of Deeney & Durcan charged with bringing the good times back to Creasey Park.
The Blues travel to The Brache, Luton, on Tuesday 28th December for a local derby with Crawley Green FC, kick-off is 7.45 pm, before kicking off the New Year with a home fixture v Arlesey Town on Monday, January 3rd, kick-off 3 pm.
Written by Andrew Madaras
Photo by Cupcake 99 Football Photography