Written by Andrew Madaras
Photos by Chris White and Liam Smith
A brace from substitute, Kyle Faulkner was enough for Dunstable Town to progress into the next round of the Isuzu FA Vase. But they were pushed all the way and made to work hard for the victory by a spirited Crawley Green side containing former Blues, Dan Gould and Dan Trif who had been Regimental favourites during their Creasey Park careers.
Other old boys, Joe Hankins, Marlon Burton, Kai McArthur, Rob Newman and Brandy Makuendi all featured for the away side.
It wasn’t a classic and the football purists and students of the game may not be writing theses and dissertations on it, but it was a typical cut and thrust cup tie, where local bragging rights were at stake.
Dunstable did enough to progress showing discipline and clinical finishing when the opportunities arose. Buoyed by a large Sunday crowd for the second consecutive week most of the 260 in attendance will have gone home happy and looking forward to the next round when Holmer Green will be the opponents.
Head Coach, Joe Deeney kept faith with the starting X1 who had beaten West Essex FC in the Preliminary Round of the Emirates FA Cup the previous Sunday.
Deeney is able to choose from an experienced group of players all hungry to make a mark and prove their worth. It’s been a few years since Blues fans have had the luxury of looking at the starting X1 and subs bench and still questioned where favourite players are. But while the team is still winning and players are staying fit and out of the referee’s notebook, their teammates will have to patiently wait their turn. It will come. It’s going to be a long, hard season.
It's 10 years since the Club have progressed beyond the first stage of the Vase. Ignominious defeats, all away from Creasey Park, at AFC Hayes in 2019, Ampthill Town in 2020 and high-flying British Airways FC in 2021 have prompted the “Well at least we can concentrate on the League” comments at a far earlier stage of the season than Matt, the Treasurer would have hoped.
Prize money in the Vase is much smaller than the FA Cup. Sunday’s victory will swell the coffers to the tune of £550. The reality of life in the Premier Division of the Spartan South Midlands League is the prize money, has paid for the pitch hire and post-match food for the players the match officials' expenses and the match balls.
After the traumatic scenes the day before when a Hertford Town player collapsed during their match v AFC Dunstable all eyes were on safety procedures and protocols. Thankfully there was no repetition of the distress and trauma of the previous 24 hours which had seen three ambulances and the air ambulance called to Creasey Park. The good news is the player concerned is reported to be making a good recovery. The Club sends its best wishes to everyone concerned at both clubs.
Crawley Green have strengthened their squad over the summer, and the reward for it has been plain to see. Sitting fifth in the table with a draw & two wins, including an away win at Harpenden Town and a home demolition of Baldock Town 5-0, has seen Paul Blackman’s team continue from where they left off last season with a series of victories which included a 3-1 win over the Blues at Creasey Park.
The first half was as tight as many predicted, with both sides battling to control midfield and both defences keeping the opposition strikers quiet. Chances were few and far between.
The game became niggly, and referee Ross Cole was kept busy booking six players in total.
As the second half wore on it was Dunstable who gained the ascendency Finding that extra yard and that extra bit of pace, Tolu Ikuyinminu tore down the left-hand side and was only narrowly wide a minute before Kyle Faulkner, on as a second half substitute for Remell Stirling, tested Dan Gould who got down well to keep the scores level.
Further Dunstable pressure followed, and it was Faulkner who seized on a superb through ball from J’Ardell Stirling to bury the ball into the net. It was a classic Faulkner finish, and it needed to be to beat Dan Gould who has the reputation as being one of the best shot-stoppers in the League. The goal on 76 minutes gave the Blues some breathing space. But they didn’t rest on their laurels and shut up shop. Blue shirts pressed forward.
Seeking to put the game to bed, Faulkner’s predatory instincts were rewarded when Gould couldn’t hold a shot at full length and Faulkner was there to slot home.
Twitter referred to waiting for a bus and then two come at once. It definitely had that feel to it.
Liam McCrohan came on to shore things up at the back as the away side tried to get back in the game but were unable to do so.
So the Blues progressed into the next round and will have home advantage against Holmer Green. Joe Deeney & Kyle Durcan won’t need any reminder that despite the Green’s struggles last season the match at Creasey Park was a draw and a second-half snowstorm provided a not very romantic backdrop to a defeat away from home.
Next Saturday, the boys are back in action in the 1st Round Qualifying of the Emirates FA Cup. Our opponents are Shefford Town & Campton who are currently sit top of the SSML Premier Division table with four wins from four games. Kick off is 3 pm.