So near, yet so far. For the first 70 minutes of this absorbing contest there was barely a cigarette paper to separate these two teams in terms of quality, commitment, passion and enthusiasm. Supported by well over 100 away fans, Dunstable looked good for another point on the road and the kudos of being the only team in the League to go unbeaten against Leighton Town this season.
That was until the dramatic last quarter of an hour when goals from ace marksman, Leon Lobjoit & Tom Tabor eased the home side over the line in dramatic style.
Lobjoit has scored 43 goals in 38 appearances for his side this season. His finish on Tuesday was superb as was Tabor’s, who had been at Harpenden Town at the start of the season.
Blue’s Head Coach, Joe Deeney, was philosophical and warmly congratulated his opposite number, Lee Bircham, after the game in his interview with Talk of the Town podcast. He called it right. The better team on the night won, Leighton Town should go on to win the division title, and he, like all of us present, was immensely proud of every single player in a blue shirt who battled throughout, gave everything and left nothing out on the pitch.
Whether you’re Head Coach or a supporter, that’s all you can ask of your players and all fans want to see, players proud of the shirt and playing for the badge.
For a match of this importance there was always going to be a good turnout from Dunstable supporters. In their numbers they travelled the 8 miles down the A505, well over a hundred of them in what was the Club’s largest away support for decades. Wherever you looked there were pockets and groups of away fans identifiable by their blue bobble hats.
Even a prestigious FA Cup 3rd Qualifying round tie away at Maidstone in 2015 and the “all or nothing” match away at Frome in 2018, drew supporters numbering no more than 20 – 30.
Away matches in the Step 3 season of 2017 -18 attracted Dunstable supporters you could count on one hand, Kings Lynn, Banbury, Hereford, Merthyr, Weymouth, to name but a few.
Pre kick off, the two Bedfordshire neighbours boasted the two meanest defences in the League, having conceded only 22 goals each. It was perhaps unsurprising that only two of the four goals therefore were from open play.
Ex-Kings Langley man, Kyle Connolly had opened the scoring in the first half with a deceptive free kick, just right for the conditions of a wet pitch where the ball skidded along the surface, before the Blues equalized just before the half hour mark, with Kelvin Osei-Addo’s penalty, taking his tally for the season to 14.
Harry Beaumont looked to have found the net with a 20 yard piledriver that was inches wide in the first half, as the Blues attacked the Clubhouse end of the ground.
It was a very offence minded team that Deeney fielded. Carl Knox, deputizing for the injured Conor Coulson had kept three consecutive clean sheets but there was little he could do to stop the home team improving their goal difference.
Luke Dunstan missed the game due to suspension for the two yellow cards he received in controversial fashion in the away draw at Biggleswade. John Smith was injured and with Alfie Osborne still not 100% fit the ex-Leighton Town lads, apart from Robbie Goodman, were sidelined and missed out on the trip to Bell Close.
It was also a return trip for Blues Coach, Anthony Christophi who had been Assistant Manager at Leighton Town last season.
Match referee, Kyfer Mayhew had a superb match and drew warm praise from Deeney at the final whistle for his approach & communication.
Mayhew had no hesitation in pointing to the spot in the 28th minute when Benji Crilley was hauled down in the box by Xavier Leon, the Leighton keeper. Kelvin Osei-Addo showed nerves of steel to send Leon the wrong way and claim parity with the Blues falling behind to a 16th minute free kick.
A torrential downpour before kick off did not spoil the excellent playing surface which was conducive to both teams playing good football, which was an excellent advertisement for Step 5 football.
1 -1 was a fair reflection of an exciting and evenly contested first half.
The second half was an equally even contested affair. Tolu Ikuyinminu showed fleet of foot and great ball control to set up Danny Webb who advanced on goal but agonizingly was inches past the far post in what was the Blues most promising move of the half.
There was no quarter given as both teams wrestled for midfield advantage. Ruari Mills was the Blues Player of the Match, but there was stiff competition from all over the pitch.
As the second half wore on Leighton upped the tempo moving into the final few minutes.
Home supporters patience were rewarded and Blue hearts broken as two superb finishes from Lobjoit and Tabor got the home side the precious three points as they overtook Stotfold at the top of the table.
The result left the Blues in 4th place and still challenging for honours. Deeney’s team will fight to the end, be absolutely certain of that.
The atrocious recent weather caused the Blues to sit out two consecutive Saturday fixtures, so the next fixture is away to Cockfosters on Saturday 25th March. Due to the numbers of away supporters expected to travel the Club is laying on a coach with discounted seats for the Club’s growing number of owners.
In a rearranged fixture the Blues now face Risborough Rangers at Creasey Park on Thursday 30th March, kick off 7.45pm, before taking on Biggleswade Utd less than 48 hours later at Creasey Park on Saturday 1st April with a 3pm kick off.
The U18s were in superb form at Pancake Lane on Thursday evening, running out 4 -2 winners against Leverstock Green. Caleb Capone scored a hat trick, with Nathaniel Coote, netting the other.
They travel to Leighton Town on Thursday 23rd March and will be looking to avenge the Firs Team’s defeat nine days earlier.