Written by Andrew Madaras
Photos by Liam Smith
Dunstable Town banished the away day blues on Saturday with a convincing 3-0 win at The Boundary Stadium, home of Oxhey Jets. All three goals coming from set pieces delivered by the cultured foot of Dan Naylor and perfectly executed by Joe Mead (2) and Benji Crilley.
This was Joe’s 56th appearance and his first goals for the Club. It was also a first goal for Benji in his 12th appearance.
Last Saturday’s defeat at Holmer Green had been a difficult watch for supporters and although a second consecutive defeat followed 72 hours later at the hands of Risborough Rangers, the Team had performed far better and had responded positively to Head Coach, Joe Deeney’s stinging indictment on individual and collective performances, and had displayed the exact battling credentials demanded by the Management team. At Oxhey, Dunstable started from where they left off on Tuesday and completed the double over a spirited Jets side, who fought all the way to the end.
Both teams were missing key players. Dunstable were still without the injured Jamie Nicholls, Liam McCrohan and Joe Sellers-West.
Earlier in the week vandals had damaged a section of the ground designed for disabled spectators & dedicated to the memory of former Jets player, Tom Lake, killed in action in Afghanistan.
Jets are a properly run club with enormous pride in their military associations. The players walk out to the Dambusters theme. Sportsmanlike, hospitable and gracious in victory or defeat, Jets epitomize all that’s best about the non-league game.
The SSML match around Remembrance Sunday last year had been graced by the Band of the Coldstream Guards, and raised significant funds for Veterans’ charities.
Talk in and around the bars before and after the game had been around whether Jets will still be in the Spartan South Midlands League next season. Rumours abound that they will be placed in the Combined Counties, which if accurate, will be a genuine loss to the SSML.
Last Saturday’s intermittent blizzards were replaced by sunny skies. Dunstable were able to turn their early possession and pressure into an early lead.
Mead’s first goal for the Club, a sublime header to guide Naylor’s free kick into the back of the net.
The goal on 13 minutes gave Dunstable additional energy and twice in 10 minutes Bradley Shaw, in the Jets goal, saved well, initially from Terrence Muchineripi and then a Dan Naylor free kick.
Benji Gray was all running and trickery and his delightful cross on 40 minutes down the left found the head of Remell Stirling who was only inches over with a towering header.
This had been a good half for the Blues, although prophets of doom could be heard reminding anyone in earshot that we’d been ahead at the break last Saturday only to be undone in a poor second half display.
Thankfully there was no repeat of last week’s second half performance. Each man did his job and played in a measured and controlled manner. However while there was only one goal separating the teams, there was always the danger that Jets might find a way back into the game.
However, Dunstable’s backline and midfield held their ground. Jets had possession but not the key to unlock the Dunstable defence.
On the hour mark, Dunstable made a double substitutions. Ethan Creary & Benji Gray replaced by Jack Percy and Kyle Faulkner.
It was Faulkner’s persistence and ability which created the second goal. Chasing down a crossfield ball on the left-hand side, he cut in and unleashed a phenomenal curling shot which seemed destined to nestle in Shaw’s top corner. However, the keeper was his match and produced a flying one handed save tipping the ball over for a corner.
If Dunstable had been denied on that occasion, they were not to be denied a second time and went further ahead from the resulting corner.
Naylor, again the architect. His beautifully flighted corner found Crilley at the back stick who guided the ball back across the goal and into the far-left corner.
The goal gave Dunstable breathing space coming with just 12 minutes of normal time to play.
Minutes later Dylan Baker so nearly added to the scoreline with a deceptive shot which Shaw did well to push round his right hand post.
The goal of the game came with two minutes left to play. Muchineripi was brought down advancing at speed and with purpose down the right. Naylor took the free kick, low and to Mead, just inside the box. Mead controlled the ball played it to his left and from a tight angle managed to find the narrowest of gaps at the near post to put the icing on the cake.
The win lifts the Blues into 9th place, their highest position at any stage in the three seasons they’ve been at Step 5.
On Saturday the Dunstable-Luton derby takes place at Creasey Park when Crawley Green come to town. It’s a Pay What You Want Game, with all the Club’s youth section teams invited to the match where the Aaron Bateman shield will be presented to the young player who has shown the most courage and determination over the season.
Crawley Green will be desperate for a positive result to try and beat the drop. With the game being played over the Easter period and the weather set fair, a good crowd is anticipated.