Dunstable Town 3-2 Hanwell Town (HT 2-1) Att 86

When a game has five goals, a disputed penalty and a further two goals disallowed, it makes for interesting viewing. Hanwell Town had raised a few eyebrows with their handsome 4-1 away win at Tring Athletic and the word was out that their team had been considerably strengthened since they were given a close season reprieve from relegation.

The last time the teams met was at Reynolds Field at the tail-end of the season – with a classic situation of Dunstable needing a win to keep alive championship chances and Hanwell trying to avoid the drop. Dunstable led 6-0 at one stage before a home fight back made it 6-3 and no time left.

But this was a leaner, meaner Hanwell whose contribution to a fine game was notable – especially after they had clawed goals back after going behind. Yet the start saw Dunstable in commanding form and creating early chances. Jonathan Cooper encroached into the Hanwell penalty area and sent an inviting cross to Leon Cashman who struck instinctively but dragged the ball wide when it did look easier to score.

Shortly after this an a couple more attacking moves Chris Francis was impeded in what seemed to be a position just outside the penalty area, and this was apparently evident from our photographer. The referee, Mr Pater very properly consulted his assistant who confirmed that the offence had taken place on the line and on the line is adjudged to be in the area. Several Hanwell players temporised and this had little effect. Jonathan Cooper had placed the ball on the penalty spot a good couple of minutes before the referee had finished his consultation and there was a further wait whilst the instigator of the foul, Hanwell skipper Tom Duffy was cautioned – when many were expecting or perhaps hoping for a red card to be brandished.

The Regiment had a good case in claiming volubly that Duffy was last man and therefore ought to have endured the walk of shame. I am still unclear on this rule as it seems to me that referees are somewhat hesitant in applying it. I can only conclude that there was a fellow defender behind him. Perhaps Scottie Vision will clear this up when his video highlights are posted. I did reflect that this is far from the first time that Hanwell matches with the Blues have thrown up some controversial moments. The 4-3 win for the Blues a couple of seasons ago is a good example.

But the controversial moments, and there were many more still to come, can take little away from the fact that this was an enthralling match with a fine standard of football played by both sides on a super surface given some zip by a short pre-match shower. The teams ‘made the field big’ with effective wide play and the midfield was an area for those stout of heart. Cooper had despatched the tenth minute penalty into the bottom corner beyond the reach of Kieran Jimmy. Now was the time to see if the Blues could hold onto the lead and not yield an equaliser as they have done recently. Their play was still the more creative and solid and they had the opportunities. But there was some real character about Hanwell Town and this was evident by their ability to break on swift counter moves – and they did not fall prey to off-sides as did the Blues.

After the half hour mark, it seemed that the home side would probably get the second goal that their subtle pressure had suggested and this appeared to be the case when a Shane Wood throw-in a Tony Burnett cross was deflected dangerously towards the top right corner and Kieran Jimmy plucked the ball from the air when it seemed to most eyes especially Regimental ones that, the ball had just crossed the line. I had a good position and it did seem to be a legitimate goal. The video will be of great interest here, but the assistant referee must make his decision on real time and he was of the opinion that it was not a goal.

He might have endeared himself to the Regiment in awarding the penalty, but all love was now lost and he faced the usual barrage of imprecations. But he made the decision and the goal was disallowed – one of two this evening – and had they been allowed then the game may have been a little more comfortable for the Duns. This was underlined some eight minutes later when the visitors snaffled a rather outstanding equaliser through Terry Smith following a cunning break. The ball seemed to ricochet from an opponent and it fell nicely for him to give it some welly and Lewis Kidd no real chance of saving it.

The effect of this was not immediately inspirational but it did suggest that the league leaders were not invulnerable – but they too played the breakaway and Tony Burnett added a goal to a game that saw strikes of quality. Burnett sought to escape the congestion of midfield and simply ran in possession without a hint of serious challenge. He charged along the middle channel and when you expected him to be stopped in his tracks he let loose and his shot found the bottom corner. Variety and quality had marked the half and this was repeated after the interval.

Dunstable had their lead restored but again the question would be asked – could they maintain the lead or increase it for comfort? The answer was quickly forthcoming as a vibrant Hanwell kicked off with definite intent and they were level within two minutes with a peach of a free-kick from Lewis Ochua. He had been something of a marauder in the first period, as had Charlie Baverstock and Ivailo Dimitrou.

The free kick- somewhat disputed by Shane Wood, to no avail, was in a good spot for a diagonal shot and it came screaming in and again Lewis Kidd had little chance of keeping it out. So – this equaliser perhaps because of its technical merit, served to inspire Hanwell to a period where they felt they might go on to get a positive result. But this positive period was aided by some erring strikes from Dunstable and another disallowed goal from a Frater header. Tony Burnett fired in a shot from a corner that was held by Kieran Jimmy and following a free kick from Hanwell inn an identical spot to the first, and was pleasing to see Lewis Kidd deal confidently with the strike.

Moses Olalaye became something of a playmaker and his persistence rewarded him with tie in possession to either have a go or pick out a colleague. His best effort was from a return pass and Jimmy did well to keep this out. As time went on and the scores remained level, some eyes were on the Dunstable substitute warming up. This was Lee Roache who had picked up a knock in the Hadley game. When he came on he caused a degree of mayhem with his pace and usual incursions into areas where he has been known to score from whatever angle.

Dunstable had regained some composure territorially and were soon constructing the flowing of moves of earlier play – yet they faced stiff resistance as Hanwell were declaring openly that they would do their stuff to prevent going behind for a third time. But by fifty-eight minutes this is what they did and Nathan frater was the calm marksman. Dunstable ought to have improved on this lead and would have done if Roache had not hit the side netting after some good work. The assessor was strolling by me and looking at my notepad he said ‘you can add he hit the side netting when colleagues were better placed for a cross’.

Maybe – but we are accustomed to Roache prising them in from what seems an impossible position. There was more good stuff from Burnett and Olalaye and indeed Frater. For the visitors a chance fell to substitute Dennis Zadeikis but he struck it well over the bar after some great individual resilience on regaining possession and finding a shooting opportunity.

There was a temporary descent into an affray when Burnett was booked for a bad challenge as was Ochua for a similar transgression. This was swiftly dealt with by the referee and on we went to a splendid climax to the game with Dunstable sometimes wishing they had netted the ones they could and should have done.

Kidd, under pressure punched awkwardly at a cross and needed to be strong in other aerial efforts. From a free kick, frater headed what we hoped was a fourth goal for his side- but this was adjudged off-side and brought further hoots of derision and disbelief from home partisans and maybe secret ones from Hanwell stalwarts. Danny Mead, who missed the Hadley game was outstanding again defence and in a rare lapse he conceded a free kick that was just sent wide. Lewis Kidd in delaying clearances almost came unstuck as Hanwell pounced on every half chance that came their way. Roache broke free of attentive defenders and his shot was wide and so another chance for a safety zone was eliminated.

Frater was brought down on the edge of the area and the resulting free kick went west, almost literally. The midfield battle was unhindered and on one occasion Olaleye lost possession, but the attack that came from this was just off-side. Cashman had another chance to finish the challenge from those in the black and white stripes – a smart lob was called for- but it needed to be over the keeper’s head instead of into his outstretched hands.

A couple of late free kicks for Hanwell made me a little nervous but one hit the wall and the other was wide. With four minutes of stoppage time played Hanwell had a corner which was beaten away from someone in the crowded throng and it was almost the last kick of the game. Dunstable prevailed to take three points and made it four wins in four league games – but as at Ampthill they were made to work for it. Importantly they do work and hard, taking nothing for granted. It is vital that the Blues continue in this fashion as it shows both resilience and character. I did recall a post made by a Hanwell supporter on the SSML website that he would see a point as almost a win. They did not get this but they had run the Blues close and it is clear that other sides will see Dunstable as a prize scalp.

The improvement on last season is evident – as at this stage the Duns had dropped four points in two early draws that they ought to have won. This was a game worth watching and was at times scintillating and is a tribute to the skills and endeavour of both teams.

Dunstable travel to Southern Central side North Greenford United in the FA Cup on Saturday, and if there is no replay for us or for Aylesbury United then there is game to savour at Bell Close on Wednesday, 29 August. The Ducks won at Holmer Green 4-3 after a floodlight failure and nearest rivals London Colney were held to a draw. Top of the league still – but with just four games played Dunstable have no illusions as many, many games will be as tight as this one and, it is hoped, just as enjoyable.

DUNSTABLE TOWN Lewis Kidd, Damen Pickering, Daniel Mead, cautioned, Shane Wood, captain, Lucas Flood, Jonathan Cooper, penalty goal, 10 minutes, Moses Olayeye, Tony Burnett, goal, 42 minutes, cautioned, Nathan Frater, goal, 58 minutes, Chris Francis, Leon Cashman. Substitutes – Lee Roache, Adam Mead – not used Fabio Bufano, Mark Boyce, Jonathan Barnett.

HANWELL TOWN Kieran Jimmy, Tom Kennedy, Anthony Rowlands, Tom Duffy, captain, cautioned, Oliver Duffy, Lewis Ochua, goal, 48 minutes, cautioned, Charlie Baverstock, Tomas Jansons, Ivailo Dimitrou, Terry Smith, goal, 40 minutes, Luke Kenney. Substitutes- George Davis, Dennis Zadeika, Tom Davis – not used Alfie Patteron and Keith Rowlands.

Referee- Stuart Pater, assisted by Stewart Beardon and Shaun Cavanagh, all Bedfordshire. Officials- stern in the face of criticism from some quarters!

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Dunstable Town Football Club is a members owned football club that is run by the Club Committee

through its annually elected Club Officers, constituting the Chairperson, Treasurer and Secretary.