FA Cup North Greenford United 2-4 Dunstable Town (HT 1-0) Attendance 56
The FA Cup is known for its drama and we had some before the kick-off with ominous rolls of thunder and some lightning strikes, followed by a prolonged heavy shower just before the players took to the pitch at Berkeley Avenue.
The weather forecast was of biblical proportions but the expected deluge did not occur and after the shower we were treated to a good deal of sunshine.
I do know that many commentators had mentioned that they fancied Dunstable to win this one – to underline the fact that in terms of playing strength there would be little between the sides, even though the hosts play in a higher league – The Southern, Central Division.
I had visited this ground before, with our former youth team and it was good to make a return. Hanwell Town is nearby and it had percolated through from them that they might just find Dunstable a bit too much for them.
Well, it turned out this way, but it was some time in coming as the Duns, playing in their red away strip, had a testing first half and trailed by a goal scored from a rebound.
But this is a resilient team that has shown it can find a way back from being a goal down. The first half showed matters progressively favouring the hosts who had looked a little stronger in the midfield contention.
They had the first opportunity of a shot after three minutes and this was from Glen Garner who placed it wide. Dunstable’s play was a little untidy at times, with one attempted clearance fromKidd being a twisting upward ball that could have fallen anywhere, and one or two defenders were equally imprecise in clearing danger. Lucas Flood was noted for two excellent and emphatic defensive headers as the visitors seemed to play a high line.
For the first time in many, many games there was a whistle blown for a foul throw- this from one of Shane Wood’s distance efforts. Almost immediately he won a throw on the other side and made some exaggerated movements to show that this one would be legal. Both were beaten away indignantly.
A North Greenford free-kick following a Pickering foul met the reliable head of Lucas Flood. At the other end there was a flicker of a real chance when Lee Roache and Nathan Frater exchanged passes but the last one was a gift to the opposition. This happened again with Cashman being the pass partner.
Then there was a moment where the referee must have been unsighted as Jacob Lambe showed dexterity and cunning by controlling the ball with an elbow, with shouts of ‘han-bowl!’ ignored. No-one essayed ‘elbow ball’ as it does not have the same ring to it. It was just as well as the attack came to nought.
Lambe was again I a promise g position but he fluffed his lines and the ball was cleared. The probing continued for Dunstable but for the time being, in isolated moments. They also wasted a couple of free kicks where no forethought was evident.
Danny Mead’s simply wonderful intervention denied the sprightly Lambe, who was just shaping up to shoot. Lee Roache at this point had yet to impose himself and his best effort was a shot direct at Marchena. A Garner free kick looked the business but went just wide. Cooper assisted Frater forward but the striker’s shot cleared the bar and his later deft flick in front of goal did not deceive the waiting Marchena.
Another long throw from Wood reached Frater whose angled shot went wide. Garner nd wood went into a a ‘fifty-fifty’ and it was Wood who came off worst, taking a knock that needed treatment.
Sean Hillier shot over the bar for the hosts but shortly after this they had they breakthrough – with some unsolicited help from their opponents.
In a typical snap attack with good off the ball movement, Lambe blasted at Kidd who parried well, attempted to recover but could only spill the ball forward to the waiting Zak Joseph who was delighted to put his side into the lead after twenty-nine minutes.
It was deserved on the balance of play so far, and the home side contructed further opportunities before the half finished and could have increased their lead. Kidd saved well form another Garner effort and Joel Jacobs put his chance over the crossbar. Kidd was booked for dissent as was Garner in the slight niggles that was just perceptibly creeping into the game.
Late chances in the half came for both sides- with the hosts being closest, but the interval arrived leaving Dunstable a deficit of just one goal.
Cue the half –time words of wisdom and recriminations, but there were no substitutions when the teams emerged after the break. In the board room I noted that home officials were cautiously pleased but felt that although North Greenford were the better in the first half, they expected some feisty stuff from Dunstable. They felt that they might live to regret the chances that were not put away.
There is no doubt that Dunstable improved notably in the second half, by reclaiming the midfield with Moses Olalaeye being outstanding as a playmaker and would be striker – but it also saw Cashman and Burnett growing in influence.
It was not easy as the home side contested strongly and grudgingly surrendering territorial space. Flood picked out Roache with a long ball and Roache began his normal cutting in antics with varying success. He was a constant worry though and was later opportunely placed to do damage.
North Greenford did net in the fifty-first minutes but this was an undisputed off-side. Cooper began to gain momentum and he assisted Roache forward and as a result they forced a corner. This was better, this was gritty stuff. Cooper’s corner hit the top of the net and he later hit the crossbar with a shot – yet after the whistle had gone.
Roache again tried to weave through the defence but found three defenders unamused and unassailable. Then came the equaliser – emanating from midfield and it was Tony Burnett who was taking on all comers. He was expected to slip a short pass but he kept going and it looked good. His low shot gave Marchena little chance and thus the score was level and travelling supporters expressed some relief. The goal came on fifty-five minutes.
After Cooper’s shot had thundered against the bar, we all felt for Daniel Ranger who unwittingly stood in the way of a full-on clearance from a colleague and he looked out for the count. That is taking one for the other team, perhaps.
After play had resumed Dunstable were soon on the attack again and Olaleye encroached into the area in possession and appeared to be brought down, but appeals were muted. Lambe was off-target for the home side and once again the best attacks were coming from Dunstable. Cashman, in possession was confident enough to keep going and evade intervention and he fired low at Marchena who did well to parry but into the path of Roache and the ironic moment was complete.
Dunstable had taken the lead in the same manner in which they originally conceded and sixty-eight minutes had expired. Roache was up next to try to capitalise on a bouncing ball from defence but it eluded him. We may have felt confident that Dunstable could hold on to this lead with the way they were playing now, but they fell prey to a smart equaliser on sixty-eight minutes when Jacob Lambe converted a cross well.
Soon came the call for substitutions for both sides and Dunstable replaced Lucas Flood with Graeme Buchanan, and the former can be pleased with his fine work in this game hitherto. Cooper, not at his creative best was replaced by Jonathan Barnett and a little later on came George Brinkman, who scored twice for the reserves on Thursday.
This had a positive effect, although the visitors had been pegged back by that equaliser, they were in the clear ascendancy. My very private worry was that the possibility of a Tuesday replay would mean a hastily prepared match programme as well as all the contacts with the new officials – and the postponing of our match with Aylesbury United on the Wednesday.
We were in fact three or four minutes away from this, but we had a fine finish to the tie. Dunstable still looked the likelier to score Barnett tried one from long range – and why not since it has become something of a speciality for him this season. This one was too optimistic though.
Roache assisted Cashman whose shot was blocked and Olaleye was just a couple of inches short of scoring after Roache’s pass had set him up. Barnett’s free kick was again from range and again off-target, but it was all Dunstable now.
Brinkman was finding space on the flank and he was utilised and crosses were causing a degree of anxiety in home defenders. But the time was ticking despite the strong finish.
Dunstable took the lead again in the eighty-seventh minute when Frater picked out rinkman who although he was cutting in it seemed that the angle would be too demanding for a shot – but by George he did it and it was a corker of a goal. He ran behind the goal to accept the praises from the delighted Regiment but the referee whistled sternly and signalled he was having none of that sort of thing, thank you boys.
Roache was booked for ‘delaying the start of play’ which seemed a bit harsh as he apparently misunderstood the referee’s original award to Greenford, who found the wherewithal to squeeze in a couple of unsuccessful efforts until a rather startling piece of play from Jonathan Barnett. Dunstable had been awarded a free kick right by the dugouts. Barry Marchena the home goalie had left his line to arrange his defence to a nicety with the usual shouts and gestures.
Barnett noticed that the keeper was some distance from his line and, having received the signal to take the free-kick, Barnett lofted the ball the near forty yards into a virtually unattended goal and whoops of delight from the Regiment.
It was a killer blow and a harsh reminder for being prepared for free-kicks. No wonder it seems the duty of a player to ‘stand on the ball’ until all are in place.
The final whistle went shortly after this goal that in face came in stoppage time and Dunstable Town are rewarded with a home tie against the eventual winners of Ashford Town (Middlesex) and Tring Athletic who fought out a draw today.
The vibrant second half performance of Dunstable had been the key and it is especially pleasing to defeat higher placed opposition. Dunstable would not be out of place in the Southern League Central Division.
It was good to see some Creasey Park regulars at Berkeley Fields – including sporadic supporter ‘118’ (an advert lookalike) who had cycled from Crouch End and had come a long way along the canal towpath.
Star man today for this reporter was Leon Cashman whose strength, resilience and damned hard work were much in evidence.
Home officials conceded defeat quite graciously and I expressed the wish that the two teams could meet next season – preferably in the Southern League! But that is something Dunstable must aspire to for now. Today was all about the FA Cup and the real satisfaction of progressing to the next round of this illustrious competition.
NORTH GREENFORD UNITED
Barry Marchena, Sean Hillier, Joel Jacobs, Mark Burgess, John Sonuga, Daniel Ranger, Zak Joseph, goal, 29 minutes, Jacob Lambe, goal, 68 minutes, Glenn Garner, captain, cautioned, Daniel Vincent.
Subsitutes- Daniel Vicent, Koffi Appiah, Maytham Balal, Aarron Silcott, Remmel Clarke, David Taylor and J B Bates.
Lewis Kidd, cautioned, Damen Pickering, Daniel Mead, Shane Wood, captain, Lucas Flood, Tony Burnett, goal, 55 minutes, Moses Olaleye, Jonathan Cooper, Nathan Frater, cautioned, Lee Roache, goal, 62 minutes, cautioned, Leon Cashman.
Substitutes used – Jonathan Barnett, goal, 90+1, George Brinkman, goal, 87 minutes, Graeme Buchanan – not used – Chris Francis, Adam Mead, Warren Plowright and Fabio Bufano.
Officials – referee, Ernie Moore, assisted by Alan Whichelow and Steve Reading, all High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.