Aylesbury United 1-3 Dunstable Town (HT 0-1) Attendance 147
The Regiment did not need reminding that Dunstable dropped important points against Aylesbury last season, as both games were drawn, 2-2 and 3-3.
This was the thirteenth meeting between the sides and with Dunstable’s deserved victory tonight it stands level at five wins each and three draws. It was an important win as well since, as at Saturday against North Greenford United, the Blues made a ponderous start and trailed by a goal at the interval.
It was first versus fourth and Aylesbury United were yet to lose a league game. They were well up for this one at Bell Close following their disappointing exit in the FA Cup to Northwood. Dunstable had come from a one goal deficit at half time and prevailed, as they did tonight with an impressive second half performance.
It was fine weather for ducks as rain had fallen most of the day and rather chilly as well, with a number of the 147 spectators wearing winter coats. But the pace on the pitch was red hot in another fine advertisement for our league in terms of quality and commitment.
But the mystifying factor is why in recent games the Blues have begun in mediocre fashion and played in such a positively contrasting fashion in the second half.
If they could maintain that later pace they will give some team a real good hiding which in my partisan mode I would like to see. Jonathan Cooper was injured and Fabio Bufano made a start. An interesting fact was that Dunstable’s skipper, Shane Wood was facing his younger brother Jack – they were captains of their teams- and a few of the Blues had seen previous service with the Ducks.
The Blues tried some early long clearances from defensively astute Graeme Buchanan – one was for Tony Burnett to chase and one where Lee Roache was neatly dispossessed by Steve Hatch. But the one to watch in these early ripostes was the talented pace man Joey Acheampong. He needed close monitoring but was adept at finding space and causing some distress to a strangely lethargic back four. Lee Roache tried a shot after seven minutes but it cleared the bar.
Roache seemed to be a solitary strike figure at this stage with his partner Nathan Frater playing rather wide. Aylesbury soon began to probe on their own account and it needed two successive interventions from Buchanan to temporarily see off the danger.
The normally canny Danny Mead played an erroneous short pass and Acheampong seized on this and this produced a shot from Warren Garcia which went wide.
Moses Olaleye, growing in stature every appearance, crossed for Frater who returned the pass but the effort cleared the bar. Buchanan was again alert in a defensive clearance and then Jonathan Barnett tried a low shot, after assistance from Roache.
But the home supporters could sense a determination from their team and following one of their swift breaks after a quarter of an hour, they opened the scoring.
Baines, who has a habit of scoring against the Blues was this tie provider and his cross was squeezed home by the inevitable Acheampong. It was a well taken goal and reflected the flow of play so far.
Back came the Blues though and Olalaye’s shot was firm but straight at Jack Sillitoe. Bufano was then forced to concede a corner and this was headed over Kidd’s cross bar.
Tony Burnett gathered the ball from a piece of defensive hesitancy from the Ducks and his shot very nearly brought the equaliser, but was, painfully, inches wide of the far post.
Acheampong found himself right inside the Blues penalty area but he dithered about shooting and a corner was the scant reward. Kidd dealt well with the header and from the break Olalaye and Roache combined, the latter finding his shot well blocked.
Kidd needed to make a diving one-handed save from a Ducks’ assault and Roache found himself neatly dispossessed as he tried to get forward, following a Mead throw-in. Shane Wood robustly cleared from further Aylesbury crosses and Zak Joseph tried his luck from range but his effort cleared the bar.
Ian Cooper, the volatile former Colney Heath player made little impression and was later substituted. But he has been among the goals for his new club. Yet despite this the home side were still rampant in their efforts, with Dunstable trying their luck with two corners, one either side, both adequately defended.
A glancing header for the home side right at the end of the half was gathered by Kidd, but home supporters were justified in considering that their team had looked the livelier and more persistent.
The break must have been welcome for the Dunstable managers, who, if they did not make any substitutions must have infused the Blues with a frank appraisal that garnered the suitable response, since the Blues totally outplayed the Ducks in a remarkable second spell of positive attacking football that brought three goals.
The defence picked up their pace, the midfield were combative and influential and the strikers were suitably impressive. Cashman began with a fine effort and the passing was swift and crisp in the preparatory moves. Frater had a blocked shot following a corner and Olalaye was all for joining in the attacks emanating from midfield.
Set pieces were again to play a part and the equaliser came from a Barnett free kick from the left. We were half expecting him to have a direct shot since he has scored a few so far this season – including that remarkable fourth goal against North Greenford United. But his kick was robustly met by Leon Cashman after fifty-three minutes with a header and this seemed inevitable since the ball had been almost entirely in the Ducks half from the resumption.
A shot from Danny mead followed and a corner form Barnett saw Sillitoe impeded. Buchanan was calm as he outwitted Acheampong who scampered after a long clearance, then Barnett slipped a pass to Roache who was given no time to shape up for the shot.
Greg Williams was a little fortunate to escape a caution on one challenge, and it was pleasing to see that the game had just two cautions – John ‘Fritz’ Mulholland and Blues’ sub George Brinkman. There were one or two isolated incidents where grievances were aired, but that was all. Frater allowed himself to be put into a state of agitation but it soon dissipated.
Another free kick from Barnett was gathered safely by Sillitoe who was having a busy spell. Cashman, Barnett and Roache combined well but the last named was undone by his own artistry, being very closely monitored throughout. But it was Roache who was the provider for the next goal. Roache was in possession in the penalty area and evading challenges and seeing no direct way through he was able to slip the ball to Frater who thundered home from close range. Sixty-two minutes had been played and Dunstable were in front and comfortably in control.
Cashman appeared to be goal bound when Fritz Mulholland’s challenge earned him the yellow card.
Brinkman came on for Burnett, and there were moments when Aylesbury tried to get forward but Mulholland’s shot that cleared the bar represented their best efforts. The home side sent on both Craig Townsend and Marcus Sawyer for the below par Cooper and Greg Williams and Dunstable also brought on Chris Francis for Roache and Warren Plowright for Barnett.
A Frater shot was spilled by Sillitoe for a corner and following Brinkman’s yellow card, Townsend essayed a free kick that Kidd ran out to clear with a definite suspicion of handball right on the edge of the area.
Acheapong came closest for the ducks when following an iffy clearance he lobbed with Kidd stranded but it went wide. Brinkman was also just wide when he capitalised on a defensive error. Dunstable continued to threaten both from open play and set pieces, ad it was from the latter that the Blues gained their third goal.
Buchanan still ruled wherever he stood, denying Acheampong when the latter went to connect from a cross, but a fine corner from Cashman was emphatically netted by the lurking Frater five minutes before the end that made the points secure.
A late free kick from Lee Bircham came to nothing, and it is hard to see this wide smiling ex Leverstock green player is close to thirty-six. I still see the scamp who, all those years ago used to interrupt my teaching him in his efforts to sell me shirts.
There were yet further efforts with substitute Chris Francis who came perhaps the closest to adding to the score. In stoppage time it was Buchanan again who cleared the decks and he is this reporter’s Blues’ man of the match. Nathan Frater backed me in this as he came off at the end. ‘He is at the heart of the team. I may score them but he stops them’. A fair comment.
I will add that this is the first win at five attempts for the Blues over the Ducks – there have been some fighting draws but no win. This compensates somewhat and in such a vital game.
Dunstable’s start to the season has improved greatly over last season, where points were needlessly dropped. It is their sixth successive competitive win in as many games, including the FA Cup win at North Greenford United. On this note I can add that the next opponents in this competition will be Ashford Town(Middlesex) who won their replay at Tring Athletic.
That it was ultimately deserved if without question, except the sharp contrast in play in both halves.
Dunstable do not want to be known as a second half team, but it is remarkable that they can reverse their fortunes after a cup of tea, or whatever. Aylesbury United can draw some comfort from their first half performance but will look at their vulnerability to set pieces. It was also notable that all goals tonight came from relatively close range.
But this was a fine game of football and evenly controlled by referee Tom Ratherham. Dunstable now face Oxhey Jets on Saturday at Creasey Park, followed by a trip to Airedale Park on Tuesday where they face Holmer Green, who lost 3-4 to Aylesbury United there after a floodlight failure. The FA Cup game is at home on 8th September to Ashford Town (Middlesex) and do remember that on the 11th September the Hillingdon Borough game has been switched to Creasey Park.
So- the good start continues, but each game has been hard and competitive and there are any games to go.
Full marks to the Regiment for their usual sterling support behind the goal which is always appreciated by the team and the managers. But where are all those flags that used to adorn the terraces? I think we should be told! For Shane Wood at least, he has the bragging rights over brother Jack.
Jack Sillitoe, Steve Hatch, Zak Reynolds, Jack Wood, captain, John ‘Fritz’ Mulholland, cautioned, Ben Baines, Warren Garcia, JOEY ACHEAMPONG, home star man, goal, 15 minutes, Ian Cooper, Ben Butler, Greg Williams.
Substitutes used – Lee Bircham, Craig Townsend, Marcus Sawyer, not used- Tony Joyce.
Lewis Kidd, Shane Wood, captain, Daniel Mead, GRAEME BUCHANAN, Blues’ man of the match, Fabio Bufano, Jonathan Barnett, Moses Olaleye, Leon Cashman, goal, 53 minutes, Nathan Frater, two goals, 62 and 85 minutes, Lee Roache, Tony Burnett.
Substitutes- George Brinkman, cautioned, Chris Francis, Warren Plowright. Not used – Adam Mead and Damen Pickering.
Officials- Referee Tom Ratherham assisted by J Fowler and B Campbell.