Leverstock Green 0-4 Dunstable Town (HT 0-2) Attendance 53
Dunstable Town regained the top spot in the division with a convincing 4-0 win at fifth placed Leverstock Green. A draw was an unlikely option since the hosts have won six and lost six of their twelve games so far – and a sharing of the points would not enable the Blues to claw back the top spot that was surrendered to Aylesbury United since the Blues were involved in a cup game on Saturday. They now lead the Ducks by a point and have a game in hand, and have scored ten goals in their last two games without reply.
The Green always give the Blues a hard game and they looked quite dangerous on the counter, with one effort striking the post following an error from Fabio Bufano – who atoned handsomely for this a little later by flicking Jonathan Barnett’s measured free kick beyond the reach of David Bailey.
Dunstable began with good intent and included Newman Carney, playing his first league game for the Blues. It was an early cross from him that could have brought more had there been someone alert enough to latch onto the ball. With Tobi Akin almost bringing success on the counter the Duns needed to be aware of the Green’s ability to strike quickly on the break, even if their finishing tended to be wasteful or haphazard. An example of this came from James Dabb whose hooked shot ought to have done more than harmlessly clear the bar – and future chances were indeed limited for the hosts.
But good football was played by both sides, there being just one caution for overzealous tackling and this was doled out to Adiel Mannion. There were isolated incidents of what is known as a heated exchange but it was soon absorbed by the football.
Soft rain had given the pitch pace and the Duns were playing down the slope in the first half. Jonathan Barnett’s free kicks were on song tonight and his first brought an awkward clearance. Dunstable looked good along the flanks, with the indefatigable Danny Mead being a good source of useful passes. But he was fairly skinned by the pace of Tobi Akin who had a good run on goal before being thwarted by Lewis Kidd who enjoyed his second successive clean sheet.
Talking of pace, there was Jonathan Cooper who seemed to be enjoying himself, gaining freedom to move and fire almost at will. He was only just wide on a couple of occasions, as was Lee Roache, whose two goals had won this fixture at Pancake Lane last season. He arrived at the ground just before me in his Smart car and dodged in an out before squeezing neatly into a parking space before me. So, I thought, his driving habits are like his football playing – he can find space and deliver –which is what he did tonight on the pitch.
Again talking of pace, a routine back pass to Kidd from Shane Wood was somewhat challenging and Kidd needed to act promptly to clear the lines. Apart from this hiccup Wood was his normal industrious and influential self. Newman Carney has settled in well and played with a maturity that belies his tender years – we all recall it was not that long ago that he was on the terraces with us as his Dad was pinging them in for the Blues. One of his shots was reminiscent of his ‘old man’ and brought a corner, and a later lob could on another occasion have deceived the keeper. This followed a purposeful header from Wood, again gathered by Bailey, the busier of the two goal keepers tonight. With cooper firing just wide we felt that the Green could crack and they did after twenty-seven minutes when a Barnett free-kick was deftly flicked into the net by Bufano for his second goal of the season.
Tony Burnett was no slouch and utilised his pace on the flank and caused concern to the Greens’ defence with a smart solo run that brought a corner. Barnett’s fine near post corner was ably tipped over the bar by Bailey. From this we saw two good efforts from the home side from Marvin Tabi and skipper Adam Hallisey, but Kidd was untroubled and punched clear from a corner.
Cooper galloped along the right flank and shot wide again and Kidd held a fair shot from Mannion. Wadkins put another over the bar and Cooper had a shot deflected but as the interval approached Dunstable increased their lead when Tony Burnett controlled ball from midfield and shot successfully and remarkably well from some range. This two goal cushion was much appreciated by the vociferous Regiment who know well the vulnerability of a side who hold just a solitary goal advantage.
The game tonight attracted a larger than usual number of Spartan League officials, as well as a chatty ‘spy’ from Barking, our forthcoming opponents in the FA Vase. Our chairman kept him engaged in chat so he, the spy, may have missed the more revealing moments of the team’s strength, but he was a friendly fellow and was complimentary about the Blues.
It was expected that the hosts would seek inroads in the second half, but this they found increasingly difficult to realise as the Duns looked firmly in control with no apparent easing of effort, since goal difference may yet be of importance as the campaign progresses.
Cooper caused alarm to the home defence when he snapped up a loose ball and headed towards goal, slipping a pass to Roache who placed his shot well but Bailey dived low to save. Greens made a substitution with Tabi being replaced by George House. Burnett’s next cross was put behind for a corner – another near post one of promise. I recall the recent time when near post corners were the preferred option but they are not so prevalent these days it seems.
From another measured free-kick, Roache did his ‘car park’ job. He jockeyed for space on a sixpence, controlled turned, shot and the Blues were 3-0 up. This goes down as a typical Roache poach and one of many examples of his skill. I always feel that to act so skilfully under pressure is the hall mark of a true striker and Roache is one of these. It came after fifty-three minutes and virtually sealed the points. Leverstock Green did not give up the eternal seeking of chances, but it was, as I have said, somewhat haphazard in the finish.
Former Blue, Mark Shadbolt, still affectionately known to the Regiment as Shads, but more often Shankbolt, took a knock but played on, no doubt fuelled by Mars Bars. Cheerful as ever after the game – he shook my hand and said ‘ Good team you have there, Pipes.’ Roache attempted to replicate his penalty area magic but was bundled (fairly) off the ball on two occasions before he could finish, but he was still a worry for the home defence.
Carney was still plugging away and quite stylishly, a shot bringing a corner, another going wide. A corner from Barnett found the impetuous Olaleye who struck firmly but inaccurately. From this Shadbolt affected a long clearance that looked promising for a break but an off-side was correctly administered. Bailey saved well from another Roache shot. Dunstable brought on substitutes – two together with Barnett and Burnett being replaced by Pickering and Francis, who was himself substituted in the last minute to give Mark Boyce a fleeting glimpse of glory. Carney was again wide and Roache was all but dancing in the area with the ball until his pocket was neatly picked. The there was a strange moment when a Dunstable player was fussing with his shorts and a home player called out ‘ref, he’s tucking his knob in’, which hardly constitutes an offence if you consider the reverse.
Cooper provided Francis with a meaningful opportunity which he conspired to miss but Francis more than made up for this with his classy goal in stoppage time that made it a sound 4-0 for the Blues.
Francis had cut in and seemed to be facing impassable defenders but he scored despite the angle and it was one to savour. It underlined the superiority of finishing between the sides, and we wondered again how on earth the Blues had only scored one against Tring in the last league game.
This was an important win for Dunstable as it took them back to the top of the league, and also because they remain the only unbeaten team in the division, with eight wins and three draws from their eleven games. It did cross my mind of Leverstock’s blistering start to the last campaign when they won ten on the bounce and then did not win for the next seven. Being consistent was the key and that was what eventual champions Royston Town accomplished. They drew but two of their games and we have drawn three so the need is to keep winning. Those in close proximity in the table have performed consistently well – Ampthill Town come to mind as well as Aylesbury United in this respect. It is and will be very close – and probably throughout the season. In terms of goal difference Ampthill match the Blues +20 and their only loss was the narrow defeat to Dunstable Town. AFC have only played nine but if they win their games in hand they would be just a point behind the Duns. So heeding the warning signs is paramount.
Dunstable face Harefield United on Saturday at Creasey Park and that is finely poised as in their last six head to heads with us have produced three wins for either side. The Blues were without Nathan Frater and Graeme Buchnanan tonight, since both are nursing injuries. But there was a good balance in the side tonight, with Wayne Mills making his comeback in a league game following a good performance at Hales Ley United in the Challenge Trophy.
The goals tonight were of good quality and this must go down as a deserved and convincing win, and our best margin of victory over Leverstock Green for some games. The most upbeat person was joint manager Paul Reeves who had correctly predicted the score when most of us felt he was being somewhat optimistic.
But four goals and three points were the satisfactory end to another good game of football where standards were pleasingly high.
David Bailey, Sam Lyon, Mark Shadbolt, Chris Cutler, James Dabbs, Curt Dizon, Adiel Mannion, cautioned, Marvin Tabi, Adam Hallisey, captain, Tobi Adkin.
Substitutes- George House, James Attfield, Brad Holt, Stefan Owen-Richards, Jon Davies.
Lewis Kidd, Wayne Mills, Daniel Mead, Fabio Bufano, goal, 27 minutes, Shane Wood, captain, Jonathan Barnett, Moses Olaleye, Newman Carney, Lee Roache, goal, 53 minutes, Tony Burnett, goal, 42 minutes, Jonathan Cooper.
Substitutes – Mark Boyce (Francis) Damen Pickering (Barnett) Chris Francis (Burnett).
Officials – Referee, Daniel Cohen, Edgware, assisted by Andrew McCree and Andy Loe, both St Albans.