Dunstable Town 2-0 Stony Stratford Town (HT 1-0) Attendance 59
Challenge Trophy Second Round
Creasey Park was swathed in mist and persistent soft drizzle for this cup tie that enabled the managers to make some experimental changes to the Dunstable line-up. Given the night off were Fabio Bufano, Graeme Buchanan and Shane Wood who failed a fitness test. Lewis Kidd returned to the goal-keeper duty for the seventeenth appearance of his loan period from Luton Town.
Nathan Frater is still on the injury list and player/coach Mark Boyce was on the substitutes’ bench. We may have been shrouded in what is sometimes termed a Scotch mist, it was a breath of fresh air after the shenanigans of Saturday, where the game suffered from a sub-standard performance from the officials. Tonight’s referee, Mark Stevens was indeed exemplary, yet there was one decision that created a talking point – namely Lewis Kidd’s handling outside his area being punished by a caution and not a dismissal.
The programme editorial had predicted ‘a tough game is expected by all,’ and so it proved to be with the Stones giving a performance that indeed did them great credit. Until the last ten minutes they trailed by a solitary goal and although they were visibly tiring, they certainly had plenty of chances to snatch a goal back.
Stony Stratford played in yellow shirts but I was not along in finding the white numerals hard to distinguish and wish they had opted for black. So references by name are limited for that reason.
Given a start tonight for the Duns was Luke Griffin, who has hitherto played in the reserves and was given his senior call-up after a distinguished performance last week against Tring Athletic reserves. But it was the visitors who started the livelier and before long they had a shot that shaved the cross bar and a post hit, but the second effort was ruled off-side. This was indeed sufficient warning from the Division One side that they were here for a do or die.
It was not long before top marksman Lee Roache was seeking his way through and his early service was, unusually, some long through balls, some being over hit. What we liked was Tony Burnett livening maters up on the wing and cutting in with a Roache like persistence, a couple of times when he had regained possession as well. Wayne Mills was again showing that he still obeyed his instinctive diagonal runs and useful crosses. Jonathan Cooper was also lively on the ball, yet found himself dispossessed more than he would have wished, but the Blues were finding themselves up against some stern resistance.
To their credit, the visitors had not come to defend and as it was a cup tie it was not expected and they played some pretty stuff going forward. Lee jones had scored two in the last round where they had defeated Tring Corinthians, and he along with Mundy and Jones looked to get forward.
Roache had a blocked shot, Hutchins dragged one effort well wide and a Mills corner aimed at Barnett was claimed by keeper Howarth. A combination involving Hutchins, Cooper and Griffin saw the last named have a blocked shot, but he looked well at home in his senior debut. Barnett hit a high cross that was adequately defended. An exciting moment of Burnett artistry had the anti-climax of a poorly his shot, shortly followed by another blank drawn by Cooper.
By no means did the Blues have matters in their overall favour as the swift counter play by Stony Stratford was born of confidence and after half an hour it was very even. There followed the best chance for the Blues when Cooper slipped the ball to Roache who fired on target but Howarth was able to deflect the strike.
The Stones tried a low, firm shot that Kidd gathered safely and then a cross from Mills to Hutchins, whom we are used to seeing at full-back, saw his shot deflected from a corner. Roache once again made incursions into the penalty area and his cross needed just a tap-in from Cooper who stretched in vain, unable to connect.
Stratford had a fine chance with a header that went wide but a much better effort saw a shot cleared close to the goal line. At the other end there was, after thirty-nine minutes, a successful strike for Dunstable, inevitably from Roache. A Burnett cross had been put away for a corner and Hutchins looped the ball in for Roache to turn and shoot, finding the top corner aided by a slight deflection. Roache thus made his tally twenty-one goals from twenty appearances so far. He is indeed our most prolific scorer since Grant Carney, who was among the spectators tonight. ‘People call him greedy’ said Carney senior to me at half-time but he is just an instinctive goal scorer and is blessed with the ability to keep possession and keep his original ideas going – and you can’t argue with his strike rate.’
The goal invigorated the Blues for the remainder of the half and, it was Mills again, who had a good chance and straying too far forward his reverse pass was just beaten out for a corner. Hutchins took a short one and it was Mills who sent it in again for Mead, who not being the tallest of players saw it sail over his head.
Cooper struck another firmly but it was held by Howarth and a late chance for these rolling Stones who were showing few kinks in their play. Kidd had to get low to save. We finished with a Cooper pass that Roache fired in at the expense of a corner that was beaten away.
We thus reached the interval and it was pleasing to hear some comments about the competent and equitable performance from the officials, as well as the consensus that it had been a fine, even contest so far. The Blues had the lead and were expected not to hang on to it but maintain their normal game.
The prevailing mist was worsening making it hard to see the finer details of play at the far end (that is from my viewpoint by the turnstile), but the duns made a smart start to the second period with a shot blocked and crosses going in at a good rate. But it was left to Newman Carney to perform ably as last man to make a timely intervention. Carney is much more at home in the position he was allotted tonight and plays with a maturity that belies his youth.
For the Stones, Markley had a markedly good chance that brought a good save from Kidd, who all in black drew the comment that we ‘had a lino playing for us’.
Hutchins drew a fine save from Howarth at the expense of a corner that rapidly brought another. Dunstable were edging towards doubling their lead but this second goal was some time in coming.
Then, a little later we had the major talking point. Kidd, rushing to intercept, handled just outside his area, the ball striking his chest first and then his arm, and with two Stones well positioned to capitalise it was seen as a goal scoring opportunity. Referee Mark Stevens showed a yellow card and some of the Regiment thought that Kidd was a trifle fortunate not to see red.
My interpretation was that the intent was not there as the ball had bounced awkwardly and the handball was not deliberate. The referee did tell me that it was a difficult decision but it was one that had to be made and he thought the yellow was appropriate for reasons outlined. It might have been very different if Kidd had walked and the Blues had to play on with ten men and a ‘makeshift’ keeper. Although the free kick came to nothing it was a decent header from Reynolds, all the same. There was no universal protest from the Stones over the referee’s decision and can go down as the spirit of the law being enforced rather than the letter.
But from then it was Dunstable who looked the more comfortable and the visitors began to tire from their efforts. They still had chances and Kidd was fortunate when a sliced clearance fell to a Stone whose own sliced effort went harmlessly wide. Boyce and Olalaye came on as substitutes and it was indeed the first time this season that Olalete was not in the starting eleven
Cooper overdue a goal for his enormous work rate put one clear of the bar and a late chance for the Stoes went wide.
In the eighty-first minute Danny Hutchins scored hs second goal in two games and this latest one cae from having an unchallenged and accurate lob that deceived Howarth. It was a fine goal and perhaps needed.
There were sporadic efforts from both sides but Dunstable were comfortable and completed a workmanlike win over a notably sporting Stony Stratford whose players were indeed friendly and complimentary about their hosts after the game. They selected Roache for praise, inevitably but also Jonno Barnett who had a steady and purposeful game.
I received a text or two from Paul Taylor who had kept goal in the last two games. I sent him the score and added playfully that Kidd had saved three penalties already. The text came back ‘You are a nob.’ I sent the corrected spelling of ‘knob’ to receive in return - ‘whatever, but you are still one’. Tays had conceded a hotly disputed penalty on Saturday, and of course had some ribbing from us all.
This had been a good game with honest endeavour and Stones officials were delighted that their team had raised their game and put on a confidence boosting display – they had made the Duns work hard throughout. The classic late autumnal weather was none too inspiring but we were rewarded with good entertainment and the blues keep up their winning habit, which will be tested at the Gosling Stadium in Welwyn Garden City where they will face a much improved Hatfield who raised a few eyebrows recently when they knocked AFC out of the FA Vase.
Lewis Kidd, cautioned, Wayne Mills, my star man tonight, Daniel Mead, Damen Pickering, Luke Griffin (Mark Boyce), Newman Carney, Tony Burnett, Jonathan Barnett, Lee Roache, goal, 39 minutes, (Moses Olaleye), Jonathan Cooper, Daniel Hutchins, goal, 81 minutes.
Substitute not used Shane Wood.
STONY STRATFORD TOWN
James Howarth, Graham Anderson, cautioned, Adam Castagnetti, Pete Geyton, Dan O’Farrell, cautioned, Dave Reynolds, Steven Morrison, Jack Wing, Mick Mundy, Lee Jones, Tel Markly.
Substitutes – James Cain, Jordan McKenzie, Danny Simpson, cautioned, Ellis Lloyd and Andy Brown.
Officials – all three had a sound game – referee Mark Stevens, assisted by Brad Billson and Ray Ward.