Hatfield Town 1-6 Dunstable Town (HT 1-0) Attendance 58
The score-line is emphatic enough but given the chances presented it ought to have been higher. Hatfield officials were of the opinion that the score was ‘not realistic’ and I agree insofar that Roache and Burnett ought to have settled the game during the first half. The realistic score should have been about 8-0 to the Dunstable.
But why was this not so? Well, despite what seems a thorough trouncing of the opposition was embarrassingly delayed by a stuttering first half performance, where two of the few chances ought to have been buried. As it was, Dunstable had given the revamped Hatfield a fortuitous start when Shane Wood deflected past Taylor in the eleventh minute and with the home side then defending in depth it suddenly became an arduous task.
With goal keeper Paul Taylor having little to do we saw Dunstable, in their red away kit falter in midfield with a catalogue of passing errors and predictable play. To my mind it was their worst forty-five minutes of the season. Former Hatfield Chairman Ted Collie, still President of the club but in office at the Hertfordshire FA, sat next to me in that draughty old stand and implied that this was one day that Dunstable would not hit the target, and with Tony Burnett and Lee Roache having the best chances and missed I was a little inclined to agree with him. Hatfield were coping well in defence but this was very much their aim once they had gone ahead.
Dunstable assisted them with predictable play concentrating on diagonal balls to Burnett on the right, with Mills also looking for the best placed cross. Too many tackles were lost too many balls were intercepted and too many passes went astray, but if they were poor the home side seemed to lack all ambition to add to their score. We had heard that the Hatfield side that were reprieved from relegation last season were a lot stronger. Their last two results were impressive – a 4-1 win over Berkhamsted, and a fine 3-1 win over AFC in the Vase. These morale boosting results came after a poor run of five defeats, including one on the Challenge Trophy against New Bradwell St Peter. Among their new signings are a couple of players from Royston Town.
They were a better side than the one that lost 2-7 to Dunstable at London Colney with Matt Hodges making notable efforts to create chances – but Dunstable seemed to help them along in this respect with some alarming pussyfooting in their own penalty area, where on one occasion a penalty appeal from Hatfield seemed reasonable. We all know of one referee who would have delighted in awarding that one. Tony Burnett saw plenty of action on the right flank whilst Newman Carney seemed a guiding star in midfield. After Hodges chance a corner from Webb was beaten away, and for msot of the remainder of the half we saw Dunstable attempting to get forward, but in an over-elaborate number of square balls, back passes and when the final chance came there was a frustrating finish. Cooper, overdue a goal was fully involved, but lacking the deft touch that often sets him up with a shooting opportunity.
Shane Wood seemed to be having a rough time and a sliced defensive ball allowed a Hatfield shot that was inextricably wide of the target. Wayne Mills gathered a loose ball and his fine cross was aimed at Burnett who shaped for a free header and ought to have found the net rather than put the ball over the bar. With Roache missing a sitter soon after it did seem that this was to be an off-day. The exciting moments of the first half were too few to take our mind off the chilly conditions, and there were a good twenty travelling supporters from Dunstable who were making their feelings known. Sam Lacey in the Hatfield goal was eagerly snatching the ball as it sailed into his area and Roache had, at this stage little opportunity to display his particular skills.
Quite clearly, if this level of play had continued into the second half then Wood’s own goal might well have given the points to Hatfield. The consensus was that Dunstable could only improve and get themselves into gear and break down the Hatfield defensive resistance. Most of us had sought the refuge of the bar above the grandstand and it does offer a balcony that overlooks play, and many took in the second half from there. The Gosling Stadium multi-tasks of course, and there is the banked velodrome as well as the five lane running track surrounding the pitch. It is not ideal and Hatfield are indeed in the throes of obtaining a more suitable venue, in Hatfield itself, which is all the more appealing for them.
I suppose here we add the often quoted view about a ‘game of two halves’ and the assumed managerial roasting of players. It is true that Dunstable scored six without further reply, but to my mind they were not entirely firing on all pistons. The first half saw them uncomfortable on a lumpy pitch and they were ill at ease in the wide open spaces. Upon resumption they turned all this to their advantage and fully exposed an increasingly sluggish Hatfield defence that made the cardinal error on more than one occasion of stopping their efforts anticipating an off-side whistle that was not sounded. They were indeed fortunate when after Roache, correctly playing to the whistle was through on Lacey and he took too long to go round his and this allowed a recovery. A lob from the top scorer seemed goal bound and shave the far post. The rub of the green was a bit lacking again. But on fifty-three minutes and with Dunstable on the roaming attack from the start, they deservedly drew level on fifty-three minutes. A Cooper cross following a quickly taken corner saw Tony Burnett score close to goal.
Dunstable substituted Fabio Bufano with Graeme Buchanan, and following this Cooper intercepted a loose ball but shot wide. A couple of successive moves gave action in the Hatfield penalty area, but the home defenders acted decisively to clear. Then Nathan Frater was signalled to come on for Moses Olaleye. Frater’s return as Roache’s strike partner has been much anticipated since his injury at Leverstock Green. He was soon involved but it was not until the last minute of normal time that he scored. Mills was still active on the right as a willing attacking full back and it was pleasing to see him still turn on that bit of speed that had him once dubbed ‘Billy Whizz’ by the Regiment. A fine cross to Roache saw a neat gathering but an equally neat dispossession and we began to wonder if Roache would fail to score for the first time in seven matches. But Roache has predatory instincts and he did not disappoint. He went on a characteristic run and had a corner as a scant reward, this was beaten away and Welsh was able to get in a cross which Taylor gathered without fuss.
Carney was quietly beginning to impose his authority, augmenting the team as he has since coming from Luton via Arlesey. His Dad was among the bench staff today. Newman had a hand in the goal that gave Dunstable the lead, and it was Shane Wood who headed in the cross to atone for his unfortunate own goal after seventy-two minutes. Note that time – it took Dunstable this long to make their more creative attacking play count – but there was a good deal more to come in terms of goals, with Roache scoring two in a space of seven minutes. First he again took on Lacey and lost out but then he neatly beat the off-side trap and made it 3-1 and then with some adept assistance from Cooper he made it 4-1 on seventy-nine minutes. The contention of the Hatfield defence was meekly surrendered and they were a little fortunate to conceded just two more. Nathan frater scored in the last minute of normal time and the third substitute, Danny Hutchins, complete with designer stubble, scored in the third minute of stoppage time to make it 6-1.
This was Hutchins’ third goal in as many appearances and we indeed hope that he may make his loan from Hemel Hempstead a permanent move. As for that score not being realistic we must look at the capitulation of Hatfield in the closing stages where they looked as inept in defence as they had looked sound in the first half.
We were keen to see how the rivals had performed and Aylesbury United will be delighted with their 4-1 win over Ampthill Town, with many feeling that the promoted side were not beyond getting a favourable result at Bell Close. The Ducks come to Creasey Park next Saturday and our Tuesday opponents, Berkhamsted, boosted their confidence with a fine 3-1 win over AFC. Oxhey Jets also won at home so Dunstable still head the division by one point with a game in hand over Aylesbury United. It is still a close race, and Dunstable extend their unbeaten league run to fourteen matches.
So today it was late but seemingly half in earnest. The second half performance must satisfy in terms of goals scored and it is perhaps unrealistic to expect a gilt-edged performance every game. Who can really complain when your team wins 6-1 away?
Sam Lacey, Dan Hollister, George Saunders, Matt Coran, Jason Beck, captain, Martin Standen, Chris Webb, Jack Coombs, Matt Hodges, Jack Evans, Jay Welsh. Substitutes- Adam Sawyer, Sean Sawyer, Michael Nathan, Rhys Lawrence, Cletus Isiri.
Paul Taylor, Wayne Mills, Daniel Mead, Fabio Bufano, Shane Wood, own goal 11 minutes, goal, 72 minutes, Jonathan Barnett, NEWMAN CARNEY, DTFC man of the match, Tony Burnett, goal 53 minutes, Lee Roache, two goals, 75 and 79 minutes, Moses Olaleye, Jonathan Cooper. Substitutes used- Nathan Frater, goal. 90 minutes, Graeme Buchanan, Daniel Hutchins, goal, 90+3 minutes. Not used – Mark Boyce and Damen Pickering.