Dunstable Town 2-0 Aylesbury United (HT 0-0) Attendance 159
First of all this was a fine game of football between the teams that occupy first and second place. Secondly it can be admitted that the three points ought to have been Aylesbury’s who led 2-0 with barely ten minutes to go. There were some highly controversial moments that raised the blood pressure of the visiting supporters in particular over what they interpret as wrongful decisions by the officials. Whilst I can understand and to a degree commiserate with their incandescent state at the end of the game, I mention that I had the company of a visiting referee from our league that, being totally impartial, was able to explain the major decisions of the referee. One of them, which had a hand in improving my understanding, was the myth of the last man, which, according to the assessor and the guest referee is the province of television reporters whose knowledge of the game may need some revision. I was also standing with a senior Aylesbury official and whilst we may have had some minor disagreements, we were in accord for many a decision made – being baffled on occasions, incredulous on others but this was in contrast to the cool observation of the guest referee who mentioned angles, position as well as enlightening us on some points.
But to reflect on the last part of the game – Aylesbury were deservedly 2-0 up and ought to have won. They will not argue with Chris Francis’ apparent consolatory goal on eighty minutes but they will still be contesting the penalty awarded to Dunstable in what I made the second minute of stoppage time.
More to the point from a Dunstable view, this was the second game, and at home where the Blues have been relatively fortunate to come away with points. Berko battled like Trojans and were denied a draw when Pickering netted with two minutes to go, and in the second half of this match, Aylesbury were indeed a superior team.
When your form is currently below par you take what you can and this embraces what people call luck or the rub of the green, or more realistically the benefit of some vital decisions. I do not believe there is a referee in this or other leagues who gets up on the day of the match deciding he will favour a particular team. I wil also point out that probably the most important decision was when the referee over ruled himself following the observations of an assistant he consulted. That does take a bit of guts and also a degree of integrity. The problem is also that as a home reporter the remarks I make will perhaps be seen as biased or blinkered. What I will say is that the game was officiated by three officials and not just a referee.
It is also watched by many spectators who often feel they have greater insight than all officials combined and will not reflect on the game with any increase in rationality. Aylesbury should have won despite the controversial decisions, and there will be a game in future where they will scramble a point and feel fortunate but will not be over loud in their exhortations that such and such an official should be lynched. The fact is too that for the second season in succession Dunstable scrambled a late draw and in stoppage time as well. That rankles with some and emotionally I understand it. I have been there. But, at the risk of repeating a line from an earlier report, to hold on to resentment is like taking poison yourself and hoping the other fellow gets ill.
It is as well to remember that the first half saw both teams negate attempts at successful strikes and there were not too many chances at all. Many of those went wide as well, which gave little scope for the goal keeping heroics we associate with Paul Taylor and the very able and respected Jack Sillitoe. When Taylor was beaten he was outwitted, and Sillitoe could do little to prevent Francis scoring what seemed a consolatory goal. He had no chance with Newman Carney’s penalty that ensured a sharing of the points by Dunstable.
There were those supporters on both sides who agreed that the Dunstable penalty was, one not a foul and two, outside the area in any case. It is not a cop out by me but since I was at the turnstile end I could not possibly judge on both issues. My emotional self was delighted that we had a penalty, of course and I was mightily glad of the point. When I spoke to the officials I was assured that there was a foul and it was inside the area. I can see no incentive for them to ‘cheat’. Yes, a referee or an assistant may have a bad game and make erroneous decisions but the assessor present upheld the view that the penalty was legitimate.
Taylor made an important save in the first half and when his palmed parry went to Baines, this normally accurate striker completely miscued. Baines, Austin and Field were a veritable handful, whereas the Blues danger man Roache was metaphorically bound in chains and was eventually substituted after a rib injury completed his inauspicious afternoon. A problem was that his replacement, Frater, is not fully fit and his foot injury has taken away his edge. Dunstable were also without the ferociously combative Olalaye and Wood, whose devout pledge to duty would have been gladly received by the home faithful.
When players managed to break free of immediate challenge there were some moves that had fluidity, but were ultimately disappointing. Burnett displayed his admirable tenacity but his freedom to cross lapsed into mediocrity, whereas Cooper could win and then evade challenges only to plonk the pass at an opponent’s feet. Mills anticipated some moves and correctly called for the reverse pass to optimise the angle of the cross, but these were soundly beaten away. Aylesbury had done their homework and it was clear they sought opportunities to break swiftly and more than once they stretched the Dunstable back four. But despite the awareness of Hammond and the authority of Jack Wood, this match became what in chess would be called a complicated middle-game where errors even slight would yield advantage.
No-one was voicing complaints at the end of the first half; it had been even, closely and fairly contested and mutual respect was in evidence. For me it was too close to the Berko game with the Blues all too successfully closed down and their maverick artistry curtailed. I did hear opinions both green (orange today!) and blue tentatively expressing the view that they ‘would take a point at this stage’. Whenever I hear that I feel it betrays a degree of anxiety about your own team.
We have seen in recent games, for example Hatfield (who lost 1-6 to AFC today), where the Dunstable second half performance was almost immeasurably better and no-one could have lived with them. I hoped for this today but rationally I could not see Aylesbury capitulating whatsoever. They were fired up for this and had played both Ampthill and Oxhey Jets recently, so, what the hell, they may as well take on the league leaders as well, while they are at it.
Many spectators will remember that at this stage in the corresponding fixture at Bell Close, the Ducks were one up and deservedly so. Dunstable took the second half by storm and were worthy winners. Yet that is history and in my view the Blues are in a bit of a blip. Hatfield stood back and took their punishment, whereas Berko and the Ducks stood their ground and found some vulnerability to exploit. And these were simply preventing the Blues to play their normal expressive game where they can play up to the individual skills of Roache, Cooper and company.
Far from being of the view that they were half way to an away point, the Ducks delivered from the start and Stacey Field in particular was one player who looked as if he could make the final difference. With just eight minutes gone in the second period, Field was able cheekily to flick in a low cross that Taylor seemed to think was his if not by right but by definition. Someone – a Ducks’ fan said ‘fluky’. But it was just a fine piece of anticipation. With a goal being scored it was considered that the game would open up, which it did not in any really noticeable manner. What was apparent was that Dunstable struggled to maintain possession and could not match eagerness with precision. Aylesbury were in fact, running the show and they doubled their advantage seven minutes later when a more conventional cross was put beyond Taylor by Steve Hatch. An hour gone meant that it posed Dunstable much greater problems as they did not seem as if they would score and Roache was substituted. Francis and Brinkman were also put into the fray as Darren Croft sought some compensation.
There was a decent header from Burnett that cleared the bar but it meant that chances could be procured with persistence and this is what Dunstable did as the Ducks eased to the point of trying to hit the Blues on the break, which is what they did on some notable occasions, and some resulted in the controversy that will keep this game as a talking point. Taylor was anticipating Aylesbury crosses and he needed a bit of a boost since he was not at all happy at the two chances he conceded. He tried a couple of route ones, the anger in his left boot, but this tactic cut no ice. Dunstable were still constructing hopeful moves and it seemed to me I would be reporting their first league defeat and I had lots of time to come up with excuses – had I wished.
Then, from an Aylesbury break there was a loud and confident appeal for a penalty by Aylesbury with the referee immediately agreeing. He did not see the assistant referee waving his flag in the manner that suggests something quite serious. Aylesbury players were grouping for the penalty which would, if converted, give an unassailable lead and what is more would be rubbing our noses in it eh what?
Dunstable players were surrounding the referee in time honoured manner and were being brushed away in the same tradition. But there was something about the collective manner of the appeal that made referee Peter Smith concede to their earnest request to consult the ‘lino’, John Chidley. Well, a brief exchange was enough for Mr Smith to overrule himself and award a direct free kick and book Graeme Buchanan, who told me he thought he ‘would have walked’. But guest referee Luigi Lungarella explained to me that the last man rule is a myth as the whole decision is based on whether the player had a clear goal-scoring opportunity. Ducks fans would say yes but the referee did not consider this the case, which is why Buchanan was only given a yellow card.
Then, stap me vitals, there was another appeal within what seemed seconds but was minutes later. Austin was through, Austin would make it 3-0 but Austin was scythed to the bone, from his reaction and surely ref this one is a penalty? Or was he just clipped, or was there any real contact?
Confusion? Yes, and forsooth, not only was the penalty appeal robustly dismissed, but Austin received a yellow card for simulation. My Aylesbury official chortled in ironic disbelief and then told me that it would probably end 2-2 now. I should have asked for his lottery numbers, or at least an explanation of how you do Euromillions.
I will admit I thought it was a penalty, but as I was told, my angle of view was not the best. But I said, this Dunstable team today does not look like scoring. I probably said that as penance for getting away with the ‘def pen’ incident, because substitute Chris Francis did it again – he loped forward in possession and put the ball past the hitherto unerring Sillitoe at the far post. Eighty minutes – yep, a probable consolation goal and some restoration of pride. We can take it on the chin….as we take someone on their forum calling us Dumpstable, (oh how we laughed).
A willing show by the Blues who got forward with frustrating lack of accuracy and Aylesbury strikers lurking for the kill like a hunter submarine, a brave effort you fellows, the record has to go some time and you cannot win them all…….
Well shiver my ageing timbers; there we were in stoppage time and still plugging away when the whistle goes for what I presumed was a free kick that would clip the fence in proceeding to the training ground, but it was a penalty. It was hotly disputed of course and the execrations of Ducks’ supporters would not only have made a nun blush bit a soldier feel he is pious for only swearing when under duress. We at the turnstile end, a long way from the heat of the action, were incredulous. But I confess my own piece of simulation here as my inner demon was yelling get in there and my conscience was pinned down for the duration. The cavalry had arrived, just as we had run out of ammo.
There are many who said no penalty many who said no foul but the referee was adamant and Newman Carney did what is old Dad had done so many times, got a point for Dunstable. I see no point in debating the issue until I am Blue or Green (or Orange) in the face.
The records will show that in head to heads Aylesbury and Dunstable have five wins each with four draws and a goal tally of 30-30. That is ineradicable and even if you are still seething you will have to move on from here and remember that one day you too will obtain a fortuitous point…..and will you be complaining about the referee in that case….I do not think so.
Paul Taylor, Wayne Mills, Daniel Mead, Fabio Bufano, cautioned, Graeme Buchanan, captain, cautioned, Newman Carney, penalty goal, 90+2, Damen Pickering, Jonathan Barnett, Lee Roache, Tony Burnett, Jonathan Cooper.
Substitutes used – Nathan Frater, Tony Francis, goal 80 minutes, George Brinkman. Not used – Mark Boyce.
Jack Sillitoe, Greg Williams, Zack Reynolds, Jack wood, captain, John Mulholland, Steve Hatch, goal, 60 minutes, Ben Baines, Ben Hammond, cautioned, Louis Austin, cautioned, Stacey Field, goal, 53 minutes, Ben Butler.
Substitutes- Lee Bircham, Paul Edgeworth, Joey Acheampong, Tony Joyce and Matt Timberlake.
Officials- referee Peter Smith, London, assisted by Colin Sinden, Sandy and John Chidley, Flitwick.