Peterborough Northern Star 1-3 Dunstable Town (HT 0-1) Attendance 72
Anyone for Tennyson? Let me start with a little paraphrase of the great bard’s signing off poem,
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me,
And let there be no moaning at the bar
Because we just scored three.
It was enough and perhaps we can feel for Lee Roache that he did not conclude his hat-trick after a blazing run with the finish gliding just in front of goal. This was one of the major differences, that is the more notable creativity in front of goal, even though two goals from the Blues came from set pieces.
We were all intrigued as to how the Blues, fresh from their 11-0 romp over basement side Holmer Green – hardly a testing time for them- would perform against a team from an equivalent league. PNS made the Blues work hard, which was expected, but the visitors were the better team overall.
An encouraging number of Dunstable supporters made the trip to this one, and indeed the small stand at the far end was populated entirely by away fans, and of course there was the usual Regimental presence behind the goal.
Peterborough Northern Star play in the United Counties League Premier Division and occupy a mid-table position, and had won their last match. The heavy and somewhat bumpy pitch was not totally conducive to elegant football, but both teams set to with a good will.
Jonathan Cooper, often enigmatic in play was soon fully involved with a pleasing persistence that later, indirectly led to the first goal. His combative style suited the conditions and his clarity of vision. If there was a promising forward move, then Cooper was normally thereabouts. This was complemented with the robust involvement of Moses Olaleye and the pleasing level of contention from Chris Francis and Tony Burnett. Lee Roache may have looked peripheral at this point but it was a question of not placing all your eggs in one basket. Roache was the only change for the 11-0 destruction of Holmer Green insofar he made a start and Danny Hutchins was on the bench.
There was a whisper of an isolated chance from Star’s Billy Smith but the chances were mostly provided by Dunstable. Cooper’s pass saw Francis shoot wide and a Carney free kick was straight at the keeper.
Nick Davey looked good for progression goalwards but was neatly dispossessed and Roache’s first attempt was an uncharacteristically anaemic shot. PNS wasted a couple of free kicks that just gave Taylor the chance to have a bit of the ball, and an attempt at a shot from Matt Cox was blocked. Olaleye was brought down and Carney’s free kick was cleared by Wasson. Challinor cleared well from the next Dunstable attempt and then a fine interchange from Francis and Burnett had artistry but not completion and a Smith cross was way over the bar at the other end. Francis essayed a run from the flank at the result of a corner and this was a decent in swinging effort from Carney that was partially defended until Cooper contested well to gain possession and then win another corner which brought the first goal after half an hour. It had looked like coming given the free encroachment into the PNS penalty area. Carney’s excellent corner was headed smartly into the net by Lee Roache, greeted by some Regimental chants that were encouraging if largely incomprehensible. Perhaps their ‘awaydaze’ leaves them under the affluence of inkahol. They were extolling the virtues of the ale dispensed by a local hostelry. I am still paying for a pint by instalments at Creasey Park.
Skipper Damen Pickering was drawing praise from those near to me, as well as the acknowledgement that Wayne Mills has yet to have a poor game. The ponderous Junior George may look lackadaisical but he is definitely a presence and indeed a defensive brick wall of a player. Cooper was illustrious looking too casual but this is part of his thought processes – he was indeed inspirational today.
PNS made some attempt to gain an early reply but Taylor met crosses well and would have kept a clean sheet but for George’s concession of a second half penalty from Smith. I would love to know just how many grounds Taylor has played at as the huge batch of ‘vintage’ programmes given to me by Grant Carney has Taylor’s name in most. A Cooper cross was cleared and another from Mills was gathered by Conroy. Roache ran in vain to connect with an over hit pass close to goal, and Pickering’s downward header was no problem for the home keeper. Cooper again was the provider when Burnett raced in to connect but again the keeper was there.
So a one goal lead for Dunstable at the interval and I imagine the PNS manager was exhorting his charges for a more meaningful display from his goal-shy charges. It was, more or less, a satisfactory half from the Blues and most of us expected a ore determined effort from the home side who had only distinguished themselves in defence and midfield. But the second half began with a Dunstable goal attempt and another fine corner form Carney that Conroy gathered well. PNS did get in one or two crosses but Taylor was untroubled. His later try at a route one almost brought a goal from Roache and if it did Tays wold be demanding credit for ‘an assist’.
A Burnett cross was well cut out by Conroy and Francis had another run on goal. He had worked untiringly in the first half and had his fair share of difficult challenges. Cooper had an effort blocked but Dunstable had overcome any threat of resurgence by the home side – for now. The Blues increased their lead on fifty-six minutes after some intricate work from Roache, now a menacing presence, but it was Tony Burnett who fired low and accurately into the bottom corner to double the Duns’ advantage.
This should have been a well-earned entrance into the comfort zone, but it being a cup-tie it stayed true to the unpredictable nature of such games. A well-worked foray by PNS saw Junior George commit a foul that conceded a penalty, on sixty-five minutes. Three minutes earlier the Blues had brought on Nathan Frater for Francis, which was a good signal that they would not be shutting up shop – and we all know they do not really seek to do this. Billy Smith’s penalty was expertly taken with only token resistance from Taylor, who after this found he had a bit more work to do.
Star employed two substitutes, Kerrison and Moore and the team responded to the need to seek the equaliser at this opportune time. But the Dunstable back four were somewhat unyielding with fine work from Mead and Pickering. There was an impassioned appeal for a Dunstable handball in the area that failed to persuade either referee or linesman, but brought a robust criticism from the home bench that needed some attention. Despite home appeals I feel it was more in hope than in anticipation, and after this, the home side slowly lost its way. Dunstable once again assumed the better possession of ball and territory and Roache was indeed unlucky not to score from one typical run. But a Carney fee kick on seventy-five minutes saw Roache head home his second and makes his personal tally twenty-six goals in twenty-five appearances. There is no doubt that had he gone down when harried without mercy in the PNS penalty area he would have been granted a penalty, and this was indeed pointed out to me by the referee afterwards.
Both sides had two bookings, Olaleye for not retreating ten yards from a free-kick and George for the penalty incident. Smith and Wasson were given the yellow cards for PNS following over robust tackles.
Danny Hutchins came on for Tony Burnett with ten minutes to go and the best chance for a fourth for the Blues came following a Roache run and the ball skimmed inn front of goal, clearing the far post. Additional substitute for PNS Scotcher had a late shot that was routine for Taylor. Dunstable had a couple of late corners that Carney again sent in with accuracy but they were cleared. By now the tie was safe and after a silly bit of messing around at the corner flag by the Blues, the whistle went for full time.
For most of us, the Blues had atoned for that loss at Long Buckby at the same stage last season, and they deserved to be in the hat for Monday’s draw for the third round proper. We offer our congratulations to fellow Spartan League clubs, Amersham Town, Ampthill Town, Oxhey Jets and Hertford Town in securing victories in this second round proper. Our win today means a postponement of our league game at home to Haringey Borough on 8 December. But the Blues resume league action at home to Ampthill Town next Saturday, 24 November. We thank all at PNS for their excellent hospitality and I was pleased at the good-natured tone of the banter.
The Regiment were in fine voice and it was good to see so many of our home regulars making the trip, as they are more and more these days. What they are seeing is a pleasing workmanlike Dunstable team that have, to my mind a much better balance than last season, and we do not feel so insecure about them holding a lead. I feel it was vital to avoid extra time and a replay as the schedules are full and the push to remain at the top of the league is vital.
They were made to work for it, but the Blues responded well and the final result is a fair reflection of the endeavours of both teams today.
Scottie, of course, will beat everyone to send texts concerning our next opponents in this competition. We are in the hat on merit and we wait to see just whom we will face and where.
PETERBOROUGH NORTHERN STAR
Nick Conroy, Richard Challinor, Dave Kilby, Rob Stain, Odie Wasson, cautioned, Wayne Morris, Alfa Balde, Matt Cox, Andy Furnell, Nick Davey, Billy Smith, penalty goal, 65 minutes, cautioned.
Substitutes- John Kerrison, Joe Moore, Adam Scotcher.
Paul Taylor, Wayne Mills, Daniel Mead, Damen Pickering, captain, Junior George, cautioned, Newman Carney, Moses Olaleye, cautioned, JONATHAN COOPER, Blues’ man of the match, Chris Francis, Lee Roache, to goals, 30 and 75 minutes, Tony Burnett, goal, 56 minutes.
Substitutes used – Nathan Frater, Daniel Hutchins.
Not used – Graeme Buchanan, Shane Wood and George Brinkman.
Officials – Peter Venables, Attleborough, assisted by Richard Gostling, Dereham, and Brian Glover, Norwich