Dunstable Town 1-1 Ampthill Town (HT 0-0) Att 80
Inclement weather and hesitant finishing cost the Duns two points today, but there was no denying the spirited challenge from the Amps who had lost 3-2 at home to their hosts today at the beginning of the season. In that game, the newly promoted side showed that they had a degree of pedigree and were not promoted to make up the numbers.
A hard game was predicted and this was realised, and the visiting defence routinely intercepted or headed clear as Dunstable were short of the attacking rhythm that has characterised recent matches. Ampthill were buoyed by their recent win in the Vase and since they reached the fourth round last season it was not a great surprise. They would have been aware that they came close to defeating the Blues at Woburn Park and having taken a second-half lead fancied themselves for the shock result of the day.
Had they been awarded the penalty they were convinced was ‘stonewall’ they might have done, except there was, really a case for lecturing McKenzie for an over inflated sense of the dramatic. More of this anon. The most startling moment of the day so far was the appearance of the Ampthill goalkeeper in all pink. We bought Taylor a pink jersey once and he threatened to biff someone. But good luck to the fellow, it was a bit of extra colour on a dull and rainy day.
Dunstable began fairly well, with Mills putting in a cross that was scooped away for a corner. This short one went out for a second corner that was headed for a mere goal kick. Mead and Carney combined in an early move to no great effect but it was good to see Cooper reprising his midfield capability. Burnett’s cross was among a number robustly headed away. In fact crosses were often dealt with so comprehensively the Blues needed to resort to encroaching into the penalty area in possession that they then conspired to lose, or finished far too meekly.
But clear cut chances for either side were limited, despite the probability that there would be a lot of slipping and sliding on the drenched pitch. Other crosses were either over hit or far too close to Tom Kennard who did not put a foot wrong today. Play was tight in all areas. After a wasted free kick from Ampthill Roache won a corner, taken by Carney to the near post, that was cleared. Roache returned the ball that was cleared. Mead dinked a pass forward that Cooper tried to turn to advantage but he was pushed wide. Olaleye and Mills exchanged passes going forward but an off-side was the end of that foray.
Gary Ridgeway sought and found the lively McKenzie in an Ampthill counter that was cleared. Cooper was dispossessed for another Ampthill move in a promising position but the pass was cut out. Cooper was tripped going forward, but the free kick was of negligible worth.
Michael Lyon looked as if he was going to make the most of his interception but this was knocked away again. There was a blocked shot from Olaleye for a corner and Hutchins fired straight at the keeper. Dunstable had a free kick following another foul on Cooper, taken by Mills but it evaded all for a goal-kick. Mead’s important cut out reached Cooper in midfield, who sent it wide to Hutchins but it was well anticipated by Kennard. A Mead handball conceded a free-kick to Ampthill that was again disappointing from the visitors. Roache had a blocked shot and Mead’s cross joined the number of those headed away.
Carney’s free kick was a good one but had too much pace for proper connection. Burnett turned well to pass to Mills, who put it to Cooper and Roache before being shrugged off sent it to Cooper whose shot was well saved. Cooper’s next pass to Roache saw the striker dispossessed at the moment of shooting, a good piece of defending that, but Burnett’s effort was cleared well from the line. From gaining possession Ampthill were adept at the counter, a good example being that from Ridgeway to McKenzie but the effort was well defended. Olaleye sent Roache on a run but Kennard again anticipated well. But before we knew it, twenty-five minutes had gone with no really golden opportunities for either side. Roache tried to get in from the right but four players around him saw an inevitable dispossession. Olaleye had a shot easily cleared and Mills put it back via Taylor who had a poor kick out giving the Amps a chance foiled by Pickering, who then went on to block another chance.
If Dunstable were edging the attacking play they met stern defence but needed to be alert themselves to the repeated counter play. A goal would have indeed opened things up. Warren Garcia had a blocked shot on the half hour mark. Lee Coulter aimed a cross at Lester but Taylor intervened smartly.
A cross for Garcia was beaten away and this led swiftly to a shot from Burnett that went for a Carney corner. It was a far post job beaten away to Hutchins but there was an off-side. Pickering climbed all over a player to concede a free kick to Ampthill. It was a good one to McKenzie but he could make nothing of it. Shane Wood, back in a centre half role was vital and perceptive. Junior George was injured and Graeme Buchanan was unavailable today. McKenzie was getting more of the ball and needed close watching, as he threatened to get the better of his marker more than once.
Cooper was brought down with a sliding tackle and in the end both he and Murphy of the Amps were booked. It took quite a time to sort this out with some concentrated dialogue from the referee and one of his assistants. We were less than ten minutes to the interval. The free kick was an anti-climax. It was a good game yet a tad frustrating. Burnett;s header was just wide in another go, but Amphill’s immediate counter brought the controversial penalty appeal incident. I was well placed to see the incident, and that was vital as I can understand that from the bench it would have looked entirely different. Taylor and McKenzie contested a ball within the area and Taylor, focused on the ball and not the man (as he should be I suppose) effected a clearance and there was contact with McKenzie but Taylor made full contact with the ball and McKenzie did as most players would do, made the most of the challenge and called foul. The Amps' bench were enraged and made their feelings known in language painful and free. McKenzie squared up to Taylor (not the wisest thing to do, but Taylor, sensibly did not react in like manner.) Conceivably there are referees who would have made the penalty award but the referee told me later that he felt Taylor went for the ball and not the man and his assistant agreed. The Amps were far from convinced and there was another period of shall we say a heated exchange before we got going again. Taylor went so far as to ask why McKenzie was not ‘booked for diving’ but that was a little too optimistic, but Taylor did feel the player was looking for the spot kick. Again I will repeat that my position was one where I could see exactly what happened and I was not surprised that the appeal was turned down.
A free kick from Ampthill was then defended supremely by Wayne Mills but the Amps were still simmering in disbelief. It was of course the big talking point during the interval with predictable comments depending whether you were of a blue or yellow persuasion. Roche was fouled in possession but again there was a wayward free-kick, resulting in an off-side and not the corner that was claimed by the Blues.
Without doubt this was a tricky game for the Blues and already it looked like a solitary goal would be the probable outcome. Dunstable were now kicking towards the covered end and the Regiment were glad of the cover from the persistent rain. After the resumption, Dunstable had a golden moment in which to score. They had wheedled their way into the box and a close cross saw three players almost asking one another to produce the final tap – which was all that was needed, but such dithering merely meant a hoofed clearance. They should have scored and they needed to score as such inviting chances were notably absent overall.
They soon regretted this miss as the visitors it was who opened the scoring after a fine free kick from the right after fifty-six minutes. It was perhaps the best free kick of the game and it was notable that a goal would come from a set piece. Another referee, Bob Trinder was peering over the fence and playfully teasing me over Dunstable’s apparent inability to score. I told his firmly that if he did not behave I would chuck him IN! He stayed outside as he was exercising his dog, apparently. His game at Barton rovers had been postponed.
But it was a well taken goal from the visitors and gave the Blues a lot extra to do, but there was a licker of a thought that the nineteen game unbeaten run would fall. The scorer of the goal was Christian Lester with a faultless header, and the Amps celebrated with gusto. It had been a threat as they had been getting more into the game in terms of attacking play and Dunstable looked a little nonplussed with the failure of their own attacks so far.
Hutchins was replaced by Francis, a good move since Francis has a habit of scoring vital goals and his omission from the starting eleven raised an eyebrow or two given his recent form. Francis also has that persistence on the ball that could make a difference. A quality of Dunstable’s play is their resilience and positive response from going behind – as indeed they did at Woburn Road, and it was needed today. They responded just six minutes later and if the Dunstable defence were lethargic from the free kick that led to their conceding, so were Ampthill for the equaliser.
Mills was again having a notable game, as was Mead, in their attacking full-back roles, but Francis was also suggesting he would storm through erelong. A Mills cross was headed away by skipper Goodman. Francis, onside broke into the box but his cross was far too strong for connection. Play was patient from Dunstable, electing to build from the back and not hoof it hopefully. Carney’ s free kick wide on the right saw Roache unmarked and the top scorer notched his twenty-seventh goal with a simple header at the far post. Again Carney’ accuracy was pivotal.
Less than half an hour remained and it was difficult to predict, since both sides manfully constructed chances – the Amps firing well from range and just clearing the bar on two occasions and Dunstable seeking to score from within the penalty area. Defending was precise, despite some slipping and sliding. Cooper was still magical in midfield, and Hutchins made way for Brinkman. Cooper’s next shot was lacklustre but importantly the Blues were getting forward looking for the lead- yet susceptible to the break. Burnett, Francis and Mills had a good combination, but the shot hit the goalkeeper squarely in the chest.
Taylor gathered the next attempt from the Amps and matters were still very lively. Off the pitch as well, with two visiting referees, Tom Ratherham and Bob ‘Tommy’ Trinder acting as ball boys, with Bob yelling ‘you lucky people’ to have refs helping out in this unusual way. Roache, attempting to shoot was dispossessed. A fine ball to Lee Coulter saw Mills again intervene and Roache, avoiding an off-side won a corner. Pickering sent the ball just over the bar. It was tense. Cooper went forward and Roache, receiving the pass was dispossessed. An Ampthill corner deceived everyone and must be seen as another chance wasted at this stage. Roache was gaining more of the ball but was pounced upon – a wise precaution, since it was his two goals that won it for the Duns at Woburn Road.
Ampthill put another over the bar and no-one could rule out a late winner. It was not to be but it was close as the goal seeking activity continued right to the end. Chris Francis had a blocked shot, Mead crossed again, Francis turned well, finding Brinkman but a free kick for the Amps was the result. Roache tried one on his own and his short cross was cleared.
The late flurry from the Blues was promising, with Cooper and Mills being outstanding. A Wood long throw was dealt with, and Frater came on for Roache for the last five minutes. Olaleye went forward seeking Francis but found Cooper instead, to no avail. A Dunstable corner was defended, yet still we hoped to nick it. Wood’s throw in was again headed clear, but was sliced away nervously when it descended. Ampthill had a late free kick that found no-one, and Burnett won one more corner. Would they do it? No, Coulter cleared well. Cooper tried to thread it through but could not evade the challenge. It was the last bit of action and an equitable draw was the result with, I suspect Ampthill being more pleased with the result. They had played well and deserved what they went away with. The claim for the penalty will be seen by them as robbing them of the chance to get a more positive result against the still unbeaten Dunstable, and the Blues really ought to have popped in that chance right at the start of the second half.
Aylesbury beat poor old Holmer Green 7-0 to reduce Dunstable’s lead at the top, but there were many games postponed today, owing to the rain.
On Tuesday Dunstable entertain Biggleswade United in the challenge trophy before travelling to Hertford United on the Saturday for their next league match. Given the conditions today this was a good match and an absorbing one to watch.
Paul Taylor, Wayne Mills, Daniel Mead, Damen Pickering, captain, Shane Wood, Newman Carney, Moses Olaleye, Daniel Hutchins, Lee Roache, goal, 62 minutes, Tony Burnett, JONATHAN COOPER, Blues man of the match, cautioned.
Subsitutes used – Chris Francis, George Brinkman and Nathan Frater. Not used – Mark Boyce and Jonathan Barnett.
Tom Kennard, Paul Ericson, Gary Ridgeway, Robbie Goodman, captain, David Murphy, cautioned, Paul Lyon,Michael Lyon, Warren Garcia, Christian Lester, goal, 56 minutes, Michael McKenzie, Lee Coulter.
Substitutes- Kyle Durcan, Alex Stoyles, Stephane Kemoagna, Gary Clinn, Jamie Bewick GK.
Referee – Wayne Cartmel, Luton, assisted by Tony Weight and Darren Knox, both from Henlow.