Dunstable Town 1-3 Aylesbury United (HT 1-0) Attendance 98
We cannot duck out of this one, the fault dear Brutus was not in the stars but in ourselves. There a bit of paraphrased Shakespeare to perhaps cheer up the Regiment. No? I thought not and why is this? Seemples….. it is one thing to play the prettiest football, switching play with ease and building from behind, and a host of other lovely things to see. Even the referee said it was the highest standard of football he had seen at this level. but it is quite another thing to make your superior artistry to be converted to an unassailable lead.
Yet, there was only one goal in it, scored by the inevitable Lee Roache from close range after sixteen minutes. His marker fought shy of a challenge and ironically, at this stage this was, really against the run of play. Aylesbury had started well and looked good for the first few and last few minutes of the half, but, as substitute Chris Francis told me, as he was warming up to come on ‘ we’re playing like we’re three-nil up.’
But had it not been for the masterly introduction of the pace- man Joey Acheampong, Dunstable would have probably seen this one out as a single goal win. But the Ducks hit back with three late goals, one of them a penalty and their supporters relished it. Well and why not. Lee Bircham who almost scored with a close range header praised Taylor’s save and added ‘you played all the football and we did not relish extra-time at all. Your lads were making us tired with chasing.’ This is so, and there will be a lesson learned here.
Aylesbury supporters were still simmering about the 2-2 draw at Creasey Park, where decisions favoured the Duns, but tonight the Ducks received the benefit of the doubt and a succession of late free kicks, and the eagerness of Acheampong and Stacey Field gave them impetus. Danny Jones put away the rebound after Acheampong had hit the post and being late on it seemed that extra time would be needed which neither club wanted.
After the Duns had secured the initiative following Aylesbury’s bright start, they dominated proceedings but only had the one goal to show for it and it was just a little untidy. The cross from the left to Roache saw the familiar pattern of the striker evading only token challenges to score his thirty-second goal in thirty-two appearances. From then on he was a wanted man, a watched man and although he had more efforts on goal and came close, it was harder for him. Indeed the fact that Aylesbury, somewhat curiously, did not shut the Blues down or negate some rather flowing moves. The trouble was that the Blues finished them with modesty rather than telling ambition.
There was also a moment of real dismay when new signing Kyle Lincoln, snaffled from Biggleswade Town, had to go off after barely twenty minutes with a knee ligament injury. Zack Reynolds had hit the side netting for Aylesbury after a promising move. It was noted that Taylor was performing routinely and reliably. His despairing attempts at the need to keep the ball from the net right at the end must have been dispiriting, particularly that sweet lob from Stacey Field.
Dunstable, it must be said were more or less at full strength, since injury precluded the appearance of some regulars. There was the inclusion of a reserve player, Chris Vardy, who was on the bench. It was pleasant to see the wide ranging play of Mead and Mills, their confidence at playing across the penalty area. But for a short while they and the rest of the defence had been a little pegged back. Roache had a chance to set Cooper up but it needed a bit more weight to reach the midfielder. Corners were too long or two short, free kicks from both sides were not particularly bright.
The home side, having wrestled their way into the lead did not seem in any real danger of losing it. But we needed as on one or two occasions, more matter and less art. What about a good old fashioned cross to be volleyed beyond Sillitoe? What about Cooper trying to get one from range? There was plenty of crafty preparatory play. After Hutchins had replaced Lincoln, the first named set about some sharp play yet this will rank as one of his more mediocre games, but since his standard is usually high that might seem a little churlish.
Yet such was the good standard of play from Dunstable it seemed erelong they would play round or through Aylesbury but I for one would have liked a second goal, since that would have made a difference to Aylesbury’s overall approach. I was impressed by the defending of Fritz Mulholland and Lee Bircham. Steve Hatch also got the better of Roache in one move from the Blues – but it did seem that the striker would have more opportunities when he would add to his impressive tally.
His next meaningful shot took two deflections for a corner – fired in by Carney – Hewitt went up but did not reach the ball. There was some urgency from Dunstable, with a neat one two between Hutchins and Roache but the defence blocked well. It was all just not as good as it needed to be. I was also perturbed with a short period where discipline was lacking. Frater was booked as were Hewitt and Carney. Austin and Wood were booked for the Ducks. Frater had needlessly blocked a free kick and I thought back to the time where he had done the same thing and had a single match booking – thus missing the Whitley Bay game.
Taylor got a hand to an Aylesbury effort that was bound under the bar. They had another free kick which was directed by Bircham into the area where there was an infringement by Mulholland. Aylesbury thus finished the half with a bit of reassertion and after the break we noticed that Roache was trailed relentlessly. But the Duns had options with the entrance of Chris Francis when Cooper was taken off. Cooper had been tricky in midfield but he also had players snapping at his heels.
Francis, like Roache tried storming through on occasion, and the forward passes encouraged this. There was a falling off of chances for the visitors who at times seemed to tire chasing the many passing moves, but we still needed the undeniable touch in front of goal. Roache tried a neat flick on from the left wing possession but he could not control the return pass.
Pickering was the subject of controversy when he went down heavily after a late challenge from Louis Austin. It looked a lot worse than it was and Pickering’s recovery was instantaneous. Roache kept getting in to the area and I began to think of the law of averages. Hutchins set up Roache, or thought he did with a long pass along the ground but this did not deceive Sillitoe. Taylor also anticipated moved with good calling and prompt intervention. It seemed both sides were trying but were almost expecting a negative finish to a move. Cooper had one cross well beaten away and there was a rash challenge from Cooper. The midfielder almost got through on the next foray with Roache in attendance but the Duck’ defence was unyielding.
Frater may have seemed have seemed ponderous but he was working hard at trying to wrest even the smallest advantage. Carney sent in a free kick which was only just wide. That bit of directness was welcome. Then there was a period of Dunstable seeming to concede a free kick through sheer petulance. This as centrally outside the area and it was an anti-climax.
Carney sent in a free kick from near the corner flag and it was also far too long. Following shots were wide and this was causing some concern given the single goal lead. But at that time the Ducks did not really seem that they would equalise. The manner in which they did was for them exhilarating and owed so much to the introduction of Joey Acheampong whose fresh legs were immediate in the manner he could get by the tiring Dunstable defence.
Conceding fee kicks also made the Blues culpable, even if so far, set pieces had not been notable. Acheampong revelled in his freedom and his fine shot struck the foot of the nearside post and full-back Danny Jones delighted himself and Ducks’ supporters by slotting home the rebound. One cannot blame Taylor – he did not conceded the free kick. There were just a few minutes to go and both sides were quietly hoping for the late winner. Bircham’s header was close and he paid tribute to Taylor afterwards.
This late came from Stacey Field from a lob that had Taylor clutching at air, and in the last minute Stacey Field rattled in an undisputed penalty and the Ducks were avenged for both the recent draw and the loss at Bell Close.
So, Dunstable endured their third loss in cup games this season and will be looking to maintain their unbeaten status when Biggleswade United come calling on Saturday 22 December. Then there is the small matter of the great Dunstable Derby four days after Christmas.
One Aylesbury official said to me ‘ not sure we deserved that’ and I can guess his unspoken thoughts after that, for this was a prestigious win over their promotion rivals. One little moment summed the game up for me. Carney had shaped to shoot and the ball was neatly taken off his foot. That is what seemed to happen to the Blues tonight.
Paul Taylor, Wayne Mills, DANNY MEAD, Blues M.o.m, Damen Pickering, Dan Hewitt, cautioned, Moses Olayeye, Newman Carney, cautioned Jonathan Cooper, Lee Roache, goal 16 minutes, Nathan Frater, cautioned, Luke Lincoln.
Substitutes used – Chris Francis, Daniel Hutchins.
Not used – George Brinkman, Chris Vardy.
Jack Sillitoe, Lee Bircham, Danny Jones, goal, 85 minutes, John ‘Fritz’ Mulholland, Steve Hatch, Ben Baines, Zack Reynolds, Louis Austin, cautioned, Stacey Field, two goals, 88, penalty, 90, Paul Edgeworth.
Substitute – Joey Acheampong,
Tony Joyce, Russell Clark, Ben Butler, Matt Timberlake GK
Referee – Luigi Lungarella assisted by Ray Ward and Dave Clements.