It may be apocryphal but it is widely believed that when a team is awarded The Team of The Month it is a poisoned chalice. Well, Dunstable were awarded this accolade, and promptly suffered their worst defeat of the season, and it is the worst defeat since the 4-1 reverse at Chippenham in November last year. There are no excuses, as, having equalised in the first half, the team failed to emerge after the interval (in a metaphorical sense) and conceded four goals, and two of those within the first five minutes after play had resumed. The Team of the month gave way to the Team of The Night.
It represents a handsome victory for the Generals who, perhaps statistically, were due a win over Dunstable, whose recent results against their opponents have been excellent, including a league double and twice eliminating the hosts from the FA Cup. That is history and tonight there was a bit of mystery as to how the visitors can play so well in the first half only to throw in the towel in a lamentable second half performance. Chesham were good in the second half but Dunstable somehow conspired to make them look excellent after their indifferent form of late.
Dunstable were boosted by the return of Connor Calcutt, who came on as a substitute in the second half when all was in disarray, but they were without Gary Wharton. Danny Talbot, a former favourite at Chesham, described by one home fan as a legend, but pronouncing it a ‘leg end’ did have the satisfaction of scoring a fine goal against his old club, but that was as good as it got. As well as that it might have been six when Kelvin Bossman, with no-one to beat had the entire goal, undefended, before him and saw his finish hit the post. This was not the first time that a General had control of the field so to speak, with no defender in sight. That spectre of a near sixth goal brought us uncomfortably closer to the notorious 8-1 defeat some years ago, where the chant of ‘you’re just a pub team near Luton’ was our send off from the ground – in my case on a tandem where I was undergoing a sponsored bicycle ride for the club.
Dunstable’s recent run of form was impressive but had among its victories some very close encounters and, to an extent the rub of the green. Tonight saw the end of that run but in a most disappointing manner. It is one thing to lose narrowly and nobly but it is quite another to be on the wrong end of a thrashing. The fault lay with uncharacteristic defending that was naïve, and it is fair to say that Jamie Head did not have the best of nights in goal. He has impressed since his return but he shares the nightmare with the rest of the team, where the only bit of real unity after the dismal second half was the consolatory huddle after the final whistle.
Once again corners were of vital importance tonight – but not this time for Dunstable, who have scored a number of goals from this set-piece and often without another player touching the cross. Chesham showed their ability to force a number of corners and exposing a vulnerability in their opponents. Ryan Blake sent in the first which James Kaloczi routinely headed away in an imperious manner. Dunstable, with Lee Roache again leading the attack were adept at getting forward and Roache’s early effort did rebound of the post. Talbot cleared the next corner from Chesham – but Dunstable’s wasting of a free-kick did not augur well.
Wales’ cross to Talbot looked inviting but was adequately defended and the game had settled down to what one may describe as good half chances at both ends with neither team in the ascendancy. Given Dunstable’s tendency to start a little ponderously, erring on the side of caution, we were not too worried – since they have, of late, absorbed what is thrown their way and then play themselves into as gradual dominance and marked by precise defending.
The Generals, eager to revitalise their form went a goal ahead after twenty-six minutes and yes, it came following a corner. They had already threatened on the flanks and Ryan Blake’s cross seemed to be flapped into the net by Jamie Head – although someone later said that Howard Hall might have got the fatal touch. The announcer merely said ‘own goal.’ The league web site confirmed that it was Head who was ‘credited’ as the scorer. So, if lethal corners have been a recent Dunstable speciality their thus received a bit of their own medicine.
The game had hitherto been of even exchanges and when, two minutes later Talbot scored the equaliser after excellent assistance from David Keenleyside, we brushed aside our perturbations at going behind. It was a smart move and from stylish play we have become accustomed to. Keenleyside was notable – he was putting together runs and clean passes and Dunstable looked settled enough to go on to seek the lead for the first time. But Good work from Generals’ skipper Bruce Wilson and some bullish stuff from Ryan Blake began to suggest otherwise and, yes, more corners were conceded. A couple of ill-advised challenges led to cautions for no fewer than four Chesham players, and one for Steve Wales, where for some unsavoury moments reason and her icy train seemed to stand still.
The closest Chesham came to regaining the lead was a notable shot after evasive play from Dave Pearce whose effort was only just wide. For Dunstable there was a thoughtful lob from Keenleyside and goal- hungry Lee Roache was unable to reach the ball before goalie Shane Gore. We had a couple of extra minutes owing to Watkins and Talbot needing treatment, but I imagine that both sets of supporters were reasonably satisfied with the interval score and it looked set for an edgy and competitive second half.
Every game, logically is a game of two halves, but the cliché was indeed applicable as the spectre of yesteryear came to haunt Dunstable in an inexplicable capitulation – and that began almost immediately, as whatever Andy Leese, the Generals’ manager had suggested, or more than likely demanded, came to pass in a most remarkable manner. It was as if Dunstable had emerged in the belief that the full time of the interval had not expired and by the forty-ninth minute the hosts had banged in two goals.
The first of these again came from a corner and was netted by full-back joe Gater and two minutes later Curtis Ujah made it 3-1 after he was allowed too much freedom in the penalty box. Dunstable did respond with a hopeful forward ball that presented a half chance but was well defended. If the Dunstable ship was sinking, the fifty-second minute blasted a larger hole in the fragile hull when Matt Taylor easily beat the stretched defence and netted gleefully. There was a flicker of hope when Howard Hall’s assistance enabled a shot from Talbot which was on target but well held by Gore.
Watkins had a deflected lob that did not trouble gore and Roache tried manfully to make the most of the diminishing service up front. Chesham were now very much the superior in movement and ideas and a near disastrous clearance from Head was only granted respite by an equally poor finish. Dunstable struggled for possession and clean passing and never really looked like gaining a further compensation of a goal. Bossman, as I have said ought to have made it six and his miss still seems inexplicable as he really had so much time he could have just strolled forward and waved to the supporters before tapping home. As it was the last goal came in the eighty-ninth minute with Ryan Blake the scorer.
Here I can add that before that Calcutt hit the post – but must add that this was after the referee had blown for off-side. Roache did have another chance -a deflection but it was easy for Gore. As for me, I would have gladly taken a point at half time rather than witness that startling decline.
Analysis is a little mystifying – since the visitors had put in a good shift in the first half – and looked like the Dunstable we have seen claw their way to third in the table – a spot they retain after other results tonight – but they will not retain this in the future if they give another subdued second half performance like tonight’s. No doubt the debriefing revealed some honest observations and a resolution to avoid a similar drubbing in future games.
Chesham took their opportunities well and they are thus revitalised after their long and successful campaigns in both the FA Cup and FA Trophy where they represented the Southern League with distinction and gained some very useful monetary reward in doing so. Their league form has hitherto not been too good but this scalp tonight will boost them considerably.
For those whose loyalty is coupled with optimism, the coach leaves for Frome Town at nine-thirty in the morning from Creasey Park on Saturday (6 February) and this is a team that rallied against Dunstable at Creasey Park to lose by the odd goal in five. At Frome last season, , as I recall, Dunstable won by the only goal of the game, scored by Charlie Henry. My point is that this game will not be an easy one but it must be one where the full focus is restored, and I am sure it will. Perhaps the severe jolt of tonight will send the right message to players – a message that no doubt started with the consolatory huddle as the Generals marched off with their heads held high.
Shane Gore, Joe Gater, GOAL, 47 minutes, Toby Little, George Fenton, Curtis Ujah, cautioned, GOAL, 49 minutes, Adam Martin, (Stephan Hamilton-Forbes), Dave Pearce, Matt Taylor, cautioned, GOAL, 52 minutes, man of the match, (Barry Hales), Ryan Blake, GOAL, 89 minutes, Kelvin Bossman, cautioned, Bruce Wilson, captain, cautioned, (Ashley Smith), Other substitutes- Ben Ford and Nick Beasant.
Jamie Head, OWN GOAL, 26 minutes, Zack Reynolds, Howard Hall (Luke Pennell), Danny Talbot, GOAL, 28 minutes, (Chris Vardy), James Kaloczi, captain, Adam Pepera, Adam Watkins, Steve Wales, cautioned, Lee Roache, Steven Gregory, David Keenleyside, (Connor Calcutt), Other substitute – Tony Fontenelle.
Referee – C Read assisted by L Nunes and M Hayden, and they had sound games.