BLANK VERSE IN SHAKESPEARE’S COUNTY
Dunstable Town made their first ever visit to Stratford Town whose impressive stadium is actually in Tiddington, and, since we were in Shakespeare’s county I may paraphrase the bard insofar as this ground has’ a nimble seat and sweetly recommends itself unto our gentle senses’.
With a bit more thought and proper consultation, Creasey Park could have been like this – and what added to its strength was the co-ordination of the sizeable staff whose organisation and hospitality was impeccable.
Another bonus was the sunshine and, for me at least, a most pleasant drive across the neighbouring counties. The teams had last met in January and Dunstable won this first ever encounter by three goals to one. There were no goals today and the fact that both teams elected their own goal keepers as star men of their team shows that there was no lack of effort and indeed one or two saves bordered on the heroic. But (Shakespeare again) I do not dress this game in borrowed robes – it was a touch lacklustre and to quote the home reporter, undistinguished.
But a point apiece was equitable and I could only see a goal coming today from an error or an inspired set piece. Dunstable were without the services of regular goal keeper, Jamie Head, who was injured in training during the week - and a very able deputy was Bart Pedrycz, who, as I have said, had a notable game – particularly for the two late saves that prevented the hosts from snatching all three points. His counterpart Andy Kemp kept his side in it with a fine point blank save from Chris Vardy and that was just one example of this goal keeper’s outstanding contribution to the game.
Our video man, Charlie Hanson, was directed to set up his equipment ‘on the roof’ and this was no late April Fool joke as our man squeezed through a gap onto the flat roof at the rear of the main stand. To ensure their ground grading, Stratford have installed a new, small stand opposite the main one and it entered service today. Two of the Development squad were on duty at the substitutes’ bench, Anthony Leslie and Jonathan Wyllie, whose father advised me of this correct spelling with two ‘l’s and added that it made an ‘ell of a difference.’
Some commentators on my reports have mentioned their detail (however unrelated) , but my penchant for detail paled into insignificance, when I overheard my Stratford counterpart, who sat next to me in the press box. When Mark Magee won an early corner for the hosts, this chap said ‘Here comes corner 237.’ I mentioned that we had only just started. Season total he informed me, and added somewhat dolefully that it was eighty-seven such attempts since they last scored from one. Well, 237 and its successors were all unsuccessful today. More unsolicited information came from this reporter, whose track top had as many badge decorations as a Starfleet dress uniform, in case you were wondering if he was wearing an anorak. ‘Four hundred and fifty-six free kicks this season’, he added with an air that no-one could challenge him.
He was not altogether flattering about his team. ‘That bloke there is Simeon Tulloch NEP.’ I asked if that was an academic award from a former polytechnic. No, he told me –‘it means No End Product. He beats three men and just when he goes to shoot someone nicks the ball off him.’ He refrained from criticising an early attempt by Adam Watkins that ballooned over the bar and was mildly complimentary when Jonathan Edwards had a shot go just wide. Jamie Sheldon had a decent shot that was pushed out for corner number 238 by Bartosz Pedrycz, which had my witty companion wondering what those two words were worth in points at Scrabble. David Keenleyside cleared this and the reliable James Kaloczi commanded his zone with consummate ease. Simeon Tulloch fired in a shot to show that he did have some end product but Pedrycz held this well.
A smart move involving Tyrone Fagan and Mark Magee was headed wide and last week’s hero Steve Wales lobbed a pass from Kaloczi over the bar, and later shot for Wales was again wide of the target. Jonathan Edwards, our loan player from Peterborough United had a better game today and he was instrumental in getting the ball in the net but the off-side flag had been raised. But today he was able to cut in well but had no luck in outwitting Stratford’s defence.
Two deep crosses from Vardy and Kaloczi were easily gathered by Kemp. A through ball from Howard Hall gave Keenleyside a sporting chance but he was thwarted. Assistance from Adam Watkins presented Edwards with the chance and he shot well, but again Kemp made the save. It was probably the best chance of the half so far. ‘Good passing’ was the view of my reporting neighbour – ‘not like him’ he said, pointing at what seemed several of his own players.’ He makes John Lennon passes’. I was none the wiser.
‘Nowhere Man’ was his rejoinder, looking at me as if I were a simpleton who could not see the obvious. He then started singing the Beatles song ‘Please Please Me, which might have been a disguised prayer, given the fact that we were running out of minutes and had so far little to be excited about. I wondered how long it would be before, once catching sight of our video man, would the song ‘Up On The Roof’ be intoned.
We had one more attempt at goal from Keenleyside before my commentary man announced ‘we are now in stoppage time, time added on for injuries, at the referee’s discretion, as that twat says on Radio Five Live’. As the whistle went the last remark was that we had played eight minutes before there was a free-kick.
We were all very jolly in the board room at the interval, commenting on the half-time scores coming up on the screen. There seemed lots of goals everywhere else. I thought of Stratford’s recent record where they had lost at home to Leamington by a solitary goal but had beaten Poole by the same score. I also reflected on the scarcity of victories in our recent games with the one last week coming right at the end of the game. No-one said the game was dull so far, well not in my hearing. Incidentally, if you found the Shakespeare references tiresome – you have often quoted Shakespeare yourself. How many times have you said ‘one fell swoop’ or judged that something had ‘seen better days’? That is Shakespeare, to quote but two, yet as a child I got a clump round the ear for quoting one lesser known line, namely ‘I smell all horse piss.’
I did not think it that dull, since we seem to jump at that adjective if there are no goals. Both goal keepers had been sure-footed and were to be so in a very similar second half. Defensive play had been good – spoiling moves well, but both teams endured a couple of wobbly moments of panic within their own penalty areas. But there was no outward sign of frustration, no bookings at all and only the mildest of reprimands for Adam Pepera, who did his innocent Bambi eye thing in any case. Even at Bideford where one of his tackles sent an opposing player into the terraces he claimed ‘I got the ball, ref.’
Magee had a hooked shot that failed to deceive Pedrycz, but my notes reflected that ‘neither team is gaining ascendancy, set piece might do it.’ The lo and behold, Vardy was brought down on the edge of the area by Marcel Simpson and Dunstable had a promising free-kick. Keenleyside gave it flight and yes, it was a good save at the expense of a corner. From this unnumbered corner there was a header wide, and then clever bit of assistance from Watkins saw Edwards have another go but he was wide again.
Dunstable in fact had a good few corners this half, which were all but one, tidily cleared, and the one that wasn’t was muddled through somehow. My man was at it again, criticising one of his players as being about as useful as a woodpecker with a rubber beak. I wondered if it does make us feel better by being rather scathing about our own players. I remember that chap at Highbury who never missed an Arsenal game or an opportunity to criticise. His most scathing comment was ‘Third Division. North.’ The slight pause added to the effect.
Substitutions were inevitable and both teams fielded them with confidence. For Dunstable we had the earnestness of Wharton and the yearning of Lee Roache. Gregory and Angus came on for the hosts – but it all made little difference as it seemed a draw was set in stone today. No-one wanted it of course. Stratford still need a few points to be on the safe side and Dunstable can still make a token effort at play –off places – well mathematically.
The time of one of the home substitutions was seventy-four minutes. This had the reporter fellow enjoying a refrain of ‘Seventy-Four Trombones’. I politely said that I thought the song was called ‘Seventy-Six Trombones’. He looked at me and said simply ‘Inflation’. Fair enough.
A late Roache had a shot or two as a reward for his marauding that used to be so profitable. But right at the end there were two significant efforts from Stratford - shots from Angus and Roberts that both tested Pedrycz, but he saved them both in style. There had been nothing more significant than that and it showed that both teams felt they might sneak, late winner
As we stuttered to the finale, little time was added for stoppages in what had been a clean and sporting game. The whistle went and as I gathered my impedimenta, my companion turned to me and said that there would be no charge for the information or the jokes. For this relief, much thanks – and there is yet another bit of Shakespeare.
This game was the start of a rather stiff programme for Dunstable Town, with a trip to Redditch United on Monday, (4 April) and Kettering Town (7 April) and then Cirencester Town at home on Saturday 9 April. Frome Town, away, follows on the following Wednesday. So a busy time for us all, especially the players. With the points today shared everyone seemed fairly content with the outcome, well more or less and it would have been something of an injustice had either team sneaked a late winner….but we all would have taken it.
Andy Kemp, joint man of the match, Gary Moran, captain, Kieren Westwood, Marcel Simpson, Liam Francis, Luke Fox, Simeon Tulloch, Jack Roberts, Tyrone Fagan, (Dior Angus, 74,), Mark Magee, (Richard Gregory, 69,), Jamie Sheldon.
Other substitutes- Aaron Moses-Garvey, Aaron Stringfellow and Anthony Charles.
Bartosz Pedrycz, joint man of the match, Howard Hall, Zack Reynolds, David Longe-King, James Kaloczi, captain, Adam Pepera, Adam Watkins, Steve Wales, Jonathan Edwards, , (Lee Roache, 79.), David Keenleyside (Gary Wharton, 83), Chris Vardy. Other substitutes, Danny Talbot, Anthony Leslie and Jonathan Wyllie
Referee – Paul Hobday assisted by Adrian Hall and Ritchie Massey, all of whom had exemplary games.