JOINT LEAGUE LEADERS HELD AT HOME BY DETERMINED DUNSTABLE
It was always going to be difficult; Redditch United were champing at the bit for the chance to regain the top spot (albeit with Poole Town having two games in hand), but Dunstable’s away form has picked up of late.
As it turned out, both clubs have the unexciting statistic of two successive nil-nil draws. Dunstable, in their last three away games have one win and two draws.
Redditch were held by Leamington on Saturday (in front of a 742 attendance) and Dunstable came away with a hard earned and energy sapping point at Stratford Town. There is no doubt that the hosts will regard this as two points dropped in their pursuit for the title – but credit must go to Dunstable for their disciplined defending under what was, at times, severe pressure.
The visitors fielded a team that reflected recent injuries and there was the added worry of Zack Reynolds receiving a knock in the warm up which necessitated Gedeon Okito being an immediate replacement before the kick-off. Adam Watkins was a loss to injury as well as Jamie Head – but his replacement, Bart Pedrycz, was again outstanding in goal and was the busier goal keeper in what was an exciting but nervous match for him and his colleagues. On the bench and later making his debut was new signing Mark Smith.
But do not think that Dunstable merely ‘parked the bus’ to repeat a fashionable expression, as in the first half both Lee Roache and Gary Wharton came very close to scoring from well composed attacks. These were some time in coming as the home side began with every intention of overpowering their opponents with repeated attacks and the lion’s share of possession.
They utilised all areas of the pitch and came at Dunstable from all angles – with the visitors intervening well but after clearing the ball frequently handed back possession. Both James Kaloczi and Adam Pepera made important defensive clearances, and the early pressure was shown with the concession of free-kicks for Redditch that tested Pedrycz, who later shrugged off an injury to distinguish himself with vital saves.
He had to dive low to smother Ashley Sammons who chased down a smart forward pass, and he held a hooked shot from the same player a little later. Ironically, at this stage, the best chance fell to Lee Roache who fired in an angled shot from the right that just cleared the cross bar. George Carline’s firm header was held by Pedrycz, and he was again safe handed following a Sammons’ free-kick. Dunstable contrived a second golden chance when the ever eager Gary Wharton struck hard to see his shot well saved by Jose Veiga.
An alarming tactic (for Dunstable) , was Redditch’s canny use of the long throw, usually by Sam Merson – and these caused some nervous and mostly partial clearances and then, with the best shot of the game there came a thunderbolt from Robert Thompson-Brown that shaved a bit of paint of the top of the cross bar. Had that gone in, it would have been a very different game, methinks.
But then Wharton had another go, firing just wide and a deflected shot from Talbot brought a rare corner for Dunstable. Roache ran onto a forward pass but Veiga was there first to clear and once again Wharton had a decent go, with Veiga saving well. Sammons had a shot blocked and one from Carline was neutralised by Pedrycz. Whilst it would be true to say that Dunstable’s goal attempts in the second half were fewer – they had shown composed defending and alertness to the possibilities of good counter moves.
One could sense the home side’s frustration (and also of their supporters who had increased their routine barracking of the opposition). They had played well but the longer the game went on it seemed they found the shadow and not the substance. More than once the ball skidded across the Dunstable penalty area with no-one able to capitalise, and the fact that the visitors went to the interval level, it must have been a real boost to them.
With very few Dunstable supporters present, I found myself engaged in conversation with home fans, but not at first. Not long after my arrival I was greeted with a ‘Hello, Pipeman’ and this was not from a Redditch person but a gentlemanly ‘spy’ from KetteringTown, our opponents and hosts on Thursday 7April. I was gratified that he had enjoyed my last report, and his presence here tonight showed that his club were doing their homework on forthcoming opposition.
Not so gratifying was the Brummagem accent that inquired ‘Where the fook is Doonstable? With an apologetic air and in lower case I said it was near Luton and felt sure he was giving me a look of sympathy. I did hear another say he had been to Creasey Park and the town but observed (in what I thought lacked veracity) that ‘it stoonk of sheet, yannow.’ When asked if he meant the town or the ground he said it was a toss-up which was worse.
Shortly after the resumption, Danny Talbot pulled up, obviously in some pain, but the time taken for his replacement incurred some blood-curdling observations that would have made a drunk docker blush. The implication was that time was being artlessly wasted but the referee, who maintained excellent control, pointed reassuringly to his watch at the home side’s complaints. So, exit the wounded Talbot and enter Mark Smith, who was soon in the thick of it as the game became more frenetic. Merson’s long throws were still causing mayhem, but there was no clean finish – and not just a few near misses. Okito, as last man in one foray, defended well, with Pedrycz again bravely diving low to deny another attempt. Chris Vardy had been as eager as Wharton and Roache and even tried one from range, but the pressure against Dunstable was mounting with every minute.
Curiously, the longer the game went on, the more it seemed to favour Dunstable as home attempts were sometimes rash and ill-considered, owing to the frustration felt by players and vocally conveyed by the home spectators. Sammons was close with another shot as was Merson. Corners were won and executed with some precision, but Dunstable defended resolutely and the discipline of the players was commendable.
But two cautions were received when the away defence thought that ten yards was two and the failure to retreat tested the referee’s impatience and invoked a chant of ‘dirty cheatin’ basteds’. This was nearly silenced with Wharton’s shot on the turn, which if inaccurate, was still a reminder that those in the hoops might make the home players faces as red as their shirts should a cheeky breakaway goal be poached. The fact that Redditch employed the maximum number of substitutes was, in a way, encouraging for Dunstable – and despite their deployment, a winning goal was not forthcoming. It did cross my mind that Dunstable had little to choose themselves for remaining substitutes – with Jamie Head named but not really an option since Pedrycz had been outstanding. Fontenelle was named as well but on this occasion we were not to be treated to his late surge along the wing and a final shot put over the bar – not forgetting his outstretched arms and look of incredulity and a broad grin betraying reluctant modesty.
No, he was needed in the technical area with Danny Talbot to exhort more effort from their weary troops and to a man they did not disappoint. There is nothing to be ashamed concerning their stalwart defending, which was by now seeming to assure the point. All made valuable contributions _ Hall, Okito, Pepera, Kaloczi and Longe-King were perpetually involved and outstanding.
Of course, there was plenty of stoppage time that had the usual nervous moments. Any attempt to blast the ball out of Worcestershire was pointless as a fresh ball came onto the pitch post-haste and on one occasion, three came on together to ensure not a second was wasted. But despite some late and frantic efforts, the noble Dunstable defence was not breached – but had been sorely tested, nevertheless.
I feel Dunstable deserved the draw for sheer persistency and refusal to be overawed by the pressure. The game was thus exciting and free of malice, well officiated and the cause of a degree of anxiety for those who favoured the visitors tonight. It was gratifying to hear the Redditch chairman pass on congratulations adding that Dunstable had fought gallantly for their point.
Home supporters will no doubt disagree, but apart from Thompson-Browns robust effort that struck the bar, other efforts were contained and I am not alone in considering that Roache might have been a tad unlucky with his best effort.
But Redditch are level on points with Poole and they may be aware that we could actually do them a favour by beating the Dorset side, whom we meet in the third but last game of the campaign. For now we look to the game against Kettering (an in-form team) and then a home encounter against Cirencester Town on Saturday (9 April).
Jose Veiga, Jordan Iburd, Calum Flanagan, George Carline, Jim Mutton, Will Richards, Robert Thompson-Brown, (Jack Hallahan), Max Loveridge, Luke Shearer, (Curvin Ellis), Ashley Sammons, captain, cautioned (Eli Bako). Other substitutes – Cameron Young and Josh Moreton, GK.
Bart Pedrycz, Howard Hall, Gedeon Okito, Danny Talbot, (Mark Smith), James Kaloczi, cautioned, Adam Pepera, David Longe-King, Gary Wharton, Lee Roache, David Keenleyside, cautioned, Chris Vardy Other substitutes – Tony Fontenelle and Jamie head, GK
Referee Kevin Morris assisted by Jon Price and Ollie Williams, who were exemplary.
THE EVO-STIK SOUTHERN LEAGUE – PREMIER DIVISION
REDDITCH UNITED 0 DUNSTABLE TOWN 0 HT 0-0 ATTENDANCE 327