ROBINS ROBBERY IN STOPPAGE TIME
This game will be remembered as one that had a routine end of season tone in a first half where Dunstable had plenty of chances, hit the post but not the net, and Frome had two chances and executed them smartly for an interval lead. But the second half was full of explosive action, a bizarre major decision, and a winning goal in stoppage time.
The original fixture had been postponed and, as last season it necessitated a long evening drive to a mid-week fixture and- for me no arrival at home until one o’clock in the morning, owing to diversions caused by motorway re-surfacing. Both games with Frome have been full of incident and excitement.
At Creasey Park, Dunstable had cruised to a three goal lead, but the Robins snatched back two goals in a great fight back and very nearly snatched a point. At the Blindmans Brewery Stadium (no apostrophe, apparently), Dunstable had an indifferent first half of frustrating misses, but it was their turn to storm back and, at the very least, deserved a point in a quite remarkable second half performance.
Having said that, honesty compels me to report that the third goal scored by Dunstable was attributed to an opponent own goal but the ball did not cross the goal line, and was as much as two yards in front of it – so no question of all the ball over all the line at all. I was in the optimum position behind the goal and saw the keeper scoop the ball away before he fell back, bulging the net. More on this later.
It is fair to say that a combination of injuries and unavailability of players restricted the team selection, and in reality there were no substitutes, since both Tony Fontenelle and Danny Talbot were nominally on the bench we knew that the eleven who started would see the game through. Jamie Head and Adam Watkins are out for the remainder of the season and there was no Lee Roache, Zack Reynolds or Gary Wharton – who could well have made a difference. We sincerely hope that we can muster a full squad for the little matter of playing champions elect Poole Town away on Saturday – well, we will of course, but the recent run of ‘distance’ away matches has made many demands on players, manager and, of course supporters.
Dunstable were kicking towards the club house end in the first half and it was not long before they were coming forward in earnest. Frome responded and, as it turned out were not profligate with the two clear chances they created. Connor Calcutt had a very early chance for Dunstable and, finding himself in a close shooting position he seemed to take an age to decide with which foot he would open the scoring – and consequently found himself robbed of the ball. If he had hit it instinctively, immediately - it would have been an important early lead.
By way of contrast Darren Jefferies had a wild, shot that was well wide and a couple of corners were routinely cleared. A Dunstable free-kick in a promising position was aimed, it seemed, straight at Alex Shaftoe, who if he was not entirely uncomfortable, looked far from relaxed. A through ball to Calcutt saw Shaftoe get up well in the challenge and shortly after this Frome scored with their first real attempt.
We might point fingers at the Dunstable defence but the crosses from the left produced a hooked shot from Michael Bryant that deceived Pedrycz, who as an enforced deputy for the injured Jamie Head, has coped well with the demands. That was an opportunist goal from a side that had not really threatened hitherto, but it served to remind Dunstable that if you waste chances, no goals will come. A corner from the sprightly Chris Vardy was well aimed at Calcutt who could not connect and Jonathan Edwards seized on a half chance when a defender fluffed his lines, but recovered well.
Another free-kick, centrally outside the area saw David Longe-King misdirect his header, but it was deflected for a corner. From this corner James Kaloczi looked to have scored but the ball came back from the inside of the post. There followed rapidly further misses from Edwards and Kaloczi. It was good that Dunstable were going full pelt at the hosts and with the number of chances they did deserve a goal – but they received a shock from a swift Robins’ counter attack that brought a second goal – and it was Bryant again and he took it well.
Pedrycz committed himself to early and that helped the finish – and it was significant that it followed a free kick on the edge of the area – two more of the home goals came from set pieces and do suggest some training routines for Dunstable. It was this diffidence in defending that was making Frome look a lot better than they were – but at least it did reveal their own defensive weaknesses in a second half where they began to struggle – and ironically won the game with another set piece.
During the interval I pondered on the Dunstable performance so far. The strike potential of Calcutt and Edwards had been suggestive, Kaloczi had looked tired and just a little less precise than normal. Longe –King and Hall had been solid as full backs – with the latter having little chance to employ his long throw tactic. Pepera, Keenleyside, Wales and Smith had put in good shifts – and Smith has relished his move to a more senior level. Vardy’s willingness to run and challenge could have been aided had Wharton been available – and it was a curious weakness of Frome in the second half to relinquish possession where they should have retained it – which was applicable to Dunstable in the first period.
It was also obvious that only an improved Dunstable performance would eliminate the two goal Frome cushion – and we knew it would have to be with the original eleven. But they did not disappoint – overall I mean. There was a certain lack of finesse about some of the passing as there was in some odd sky ball clearances – but Vardy and Edwards were biting into the Frome defence. Calcutt was challenging well for the high ball in but fouled the keeper in the best looking chance. Edwards had a blocked shot as Frome were called upon to defend more deeply.
The few Dunstable supporters were pleased and frustrated in turns at the off-side here, the stray pass there, but before the hour had expired Edwards found a way back with a low shot that bobbled and took a slight deflection. This deserved goal signalled a good deal more Dunstable pressure and some disciplined defending from the Robins, who, instead of capitulating, found themselves rewarded with a set piece centrally, just outside the area. This was converted smartly by Jon Davies and once more the home two goal lead was restored – and they cared not a jot that it was against the flow of play.
Interestingly, Scottie, one of the Dunstable supporters, who told me he rarely reads my reports, missed the goal, having gone for a surreptitious piddle. He did the same last year when Charlie Henry scored the only goal of the game. All that way and then missing the goals……but since his urination seemed to bring more goals he was gently encouraged to repeat the exercise.
Showing good character, despite the set-back, Dunstable still went forward with an urgency that derided the view that some end of season games with nothing at stake lack passion. Calcutt’s second goal for Dunstable was scored after real persistence. His first attempt, a chipped shot had been parried but he made no mistake with the follow-up and like all players do in a similar situation, he picked up the ball and returned it to the centre spot. But Dunstable were still losing – almost inexplicably so. Wales tried one of his long range efforts but it rebounded off the top of the stand behind the goal.
It was not long after this that Dunstable drew level in a bizarre manner. An unconvincing clearance from Frome saw the ball unwittingly sent back at pace towards the goalkeeper – and he had to move swiftly as the pace was enough for it to cross the line. Connor Roberts looked on with alarm and Shaftoe made a downwards lunge to scoop the ball away, before he seemed to fall into the net. The ball was up to two yards in front of the line and confusion reigned when the referee signalled a goal. The assistant was some distance away as the pass back had caught him by surprise.
Scottie yelled ‘Goal’ as a matter of optimistic routine and is convinced that it was his shout that determined the referee’s decision, and he feels he should be credited as the scorer. The explosive response from Frome players was entirely understandable, and they appealed to the referee to consult his assistant. This was of no help because the assistant was not level with play.
I was unaware that my position was perhaps the best one to view the incident as those in other parts of the ground could not see clearly and many simply accepted that Roberts had scored an own goal. Some in the stand felt the Robins had indeed been robbed and could not accept the referee’s decision without umbrage, dudgeon or pique. Naturally it was all peppered with bloodcurdling oaths and there was the usual pushing and shoving. So there is your nice end of season kick about, that still had a sting in the tail.
My confusion was such that I did think that (since the ball did not cross the line) that the referee had awarded a free kick for a controlled back pass – which it was not, really. I wondered from where the kick would be taken and imagined all eleven Frome players (and probably their management team) standing defiantly on the goal line. But the goal had been given and Dunstable were level – deservedly so but not in this bizarre manner, which had become a focal point, rather than the excellent comeback spirit that had been exhibited.
But of course they blew it at the end – well three minutes into stoppage time, and would you Adam and Eve it, from another free kick, which came in from the right and Chris McPhee ascertained heroic status for the night. It was a bit of a robbery by the Robins, who had endured a mediocre half and it would have been a little more sporting had some home supporters refrained from crowing over their victory ( which they elevated to epic proportions) in the manner that they did as I walked by them on my way to the clubhouse. Those with a more objective point of view conceded that Dunstable had deserved more – the ‘phantom’ goal notwithstanding.
I spoke to the referee immediately after the game and made a point that the ball had not crossed the line for the third goal. His detailed and measured response gave a different perspective and there is no doubt that he had made an honest decision – and of course in real time. His explanation was important to me and a different perspective voiced by others from their vantage point reminded me that sooner or later video evidence may well be used. This may be so at the professional level but I doubt if it will percolate into non-league football.
Taking it all into consideration, it had been a good game – especially the second half, and I do hope that Dunstable refrain from conceding free kicks in dangerous areas at Poole Town on Saturday. Oddly I was thinking of our game there last season when the winner, the only goal in a gruelling game, again came deep in stoppage time and it was a fluke – a hopeful lob and a goal. It might be agreeable top many for Dunstable to force the champions elect to put their champagne on ice by getting a positive result against them, and against the odds as well – and, maybe, just maybe, that is not entirely quixotic.
Alex Shaftoe, Rob Hobbs, Jordan Walker, cautioned, Connor Roberts, OWN GOAL, 82, Chris McPhee, cautioned - GOAL, 90+3, Dan Cleverley, captain, Jon Davies, GOAL, 71, cautioned,( Anderson Ongono), George Miller, Michael Bryant, TWO GOALS, 10 and 28, Jake Jackson, Darren Jefferies. Other Substitutes – Sam Teale, Josh Jeffries, Zayne Alime and Kris Miller.
Bart Pedrycz, David Longe-King, Howard Hall, Mark Smith, James Kaloczi, captain, Adam Pepera, David Keenleyside, Steve Wales, Connor Calcutt, GOAL, 73, Jonathan Edwards, GOAL, 60, Chris Vardy. Substitutes – Tony Fontenelle and Danny Talbot.
Referee – Philip Staynings, Swindon, assisted by Andrerw Lambourne, Weston-Super –Mare and William Mortimer, Bristol.