OUT OF OUR DEPTH AT THE POOLE
Poole Town made sure this season – and no doubt it was on their minds how they let promotion slip through their fingers last season. We offer our congratulations and wish them well in the Conference, South next season.
Dunstable seemed generous to a fault as not only did they read the script but added their own bits by having their ranks reduced to nine men in the second half, following the concession of two penalties, one of which was saved. A bumper crowd of 1,057 (the home side’s best total this season) turned up to hail the new Champions; and the majority of them cared not a jot that Dunstable were meek and mild overall. Indeed the dozen or so Dunstable supporters affected a casual indifference, but it was clear to me they would have preferred a more stringent resistance.
Well, it is offered as a statement and not an excuse that the visiting team was cobbled together from those available, including two from the development squad. It may be a cost-cutting exercise but a number of players were absent today. Central defender and club captain, James Kaloczi has departed to St Albans, and what with the crop of injuries it was a bit of an achievement to get a full squad today.
Manager Tony Fontenelle decided that he wanted all his baskets in one egg and proceeded to hire a mini-bus from a sheltered and decidedly rural part of our county. He also telephoned me and informed me that I had been volunteered to drive the said vehicle. I attended to this duty and if I found it hard to get reverse, the team did not.
Poole Town needed three points to secure the Championship but even of they did not achieve this they were odds on to be crowned a little later than expected. At Creasey Park, in the corresponding fixture, Dunstable had led by an early goal and sustained this lead until the last minute of stoppage time, extended, no doubt, to compensate for the number of exuberant clearances of the ball into the stand and car park by the home side.
Last season at Tatnam Park Dunstable kept a clean sheet until stoppage time again and a speculative lob brought the only goal of the game. There was no such stalwart defending today as a goal was leaked in the third minute when Marvin Brooks scored the first goal of an eventual hat-trick. A cross from the left from Roberts fell opportunely for Brooks, and although Pedrycz did well to parry the first effort he could do nothing about the follow- through. As only three minutes had expired and it served to settle what jitters the hosts might have had. Dunstable, slow to start again, showed some lethargy in defending here – and despite Poole dominance for the rest of the half, they failed to increase their lead. If Dunstable had not shipped that early goal they may have grown in stature as they did recently away to Redditch United.
The Dolphins made full use of the wide pitch with some smart long passing to an unmarked man and clearly they were stretching the visitors who could find little rhythm or resonance in their play. Increasingly relaxed and with the lead secured there were several attempts on the Dunstable goal from the eager hosts, with Bart Pedrycz displaying a degree of nervousness with some wayward kicking and one or two untidy but effective saves.
Dunstable did respond, sporadically and a fine pass from Calcutt to Vardy saw the shot comfortably saved. There was another effort from Keenleyside that was well wide, as was Roberts’ next shot for the hosts and assistance from Devlin allowed Gillespie a crack at goal, denied by the busy Pedrycz, Howard Hall’s long throws did ask a brief question but were effectively cleared. A little before this I happened to glance away from play, the way one does at a misplaced pass from one of our players, when I noticed a little hand appear dexterously behind the fence. This hand belonged to an adventurous and possibly impecunious little boy whose handiwork resulted in a gate being opened enough to let in a flotilla of his associates who illegitimately swelled the attendance figure. This was looked on with amusement by the home supporters nearby and it was unnoticed by the bulky stewards who made a habit of hopping over the perimeter fence to return errant footballs. That, by the way, explained the perilous unsteadiness of the fence, which reminded me of Creasey Park in the old days where a good lean could topple over a goodly number, and did, with monotonous regularity. This was close to that notorious wet patch of the enduring pitch which I was told, and still do not believe, is affected by the tide.
Fixing my gaze again on the football, I found little had changed. Poole pressed; Dunstable defended and sent hopeful passes to the strained Calcutt and Vardy, who, to their credit made something out of hope and optimism. But the visitors were just a goal behind and did find a semblance of order in which to proceed but that was a triumph of hope over expectation. Still I found pride in my team that had emerged from the halt at Fleet services, their bodies still in the shape of their cramped seating on the hired bus, consoled for the most part by overpriced refreshments at the service station.
It was there that the assistant manager revealed my failure to find reverse. ‘You have to pull this little knob up, Pipes.’ The bounder had desisted in telling me of it until he had milked the joke dry and the applause when I managed it was louder than that of the final whistle of our last win. One of these days I am going to get jolly cross and those pampered athletes will know all about it, I can tell you.
The fact that the score had remained at one zero was largely due to the exuberant inaccuracy of the Poole goal attempts, some were close but others were high and mighty. Keenleyside did have something of a run until he was expertly dispossessed and back we went to defence – conceding corners with a studied nervousness that allowed Pedrycz to gather, sometimes with difficulty and there were two occasions when he relied on defenders to mop up for him. Whisken had a decent chance before the interval but it was thwarted.
My nephew, domiciled near Bournemouth had come to this game – and he came last season, with a somewhat condescending view of non-league football, but he was hooked in by it all then and he was now. He revealed that he now came to see Poole quite regularly. He told me that he wanted to see Arsenal play at Bournemouth but they had demanded such an excessive price for a ticket it was of greater value to see Poole Town. I agreed with this.
‘We have done well’ he said to me, and to my chagrin he meant Poole. My indignation conveyed that he should be emotionally attached to Dunstable, since I had gained him an entry on our guest list, but he was unrepentant. He can sodding well pay next time. He is probably in league with those little bounders who breached the gate.
I had gulped down a coffee in the boardroom and hastened to join my fellow Dunstablians who were as critical as ever about the game, the weather and that early goal that had made things so much easier for the champions elect.
As at Frome, there followed a second half of more or less epic proportions, but on this occasion saw two of our beleaguered underdogs and early bath. I recalled when we last had a match where the opposition needed a win to go up to the Conference South, namely Hednesford. There a crowd of 1, 500 patiently awaited the expected victory, and we eventually did the gentlemanly thing by losing two-one, sacrificing a lead -and also a player who was sent off for a probable dastardly deed. Some bounder also nicked my pipe that day as well. Many of that crowd ignored the appeals not to invade the pitch, unlike today, where just one romped onto the turf, and aggrieved at inattention he decided to have another circuit and eventually melted into the crowd with a disgruntled look. His team were at the other end enjoying the adulation of the Tatnam Park faithful.
I entertained myself with the idea that Tony Fontanelle would inculcate a master plan that would silence the crowd. I should cocoa. What occurred was a disastrous second half that ensured our decline and fall from the fair play league that appears on the Southern League website. Poole continued to stroke the ball around, foraging for penetration, and exploiting inaccuracies in token attacks from Dunstable.
What had been threatened occurred with Brooks enjoying defensive diffidence by scoring Poole’s and his second. That effectively put paid to the unspoken thoughts I had of Dunstable knocking off a crafty one and gaining an equaliser. It was no more than the hosts deserved and relieved a certain dilatoriness in their play. That was bad enough for the Dunstable dozen fans behind the goal, who consoled themselves with the usual accusation that the referee, from Weymouth, had contrived to assist with the doubling of the lead. Of course he did not – he was fair and exact and in his major decisions, that is the dismissals he had little choice.
For the second time this season, David Keenleyside ‘took one for the team’ with an instinctive handball in the area, and the red card came out as deftly as a magician’s rabbit from the top hat. So, an early bath for ‘Keeno’, and maybe he did not glance back to see Bart Pedrycz save the penalty. Devlin took the spot kick despite the home fans calling for Roberts to do the deed.
Poole supporters politely applauded the save as a two goal lead and dominance allows such generosity of spirit. This was a practical demonstration of kindliness that soon gave way to that odd chant following a goal kick that goes ‘ ohhh, you’re sh*t aaaah!. I have never really understood that one. By the way, whatever happened to that chant from the corner – you know ‘’ere we go, ‘ere we go, ‘ere we go.’ It just went, I presume.
But, as the Victorian lady once erringly wrote, the thick plottened. Almost on cue, Dunstable conceded a second penalty, with Pedrycz the offender. He too received the straight red card, and then we were nine. Good gravy, nine men against the champions elect? That is like having an iced bath in midwinter. The crowd behind the goal were well into ‘Cheerio, cheerio, cheerio oh!’ (with ironic waves of farewell, of course – all in the repertoire). This time it was Roberts. Well, this heroic Dolphin was on a hat-trick and he obliged and graciously accepted adulation before the final whistle. It was a blistering, unstoppable penalty. Three nil and gawd knows how many to come…oh lord thou plucketh me out.
But who was the new custodian of the Dunstable goal? None other than Mark Smith, playing at step six a few weeks ago and has since played his heart out for Dunstable Town as if he had been there all season. Now the irony was that old Smudger played so well, and with a wondrous double save from one of many attacks - he had the locals and some of us saying he should have been in goal from the start. But spare a thought for Pedrycz, whom I espied pulling on his e-cigarette at the Services and explaining it as ‘nerves, Pipes and stress.’ Maybe he should take up the pipe and do it properly.
The remarkable thing was the Poole did not score again, but they did not seem all that fussed. It was like the ram among a field of ewes- you know, the nearest will do. They cruised to certain victory and it seemed like they were restraining themselves out of a spirit of generosity. The crowd did not mind – after all they were champions.
We all knew what would happen. The whistle would go and the home team would go to receive their deserved applause, whooping it up in the accepted manner. We have been there, I consoled myself. We won the Spartan Premier without losing a game and I was thrown, fully dressed into the showers with the players where I could report that the drapes matched the curtains. We won the Central Division and I got a face full of faux champagne, and like Kipling I can treat the ‘two impostors’ of triumph and disaster with the same measured approach. But today Poole triumphed and we disastered, of you can take such a word. But I am proud of our lads today, blinkering myself to the dismissals.
So forgive me for a surreptitious ‘enjoyment’ of Poole’s triumph – they deserved it and fair play to them. I even accepted a little real champagne in the board room, where the Cheshire grins of achievement made me hasten my consumption of the quorn and veg. Home celebrations are not the place for a visiting official.
Our ragged troops crammed into the minibus and I reversed a few times to show that I was not entirely stupid, but convinced nobody but myself. I felt for the Regiment, who on this last away game had made the journey and put out their flags along with their thinning hopes. We still have two games to go, and they are at home against Chesham United and relegated Bedworth United, who in beating Kettering in the week may seek to embarrass us as well.
Loyalty has no real rationale and when my nephew parted from me with an unkind quip of ‘Uncle, you were crap’, I wanted to kick his capacious backside, with the unspoken message of ‘this is my team, win, lose or draw.’
Very noble, perhaps, but I did recall seeing Tony Fontanelle, being sought for interview by the ‘Non-League Paper.’ He came away bemoaning –‘why do they always interview me when we lose and never when we win?’ a muffled, unidentified voice was heard to say ’you mean you can remember that far back? ‘ If we keep the humour it is easier to keep the faith.
POOLE TOWN – CHAMPIONS OF THE PREMIER DIVISION, 2016.
Nick Hutchings, Lewis Tallack. Lewis Linsday, cautioned, Will Spetch, Jamie Whisken, cautioned, Carl Pettefer, Luke Burbridge, Steve Devlin, (Jamie Gleeson) Richard Gillespie, Marvin Brooks, THREE GOALS -3, 57 AND 83 penalty, , Luke Roberts(Tony Lee). Other substitutes –Ashan Holgate, Tom Rees and Jack Dickson.
Bart Perycz, dismissed, straight red card, Zack Reynolds, Howard Hall, Mark Smith, David Longe-king, Adam Pepera, cautioned, Gary Wharton (Kai Gardner), Steve Wales, Connor Calcutt, cautioned, Chris Vardy, (Jonathan Wyllie), David Keenleyside, dismissed, straight red card. Other substitutes – Tony Fontenelle and Danny Talbot.
Referee – Martin Underhay, Weymouth, assisted by Derek Hughes , Newport, Isle of Wight, and Rob Ablitt, Fareham. All three had sound games.