NINE MAN CHESHAM HOLD ON FOR A POINT
Originally scheduled for Easter Monday, this game was rearranged and, unfortunately clashed with Chesham’s social event at the Meadow, which is one reason why the attendance was below average tonight.
But the view from many that this was an end of season game of no significance was a bit harsh. Dunstable’s meetings with Chesham are often feisty affairs and tonight proved no exception – especially in an explosive second half that saw two Chesham players dismissed and others cautioned.
Yet the first half did not suggest the brouhaha of the second. Chesham were holding on to a first period strike following a free kick, and were comfortably containing Dunstable’s energetic attempts to get back on terms. Mind you, we had our own little bit of drama before the kick-off as we could not locate the programmes that had been delivered on Sunday. Sterling efforts were made and they were finally located in the recycling bin. Now that is commendable but we really did need to use them first and they were retrieved and distributed in the normal way.
Chesham, playing in their away strip of yellow and black, had seen off their hosts by five goals to one at the Meadow, so, at the very least we expected Dunstable to make amends for this – but it was some time before this occurred and was due in part to some curious indiscipline from the visitors.
The only change from Saturday’s defeat against League Champions Poole Town was the inclusion of striker Jonathan Edwards and thus Gary Wharton was included among the substitutes. Both teams were mid table and out of the running for play-off places and the best thing going for it was the desire to beat what may be termed local rivals. Before Chesham opened the scoring after ten minutes the best we had seen was a glancing header from Kelvin Bossman. Dunstable had employed the hopeful long ball forward, which gave Edwards and Calcutt a lot to do, but the latter had one of his best games for the club and he was the man who bagged the equalising goal from the penalty spot.
Chesham’s goal came following a free kick wide on the right and was efficiently converted by Ryan Blake. Dunstable’s reaction was not as urgent as desired and some attempts on goal were lukewarm, with Shane Gore not called upon to make anything but routine saves. Calcutt did his best to fashion a probability from a possibility but when in possession he was closed down effectively and Edwards also obtained little change from the Chesham defence. His best effort came from a smart assistance from Steve Wales, which Gore held well. Wales was also the provider for a notable chance for Calcutt who shot over the bar.
Chris Vardy showed no lessening of his enthusiasm and his assistance for Keenleyside was the latter shoot well, but straight at Gore. There was no denying that despite this, Chesham looked comfortable and had their own chances that matched Dunstable’s inaccuracies, with Matt Taylor shooting wide and after he forced a corner this was inexplicably put behind the goal.
Calcutt in one inspired move fired in a chance that was deflected for a corner that in its flight denied everyone a touch and went out harmlessly for ta throw. Towards the end of the half Taylor had a reasonable chance but he was again wide of the mark. The whistle for the end of the half had most people agreeing that it had, so far, been an undistinguished game lacking in inspirational play, and it had been routine stuff, with little controversy and a hint that the season- weary players were going through the motions in this, the penultimate game of the season.
The atmosphere had been somnolent, with the Regiment carrying out what seemed an affable conversation with Shane Gore.
My half-time unrelated bit will be of interest to home supporters of long standing, and maybe others. It concerns the presentation of AFC Dunstable’s Chairman, Simon Bullard, of a 1960-61 Official Handbook, for Dunstable Town and, for the likes of me, it is gold dust. This was the year when Dunstable moved from Kingsway to Brewers Hill Ground, not yet called Creasey Park. It stated that the club was formed in 1895, ceased in 1914 and was reformed in 1950. I also noted that for some time games were played at Bulls Pond Toad – where a pitch remains to this day. Club colours were Royal Blue and White, and in capitals as given.
It is a wonderful publication where even the adverts are of historical and sociological importance. I selected one advert where, for sale were bubble cars and Bond three-wheelers. I also noted that because the Brewers Hill ground was far from complete, visiting teams were encouraged to accept this in a sporting spirit. They might have then, but not in later years, (where the modest infrastructure remained), as Aylesbury United once demonstrated in an unbecoming manner of noted petulance.
Of great interest too, was the League Table for the Metropolitan League, where Dunstable were in fifth place behind leaders Luton Town, followed by Arsenal, Canterbury City and Chelsea. Fulham and West Ham United were also in the league was well as lesser names such as Haywards Heath and Crawley Town. Dunstable reserves were also top of the United counties League.
Right – nostalgic bit over and in some ways I hesitate to record the second half as it was like a descent into Hades with attendant whistles and red cards, not at all conducive with the relative lack of importance of this match. If you are a player, no match is meaningless and the commitment is as fierce as if it were a cup tie or a championship decider. It goes without saying that the Chesham players and supporters will vilify the referee and his assistants, but the fact remains that Dunstable entered the ragged pitch with rejuvenated notions and seized the initiative. By that I mean they played a good deal better and an equaliser looked increasingly likely.
Following Keenleyside’s relatively weak header there was a definite chance for Calcutt who ran on to the through ball that deceived the defence and had he chipped rather than gone for power he might have levelled the scores. Gore did his spoiling job well. Chesham were reduced to sporadic attacks but from a free kick they were just thwarted by a timely defensive header. Calcutt combined with Vardy and the former’s shot cleared the bar. It was a pity really as we were agreed that our man did deserve a goal from open play tonight.
Improved play from Dunstable was in evidence but like the Big Bad Wolf they huffed and puffed a bit at the stone wall Chesham defence and time was ticking. Mark Smith, our impromptu replacement keeper in the Poole game headed over the bar. Dunstable had brought on Anthony Leslie at half time, but the most interesting substitutes were those of Barrington Hales for Chesham and Anthony Fontenelle for Dunstable – both players who have managerial roles for their clubs. They entered the arena with an air that they would show these young whippersnappers How It Is Done. In this they had mixed fortunes as Barrington hales was cautioned ( I do believe) soon after and not so much later received the red card. Mr Fontenelle remained for the duration and I speak for all that we are a little pleased that he did not score the winner as we would not hear the end of this until midway next season.
The game descended somewhat into what some observed was ‘a proper Dunstable v Chesham game’, replete with cautions, blood and guts play and a trail of mostly yellow cards. That is a bit of an exaggeration, but the contrast with the first half was indeed remarkable.
Dunstable’s equaliser came in the seventy-seventh minute after Calcutt had been fouled and this, along with many more refereeing decisions was hotly disputed by the Generals – partly no doubt as they had lost their control of the game. Calcutt was the obvious choice for the penalty kick as he had seen several good chances go begging. He converted well and there was enough time for Dunstable to be avenged for their mauling at the Meadow.
Dunstable tried their hardest with Keenleyside and Vardy having excellent chances, with one effort shaving the paint of the cross bar. Much time was added on for vehement disputes with the refereeing decisions. Pepera was correctly cautioned for a nasty tackle on Ashley Smith, whose retaliatory punch earned him a straight red and the Generals, like Dunstable at Poole, were reduced to nine men. But in that game, the dismissals were faintly honourable – insofar as both players dismissed had been guilty of a foul in the penalty area to prevent a goal at the expense of a penalty on both occasions. Smith should not have retaliated and Barrington Hales lecturing style of appeal to the referee cut no ice with the official.
So, this end of season tryst had taken on a nasty aspect. Even so, the nine men of Chesham held on for a point and Dunstable’s close, but errant finishing was a contributing factor to the gaining of one rather than all three points. Needless to say if Dunstable had played with the forthright style of the second half in the first period they might well have secured a victory.
At one time, both teams were likely candidates for play-off positions, but both have suffered from poor form. Chesham’s fine Cup runs had given them a busy schedule where results were not of the best. Dunstable’s form has seen a decline in the latter part of the season, and the loss of players who have happily progressed to a higher level has kept pace with the crop of injuries.
The curtain comes down on this current campaign with the visit of relegated Bedworth United who cheekily and recently defeated Kettering Town on their own turf (described unkindly as a cabbage patch by disgruntled Dunstable fans that were tanked up at a local pub and then heard our game against them was postponed). So, bring on Bedworth on Saturday 23 April, which is not now to be the last day of the season owing to some outstanding fixtures elsewhere in the League.
There were many talking points tonight – in particular the explosive second half. To sum up – Chesham scored early and defended intelligently, counter attacking when they could. Dunstable’s mediocre performance was improved and not before time, but just not enough to win – and a goal from open play looked a little distant, and it has been a good while since they had a convincing, I mean really convincing win. Chesham’s spate of indiscipline might have cost them the game and after all the controversy has died down I expect both teams will be content with a point. I will finish by saying in it the first time I have seen two dismissals in successive games that have brought three penalties as well.
Bart Pedrycz, Zack Reynolds, Howard Hall, Mark Smith, (Anthony Fontenelle), David Longe-King, Adam Pepera, captain, cautioned, Chris Vardy, Steve Wales, Connor Calcutt, PENALTY GOAL, 77 minutes, Jonathan Edwards, (Anthony Leslie)David Keenleyside. Other substitutes – Gary Wharton, Danny Talbot and Jonathan Wyllie.
Shane Gore, Ashley Smith, dismissed, Toby Little, Ben Ford, George Fenton, Joe Gater, cautioned, David Pearce, cautioned, Matt Taylor, Ryan Blake GOAL, 10 minutes, Kelvin Bossman, Stephen Hamilton-Forbes.
Subs used – Barrington Hales, dismissed, second bookable offence, Sam Youngs and Alfie Osbourne. Other substitutes – Ashley Morrisey and chris Cutler.
Referee – Marc Wilson assisted by Mark Stevens and Peter Howard.