GREENBACKS FINISH CAMPAIGN WITH A FLOURISH
Relegated Bedworth United made it three wins in a row and entertain the slim possibility of a reprieve to retain their Premiership status, but today at Creasey Park it was a close run thing as Dunstable had an own- goal equaliser ruled out for reasons that were not, at the time, altogether clear.
Following the creditable home draw against Chesham United, it would have been pleasant for home supporters had Dunstable concluded their season with a win instead of a noticeable dip in form in the final few fixtures. Earlier in the season they won at the Oval by the same score, in the pouring rain on the Greenbacks’ smart artificial pitch.
When the visitors arrived at the ground I complimented them on a fine away win at Kettering Town, which, as it turned out, denied the Northamptonshire side a play-off position. The Bedworth kit-man, wearing a rose for St George’s Day, told me that they had deserved the win at Kettering and added ‘we will do the same to you today’. Well, he was right, but for many the game ought to have resulted in a draw as ‘in real time’ there seemed nothing wrong with Dunstable’s equaliser. My conclusion, after making inquiries with the match officials, was that Gary Wharton, who provided the cross for the defender to hook the ball past his own keeper, was off-side, the flag going up before the unfortunate slice.
This final game of the season then was one of vital importance for Bedworth who take the drop after just one season – but their fighting spirit today was manifested by alacrity in counter –attacking play that was maintained throughout the game. At the very least we may applaud the quality of the second goal, the eventual winner, coming from a piece of sumptuous skill and a deft finish, albeit from close range.
One cannot fault Dunstable for effort, though. The persistence of Chris Vardy and Connor Calcutt was again notable as was the defensive skill of Adam Pepera and Zack Reynolds. I will add to this the exuberant play of Gary Wharton, who came on as a substitute for the injured Vardy. Notable too, was the manager’s decision to send himself on as a substitute for the second successive match, perhaps to display that, as he eases to the age where, it is claimed, life begins, he could come on for a few parting shots before he adopts the track suit on a permanent basis.
It was most acceptable, that given the urgent nature of Bedworth’s quest, that we were treated to a game of reasonable quality and skill. How nice it would have been if David Keenleyside’s overhead kick in stoppage time might have bulged the net instead of going wide. The opening stages suggested that the visitors were well up for it, as they showed a definite edge in attacking possibilities. The contribution from Jonathan Gould was outstanding, demonstrating that persistence under pressure is a quality to be admired. Elliott Parrott had an early run and a shot that, although well held by Bart Pedrycz, was well worth the effort.
Confident on the ball and with good distribution, the Greenbacks refused to allow their hosts to settle. An early cross from Justin Marsden seemed to screech across the face of goal but found no contact. With Pedrycz tipping the next effort over the bar for a corner, the initiative seized by the hosts reached fruition with a fourteenth minute goal scored by a very lively Jordan Archer, who but for errant finishing in the closing stages, might well have bagged a hat-trick instead of just two goals.
It was a deserved lead but it lasted barely two minutes before Dunstable were on level terms, coming from a little bit of good fortune. Connor Calcutt, who again had a notable match, took advantage of an awkward bounce that deceived a defender, and with a good bit of skill, controlled the ball before picking his spot to give James Martin little chance. So, with sixteen minutes gone we had seen two goals and it seemed that there would be more in this evenly contested game.
Dunstable now began exert some needed pressure and this was exhibited by a firm shot from Steve Wales that was deflected for a corner. This was sent in well and Chris Vardy saw his effort sent for another, which was successfully defended. Keenleyside fired in a typical effort and with Vardy brought down outside the area we hoped for good things from the free kick but that too was defended.
Bedworth responded with a decent shot from Archer that was held by Pedrycz. There was a good move from Anthony Leslie and Keenleyside that resulted in a corner that was punched clear by Martin, who also held another shot from Wales. We reached the interval soon after and most could agree that it had been a good half. Bedworth had shown commendable spirit, and their splendidly attired committee had taken pride in them. Dunstable had settled and played their way to some degree of effectiveness – but there was still this nagging reminder of the club’s poor showing against the so-called basement clubs.
With both clubs having some reason to believe that the second half would favour them, there was an optimistic start to the second half. Keenleyside and Wharton combined in an early sortie, resulting in a corner, and from this there was a deft back-headed flick by Calcutt where Pepera tried to sneak in but was foiled by Martin. For Bedworth, Daniel Kavanagh had a bit of a run and won a free-kick wide on the right. Luke Rowe took this but to no good effect. A nice little bit of possession from Wharton resulted in a disappointing blast over the cross bar and a Calcutt free-kick was saved by Martin.
There was to and fro football but then we witnessed the best goal of the game when a penetrative run from Gould saw him elude three defenders before his cross was converted by Archer from close range. This was on fifty-eight minutes and, coming from counter-play as it did it served as a reminder of how effective this can be if there is pace and support in place.
The Greenbacks’ original lead had lasted two minutes and it seemed that this was going to be repeated when Dunstable appeared to have equalised, albeit from a sliced own goal. Wharton had just had a ‘one on one’ with the keeper, who had won the duel but then, from an attempted clearance- it seemed the scores were level. Wharton had played in a cross from the right, apparently aiming for Wales, who made no contact but the unwanted defensive slip nestled in the back of the net. Reactions were contrasting, but we then spotted the assistant’s flag and the referee went over to consult him, and erelong the goal was disallowed. Was Wharton off-side when he put in the cross – and if Wales was interfering, how so? Questions were asked but the goal was disallowed. Most were claiming that you cannot be off-side when a defender has the vital last touch (or slice).
An hour had passed and that ruling did not adversely affect Dunstable’s attacking notions and they made some commendable and even dramatic efforts to score after that. Most notable was David Keenleyside’s overhead kick that goes down as a narrow miss but had it gone in would be a contender for goal of the season. Bedworth shrugged off these near misses as they had continued with their tactic of hitting hard and fast on the counter and Archer really ought to have made it 3-1 on more than one occasion – but each successive effort seemed a more glaring miss than its predecessor.
The game’s only cautions were those of Abdul Mohammed and Gary Wharton who seemed to have either a territorial dispute involving the invasion of personal space. It was minor stuff and they knew it.
Once incident that brought a wry smile was when referee Andy Aylott presided over a ‘bounce up’. It looked like the gym master presiding over some too eager boys. ‘Now lads’ he said, ‘try not to kick each other, and most importantly, do not kick me.’ All was well in each case. Zack Reynolds (named Dunstable’s Player of the Season in the following social evening), provided the assistance for Wales but Martin was equal to it and another chance had gone.
Archer was still looking for the target and twice he had his pockets picked by Adam Pepera, who lost no time later in telling me that he was not cautioned on this occasion, and to tell the ref and linesman that they had got it wrong. The said gentlemen were eating their sausages and chips in the board room and smiled with the world- weary type of smile that suggests they were used to such views.
Iyseden Christie looked initially ungainly but proved to be an effective substitute for Nathsn McGarrity and was involved in a couple of moves that provided goal chances. Howard Hall was replaced with five minutes to go by Jonathan Wyllie and Anthony Leslie had given way to ‘the gaffer’ Tony Fontenelle who by his own admission had probably made his last appearance.
The closing stages were not exactly predictable as for every frantic attack from Dunstable, the Greenbacks swept the ball away to their front runners who, but for good defending may well have increased their lead. The best bit was Keenleyside’s overhead kick that would have been a spectacular equaliser.
But, right at the end, with Dunstable winning a corner – goal keeper Bart Pedrycz left his line and lined up with the others for a possible header. The irony was that Keenleyside’s athletic overhead effort could well have been left ( had Pedrycz but called out). It was agreed that the keeper was in the optimum position for a clean header and how much I would have enjoyed writing about a goalkeeper that scored an equaliser in stoppage time to show that such things do not just occur in Roy of The Rovers. As it was Pedrycz had to scamper back in case what happened at Merthyr Town happened again.
For those not at that game, the Welsh club’s keeper came up for a late corner, fluffed his header and watched in despair as Wharton stroked the ball into an empty net from just beyond the half-way line. So, with that bit of drama the match ended and Bedworth had avenged their defeat at the Oval and they finished the season in twentieth position.
Later in the evening saw the Club’s Presentation Evening, with some supporters still arguing about the goal that never was. So, a mid- table finish for Dunstable with an even goal difference but with, in total one more defeat than the number of victories. The unimpressive form of the last few matches was the chief reason, but we do have another season in the Premier Division to look forward to. On our last appearance in this division, some ten years ago, we, like Bedworth, enjoyed a one season stay, but this season was different, as for a long time the club was knocking on the door of the Play-Offs and had enjoyed the respect from their opponents.
Bart Pedrycz, Zack Reynolds, Howard Hall, (Jonathan Wyllie, 87), Mark Smith, David Longe-King, Adam Pepera, captain, Anthony Leslie, (Tony Fontenelle, 77), Steve Wales, Connor Calcutt, GOAL, 16 mins, Chris Vardy, (Gary Wharton, 35, cautioned), David Keenleyside. Other substitute – Danny Talbot.
James Martin, Daniel Kavanagh, Luke Rowe, captain, Andrew Westwood, Kyle Cartwright, Abdul Mohammed, cautioned, Justin Marsden, Elliott Parrott, Jordan Archer, TWO GOALS, 14 and 58, Nathan McGarrity, (Iyseden Christie), other subs – Mouhamaboul Fall and Adrian Boitas.
Referee – Andrew Aylott, assisted by Paul Valentin Mihalache and Darren Lander.