CATHLINE AND MOUSSI ON TARGET AGAINST ARLESEY
On a sweltering afternoon Dunstable recorded their first win in pre-season and the misleading statistics also record the first victory since 26 March and thus the first in fifteen games. It was also the first goal from open play in the four preparatory matches.
There was much to see that was encouraging, and an all-round improvement was distinctly noticeable. Perhaps getting a good hiding from Dagenham and Redbridge had put matters into focus, but the fact is that Dunstable dominated this match and Arlesey only bagged their consolation goal in the final minute.
As always it is hard on a reporter when no team sheet is available (and to be fair, not expected) and even the names of some your own team are as yet unnkown, but these games are more for managerial eyes and decisions rather than entertainment, so we can all put up with it.
Playing the the away kit, which will, I understand remain as black and red stripes rather than the hoped for hoops of the Dennis the Menace kit so beloved by the Regiment. Dunstable began in earnest, with Alex Cathline just beaten to a long ball forward by the keeper and then a very impressive Zack Reynolds had a shot that went just wide. Reynolds went on to have an influential game, and along with Gary Wharton and Danny Talbot, they provided glimpses of the team that had been into the play-off spot in the Premier Division last season.
I liked the passing play from Dunstable and the ferreting out of chances, and such was their early pressure that twio sucessive corners were forced, albeit defended well. Talbot essayed a free kick that was well on target and well held by the home keeper. Jack Hutchins was a lively spirit who showed good ball control and an insinct for attack fuelled by pleasing persistency.
Hutchinson on the left and Wharton on the right was working well and it added zest to their play when they were able to elude their markers. Reynolds and Talbot were there to marshal matters and even after ten minutes it was delightful to see the confiedent and co-ordianted play.
We had almost played twenty minutes and I had recorded a number of Dunstable chances and we were yet to see a significant foray by Arlesey who were just a little late into the action. They had ideas but poor play in the final third was noticeable. Wharton had put one over the bar following assistance from Talbot, and the hosts produced a slick move on the turn that was squandered with a lackadaisical shot.
Hutchinson's able assistance in the form of a delightful cross enable Wharton a free shot and he obliged but his thunderous shot struck the underside of the bar and bounced onto the goal line and it did not need goal-line technology to declare 'no goal'. but it was simply unfortunate and the bearded Wharton thus had a close shave, if you see what I mean. Had he scored it would have been with the run of play and it was much deserved.
Hutchinson was proving to be a nuisance and he did not tire of attempts to force his way through into the penalty area. But it was Alex Cathline who opened the scoring after the defiant crossbar had played another part in proceedings. Cathline unleashed a fiery shot and the bar shook before the bulky centre-forward smashed in the rebound. This goal came ten minutes before half-time and on the flow of play it was richly deserved. At last, a goal from open play, and a good one too, with the second being even better, but we had to wait a while for that.
So, with Dunstable ahead at the interval and Arlesey playing second fiddle, it would not have surprised me if the hosts came out in the second half with guns blazing. True enough they manages some slick stuff but it was not until the final ten minutes that they looked dangerous enough to hurt.
Talking of being hurt, one of the Arlesey contingent had to be taken off on a stretcher after about ten minutes' play in the second half, and we sincerely hope that there is no serious injury. It goes without saying that the clash was entrirley accidental and there was not a hint of ill-feeling. One of the spectators was telling me of a pre-season game at a nearby ground where three players were sent off in the very first minute for fighting. My ghasts are flabbered over that one.
Arlesey actually had the ball in the net from a free-kick but the referee had ordered it to be retaken, since he had clearly indicated that the kick be taken only when he whistled. There was not a hint of protest. The lively Wharton had another shot saved and I felt that had his screamer of a shot not rebounded from the upright but had bulged the net insteade he would have been a good deal more satisfied.
Arlesey had a corner or two that served to show us why the wiry Jack Smith had been selected again, since he was again in commanding form. He looks so slim that he was often marked absent at school when he turned sideways, but he lacks little in goal. He diplayed confidence, strength and skill but still looks like he needs to be tethered in a breeze. He showed good positioning and awareness and must be in the reckoning for final selection. He was not overburdened with work as he was against Dagenham, but what he did he did well.
Multi-substitutions were made by both sides but it did not affect the overall pattern of Dunstable dominance until - say the last ten minutes. The Dunstable substitutes showed the same fortitude and eagerness and one of them, Adam Moussi, scored a memorable goal in the seventy-fifth minute. This followed a creditable effort from Arlesey where the Dunstable defence played itself out of harm with some close passing and the forward ball found Moussi whose finish was sublime, finding the top left corner.
Arlesey finally clicked into gear and some moves were co-ordinated up to final pass that always seemed to be intercepted well - but they did get a compensatory goal, after eighty-nine minutes.
Most I spoke to were pleased with the Dunstable performance, which is one to build upon. Central division opponents again face Dunstable, in the form of Egham Town on Sat 30 July (1pm), but before then there is a trip Tuesday 26 July to Bell close to take on Spartan Premier side Leighton Town, and Thursday 28 July sees the visit of Conference South side St Albans City.