ENTERTAINMENT LATE ON AT LEIGHTON
First there was a bit of confusion, as Leighton Town had requested that Dunstable played in their away strip, which was agreed but the message did not get through to Development squad manager, Simon Reilly, to whom the responsibility for the game was given, since it turned out to be his particular team who were to take on the Spartan Premier side.
Leighton hastily found a home kit and we were soon underway in what, at first, seemed to be a one-sided affair, with the hosts eagerly pursuing every early chance to make their attacks successful. They were able to deny Dunstable possession and aided by a couple of errors, they came very close to scoring. The visitors were forced to defend stringently, which they did but still displayed what seemed a nervous vulnerability. Their own attempts to get forward were waylaid by the home defence or by their zealous over hitting of long passes.
Then, after about twenty-five minutes, the hosts seemed to lose their zest and bagan to look a little timorous in front of goal, with their best chances coming from what seemed as host of successive corners, keeping Bart Pedrycz busy in the Dunstable goal. no team sheet was available and once again, I recognised only a few of the players. I did note that one of our notable former players, Ross Hanley, was included in the Leighton side. He spoke to me before the game and explained he was making a return to the game after two years (!) out with injury.
Dunstable had thus played their way back in and at last began to make inroads into the opposition half, but goal opportunities were few in number. In terms of entertainment though, it was relatively dull stuff, but at least it had become an even contest - well, I say that but Leighton had the greater number of chances, but with goal success eluding them. We arrived at the interval without a goal - and it did take a while in the second period for things to brighten.
The usual crop of substitutions were made and this appeared to favour Dunstable who suddenly found themselves with the initiative and they were able to attack positively, utilising both wings. Leighton countered well and early on they forced no fewer than four corners which caused some problems but not insurmountable ones. The first goal, which went to the hosts came following a free-kick and was headed gleefully home on the hour mark. The consensus was that Leighton deserved the lead since overall they had been the more enterprising, but their lead was eliminated after a further eight minutes, when Alex Dixon connected smartly with a penetrating through ball and he fired past Jack Sillitoe, finding the bottom right corner.
Many readers may remember Sillitoe's heroic performance against Dunstable when playing for Aylesbury United a few seasons ago. his saves saved his side from defeat that memorable night - and at Bell Close as well. Sillitoe looked beaten in one Dunstable effort that cannoned off the cross bar but he was beaten at close range in one of those goalmouth scrambles where an errant boot of Junior Maya gave Dunstable the lead for the first time in the game. It was a feisty moment of real competitive spirit.
Home supporters might have felt disgruntled but within a minute their team was level with a goal at the other end scored in similar circumstances. This livened things up and we had a fighting conclusion with both teams coming close. Leighton had more corners that on one occasion produced two deadly shots that were somehow defended and at the other end the home defence needed to be alert.
We can forgive both teams for keeping the best stuff until the late stages - just like the Euros eh? The frantic finish could have seen either team snatching victory, but I would say this was an equitable draw and for me it was very pleasant to meet my colleagues from Leighton Town who have always represented their club in the right manner.
One note of concern was the Dunstable player, whose name I did not discover, had to leave the field with a dislocated shoulder and the paramedics arrived before the conclusion of the match. We hope the player will recover soon.
For me it was a tricky cycle home along the old railway path, the famous Sewell Bank that tested locomotives and their trains in former days when Dunstable once possessed two stations and now merely have a guided busway.