SAINTS SEAL IT WITH LAST MINUTE WINNER
As it turned out this was a fine preparatory game for Dunstable, whose team tonight contained more new players , and as usual there were the multi substitutions which so often affect the rhythm of the game – but the respective managers have a heavy task in selecting the probables over the possibles.
But there was one thing that could not be disguised which was that the Conference South visitors had the edge in technical superiority, particularly in close passing skills that were converted to goals. This does not denigrate Dunstable whose creativity was, at significant moments, a close match for their senior opponents. They had come from a two goal deficit to make it 3-3 with only minutes left, and must have felt that they had snatched a draw, even if that equaliser came from a robustly contested penalty.
Whilst some of the tackles seemed to be over zealous for a pre-season game, it did demonstrate the competitive nature of the game, and that to the players the result is always significant. New boys for Dunstable included Louis Strafford, Ashton Grant, John Sonuga, Shane Bush, Wilson Ferrera and another whose name was just given to me as Cash. I am not sure if the last named is so called or whether it refers to a mercenary nature. The Saints’ line-up did not include former Dunstable skipper James Kaloczi or Ben Herd. Also in the home squad was Taishan Griffiths who left Dunstable for spells with AFC Dunstable and Bedford Town.
An early move saw the impressive Shane Bush essay a header which was wide, but Gary Wharton and Alex Cathline showed a useful eagerness in going forward, with a combination of strength and pace. Wharton indeed had two goes at one cross, both being blocked. Ashton Grant latched onto a forward ball and it looked a definite chance until an expert tackle from Andy Iwudino denied him. The ball was immediately sent to the other end and Matt Ball converted to give the visitors the lead after seventeen minutes.
The Saints also won a fair number of corners that were adequately dealt with by the Dunstable defence, whose distribution was again adequate but not superlative. Dunstable’s free kicks looked good, and their equaliser came from one of these before half-time. St Albans always looked good on the ball and I admired the skill in confident short passing and player awareness. They had more shots on target and one from Louis Pharious drew a good save from Jack Smith, who gave another confident display.
Alex Cathline, who had scored at the win against Arlesey tested James Russell with an on target effort, and his ability to hold the ball up and shrug off challenges augers well for future appearances. But it was Shane Bush who scored the equaliser in the thirty-third minute. A free-kick, wide on the left sailed in and Bush headed beyond Russell. It had been a plucky response and compensated for the comparative lack of finesse ‘on the floor’.
The Saints however continued with their oass and move football and always looked dangerous with Pharious again coming perilously close to restoring the lead. The volatile St Albans bench found a degree of solace in deriding the referee’s decisions, with the odd tilt at the assistant referee but methinks they did protest over muchly. Sean Lucian had a decent header saved by Smith and Cathline’s equally good bonce hit brought a corner for Dunstable with Wharton providing the smart assistance.
At the interval it was all square at 1-1 and it had been an entertaining half. I thought back to my last visit to Clarence Park – some seasons ago when Enfield, (who were tenants at the time), played an FA Cup replay against Preston North End. The Lancashire team won comfortably in front of a 3000 plus attendance and what was impressive after the game was the Enfield team staying on the pitch after the final whistle to applaud the massive support they had received. Both competing clubs had been giants in their day in their respective leagues and I thoroughly enjoyed the match.
St Albans began the second half with a will and a purpose and but for solid defending may well have restored their lead sooner rather than later. Ngamvolou came close as did Pharious, with their efforts being deflected for corners. One cunning through ball set up Junior Morias, but Dunstable skipper Adam Pepera was there to clear, which strangely drew my attention to his salmon pink boots. Good gad sir, if he had appeared on the Hackney Marshes in my day with such footwear he would have earned some derisory comments. I recall commentators drawing attention to midfield dynamo Alan Ball cocking a snook at tradition by wearing white boots.
Ball restored a deserved lead for the visitors on the hour marked after some decidedly smart play in a multi-passing move gave the scorer a free hit. His body language showed how much he would make the most of this unhindered shot and the finish was exquisite, finding the bottom left corner. Shortly after this Morias had another go which was deflected by Jack smith onto the roof of the net for yet another corner.
Dunstable substitute (one of many, as both teams seemed to want to use their entire squads), won a corner from a deflected shot – but his pace was impressive. Russell punched this effort clear. The Saints increased their lead still further, with a real beauty of a free-kick just outside the area. This was netted by Matt Wycherlow whose reaction was one that suggested it was always going to be a goal. This came after seventy minutes.
Dunstable showed a degree of pluck and Okito had another scamper along the left wing and his cross was converted at a stretch with a sliding effort from the chap known as Cash.
Ten minutes later, following another energetic burst from the slender Okito saw him fouled ( not so according to the volatile visitors’ bench) and a penalty awarded , which was converted by Lewis Wilson. Ten minutes remained and Dunstable held off a number of forays until the last minute when Morias nipped in smartly to restore the Saints lead and that turned out to be the winning goal.
Whilst we realistically expected the Saints to win, we were pleased with the Dunstable performance that showed good spirit and was not devoid of skill and imagination.
Dunstable host Egham Town of the Southern League Central Division on Saturday 30 July, and do remember the one pm kick off. The final pre-season sees the visit of Oxford City on Tuesday 2 August. The league programme commences with a home game against Cambridge city on Saturday 6 August.
Jack Smith, Louis Strafford, Luis Fernandes, Ashton Grant, John Sonuga, Adam Pepera, Gary Wharton, David Longe-King, Alex Cathline, Shane Bush, Jack Hutchinson.
Substitutes – Taishan Griffith, Zack Reynolds, David Keenleyside, Gedeon Okito, Cash, Lewis Wilson, Adam Moussi.
ST ALBANS CITY
James Russell, Lee Chappell, Tom Bender, Scott Thomas, Josh hill, Andy Iwudino, Sean Lucian, Stephen Ngamvoulou, Louis Phariopus, Junior Morais, Matt Ball.
Subs details not supplied.
Referee – Andy Aylott assisted by John Wynne and John Panconi.