CATHLINE’S LONE STRIKE IS ENOUGH
This match had a scheduled kick-off for one pm which may account for large scale absenteeism from regular supporters, but in truth the game was a sandwich short of a picnic. The Sarnies, from the Central Division travelled from Surrey amidst reported heavy traffic and contested well, but only produced limited chances in front of goal and their defence was stout enough to keep the score to a single goal, which was scored two minutes into the second half by Alex Cathline.
There were more new faces in the Dunstable side and one ‘new old face’ in the shape of Connor Calcutt who was a regular striker last season. This was the penultimate preparatory game and we are just one week away from the league programme which commences with a home fixture on 6 August against Cambridge City. Before that big test there is the final friendly when Oxford City are the guests at Creasey Park on Tuesday 2 August, at 7.45 pm.
We can hazard a fairly educated guess at the probable starting eleven for the league game, and it was pleasing to see some good co-ordinated play from most of those on view today. Dunstable began well, having most of the possession and creating a number of opportunities, the central cause of failure to score being a number of over-hit crosses, or the final pass being too close to the opposing goalkeeper.
Cathline’s early chance was typical of these optimistic efforts. There was a decent through ball that gave the striker too much to do since the alert keeper was able to cut out the chance. Then the striker forced a corner which was then headed way over the bar. Wharton was typically combative and after artfully eluding various challenges his cross sailed into no space occupied by a home player. Hutchinson and Moussi - already fulfilling mush of their potential showed good glimpses of control and anticipation, but the best of these brought blocked shots or another cross that favoured the keeper.
But the pressure was still there since it took eighteen minutes before the Sarnies had the chance of a shot and this was put wide by their left back. Hutchinson’s next effort was deflected for a corner. This players pace is already a notable feature of his play and with similar pace and zest, Zack Reynolds had a blazing run but again players were absent for the cross. Moussi tried one from range, and then a combination from Cathline and Wharton was neatly thwarted by the Egham defence.
Hutchinson’s next effort was creditable but it took a deflection that assisted the keeper and Wharton’s shot on the turn lacked venom. Late in the half Egham began to construct some aggressive forward play and one shot needed a precise save from Jack Smith, as did a following headed effort. Hutchinson and Wharton again tried their luck but once mire the cross was too close to the keeper. The last chance of the half fell to Moussi who again shot from range and again there was a comfortable save.
No goals then in the first half, which was a bit dour, but free of controversy which one expects in a friendly. I say this because on my last visit to Egham, there was an incident just before the end of the first half that soured matters somewhat. Dunstable keeper Jamie Head had come off his line to challenge the Sarnies’ centre forward and there was an inevitable collision. Pessimistically I expected Head to be dismissed but instead the striker from Egham was cautioned and Dunstable had a free-kick. The assessor sitting behind me confirmed that the home player had jumped into and consequently fouled the keeper. As I entered the Egham board room I faced a barrage of comments which suggested strongly that Head was at fault and should have been dismissed. The comments were so heated that all I did was point to a sign which read (and I paraphrase) ‘please do not refer to the match in progress, let us keep it all friendly’. I sensed that my presence was painful to them so I returned to the stand and my pipe was the only refreshment I had.
Ironically there was a little bit of heated stuff in the second half which finally tested referee Abdul Kadir. He had tolerated one home player swearing loudly in disagreement to a decision and he did later book an Egham defender. Cautions are relatively rare in friendlies, but the game had taken on a bit of a scrappy nature and some challenges were far too robust to forgive. Dunstable showed the greater eagerness at the commencement and they were ahead after just two minutes of the second half, with Alex Cathline scoring neatly.
Dunstable went on to have a header go just wide. Egham’s best chances came from free-kicks, but they were not effective. One from just outside the area gave Jamie Head a routine save. Head had come on to replace Smith and of course both teams made the usual multi-substitutions. This affected the rhythm of the game and unfortunately the second half was not as enjoyable as the first period. Frustration was evident with the away ‘bench’ indulging in the lamentable expedient of deriding refereeing decisions.
This was a pity as when the game flowed there was plenty to appreciate from both teams, but no more goals. Dunstable did get the ball in the net late on but the ‘scorer’ knew full well he was off-side. Egham were a bit more on target than the first period but not enough to deceive Jamie Head. On balance Dunstable deserved to win as they had shown the greater initiative and were the more creative. Egham looked solid enough but lacked constructive fire-power.
Dunstable manager Tony Fontenelle was tight-lipped over this performance, and, as he did last season, he played his cards close to his chest – which indicates he has made decisions concerning the eventual line-up. I feel he must be reasonably encouraged with what he has seen over the last six pre-season games, and he may well have not concluded his signings of players. We will find out erelong. The Oxford City game will be an excellent test against nominally senior opposition, and we hope the team shows the kind of spirit they showed against St Albans city who were somewhat glad of their last gasp winner.