Alex Cathline’s brace gave Dunstable a deserved victory over National League South side, Oxford City.
The Blues had the nerviest of starts, with David Longe-King mis-controlling the back pass from the kick-off, but the home side grew into the game quickly and looked strong going forward, with both flanks well worked by Jack Hutchinson and Gary Wharton.
Oxford City looked a little startled by the strength of Dunstable’s start and struggled to link up in the final third, with their first shot of the day a speculative effort from 35 yards, which keeper Jack Smith was able to pick up comfortably.
With the game beginning to settle into a rhythm, Oxford had the first real chance of the match, as Jack Smith was forced into a smart save after the Oxford City winger was pushed wide and fired in at goal from an improbable angle. (21st minute)
Only two minutes later though, Dunstable had delivered on their early promise. Gary Wharton picked out Cathline on the right hand side, who sprinted into open space, before firing across the face of the goalkeeper into the bottom left hand corner from the edge of the box. It was a really smart finish from a player who was turning out for Enfield Town in the Isthmian League Premier Division last season.
The goal sparked some life into Oxford, with a brilliant Pepera block from a 20 yard strike on the Dunstable goal, sending the ball out for a corner when it seemed destined for the back of the Blues’ net. That resulted in two goal line clearances, first Shane Bush throwing his body in the way of a goal bound effort, before Louis Stratford cleared with a header.
As the match drew into the final minutes of the first half, an excellent Oxford City break from a Dunstable corner should have seen the visitors draw level. With the City player cutting in from the right, all that was left to do was caress the ball into the bottom right corner, but he somehow sent it wide.
It was a brilliant display from the home side, who beat Egham Town 1-0 on Saturday with a below par performance.
Oxford looked the brighter at the beginning of the second half, but found themselves two goals down by the 49th minute, with Cathline rolling the ball under the keeper for his second of the night, after being fed from a Danny Talbot free-kick.
The striker had been a threat throughout the game, with his holdup play and ability to find a teammate under pressure something Dunstable seemingly lacked towards the end of last season.
Dunstable’s tight defence was finally undone though, when a smart ball through to an onside Oxford striker, put the forward one-on-one with Jamie Head, who rounded the man between the sticks with ease and passed the ball into an empty net to halve his sides deficit after 56 minutes.
Were it not for an acrobatic save from Jamie Head, somehow clawing the ball onto the post from a goal-bound header, Dunstable would have thrown away their lead in a strong City two minute spell.
Dunstable almost seemed like they wanted to throw away their lead, with the visitors beginning to tighten their grip on the game. Oxford came close to an equaliser, with the ball put on a plate for an away player 12 yards out, but he managed to curl it well over the bar.
A string of chances fell to Oxford, but they couldn’t capitalise on any of them, as the game seemed to slip away from them.
The final whistle marked the end of what Dunstable could call their best performance of pre-season, conveniently four days before the start of the season.
Dunstable face Cambridge City in their first Southern Premier League game of the 16/17 season this Saturday at Creasey Park, with a 3pm kick-off.