HUTCHINSON’S PENALTY IS JUST ENOUGH
A first half penalty converted by Jack Hutchinson after twenty-two minutes was the only goal in this edgy match, where Dunstable had to defend in depth in a second half onslaught from a positive Kings Langley side who richly deserved a point in their first home game in the Premier Division. The Hertfordshire club have enjoyed three successive promotions, and like their opponents came up from the Spartan League.
They were not exactly an unknown quantity since their squad tonight contained no fewer than four former Dunstable Town players, namely Dean Hitchcock, Kyle Anthony, Stuart Deaton and Ryan Plowright. Dunstable included a new signing in their squad, Daniel Green, who was signed from St Albans City, who came on as a substitute. Also making his debut was Wilson Ferriera, who had featured in a pre-season game. Goalkeeper Jack Smith and Gary Wharton owing to injuries sustained in the home match against Cambridge City.
Gaywood Park is a ground in transition, and there are plans afoot to build a new stand as one of many desired improvements. Kings Langley had held Chippenham Town to a draw in their first game, which is all the more creditable since Chippenham secured a handsome 4-1 win away to Weymouth tonight.
So, with both teams relatively confident, what transpired was a feisty encounter in which Dunstable dug deep to defend their penalty goal lead, and once again goal keeper Jamie Head was outstanding. Head had come on for the last ten minutes to hold off the later exertions of Cambridge City and he did the same tonight, holding firm against relentless attacking from the hosts.
From the start the game had an upbeat tempo, noted for clean defensive challenges and some fine, flowing moves. This pace did not relent and right into time added on it did seem likely that the hosts would snatch a point. Yet, for the first half, Dunstable contained their efforts and looked reasonably comfortable and we can only speculate on their loss of initiative in what was an exceedingly nervous second half. An early danger sign was Adam Pepera’s timely intervention to thwart a thrusting attacking move, and the first shot of the game was Ollie Cox’s reasonable effort that went wide.
David Longe-king was cautioned early on and in stoppage time at the end of the game he received a second caution and was thus dismissed. Langley did have a couple of free-kicks beaten away, and it was clear they were not shy in getting forward. Dunstable did likewise but the best they could muster in the opening spell was a weak header from Ferreira. Their biggest threat came from Alex Cathline’s persistence, and it was when he was fouled that Dunstable gained their penalty. He did manage to get the ball in the net on a later occasion but this was adjudged off –side. This was a good spell from Dunstable and it was mystifyingly absent in the beleaguered second half.
The pace of Jack Hutchinson was also pleasingly evident and there was one move involving Danny Talbot and Shane Bush that led to a Talbot corner, which was beaten away up field for Ryan Plowright to have a go, but this was held by Head. Hutchinson followed with a blocked shot but shortly after came the undisputed penalty. Dunstable had steadied and had a slight initiative much help by the successful penalty. The hosts made an immediate counter which brought a corner and a good run from Callum Adebiyi forced another.
A poor clearance from Langley keeper Xavi Comas almost let in the prowling Hutchinson, but the hosts were generally sure-footed with good distribution and ball control. But Cathline was a persistent presence, with a blocked shot, and Hutchinson suffered a similar experience and the move that brought what we though and hoped was a second goal was a smart one.
Langley rallied again and Ollie Cox saw his shot blocked before Hitchcock shot wide. Cathline tried a shot on the turn but was instantly dispossessed. However Dunstable were finishing the half the stronger and the last meaningful action was a blocked shot from Danny Talbot. There were similarities to the Cambridge game insofar as the teams looked very evenly matched and only a very special piece of play would separate them.
I think it is an indicator that the season is going to be a very long haul and mistakes are likely to be severely punished on the way. There was a lot of hard work going on in this first period and in the second half both sides made substitutions, with Langley changing their formation in a bid to restore parity.
During the interval I was honoured to meet ex Arsenal and Ipswich player Brian Talbot, whose son Danny scored the winner on Saturday. Langley officials were more or less content with the way the half had gone and not one disputed the penalty decision.
The home side brought on Gary Connolly for Hitchcock and Oran Swales for Sean Coughlan. Dunstable decided to replace Cathline and on came Connor Calcutt. And, making his debut was Daniel Green who replaced Talbot. Taishan Griffith also replaced Wilson Ferreira.
What was not replaced was the relentless pace – but markedly it favoured Kings Langley who not only seized the initiative but dominated possession and only the cross bar denied a deserved equaliser, when Toomey blasted in following a free-kick. A good move involving Kyle Anthony and Sean Coughlan saw Head make one of a number of vital saves.
It must be said that Dunstable defended well under pressure but they were lacking a bit of shape since clearances were ineffective in gaining what they needed – a good bit of possession to help ease the attacking pace of their opponents. A corner from the hosts was aimed at centre half and skipper Deaton who fluffed his chance – but we knew too well that he may not miss another - and we can recall several times when he had snatched a goal for Dunstable in former days.
When Dunstable did get forward it was with solo runs from the likes of Hutchinson and indeed Pepera, but the lone front figure of Calcutt had a hard time of it and his best part, ironically was a super clearance from yet another Langley attack.
There was a golden opportunity for Ryan Plowright to put one over his former club, but instead of steadying and taking an extra touch, he walloped the ball well over the bar. With Dunstable pegged back and making ineffective clearances, the hosts did their utmost to score and it was largely due to Jamie Head that they did not. He remained calm in some frantic moments and his saves were brave and well judged. Dunstable’ defence was, however quite well co-ordinated and player communication was notable. They will have plenty more games of this type home and away and it is to their credit that they kept a clean sheet. They tackled well to gain possession but this was seized from them time and again and as we approached stoppage time it made for some nervous glances at wrist watches from the away support.
As one Langley supporter said – it was all very well to have the better of the half but it counts for little unless you convert your chances. This may be seen as an objective view but there much that home fans could be pleased with. Dunstable, who have won both their games, will be very much aware that these two performances have pushed them hard and the one goal margin of their wins amply show the closeness of the encounters.
But what they have demonstrated is a good indication of cohesion, with players volubly praising good play with encouraging and helpful comments to one another. Team spirit counts for a good deal and it was evident. The first half was better of course, and if Cathline’s off-side goal had been legitimate it would have eased the tension considerably.
I praise Langley’s effort as they showed similar qualities of fighting spirit and awareness and I do not mind admitting that if they had secured a draw, they would have deserved it. A narrow defeat paradoxically can hurt more than a real thrashing.
I feel both managers can take encouragement from the game tonight and look forward to the next one. Langley take on Slough Town at home and Dunstable travel to Wales to face Merthyr Tydfil on their artificial pitch. What is needed is a more consistent performance in both halves as there was a significant difference, despite substitutions. I will say that despite not scoring from open play tonight, the Dunstable attack is a good deal sharper that it was at the end of last season – and it must be remembered these are early days yet, and pleasingly, the steady improvement is there and can only get better.
Xavi Comas, Emanuel Folarin, cautioned, Callum Adebiyi, Dean Hichcock (Gary Connolly), Stuart Deaton, captain, Kyle Anthony, Ollie cox, Ryan Plowright, Sean Coughlan(Oran Swales), Connor Toomey, Josh Chamberlain. Other substitutes- Lewis Toomey, Steve Ward and Jack Waldren.
Jamie Head, this reporter’s Man of The Match, Joe Debayo, Jai Dhillon, Daniel Talbot, (Daniel Green), John Sonuga, Adam Pepera, captain, Wilson Ferreira, (Taishan Griffith), David Longe-King, dismissed after two cautions, Alex Cathline, (Connor Calcutt), Shane Bush, Jack Hutchinson, PENALTY GOAL, 22 MINUTES, other substitutes – Adam Moussi and L:uis Fernandes.
Referee- Neil Morrison, assisted by Andrew Herb andf Jonathan Bolland. All had good games.