HONOURABLE DRAW MARKS MEMORIAL GAME FOR ETHAN
All rivalry was put aside before the match as the planned tribute to Dunstable Town youth player Ethan Houghton was respectfully observed. The clubs youth teams stood with admirable politeness and patience as referee Stuart Cheek led the first team out, with Chesham United, and following a short announcement, there was a minute’s applause to honour Ethan and those of his family who died with him in the tragic road accident last week.
The weather, as predicted was blustery wind and occasional showers and some sunshine. The rogue wind played its part in spoiling precise play, and provided no advantage for either side. The lack of a goal might suggest a dull encounter but it turned out to be a match that favoured both defences whose tall defenders ensured limited chances for the hard-working strikers.
Dunstable instigated one change from the bruising Banbury game, with David Keenleyside returning to the side at the expense of Wilson Ferreira, who was on the substitutes’ bench, along with David Longe-King who had completed his single match suspension. Chesham were without the injured Nick Beasant, and among their team was the returning striker Drew Roberts.
It is not very often that games between these sides fail to provide a goal and indeed a few controversial moments, and I recalled our last meeting at
Creasey Park which instead of a end of the season type game it was a red-blooded affair that ended 1-1. Dunstable had suffered a rather heavy loss earlier at Amy Lane. At ther commencement of this season, the Generals had recovered from their opening day loss against Redditch United and in their last three games had won two and drawn one. Given the derby nature of the game and the increased Dunstable attendance (305), it was hoped we might see a classic to encourage similar numbers in future games.
Well, if were a defender looking on you would have seen some splendid spoiling play by both teams, but it turned out to be a bit like me on the dance floor – no real rhythm. This was caused by both over hit passes as well as the normal halts for injuries, where players approach the dug out as if they are about to die of thirst, scrambling from the thrown on plastic flasks.
We had a tentative start that exposed several errors, mostly unforced, with an inordinate number of free kicks (going mostly to Chesham) and I lost count of the number of passes that missed their target and sailed into touch. We had to wait an appreciable time for a decent shot on target and the closest we got to a goal was Jack Hutchinson’s second half shot that hit the foot of the post. I do not know why it is, but whenever there is a strong wind that menaces Creasey Park, teams tend to play the long high ball, with goalkeepers punting up field to one another like tennis players warming up on the base line. It was not all like that of course and it behoves me to say that the Generals were a bit better at constructive combinative play than Dunstable in the opening stages.
Their high crosses necessitated Jack Smith to punch clear or gather the cross in confident style. Dunstable conceded corners a little too easily and so far with the nominal wind advantage had availed them little. A Dunstable free-kick enabled Adam Moussi to have a crack and his shot sailed over the bar to nestle in the bicycle racks in the car park. Alex Cathline, in splendid isolation up front exhibited his personal frustration by hoofing the ball after the whistle had gone and thus earned a very cheap and needless caution. Adam Pepera, normally so sound id defence as he is in wind and limb, put the wind up us with a bit of nervous defending that enabled a Chesham go at goal with Smith punching clear with one hand, as if to vary his repertoire.
Cathline did get involved more and his run in possession gave us some anticipation and it is a pity that the effort was too high even if it was mighty. But it was clear that the big defenders were running the show. John Sonuga and Pepera were notable as was the long serving General, Darren Purse – big strong defenders all- and Purse shook my hand after the game and I can tell you it still aches from the pressure! After a Danny Talbot corner, precisely defended, we saw a shot from Ryan Blake that was well saved by Smith. The best effort was from Chesham’s Adam Martin who was just wide, whilst
Talbot essayed an optimistic effort from range. The last meaningful attempt was from Dave Pearce who was wide of the target.
But in relation to recent games it had been unaccountably dull in tone. This must have been the implied criticism of a number of small boys on the Chav Hill bank. They showed an inventive turn to overcome the dullness by turning an advertising hoarding (which they had ‘liberated’) into an improvised slide and it kept them thoroughly amused.
In the perhaps duller world of adulthood, officials from both teams expressed polite views in the board room when we probably wanted to say what a poor spectacle game it had been so far. But this does not take fully into account the real hard work going out there in a congested midfield and with defenders doing their jobs with a zeal managers often approve. It crossed my mind that this is the fifth team Dunstable have played and each game has been tight as a drum. Already I thought that if a goal were to come it would be after a masterly set piece; and furthermore that it would probably be the only goal of the game.
Even well into the game I had been answering inquiries about ‘how are you getting on against Bedford Town in the FA Cup?’ Yes, the Southern League handbook and some websites had Dunstable Town down as facing Bedford Town on this very day. The answer was simple – it was the Old Dunstablians, aka AFC Dunstable who were on the Wembley trail elsewhere in the county and for the record they won 2-1. Also for the record, Dunstable Town will be away to Canvey Island in their FA Cup match.
Intermittent showers had those not in the stand almost clinging to the clubhouse wall like limpets since there is a little overhanging roof that gave token shelter. The rain added some zip to the small boys’ slide and a pretty rainbow might have stirred the poetry in our souls. After a double substitution by both clubs we did see an injection of some pace, a little bit more action in front of goal.
An impulsive attack from Chesham early in the half forced a corner and it was something of an anti-climax to see this cross land plop on top of the net. Brett Longden with a fair turn of speed made room for his cross but like others in the game it found no friendly feet or heads. Let us be charitable and blame the wind entirely. Roberts also forced a corner that saw Smith again leap to gather. Pepera cut out another good looking cross and Sonuga defended expertly in another foray. Talbot, facing his old club (one of them Pipes, he told me later, tried his long range bit later and it fell by the wayside.
Moussi and Hutchinson enjoyed a little combination but Chesham defenders intervened as if they had a divine right. The best bit from Chesham came from Pearce who had two headed efforts, the second being the better but resulted in an inexplicable miss. Bruce Wilson had a go to show his team how the skipper can bale them out, but instead of a glorious and exemplary goal it gave our ball boy some additional exercise in retrieving it from the dark distant corner of the car park.
Cathline had a better second half inasmuch as he had a couple of good runs in possession, a blocked shot and a decent ‘assist’ for Hutchinson, who, as I have mentioned might have won it but for the unyielding foot of the post, with the keeper, Ashlee Jones wrong-footed. Longe-King, who had come on as a substitute shot wide, and there was a hint that the pace of Hutchinson and the inherent strength of Cathline might see a breakthrough. But the Chesham defence matched Dunstable’s for both strength and height and this was adorned by a little head tennis from time to time.
Yes, there was a Dunstable clearance close to the line, yes, Jack Smith erred in leaving his line to deputise as a full back, leaving his goal bare, and yes he was adequately covered by Pepera. Zack Reynolds and Keenleyside tried to add a bit of style but it seemed destined to be goal-less and a point apiece would be seen as a right rather than a reward.
Both teams may reflect that one defeat in five games constitutes a fair start and also nurture the belief that one day soon they will give some team a proper good hiding to make up for dropped points today. At the very least it did show that both managers have got it right defensively, and we must take the unfavourable conditions into account.
From a wider aspect we may also say that much of today was more about human frailty with the loss of almost an entire family in a terrible accident and we thank the players, officials and supporters of Chesham United for their willing co-operation in the pre-match ceremony. They posted a sensitive notice on their web site and we had received a number of condolences from other clubs. If the match was not entirely memorable, the occasion was. Thanks are also due to Dunstable chairman John McLoughlin for his dedication in arranging the ceremony and overseeing the programme to ensure we remembered Ethan Houghton in the proper manner.
Dunstable enter unknown territory with a visit to Hayes and Yeading next Saturday, 27 August, and then we start our own trail to Wembley, with an FA Cup visit to Canvey Island. Supporters may well remember our visit there in 2008, in the same illustrious competition, where we overturned a 1-0 half- time deficit to win 5-1. It would be nice for us to do it again, and our bank manager may well be a Dunstable supporter for the day!
DUNSTABLE TOWN Jack Smith, this reporter’s Dunstable man of the match, Zack Reynolds, Jhai Dillon, Danny Talbot, John Sonuga, Adam Pepera, captain, David Keenleyside, Danny Green, (David Longe-King), Alex Cathline, cautioned, Adam Moussi, (Shane Bush), Jack Hutchinson. Other substitutes- Joe Debayo, Wilson Ferreira, Jamie Head, GK.
CHESHAM UNITED Ashlee Jones, Brett Longden, Toby Little, cautioned, Benji Grilley, Darren Purse, Adam Martin, Dave Pearce, Sam Youngs, (Matt Taylor), Ryan Blake, (Brad Wadkins), Drew Roberts, Bruce Wilson, captain. Other substitutes - Matt Mitchell-King, Stephan Hamilton-Forbes, Ben Ford.
Officials. Referee – Stuart Cheek, assisted by Jamie Garwood and Daniel Robinson. All three had good games.