CINDERS DID NOT GET TO THE BALL
Dunstable Town returned to the Causeway after an absence of some years – and when we last met it was in the South and West Division, and, as I recall, so cold that brass monkeys with slight imperfections were on sale in the local market. Cinderford Town were in a sense, the Cinderella team as they initially had rejected promotion for a host of reasons, but after a time of convoluted argument the League announced that they were to accept Premier division status and that was that. I am glad of it, since that wonderful vista you can gaze upon after leaving the ground was worth the cramped minibus trip. I gazed in awe and someone patted me on the shoulder and said, just drive.
The minibus? Well, not ours, but kindly loaned by Barton Rovers Chairman Darren Whiley, and manager Tony Fontenelle volunteered me as the driver. Look at my eye twitching. It was raining as well, all the way there, but the sun magically appeared when Dunstable regained the lead, kicking up the appreciable slope. The Causeway is an unpretentious ground but if it were human your mum would get out her hanky and wipe away the untidy bits. Terracing of grass slopes is no problem, and there were stands elsewhere, one with bench seats. It all oozed character and the long fence on the far side has done yeoman service and aches for creosote. Like me, it could do with a good spruce up.
I was pleased that their secretary remembered me from our last visit, we chatted pleasantly and he recalled that on our last trip Kerry Dixon was in charge. That was true I said, but lately he was taken in charge for biffing someone on the hooter in a public house and was rendered a temporary guest of her majesty, and did a bit of porridge. I meekly implored their secretary to announce Pepera as, well Pepera and not Pepper. As it happened that fell on stony ground, but no matter. Dunstable were lacking Zack Reynolds, who was serving his one match suspension, and there was a new signing, one Jack Green, brother of our Danny, and also from St Albans City. He was listed as a substitute and did see action in the second half.
Cinderford’s form has not been too impressive, with two wins and five defeats in their seven games, but they are fresh into the Premier Division, and with a young side rapidly learning their craft. Dunstable, with five wins from seven, may well have been worth a flutter, but again they made it difficult for themselves. Having secured a deserved lead they then threw it away by conceding their fourth penalty in three games. That is not a good statistic, and I am not surprised that Mr Fontenelle threw a wobbly at half time, as well as a paper cup full of refreshing orange juice. If you are wondering why the gaffer ‘went into one’ – well it can be explained simply, they gave themselves unnecessary hard work after crafting a deserved lead. When Cinderford netted for the second time, ruled off-side, as it goes, it did not stop the manager from exhorting his team to blankingwell concentrate. It worked; they did and came away with a handsome and deserved three points. It deflected me from the shock of our physio Will Temple who appeared with a new dyed blonde hairdo, confusing me to the extent that I did not know whether to whistle or just shake his hand. Do not get me started on Jhai Dhillon’s beaded hair band; I am still coming to terms with all those fluorescent boots.
Cinderford kicked-off up the slope on the well doused pitch, and had an initial burst of promise that soon faded as Dunstable settled to their game. Sammy Hicks and Karnell Chambers combined before Blaine Waugh shot wide. Defensively the hots had a bit of a nervous time, with man of the match Jhai Dhillon testing keeper Ben Fletcher. David Keenleyside was a bundle of skilful tricks, with good little runs and intelligent distribution – he assisted Shane Bush whose shot was well held, with Alex Cathline awaiting a possible spill. The next cross from Dhillon brought a neat flick from Cathline but it lacked momentum.
Some home supporters close to me were commenting on goal keeper Jack Smith’s early tendency to take on the role of full back. Indeed he roamed far from his line on a number of occasions I had to manually pull my eyebrows down to their normal position. He will do that once too often was the view and we can catch him out from distance. Well he did not and they did not. Nick Rhodes succumbed to a bloody nose in the course of the action and needed the famous blood shirt. Wilson Ferreira, in confident mood was having a good game, and Keeno was having a bit of a beano. Dunstable after settling began to press and it was all good stuff, with plenty of inviting crosses winging their way to a hoped for conversion. Ferreira had a shot well blocked. A Danny Talbot free kick reached Dhillon and then Cathline whose shot was deflected for a corner. A Keenleyside cross was sliced out awkwardly for a corner. This was partially beaten away but the second cross from Talbot was splendidly converted by means of a header from John Sonuga. Fourteen minutes and one nil to the Dunstable – and they deserved it on the run of play.
Sonuga modestly accepted the plaudits, and then as the phrase has it he went from hero to zero by conceding a penalty that was gloriously thumped home by Jack Camm, six minutes later.
This rejuvenated the hosts who put together some slick moves. Matthew Long was a creative force and I liked the cut of his jib, along with Ben Hands and a roaming Karnell Chambers. It is too easy to say that Dunstable had lost their way a bit for the remainder of the half. Chambers gave a good visual example of E M Forster’s epigraph….. only connect, which he singularly failed to do with one sumptuous cross. Long tried a long free kick and cleared the cross bar. Talbot’s corners were excellent, but so were some of the Cinderford crosses that had Jack Smith in full athletic mode, exuding confidence. Long and Hands constructed a good move that Smith foiled with a bit of brave work, but it needed Dhillon to clear from the line and one home shot seemed to ricochet from the foot of the post as well. Keeno put one over the bar and a Ferreira cross screamed for a bloke in blue and white hoops but none were to hand. A Shane Bush header from a free kick was foiled by keeper Fletcher.
I suspect Cinderford would have liked the half to last longer whilst they were so upbeat, but it was all square at 1-1 and it had been entertaining stuff. I sent text message in the interval to our chairman and our photographer (who was hors de combat with a chest infection). The message,’ Sonuga scored then gave away a penalty’ was replied to by the chairman with a single word of Anglo-Saxon derivation. I did ponder if he meant me or the player but decided on the latter for my own sense of well-being. What had begun as a dominant period of play from Dunstable had swung in favour of the hosts. Character and discipline were needed in abundance.
But, as it turned out the second half was much better for the visitors, with some well-timed tactical substitutions. I say that but I am forced to recall that Danny Green’s late injury meant that the team was down to ten men and unable to put on another replacement as they had used all three. Cinderford started well enough, with a shot wide and a fair move or two, but one inviting chance saw the ball lofted into the nether regions outside the ground. There was a distinct nervousness of Cinderford defending (and to be fair, this was replicated by Dunstable a little later). The impressive Dhillon as an attacking wing back had another pop and Fletcher saved well. We missed Dhillon in the Canvey Island game; his presence would have brought the Gulls back to Creasey Park. His stout defending, his inventive forward play and his vision adds much to the team, as does his reliability and untiring effort.
Cathline was in a seemingly different role – he was a target man, a hold the ball and lay it off man. He has scored five so far but is adept at assisting others to get onto the score sheet. He won a corner or two, he chased what might not have been a lost cause if a defender lost his nerve. Talbot’s corner was defended haphazardly and the following Dhillon cross saw Shane Bush head Dunstable back into the lead after fifty-four minutes.
This was a vital moment that seemed to deflate the home side, and when, after a crafty Keenleyside move, Dhillon was brought down, Dunstable were awarded an undisputed penalty that Talbot converted with almost arrogant ease. We had played just over the hour and Dunstable had firmly regained the initiative. Jack Green came on to mark his debut and from a Dhillon assistance he shot wide in his first attempt.
A Bush cross to Keeno came to nothing and the former also assisted the latter who blasted over the cross bar. Vences Bola came on for Bush and made himself a nuisance by retaining the possession close to the corner flag and he was able to make a forward run at ties that caused consternation to the hosts who were beginning to play a higher line. Jack green had a blocked shot on the turn and a good effort by hicks saw Smith punch clear.
Cinderford did get the ball in the net to make it, they hoped 3-2 but the assistant’s flag was held high and that was that. A home corner was again cleared by Dhillon close to the line; in fact they forced three successive corners all of which needed a slightly better class of defending than they actually received. Cinderford wasted a couple of free-kicks in good positions, but they did force some goalmouth action that might have reduced the arrears.
Adam Moussi had a frantic last ten minutes as a substitute, but there was a confidence about Dunstable that instilled a bit of confidence in the Regiment who were by now rolling up their flags that had dried a bit in the late bit of token sunshine. Full marks to Scottie who won the raffle or whatever the draw was and he donated a portion of his winnings to Cinderford club funds. He did it, so their secretary told me, before Dunstable took the lead. Gin and tonic makes the big fellow generous.
In short, Cinderford had their chances and unwillingly spurned them, whilst Dunstable took theirs well and deserved their win at the Causeway today. The three points raises them to third. We have been there before, and we know that the trick is to stay there or thereabouts. The nervy minutes when Danny Green went off injured and the last period with ten men, is all part of the scheme of things in many games elsewhere as well as here, but it is pleasing to report a Dunstable win that is more than a one goal margin. Six league wins a draw and just the one late loss constitutes a good start to the season, but it would be nice to see them get through a game without conceding a penalty.
I was in fine fettle for the romp home driving the minibus, amused at the players’ reconstruction of pivotal moments, where to a man, they suggested that better things would have resulted had they listened to his particular advice. I was bound for Hemel Hempstead as a drop-off point for the majority, leaving Adam Moussi, Shane Bush and Wilson Ferreira, as my passengers. After leaving Hemel we endured a debilitating delay on the M1, and I shared my sugar-free mints to help ease the stress. It was such a starlig delay and long lasting….. thus I am finishing the report at well past three am, eased a little by the kindly emolument from the players, orchestrated by David Keenleyside who sat next to me with the generous but mildly apologetic air that he was the only one who would or could endure my company for that length of time.
Dunstable face St Ives Town at Creasey Park on Tuesday 13 September, and Saturday 17 September does not give us a chance to ‘concentrate on the league’ as that day was set aside for the expected progress of Dunstable in the FA Cup. Hrrumph. We have a free day and I will have no excuse not to take the missis out. Commiserations to Bush, Ferreira and Moussi who had to sit through that awful traffic congestion. What the heck, we won, we are third and the team is in good shape.
Ben Fletcher, Sammy Hicks, Matthew Long, Josh Nelmes, captain, cautioned, Lee Hartshorn, Nick Rhodes, Jack Burns, Ben Hands, cautioned (Lewis Fletcher), Karnell Chambers, Jack Camm, PENALTY GOAL, 20 minutes, (Sam Hunt), Blaine Waugh. Other Substitues – Harry Burns, Chris Burns, Billy Guest.
Jack Smith, Danny Green, JHAI DHILLON, this reporter’s man of the match, Danny Talbot, PENALTY GOAL, 59 minutes, (Adam Moussi, 81 minutes), John Sonuga, GOAL, 14 minutes, Adam Pepera, captain, Wilson Ferreira, (Jack Green, 59 minutes), David Longe-King, Alexander Casthline, Shane Bush, GOAL, 55 minutes, (Vences Bola, 70 minutes), David Keenleyside. Other substitutes – Joseph Debayo and Jack Hutchinson.
Referee – R Cockle assisted by A Robinson and D Ghent – all had sound games.