POPPIES PLUCKED AT LATIMER PARK
As a comedian once pointed out, clichés are old hat and should be avoided like the plague, but nevertheless I will start with one. Kettering Town conspired to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, in a game where, in the opening spell, looked like being a comfortable win for them. They seized an immediate imitative with exuberant attacking football, took a deserved lead in five minutes and almost added a couple more, when their tank of a centre-forward, Rene Howe, was sent off for violent conduct. In an indescribably petty dispute over a throw- in, Howe seized the ball and then elbowed Jack Hutchinson in the chest to emphasise that possession is nine tenths of the law. Well, the blatant gesture was in front of the referee, who immediately produced the red card. Howe’s walk of shame was foreshortened since he was handily near the players’ tunnel.
I was standing with a number of very fair-minded Kettering supporters, and their reaction was one of anger against their own player who, according to them, is a serial offender in this department. We had played just a quarter of an hour and this singular piece of ill-discipline contributed greatly to the Poppies’ defeat today. I will say that this opening period was one of anxiety for the travelling supporters as the team seemed to specialise in unforced errors and could not seem to settle, playing into a fairly strong breeze. There is no doubt that if Howe had remained on the pitch he would have been a useful target man as he is both big and strong and had already shown he could pack a punch.
It is, in a sense, a playing cliché, that a team reduced to ten men is often galvanised by the misfortune and history is replete with heroics related to this. Kettering looked the likelier side to add to the score for the remainder of the half and it was difficult to discern just who was at a numerical disadvantage. In plain terms, all was not right with Dunstable at this stage.
Dunstable were without injured skipper Adam Pepera, but the team sheet showed two new signings, one Kelvin Bossman, (presumably on a free transfer!), who came via Enfield Town, I was told, and one Jordan Odofin, who has come to Dunstable from Sweden. This fact did not sink in with one travelling supporter who asked me what league Sweden plays in, then. Bossman was to make a headlining appearance as a substitute since he scored with his first touch, an equalising header, after being on the pitch for just thirty seconds. He joins the growing number of Dunstable players to score on his debut.
But I am ahead of myself. An early warning was issued when Kettering netted, but Malone was adjudged correctly to be off-side. Spencer Weir-Daley and Wilson Carvalho showed pace and enterprise, and when the latter scored in just over five minutes it was not unsurprising. Dunstable had seen very little of the ball and looked a bit dazed already. They had a couple of free-kicks to relieve the pressure that was defended with a square jawed determination, and Howe combined well with Carvalho on a sweet move that was awkwardly defended. There was determined work from Lewis Hornby, who is, I imagine a model player who trains hard.
A Dunstable free-kick brought a corner and a roof-of the-net header from the keen Keenleyside, and there were again flashes of inspiration from Jhai Dhillon. But overall, Dunstable looked overawed at this stage – curiously so. I cannot blame the wind (I have often been in trouble for that), but Dunstable were like my sartorial effort, lacking co-ordination. This improved vastly, thank heaven, but, playing half an hour against ten men I had hoped for better. Bush in one rare chance, put one over the bar and another later on.
Kettering were awarded a free-kick and the protesting Joseph Debayo of Dunstable received a yellow card. This kick was placed right inside the ‘D’ but after all the kerfuffle of jostling and sly pushing from both teams, the ball was deflected for a corner. Paul Malone headed wide from this and in another incident; David Longe-King also received a caution.
Bush again had a chance but the effort again cleared the bar and he was off-side in a late attack. Kettering despite the loss of Howe, looked comfortable and took their lead to the interval. I felt a little disconsolate as it seemed that for the eighth time in eight away meetings with Kettering, Dunstable would again face defeat. In the fifteen meetings of the clubs, dating back to 1965/1966, there has never been a draw and that statistic continued today yet Dunstable were to go on to record their first away win over the Poppies, who were once a stellar name in non-league football.
Now for my half time unrelated bit, well it is sort of related. I have two little books called ‘The Meaning of Liff’ (sic) and ‘After Liff’. These appeal to my sense of humour. Both books take place names, i.e. proper nouns and affix a humorous meaning. Kettering is defined as ‘the marks left on your bottom or thighs after sun-bathing on a wickerwork chair’. It is a bit better than my own, ‘Do you like Kettering? I don’t know as I have never Kettered.’ Striving to balance I can say that a Dunstable is defined as ‘ a retired police officer’ and a Luton, pardon my snigger, is defined as the horseshoe shaped mat that fits around a lavatory. Kettering’s player James Brighton might be intrigued to know that a Brighton is defined as that little coloured light that lets you know a piece of electrical equipment is working.
Just a couple more - and to show that it does become international, Ljubljana is defined as ‘ what people say to the dentist on the way out’, and one close to my heart is a Duckend Green, which is a lone vegetarian at a table full of carnivores. No, wait, one last one which sort of incorporates the kind of language used at the end of today’s game. Faccombe is defined as ‘a decision not to help people less fortunate than yourself.’
Having been underwhelmed at Dunstable’s first half showing, I took some degree of solace from the Regiment who were confident that Messrs Fontenelle and Talbot would give a half-time talk where the peroration would have players crushing their empty polystyrene cups and saying in a mid-Atlantic voice, ‘Let’s Do This’, but with more capital letters. I was buoyed with a sense of self-importance as the very nice lady in the boardroom had given me my very own plate of veggie food. And she knew my name. Not only that, Gary Mulligan, our former player, now a Poppy, had shook my hand before the game and asked me if I was still doing ‘your little write-ups.’ I said, you bet your sweet bippy, Mullers old chap.
The consensus from the Regiment was that we would be on the attack and would overwhelm the embittered ten men. Well, not yet, kamerad, since it was a while before the ball came towards the end we were now standing. Kettering stood their ground and sprayed it about for a while but then, as predicted, it changed. Dunstable took on the role of aggressor and began to give the bearded home goalie a bit of the jitters.
Dunstable had some flowing moves that matched what had characterised the Kettering first half play – they employed substitutes as did Dunstable, but what made the difference was bringing on debutant Kelvin Bossman in place of David Longe -King We had played sixty-five minutes and Kettering had held firm but after a fine cross from the peerless Dhillon Bossman headed the equaliser with his first touch and as I have said, he had been on the pitch for just thirty seconds. The body language of the more fulsome than usual goal celebration suggested that more was to come. Well it was, and I do not want to be seen as a party pooper by pointing out that the two following goals came from penalties with another missed penalty within that as well. Aesthetically speaking I would have derived more satisfaction had Dunstable scored another from open play, one that matched Bossman’s great headed equaliser. Bossman, by the way, was quickly dubbed as ‘The boss’ with the Regiment giving a short rendition of ‘Born In The USA’ which shows they are not lacking in poetic licence, as Kettering supporters were for the reasons of their defeat.
Late, but in considerable earnest, Dunstable had nullified the Kettering attacks that were sporadic and at times suggestive. The fact that they gave away no fewer than three undisputed penalties suggests what kind of pressure they were succumbing to. Cathline had imposed himself as a general nuisance and it was he who was brought down for the first penalty, which brought jeers from the home contingent who felt he was making a meal of the offending tackle. Jack Hutchinson patiently awaited his temporary removal from the arena before he was given the signal to take the spot kick.
Paul White waved his arms in a kind of simulation of the distant windmill things visible from where we stood, but it did not deflect from Hutch’s purpose and Dunstable were ahead for the first time. The boot was firmly on the other foot, so to speak. I say firmly, but there were creditable forward moves from the ten men that brought a number of goal chances, but few that would evoke a sharp intake of breath. Interestingly the game’s remaining cautions went to the hosts who were obviously frustrated at the serious misdemeanour of their bulky striker. Four cautions followed the red card of Howe, and one was very curious. Jack Smith, the Dunstable keeper had patiently borne the scathing comments of the home fans massed behind his goal, appeared to be cautioned for holding on to the ball for more than the time allowed. Six seconds is it? – huh, that is broken every game by all keepers in all leagues from my observation. But he was not booked but instead a home player was given yellow for preventing Smith from kicking the ball up field. The Kettering supporters had, by now begun to count very loudly the number of seconds Smith had hold of the ball, but they did speed their counting up a bit for emphasis. I presume they did not notice how, when they were leading they did not hasten to collect the ball from touch and I do know that all teams do it.
After a creditable piece of work from home substitutes Kaid Mohamed and Aaron O’Connor that saw the ball whip invitingly across the face of the Dunstable goal, Dunstable countered and once more Cathline was felled in the penalty box. Thus Dunstable secured a second penalty and a chance to put the game beyond redemption.
I recall thinking that I would get someone else to take this penalty, but Hutchinson was in place and White saved very well indeed at the expense of a corner. That kept it alive for the Poppies and I privately regarded it as a serious miss. So often a team can get a filip from a missed penalty since it suggests vulnerability. Cathline was fairly robbed in possession in the penalty area on two further forays and may well have bagged another penalty for an iffy challenge. Bossman shot wide after a decent move but at the other end Kettering were still hopeful, and smith was needed to cut out two excellent crosses.
The announcer conveyed that there were six minutes of stoppage time, and I often wonder just how they get this information, and with four minutes of this having expired, Dunstable were awarded a third penalty, with Hutchinson brought down by the keeper. Hutchinson wisely stepped back and Cathline shaped up to score his sixth goal of the season and his first from the penalty spot.
It was all over for Kettering but there was a good deal of drama attached to the last moments and indeed after the game finished. Scottie was taking down the flags and small boys of a Kettering persuasion ventured to observe that Scottie was not only fat but illegitimate as well. Older supporters, including one steward suggested that the referee was my brother, my son or my illicit lover. Wrong on all counts, but one could understand their frustration. If only they could have acknowledged that when the three penalty kicks were awarded there was but token protest from the Kettering players. When I attempted to make a point of this one chap suggested vehemently that I should stick my pipe where the sun does not shine.
There were also some unpleasant moments when the Dunstable team lingered on the pitch for their customary huddle, either congratulatory or in commiseration, depending on the result. But they always do this and they always move towards the knot of their own supporters to show their appreciation. They also have a habit of re-emerging from the tunnel for a warm down. This was seen, angrily as a bit of crowing and one or two home supporters were incandescent at such alleged effrontery. This they displayed in language painful and free. I yearned to hear the admission that the fault lay with themselves – initially with Howe the elbowist, and the concession of the penalties. They had started in commanding form but saw this fade over the course of the match. Naturally the referee was seen as a dastardly villain, but he and his fellow officials had acted with integrity throughout. It was unpleasant to have to walk through the brouhaha on the way to the boardroom and I was relieved at the diplomacy and objective summing up by Kettering’s President Ken Samuel and by one or two other officials.
My summary is that Dunstable started poorly, Kettering looked the business throughout the first half and some of the second, but numbers told in the end, as perhaps they should. Dunstable took their time asserting themselves but they did so and thus deserved their first away win against Kettering. Curiously Kettering have not yet won a home league game this season so far. Bossman looks a useful addition and it will be interesting to see if he figured in the away game at Redditch United on Tuesday (27 September). That game will be played on their brand new artificial pitch.
As Slough Town also won, Dunstable remain second, and as the excellent home programme pointed out, it is Dunstable’s highest position in that division for twenty-five seasons. It is a welcome statistic, given our low budget and is some recompense to our manager who, heroically, washes the kit. He will need to be busy as we will need that home kit against Redditch. Last season we fought out a goal-less draw there and can but hope we can improve on that. Basingstoke Town are the visitors to Creasey Park on Saturday 1 October. I drove home wondering if we have ever been awarded three penalties in a game before. Answers on a postcard, please.
Paul White, cautioned, Liam Bateman, Dominic Langdon, Lewis Hornby, Paul Malone, cautioned, Gary Mulligan, Wilson Carvalho, GOAL, 6 minutes, Spencer Weir-Daley (Aaron O’Connor, cautioned, ), Rene Howe, sent-off, straight red card, Nathan Hicks, (Liam Canavan, cautioned), James Brighton, (Kaid Mohamed), other substitutes- Anthony Howell, Brett Solkhon.
Jack Smith, Zack Reynolds, Jhai Dhillon, Daniel Green, (Danny Talbot), John Sonuga, cautioned, Joseph Debayo, Jack Hutchinson, PENALTY GOAL, 68 minutes, this reporter’s DTFC man of the match, David Longe-King, cautioned, (Kelvin Bossman, GOAL, 65 minutes), Alexander Cathline, PENALTY GOAL, 90+4, Shane Bush, David Keenleyside, (Jack Green), Other substitutes – Jordan Odofin.
Referee – Andrew Dallison, assisted by Aiden Murphy and Robert Whittaker.