The evergreen Danny Talbot celebrated his birthday today by scoring two goals and was only denied a hat-trick by a magnificent save at the foot of the post by Zac Barrett as Dunstable moved on to their eighth game without defeat. This run of form has brought seven wins and a draw, and although some of those wins might bear the description of being ‘ground out’ results, the team thoroughly deserves the accolade of Team of The Month from the Southern League.
Cambridge City were making their second trip to Creasey Park this season, and on their earlier visit they eliminated Dunstable from the Red Insure Cup by the same score- line of today’s league encounter. The corresponding league match at St Ives had brought a fairly honourable 1-1 draw. The Lilywhites, currently sharing with St Ives, report some positive progress with their proposed new stadium at Sawston and could be playing there within two years if all goes well.
No pitch inspection was needed other than my cursory glance this morning as my border collie took me for a walk. The overnight rain had left some minor puddles but they drained away and although soft, the pitch was eminently playable.
Team news revealed the unavailability of Connor Calcutt and Chris Vardy, but this meant a start for goal-starved Lee Roache who had a generally good game with some trademark touches of deft play. The midweek victory over Stratford Town was a boost as the team won comfortably by a two goal margin, and like today there was a clean sheet in terms of cautions. I feel this is important as it testifies to the generally good discipline exhibited by the team.
This third successive home match was one where maximum points were seen as vital, since the next two games are away to Chesham United and Frome Town. But there was an early shock to deal with, when the lively visitors put together some lively forward play and were a goal ahead after just five minutes. An interesting fact about today’s game was that three of the four goals came as a result of corner kicks. First blood went to the visitors when, following a corner, they capitalised on a partial clearance and their skipper, Buster Harradine collected the ball and his diagonal shot from the right found the back of the net.
Dunstable’s response was almost immediate and within two minutes they were level – following a corner kick, forced by a combination from Lee Roache and Steve Wales where Talbot snapped up the chance and bagged the equaliser. This was important as the visitors displayed an ability to hold on to the ball and frustrate in the earlier match – and now they were themselves under a bit of pressure.
This pressure was eased somewhat by some eager forward balls from Dunstable that resulted in either off-side or the ball zipping into touch assisted by our seemingly resident strong breeze. It is never the same if Adam Watkins does not try for one at range and two of these attempts were blocked as was one by Steve Wales.
Cambridge were equally eager, no doubt aggrieved at letting the valuable lead slip and Duran Reynolds cut in nicely and his pass to Kaan Fehmi resulted in a cross, which although beaten out enabled the same player to have a second, but unsuccessful crack at goal. Joe Norris was also lively and Harradine was in the thick of it urging for more effort.
Dunstable took the lead when, after Watkins had forced a corner, Talbot’s in-swinger appeared to go straight into the net – but there was a hint of a touch from both a Cambridge defender and Steven Gregory. I say a hint of a touch because it was far from definite and thus the goal was accredited to Talbot and Gregory could possibly claim to be bestowing a magnanimous present on his colleague. I think that is the third or fourth time this season that we have seen a Dunstable goal come direct from a corner. We had played thirty-three minutes and Dunstable had come from behind and had now grasped an initiative.
Indeed Dunstable might have gone further ahead when, after another Talbot corner where an inconclusive clearance provided a chance which was headed off the line by Harradine, doing a skipper’s job we might say. But for that tricky wind, some of the forward moves might well have repaid the cunning preparatory play. Cambridge made what they could of their counter moves and there was some good pace about these – but once again it was the precise defending from Dunstable that was notable. Jamie Head did not have a direct shot on goal to deal with after that early goal and the hosts were deserving of their 2-1 lead at the interval.
I had shown one or two people an old book of historic photographs of Dunstable and there was one particularly poignant photograph – which was of Dunstable Town FC 1912-13, where callow youth stared at the camera, presumably unaware of the forthcoming global conflict. The trainer had a towel over his shoulder and stood smartly in his waistcoat. No doubt that towel and a sponge was his only equipment. The team was sporting a striped kit and I presume it was blue and white. I say it was poignant as very probably many of those players may not have returned from the war and indeed history records that Dunstable Town, as a football club, ceased to exist from 1915 to their reformation in 1950. Our history is important and I noticed that Cambridge City supporters had a flag that declared 1908 as their formation year.
It was now the turn of the visitors to assess what they could make of the following wind and indeed a few of their early forays resulted in misjudgement and the ball went harmlessly into touch. But whilst there was only the one goal separating the teams they were in with a realistic chance. Charlie Day provided the assistance for Norris in one of the best of these. A better effort came with a free-kick which was well-judged by Duran Reynolds and calmly tipped over the bar by an alert Jamie Head – playing against his former club. A telling through ball to Ieuan Lewis was crisply defended by Howard Hall who once again had a sound and error free game in defence and has proved to be a valuable addition to the team. In the same breath I may also mention the sterling performances of skipper James Kaloczi and Adam Pepera, with the highest praise given to man of the match, Zack Reynolds.
Duran Reynolds saw his next shot deflected, but held by Head and Lewis’ assistance provided Harradine with a good chance but he blasted high over the cross bar. Much closer was Paul Cooper’s effort which also cleared the bar but at a closer margin. It was then than Talbot was unable to secure his hat-trick when Barrett made the save of the match.
Cambridge made a doubler substitution, bringing on Brad Mason-Jones and Alex serrano for Norris and Reynolds. Dunstable held off their own substitutions until they had secured a slightly fortuitous third goal. This was a tap-in for Steve Wales, following an unfortunate fumble by Barrett in his goal mouth and the goal was times at sixty-five minutes. I had thought it was Roache who had netted and announced it as such but a schoolmasterly look of consternation from physio John Bell was added to with the correction and I duly made the correction over the tannoy.
There were no further goals but this did not mean a cessation of effort and opportunity. Gary Wharton came on for Steve Wales, just after the goal, Luke Pennell replaced Talbot with ten minutes to go and, making his debut for the last few minutes was Gedeon Okito for Adam Watkins. Okito was a little too eager and was lucky not to be booked for kicking the ball away by referee Rob smith – known for his exactitude in such matters. A gentle reprimand was issued nonetheless. There were just two cautions in the game – where the Lilywhites had Jon Kaye and Adam Murray booked for challenges deemed to be too zealous. But it is pleasing to report that this game was played in the proper sporting manner and the Cambridge fans were exemplary in their conduct.
Harradine continued to harass and his sot following a corner was well saved by head. David Keenleyside, with typical persistence had a decent run and a tremendous shot that was just an inch or so over the bar. A similar effort from Steven Gregory looked the business but the ball landed on the roof of the net.
Dunstable did not forsake their comfortable lead and held their opponents at bay as the game reached its conclusion, and Dunstable extended their unbeaten run. This will be tested, of course with the two tricky away games in a week. Chesham United , with games in hand following their exploits in the Fa Cup and Trophy will be looking to improve on their recent results against Dunstable and Frome will not forget their spirited rally in September when they lost 3-2 after turning over a 2-0 deficit.
But despite the bitterly cold day, the football warmed the heart today, and many agree that the current Dunstable team is the most balanced and diligent for some time. Today’s result means the club has reached the dizzy height of third in the table – but, of course, clubs in this vicinity have a number of games in hand. Even so, it was an impressive win and a memorable run of form that we hope is extended.
Jamie Head, ZACK REYNOLDS, this reporter’s man of the match, Howard Hall, Danny Talbot- TWO GOALS, 7and 33 minutes, (Luke Pennell), James Kaloczi, captain, Adam Pepera, Adam Watkins, (Gedeon Okito), Steven Wales, (Gary Wharton), Lee Roache, Steven Gregory, David Keenleyside.
Zac Barrett, Paul Cooper, Charlie Day, Adam Murray, cautioned, Lee Chaffey, Duran Reynolds, (Brad Mason-Jones), Kaan Fehmi, Jon Kaye, cautioned, Joe Norris, (Alex Serrano), Ieuan Lewis, Buster Harradine, captain.
Other substitutes – Charlie woolfe and Neil Midgely.
Referee – Rob Smith, assisted by Adam Steele and Lee Grimesey – all had good games.