DUNSTABLE TOWN 0-2 HENDON HT 0-2 ATTENDANCE 110
There is no doubt that Hendon deserved to win this game, and did it by playing attractive football and showed that the Bostik Premier Division side has strength in depth. They are an organised side with excellent managerial support and, importantly for the emergent Dunstable side gave a strong hint of what is to come. Not that we did not know, but their manager Gary McCann told me afterwards that he "thought the most impressive thing about Dunstable was that ‘they gave a good shift for their manager, and that is important. They are obviously a new team and will only get better."
Hendon, of course is a club with an illustrious history, having won the old FA Amateur Cup (now the FA Vase) on no fewer than three occasions. Look it up on YouTube, yes, black and white footage of no fewer than 100,000 spectators at Wembley. The term ‘amateur’ has altered in its linguistic perspective, but in those days it meant what it should do – those who play a game for the love of it. I just imagine how players felt in our national arena and also the supporters, with their rosettes, scarves and rattles.
My personal memory of Hendon is seeing many a full-blooded tussle with another stellar name in non-league football, Enfield, at Southbury Road in the old Isthmian League that contained clubs like Kingstonian, Walthamstow Avenue and Corinthian-Casuals. Enfield v Hendon was something of a grudge game and I also recall my well-spoken father looking down at me to remind me that ‘endon had a aitch at the beginning.
I was at Creasey Park early to welcome our visitors who were very complimentary about the pitch, which is another feather in the cap for the Council groundsmen, who did not need the robotic watering machine since it rained sporadically. ‘Après moi le deluge’ I joked to one fellow, ‘yes’, he said, ‘ it is peeing down as well,’. The pristine surface was to see its first game of the season and the first on the main pitch for our fledgling team.
The win over the gentlemanly Sky Sports team left no-one with the idea that this current game would be anything other than a serious test for McCool’s squad. So before any details let me say that those in the blue and white hoops gave a good account of themselves- missed what should have been a first-half equaliser and spent the majority of the second half defending stoutly and in numbers ( and they did not concede, as well). For only their third game together this was indeed a promising performance. It is true they did not match the stylish play of their visitors, but they are still acclimatising and it is clear that they will improve. Garry Malone in goal made several important saves, one or two from a double effort, and development squad player Ben Collins had a double chance to score following impressive preparatory play.
Hendon, playing in lime green and black had an unexpectedly nervous start, and the rain fell. Our new treasurer, Dudley Peachem, was gently gliding around on his wheelchair, holding a large umbrella. It reminded me of that still extant prop of the film of H G Wells’ novel ‘The Time Machine’ but also , that we cannot see into the future; (so why look at weather forecasts)? Indeed the opening spell looked good for Dunstable. It was clear that Tony McCool has motivated these players who are an integral part of our new perspective. One promising move needed a ‘professional’ foul to thwart it, and this and well as later free-kicks suggested that they might form part of the training schedule. I resist being too critical, knowing full well that this new team of ours is composed of real enthusiasts who will take a few games to settle.
Hendon played a classic away team tactic – that is to contain the early ebullience, increase possession and hit stealthily on the break as and when the chances arose. They had strength in all departments and this did not dissipate with the usual multi-substitutions made at half time and beyond. The opening goal, after seventeen minutes, was well constructed on the left with intelligent running and accurate passing. Cameron Currie’s run and cross was converted by Lee Pedro and showed that a good goal can easily come from simple play. It was like the second one we got at Marlow if that helps ease the pain.
Pain? I jest of course as these pre-season games will reveal much about the players and indeed the supporters, for whom I have a message and that is this – Balls. Whilst it is good for my health to run after lofted footballs in the car park and elsewhere it would be nice if you see the ball go out of play, however distant, do try to retrieve it as they don’t ‘alf cost, sir.
Sporadic rain had supporters retreating to the modest protection bestowed by the roof overhang of the clubhouse, and the ball was zipping off the surface like a brilliantined trout, but it was Hendon who were imposing themselves with a degree of subtlety. But this was not before two fluid moves on the left for Dunstable saw crosses that begged to cause a bulge in our new blue-tinged nets, but Ben Collins fired hard but just wide. Both went under my shorthand of SHS. Should have scored. This underlines the fact that Dunstable were making every effort and forays forward did require careful and, as it turned out, accurate defending. Crosses, particularly from the left were problematical for defenders – but even under pressure they coped splendidly.
Hendon, of course were having a good go themselves and Garry Malone bravely came off his line to thwart one effort and more than once I heard someone say what a good keeper he is. There was good stuff from Gedeon Okito in support of the attack, as well as Ryan Young and John Sonuga’s presence was reassuring. Scott Betts defensive header to cut out a peach of a cross suggests he will be a vital part of the team as well.
Keegan Cole, scorer of the second goal, modestly, I thought, had no number on his shirt. This was not a voluntary seeking of anonymity, since it transpired from the Hendon kit fellas that they had misplaced the number seven shirt. No matter - but he slipped in the second goal five minutes before half-time. So, better finishing and better play in possession were the notable main differences as the players were granted a brief respite from the rain showers. It could well have been a league game and indeed I expect many to follow this pattern. Hendon had been better, no doubt, but for Dunstable a third game together showed excellent promise and what seemed a desire from each individual to ‘grow into the team’. We cannot fault their commitment.
One of our board room guests today was an FA referee who has recently moved into the area. He told me that he had been made very welcome at Creasey Park which more than made up, he said, for his last visit which, by his account, he did not receive a cordial greeting. Well done to those on the committee who made his visit a pleasant one. At the supporters’ forum last night, Scottie reports two former officials, Will Mclaughlan and Pete Burgoyne buying season tickets and along with Gary Levy, ex- goalkeeper coach, promises were obtained for future match sponsorship. Scottie also reported hits ‘in the thousands’ on our new web-site for both the match reports and the news of progress. The Sky Sports visit may be followed up with some publicity and donations from individual supporters are still coming in. Leaflets and fixture lists are going the rounds and it is rumoured that Creasey the lion will be touring local pubs…..so no prizes for who will be in the costume.
With both urns broken, I had to get the interval teas from the bar and must say I prefer the urn version. Head steward Kevin Alderson announced he was on a diet but still deftly managed to filch a few biscuits, bless him. Rob the duty manager said it would be sausages and chips after the game as the wonderful spread for Sky Sports news in the last game was ‘in case some celebrity turned up.’ The closest we got was Kevin Gallen, who, like Kerry Dixon, has become accustomed to supporters seeking him out for a chat to show their appreciation.
The floodlights were on and rain still fell as the teams came out to contest what was a fine second half – but marked by Dunstable defending. I could say we drew the second half nil-nil, but Garry Malone was the main reason we did not concede again. Hendon had asserted themselves and were superior - yet nothing can be taken away from the composed manner in which Dunstable defended. The hosts had limited chances in attack and what opportunities they did create were not all that far off target. Multi-substitutions were made but this did not affect the pattern of the game. Hendon were strong, Dunstable resilient and often resourceful in defence. A player’s injury had Tony McCool shout to me to get a bag of ice; ‘and two teas, no sugar’ added Kevin Gallen. I obliged and added a Club chocolate biscuit as what I hoped might be an ironic comment; but all I got was an inquiry as to whether we had any Kit-Kats.
It is fair to say that Hendon came very close to adding to their lead – being prevented by Malone’s magnificence in goal and their own tendency to shoot wide or fail to connect with inviting crosses. Jadell Brown received a booking for a late challenge and Gedeon Okito came off expecting a round of applause that he had not even been reprimanded. This is not so far-fetched since when Gedeon is riled he could peel a potato at twenty yards with just a baleful look. But I like the balance of the team – there is strength and agility just waiting to realise its potential.
Hendon played out the last part of the game content to contain any threats and I must say I liked their style and organisation as a team. I spoke to Tony McCool who said –
"Hendon are a very good team, with a good balance all over the pitch and full credit to them. The pleasing thing with this group of players is that in only their third game, and they have only been together for a short while and did not disgrace themselves against a strong Bostik Premier Division side. I am disappointed that we did not get a goal after creating so many chances, especially in the first half – and I thought we deserved an equaliser. I made some changes and am still looking at one or two players, but things are settling down and I am close to a final selection. I am pleased with the performance today."
His counterpart Gary McCann told me that it had been a good, competitive game and, as I said earlier he mentioned that commitment from Dunstable players and that he would expect them to improve over forthcoming games.
Well, Luton Town are here Tuesday so I had better say a Luton Town X1 just in case of any moans. County neighbours Barton Rovers are here on Saturday and the development squad have a home game against AFC Dunstable on the training pitch. Both kick off at 3pm.
I will not be at the Luton game as I am off to the Isle of Man with my family for a short break, but I will be back for the Barton game.
Teams- (starting eleven)
Garry Malone, Bart Koprowski, Gedeon Okito, Ayobami Salami, John Sonuga, capt., Scott Betts, Ryan Young, Brandy Makuendi, Kelvin Igweani, Sam Odsuga, Ben Collins.
Dave Carty, Michael Adeyemi, Oluwanimilo Ajigbolamu, (Nimmy), Claudio Silva, Aaron Hudson, Siya Ndebele and Jadell Brown.
Montel Joseph, Sam Murphy, Cameron Currie, Dave Deidhiou, Arthur Lee, Luke Tingey, Keegan Cole, GOAL, 41 minutes, Lewis Davis, Keze Ibe, capt., Leo Pedro, GOAL, 17 minutes, Andrew D’Costa.
Charlie Kuehn, Ria Bray, Andrew Iwediuno, Mullendo Martin, Zach Joseph, Malchi McGovern, Tarum Dawkins, Rhys Stanislaus, Zia Messie.
Referee Jack Scott assisted by Jack Giles and Phil Wilkinson.