Dunstable Town 2-0 Aldershot Town (HT 0-0)
In terms of the quality of the football played, this was the most satisfying pre-season game so far and also the most encouraging. Yes, it was against youthful Aldershot side of development players and first team hopefuls, but they are a Conference side of young professionals, who presumably train every day.
I am old enough to remember Aldershot as a League Club of some standing in the lower divisions, but have to confess my childhood negativity towards the club. Well, not the club, or the town’s austere military background, but my former maths teacher who was a keen Aldershot fan but was also the most sadistic pedagogue I have ever come across. He would routinely slap my head very hard for being slow and seemed to enjoy the many canings he administered. When I returned to that school as a member of staff I declined to shake his hand. Right, having got that off my chest I can proceed.
The Shots turned out in white shirts and black shorts, and for the opening spell they looked every bit the more polished side. This does not take anything away from the zestful play from Dunstable that forced a corner in the first minute, which was beaten away to such an extent there followed a corner at the other end, where home keeper Garry Malone gathered imperiously.
There was a sweeping pace to the game with intelligent and varied distribution, and as time progressed it was evident that Dunstable were playing their way into this game that took on a very even stance. A downward header from a Dunstable corner was only a mild threat, but clearly the good work of Gedeon Okito along the left flank and in defence was already notable. Both teams tried the searching cross into the penalty box, some having far too much pace for realistic connection, but this was already a game being played in the right attacking spirit.
The Shots had a blocked effort and after a near goal-line clearance, Dunstable were a bit fortunate to see the Aldershot striker fire wastefully wide. A Dunstable free-kick, following an unsubtle handball was teasingly chipped over the cross bar by a consistently sprightly Ryan Young. Dunstable conceded a corner from a cunning cross but again the Shots fired wide. If Aldershot were able to demonstrate some training ground moves, they were matched by the hosts who produced the finest move of the half that ought to have been converted. From a free kick there was a swift interchange of passes and the final one required a cool head and a tap-in but obtained neither.
Then, with the best shot of the half, Arel Amu‘s effort struck the crossbar, and Dunstable finished the half somewhat in the ascendancy. Good football had been played and the game had been officiated in the middle by Paul Forester whose interaction with the players had some humour about it. Strict guidelines concerning player behaviour have been issued and we hope that it signals an end to such practices as mass confrontation and other game spoiling misdemeanours.
We thank our sponsors B&M for the board-room biscuits and the bottles of wine, and I reflected on what a successful meeting we had had with Bedfordshire FA earlier today concerning our Charter Standard. Full marks to Chairman Dr Alex Alexandrou for his superb negotiating skills as well as his excellent preparation. He was ably assisted by new Welfare Officer Kristy Lewington and the FA was keen to help us in every way. It is so pleasant for me to be politely addressed in the board room and relieved of certain duties, and once again the committee were in force, in ties and smiling a welcome to all. The post-match food was again presented in buffet style and was plentiful. I was delighted when an Aldershot official said to me of his visit, ‘lovely reception, and lovely club’. It is a standard we wish to prolong.
The Redditch United manager was in attendance, since we are their first opponents on the opening day of the season. He had contacted me via former player Jhai Dhillon, who had a spell at Redditch. I wanted to speak to him but I was receiving a number of texts asking how we were getting on. I have been using the dictation mode on my phone for text messages, but this does not always bode well. One text asked ‘Where did you go for your holiday? I spoke into my phone ‘The Isle of Man’ but was horrified to see that the phone had transcribed this as ‘I Love Man’. I sent a hasty, conventional text to correct my error, but had to put up with some suggestive emoticons. Last bit on the interval commentary was that head steward Kevin Alderson won the raffle but donated half his prize money back to the club. I hope his parrot gives him an extra kiss for that.
Could Dunstable keep up this promising play in the second half or would the young professionals display superior fitness and skills? Well, if any team faded a bit, it was the Shots. They still put together well-constructed moves, played consistently fairly but erred in the finish. Potential and definite signings were agog the substitutions and although we were without a goal, the match had an enthralling aspect – end to end and good passing moves. One masterly move from Dunstable after fifty-six minutes saw the rightful and undisputed award of a penalty after Ryan Young looked certain to score. And this he did. He plonked the ball on the penalty spot and did not even briefly take in the evening air or glance at those around before converting the prefect spot kick.
Accustomed to Dunstable’s former vulnerability once they have scored had me wondering if the Shots would assert themselves and reply with an equaliser. Again the opportunities were there but were frustratingly devoid of accuracy. But I do feel that the flowing style of our visitors was helpful to our players who sought successfully to emulate this. Dunstable had, however, the better clear chances – yet it was not until the eighty-fifth minute that the rather stylish second goal came – and from open play as well. I am not entirely sure but it looked like Jadell’s Brown’ pass was neatly chested by Kelvin Igweani into the path of Joseph Chidyausiku who scored what he modestly described as a ‘brilliant goal’ and to make sure I get his name right in the papers. I might do but had a sudden stage fright when trying to announce his name on the public address system which had the Regiment chortling at my ineptitude and they later staged a re-enactment for my general embarrassment. I might have got off lighter if I just announced the scorer was that geezer in the blue and white shirt who is celebrating somewhat dramatically.
Joe and Kelvin are two of three players for whom we await International Clearance, which is not entirely an express service. But it was a deserved win against a team that may be a little raw in terms of Conference first team standard, (to which they aspire) but I am sure it was a useful outing for them as well as us.
It was abundantly clear that the managerial and training skills of Tony McCool and his assistant Gareth Jackson are bearing fruit. I watched the reaction to instructions and players heeded the advice. It was pleasant to see the players’ response to the usual Regimental applause bestowed by the ‘tunnel’ and as such they, the players, can feel wanted and appreciated. It was the best performance so far and as tight as the game they played in the narrow 1-0 over Barton Rovers on Saturday. There was increased depth and width to the play and always more than one up front.
The last pre-season is against County neighbours Arlesey Town, who, like Barton, play in the Central Division and will give a fair approximation of the standard we will be up against. We expect, of course that the Premier sides will be that much stronger, but it is a good choice for a final game before the season starts away at Redditch.
Of interest is the League Cup Draw in the first week in October which is against AFC Dunstable where we are nominally the ‘away’ team. So, the El Creasico lives on and both clubs hope for a good derby crowd.
The Dunstable squad tonight:
Garry Malone, Ben Collins, Gedeon Okito – man of the match, Bart Koprowski, Michael Adeyemi, Dami Salami, Daniel Trif, Sam Odusoga, Brandy Makuendi, Ryan Young, penalty goal, 56 minutes, Arel Amu.
Kelvin Igweani, Siya Ndebele, Jadell Brown, Aaron Hudson, Joseph Chidyausiku, Scott Betts.