The last pre-season game had a dramatic build-up from Mother Nature, with a rumble or two of thunder and a prolonged downpour, followed by sunshine that gave way to melancholy spell of cloud. But for the actual game, perfect conditions prevailed and we saw Arlesey Town confidently defend their lead and contain an eager but ultimately inaccurate Dunstable, who strove in vain for an equaliser.

Our County neighbours have a young and bright squad, who played good, flowing football even if they were harangued by their own coach who seemed to think that verbally demeaning players added to their appetite for the game. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.

The Southern Central division side began the game with an almost immediate free-kick from Ralph Goodman, which was cleared somewhat fussily, but the opening spell was notable for Arlesey’s possession play – which always looks good until the ball is intercepted – which is what happened and Dunstable’s Ryan Young had a promising run that forced a corner. Former Dunstable goalkeeper Bart Pedrycz intercepted this and others and made two vital saves to prevent the equaliser later in the game. Another corner for the hosts had such pace, the ball zipped past everyone – including Arel Amu, who would love to have scored against his former club.

Arlesey’s Billy Plumpton and Taz Andrews combined well in a move when the ball was dinked just beyond the defence but Garry Malone was quick off his line. The game had indeed settled into providing decent chances but finishing for both sides left quite a bit to be desired. Indeed the game’s only goal ( and I know they all count), had an untidiness about it as well as a slice of good or bad fortune, depending on which side you favoured.

Dom Morgillo’s relatively soft shot ought to have given Malone no worries but the ball bobbled, struck a defender which wrong-footed the keeper who saw the ball sneak under him into the net. An error can lose a game and but for this I would have been reporting on a creditable draw but with some cautious comments. Dunstable will face stronger teams in the Premier Division and will need to make more of their created opportunities.

A distinct hesitancy in front of goal limited Pedrycz’s need for heroic stops (at least until late in the game). Unfazed by the unfortunate concession of a goal, Dunstable went forward with a will but a mixed purpose – almost as if no-one wanted to take responsibility for the final shot and, at times that final shot did not occur. Two successive chances, well-constructed as they were, begged for the definite finish rather than the more or less symbolic shot. I think the lads are at that stage where they are all keen to help each other and evade a charge of selfishness. Philip Payne of Arlesey had a clean shot on goal, well held and Gedeon Okito replicated this with Pedrycz holding it well.

Even so, the performance was steady and the play was clean from both sides. Arlesey contained the strenuous efforts from Dunstable to get back on terms, and often turned this into counter attack. A cross from Tony Williams looked the business but Malone cut it out well. The interval came soon after and it had been a useful half for both managers, and, of course there would be the normal crop of substitutions for a friendly game.

One of our guests today was the chairman of the Southern League, Terry Barratt, and we discussed the merits of the now permissible electronic programme. We at Dunstable are continuing with the ‘hard copy’ and I wonder how this new development will affect the vibrant collectors’ market. We receive the Collectors’ magazine and it is astonishing what a rare item will gather in terms of cash. It does seem, at times an odd hobby as I recall a chap last season who arrived as early at the ground as I did and he asked for a programme. He then bade farewell as he was going off to another stadium, some miles distant to buy another club’s publication. The football itself did not seem of importance to him.

The supporters’ club at Dunstable sell old programmes and now they have a new crop of badges as well as other stuff to flog. I do recall our trip to Whitley Bay in the fifth round of the FA Vase where the assortment of programmes I donated to their club all sold out before half-time and they asked me to send more, which I did. One last interval bit is to report, as requested by the chairman, that all Dunstable players have been issued with the club’s code of conduct as well as the standard FA publication. It is hoped that discipline among the players will show a good record throughout the season. There will also be a published code of conduct for spectators and other visitors.

With the first league game coming next Saturday, away to Redditch, this was the last chance for manager Tony McCool to survey his squad in action and thus he sent on a number of replacements, and initially it seemed to strengthen the side. One of the substitutes, Kelvin Igweani has received his international clearance from the FA and is thus eligible for selection in a competitive game.

Another substitute, Dami Salami had an early run on goal, but he had his pocket picked. At the other end a shot from Craig Packman, this was really more of a cross, ended up on the roof of the net. With the best move of the game, Gedeon Okito combined with Arel Amu on the left and the latter’s shot saw a distinctly fine save from Pedrycz. That was the kind of thing we wanted to see, but it was not replicated at that level. Billy Plumpton tested Malone with a shot and then Amu successfully deceived the keeper following a dinked through ball and the deception begged a finish of a neat hook of the ball into the empty net – but a defender reached it just in time. It would have been a cheeky, but largely deserved goal.

Dunstable followed this up with two further attempts, both robustly blocked and the award of two successive corners brought little opportunity. Arlesey thought they had doubled their lead but the effort was ruled off-side. Dunstable were still being contained and the visitors looked comfortable in this role. Dunstable substitute Ben Collins (who has been promoted from the Development squad) had a firm shot on goal but Pedrycz saved well. The most discomforting moment from a Dunstable point of view was the super effort from another sub, Joseph Chidyausiku who saw his fine effort finger- tipped onto the bar by Pedrycz. Great effort, great save and still the equaliser refused to come.

We have all seen games like that – when the opposition snatch an untidy goal and then go on to frustrate every effort, but I daresay before the season is very old, Dunstable will score a goal like that and defend it in like manner. Referee Tim Donnellan chose wisely not to add on too much time for the multi-substitutions and when he announced one minute was left there was a final assault on the Arlesey goal but Pedrycz was not to be beaten and saw his old team fall to defeat.

The Creasey Park staff put on an even better spread of food after the game than the Aldershot game and it was much appreciated by all. The ending of the pre-season games is always an anticipated moment as we know that from now on it is a very serious business indeed. Transport for the team to Redditch has been arranged and a number of the committee are also pledged to travel, which is good news. Three days later we have the first home game against Kings Langley which might be viewed as a kind of derby game.

I have never felt so much anticipation since the season ten or eleven years ago when Darren Feighery took a Dunstable team to Solihull Borough (as they were then) and it was a first senior game for what were mostly former Hemel Hempstead reserves. They won the game and such was the players’ exuberance they rushed to celebrate with the few supporters who had made the trip. You never know, it might happen again – and one thing we do know is that the current Dunstable team will really give it a good go for the manager, the supporters and themselves.

The Dunstable town squad today was-

Garry Malone, Daniel Trif, Gedeon Okito, Michael Adeyemi, Bart Koprowski, Scott Betts, Brandy Makuendi, Siya Ndbele, Arel Amu, Sam Odusoga, Ryan Young.

Dami Salami, Jadell Brown, Ben Collins, Kelvin Igweani, Joseph Chidyausiku, Aaron Hudson.

Arelesey Town

Bart Pedrycz, Harlen Sambu, Billy Plumpton, Philip Payne, Joe Steele, Aaron Gooch, Dom Morgillo, GOAL, 26 minutes, Ralph Goodman, Tony Williams, Taz Andrews, Craig Packman.

Kim Forsyth, Charlie Scott, Callum Gregory.

Referee – Tim Donnellan, assisted by Kelvin Wilkinson and Mike Cardosa.

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