Dunstable’s new squad, widely acclaimed for playing for the badge and not for dosh, were praised by today’s referee, Mr Scott Postin. ‘They had a positive attitude throughout and kept at their task really well.’ As well as that there was an understandable protective attitude from manager Tony McCool who highlighted the fact that this was their first league game, were away from home and, once they had conceded a soft penalty, found it an uphill struggle. But in terms of attitude we may be glad, since although they were well beaten by a decent team, they played positive, clean football until the final whistle.
My headline refers to, what according to Wikipedia is the locals’ nickname for their town, which was once famous for the manufacture of needles, fishing hooks and the like. Well, once Dunstable had lost the thread, Redditch got their hooks fastened and all bur tore flesh as they netted five goals – the first from a penalty.
The host are justly proud of their new artificial pitch, and it is used intensely, both as a revenue earner and a sensible reaching out to the wider community. Indeed the Valley Stadium was basked in sunshine as the visitors arrived, sporting their new training kit. The manager had his choice limited owing to one or two injuries (yes, this early) and other players not available for a number of legitimate reasons.
One or two signings were also held up owing to some missing information on registration forms, and we still await international clearance for a trio of players. But – for those in the blue and white it was the start of quite a quest. Naturally, no team will be sympathetic on the pitch to our team of tyros who will need a few matches to grow into their task. The jitters were almost visible as the hosts began to attack right from the kick-off. Spencer Weir Daley fired wide and The Reds were putting some good passing moves together. Dunstable offered a blocked shot from Brandy Makuendi but this seemed but a gesture as the hosts looked like penetrating early.
Yet it was a rather unfortunate incident that led to the home team’s first goal. A cross was whipped in and Ayobami Salami contested for possession and to our horror and the players’ surprise, the referee awarded a penalty. Spectators near me had also assumed that a free-kick had been awarded to Dunstable. The referee’s obdurate decision was, of course upheld and man of the match Dior Angus calmly netted and was on the way to a hat-trick. The referee told me later that he stood by his decision and that Salami had committed the foul and the eighth minute penalty was the correct judgement. I will only say that I felt it was a little harsh – and that is from an objective, not partisan viewpoint.
In a sense it is of no great importance as the following four goals were of such outstanding quality that Dunstable could have little complaint. But such an early setback had a shattering effect of the visitors who expected to be defending for a fair spell. The referee also mentioned that no visiting player made any real appeal against his decision – and meant that as a compliment rather than a justification. He is right insofar as they got on with it as best they could but could do little against some marvellous finishing.
They were also rather profligate in the conceding of corners, and they had been warned about the quality of the Redditch crosses as each one had a dangerous aspect to it. They also conceded free-kicks in areas of goal-scoring potential. From one of these Pauly Apostoplopoulos (which shows we do not have the copyright on exotic names) needed a good save from Malone at the expense of another corner-kick. From this we saw a shot from Kevin Da Veiga Monteiro go wide after a partial clearance. Nathan Fox then sent in a sly cross that was cleared with better emphasis. Three minutes after the disastrous concession of the penalty, Dunstable were 2-0 to the bad but the goal, from Dior Angus had a touch of real class when he trapped the pass, turned and fired in such a manner that it seemed inevitable that it would be a goal.
A Dunstable free –kick from thirty yards was defended well but at the cost to Ben Collins of an accidental thump on the bonce. It was so warm that whilst he was treated the players had a quick water break. Dunstable’s best chances seemed to come from the right with good work from Ryan Young whose pace greatly exceeds his bulk. He looks like he might need to be tethered in a breeze but he eluded defenders to send in a low cross that was gathered by an underworked Ethan Ross.
By now it was apparent that the home side were superior in close passing and positioning. They allowed no time for Dunstable to get into some kind of rhythm. They also prevented any direct shots on goal and were exceedingly alert to the productive counter-attack. I must concede that I did not think that the deficit would be so heavy as the half-time score manifestly displayed. Struggling gamely, Dunstable tried to feed their front-runners but always they were intercepted and were indeed chasing the game. Yet there was an admirable spirit about them that seemed to state they wanted to be more than just plucky losers on the day.
If that second goal was a beauty, the third was even better as the experienced Weir Daley emulated Angus by turning and volleying an unstoppable goal. You cannot argue against such quality and making the maximum of an opportunity. I imagine the Dunstable contingent were hoping for a speedy end to the half since home strikers seemed to have the Midas touch and a break and a cup of tea might just help to dissipate the charm. But the Reds were not finished yet.
We saw a curious substitution with a minute of the half to go, when Aaron Hudson replaced Ayobami Salami – and that indirectly signalled the final goal of the half and the completion of a hat-trick for Dior Angus. As players and home supporters celebrated and applauded, I tapped out my pipe and said to my compatriots, ‘Chaps, I think we might lose this one.’ The merciful whistle was sounded and I cannot remember a game when Dunstable were four goals to the bad in a first half. No-one wanted to know anyway. As we walked towards the club house the announcer (who had done well with the pronunciation of names) said ‘dig deep and take heart.’ Good advice I thought, but it turns out he was referring to the raffle.
Our managerial team have worked so hard and from scratch that it seemed just a little too harsh that their team had shipped four goals, notwithstanding the quality. As well as myself there were a further five Dunstable committee members on board room duty and they did a fine job. They must have noticed how discreet the Redditch committee was in not alluding to the score.
I related a story to one (which forms my interval piece) and it illustrates irony, to a certain degree. Last week, after our game against Arlesey, I took my collie out for a quick walk, and during it I chanced upon a pigeon with a broken wing. As it could not fly and would be prey to a marauding cat, I picked it up and held it in my hands. I must have looked comical, as on the way home, I strolled, attempting nonchalance, still in my club ‘uniform’, the tie blown over my shoulder, pipe in gob, and the collie performing circus tricks with a ball and the pigeon relaxed. Some teenagers lounging in an alley were highly amused and took photos with their mobiles.
The pigeon survived well, had a good appetite for dog food(!) and drank lots of water. I had been advised by the RSPCA to take it to my local vet on the Monday. This I did, by arranging an emergency appointment. There was no parking at the vet’s so I parked across the road. The pigeon hopped onto my shoulder and made no attempt to escape. Two people said ‘Aaah Jim Lad’ and the vet’s assistant put on gloves and took the pigeon to her bosom – literally and metaphorically.
‘You have done your good deed for the day’ she said, telling me the bird would be treated at a sanctuary for wild animals. I was away for exactly seven minutes and on returning to my car found a £70 parking ticket affixed to my windscreen, with the merciful gesture of it being reduced by half if I stumped up very soon. The warden said he could do nothing as he had already issued the ticket – but he conceded that because of the nature of my errand I might be able successfully to appeal. I have, with a mitigating statement from the vet but I somehow doubt that leniency will prevail.
Well, the story took our minds off the parlous state of the game.
Let me say here that there are two views. One is that Dunstable improved dramatically in the second half, and only conceded one further goal. The other is that the hosts relaxed their efforts and even substituted their hat-trick hero. Well, I think it fair to say that they did not relax unduly, but they continued to cope well with their improved opponents. There was a further substitution with Oluwanimilo Ajigbolamu coming on for Michal Adeyemi. The announcer had taken my advice and referred to him as Nimmy Aji which is what the player prefers in any case. And apart from the abbreviated one, Jadell Brown replaced Sam Odusuga late in the match.
Redditch also made changes – the most notable being their version of Peter Crouch – and he was the scorer of the last goal and after all the near misses he had I will say he did deserve his strike – a header from a poorly defended corner, with five minutes remaining. The hat-trick hero Angus was replaced on the hour mark by Vinny Mukendi, and he went off with an air of ‘thought I’d give someone else a chance’ and that if he stayed on he would have bagged a couple more.
Kelvin Igweani did not tire in his individual effort – but one attempt from his sailed over the goal and the perimeter fence into the forbidding undergrowth. That is a lost ball, I thought, but no, up popped a diminutive steward in a fluorescent yellow jacket to retrieve the expensive item. He had to do this a couple more times since Dunstable were not exactly getting chances on target. The game’s only booking was a deserved one – Daniel Trif had upended Angus and I asked the referee if he had written Daniel Trip instead of Trif, which he politely said was very droll.
Gedeon Okito was playing with the firm belief that he could inspire a dramatic turnaround and his crosses did need careful defending, especially in the late stages. But the closest we got to a Dunstable goal was an in swinging corner from Okito that needed the goalie to palm it fiercely off his line. That was a pity as had we scored we would have only been joint bottom with Dorchester who lost 1-5 to Banbury. As such Redditch go to the top on goal difference and we prop up the division. Yes, it is only one game and I think it will be a long time yet before the Regiment reprises that old chant of ‘The Southern League is upside down’. They had their flags out, they applauded politely and stayed to cheer the lads off. We all agreed that the Dunstable team had done their best and it was early doors.
Redditch did not relent and went looking for further goals – and there was a melancholy miss for Guiyoulouwe Mailancol, whose ‘certain’ goal struck the post. The lanky Mukendi also came very close with some stylish and persistent play, and as I say, he thoroughly deserved his goal when it came. It was just a great pity that the Dunstable lads did not get a consolatory goal – and I emphasise they strove to get it and their heads did not go down. There was a bit of unsolicited and unintentional sympathy when the announcer proclaimed the final score as 4-0 and then hastily corrected himself. He also wished us good fortune in games to come, which was decent of him, and we also received a similar sentiment from the home committee.
Both teams were retained on the pitch for the usual briefing and warm-down. I think Neil, our vice-chairman elect is right to emphasise the good things about the Dunstable game – and the spirit in which they played. Yes, it was a bit of a drubbing, but time will help and the complete squad availability will also aid the cause. Significantly there is no bleating about ‘we have no player budget’. We are lucky to be here and it owes much to the generosity of the supporters and the unceasing voluntary work by the new committee (who have also donated handsomely) and, of course, we are lucky to have a well-balanced managerial team whose belief in their assembled squad is sincere, and in time, it will repay that belief. We will not shout the odds or hurl abuse at our more well-heeled contemporaries. To put Popeye’s phrase from singular to plural, we are what we are, what we are. We will improve game by game and our support for them will not diminish.
And who is next? Well, it is Kings Langley, who at one time led 2-0 over the phoenix Hereford who were held 3-3 by our Hertfordshire neighbours. The attendance today was 215 and was actually the lowest in the Premier Division today. We would kill to get that number in each week – so if you are reading this and have yet to come and see us, please do. 250 a home game and we would do more than break even…..
My pigeon with the broken wing still retained its zest for life and so do we despite today’s stringent reverse. There is much to do and we have the wherewithal to do it.
Final bit of irony. Simon Reilly phoned me to report that our Development Squad had won away at Farnham Town ….. and the score was 5-0. Altogether now - ‘Always look on the bright side of life’……
Ethan Ross, Keenah Rosser, Nathan Fox, Danny Jackman, captain, Guiyoulouwe Mailancol, Orrin Pendley, Pauly Apostolopoulos, McCauley Manning, Dior Angus – HAT-Trick, 8, penalty, 11 and 45 minutes. MAN OF THE MATCH, Kevin Da Veiga Monteiro, Spencer Weir Daley.GOAL, 38,
Substitutes- Vinny Mukendi, (Angus), Danico Johnson, (Weir Daley) and Kaylum Mitchell, (Motnteiro), Arjun Jung and Marcel Simpson.
Garry Malone, Ben Collins, Gedeon Okito, Ayobami Salami, (Aaron Hudson), John Sonuga, captain, Daniel Trif, cautioned, Ryan Young, Sam Odusuga,(Jadell Brown), Kelvin Igweani, Brandy Makendi, Michael Adeyemi, (Oluwanimilo Ajigbolamu).
Referee- Scott Postin, assisted by Martin Gittins and Simon Fradley.