DUNSTABLE TOWN 1 FARNBOROUGH 0 HT 0-0 ATTENDANCE 254
Without doubt this was a significant win for Dunstable Town; it was their first league win, their first at home on the sixth attempt; they kept a clean sheet and enjoyed their best attendance so far, on Non-League Day, with the initiative of ‘pay what you want’. There was a definite atmosphere at Creasey Park and few can blame the Regiment for whooping it up with the team after the final whistle. Not even the away officials begrudged the salutations of both team and supporters.
With goalkeeper Will Henry on international duty with England U20s and recalled to Swindon Town, it was a rush job to get a replacement goalkeeper registered. This was all part of the story as Casey Harker made an impressive debut, inspiring the defence to emulate his determination not to concede. His handling, anticipation and distribution were notable.
Manager Tony McCool had the onerous task of lifting the team spirit following the unfortunate exit from the League Cup to AFC Dunstable albeit on penalties and after they had looked favourites to win that tie. Each match has seen pockets of improvement as the team gains experience and the major missing factor was a win.
The vital goal came after seventy-one minutes, following a misunderstanding between goalkeeper Aiden Upward and his skipper Josh Huggins. Upward failed to gain control of the ball and Osei-Bensu was “in like Flynn” to put the ball into the unguarded net. Yes, it was a slice of good fortune, long overdue, but it takes nothing away from a decent performance by Dunstable, particularly in the second half.
Farnborough had made only moderate progress hitherto, with four wins one draw and five defeats and their officials made it clear that they paid no attention to the form book and they were expecting a tough game. They got it, all right – and found themselves evenly matched throughout. It was the visitors who began the brighter, with some intricate play that was more suggestive than conclusive. But they did provide the debut home keeper with some testing moments as the half progressed.
It is always an incentive when a former player faces his old club, and this took the form of Connor Calcutt who was soon involved, with one shot wide and two further efforts blocked. Farnborough forced two successive corners - one bringing an on target shot from Kieron Forbes, well saved by Harker but at the expense of another corner.
The vulnerability to these set-pieces from early games was brushed aside as the Dunstable defence coped admirably with Scott Betts having an outstanding game. It was vitally important not to concede an early goal and settle well into a pattern of cohesive play and this was largely achieved in the first period and was a marked feature of the second half.
Perry Coles had an unsuccessful pop at goal and at the other end a Dunstable corner was palmed away by Upward and a following cross by Claudio Silva was well held. Arel Amu had a run on goal but his effort was blocked and two free-kicks from Dunstable were resolutely cleared. Ryan Young showed pace and he saw one effort saved, gaining a corner.
There was a good deal of nervous energy and it was clear that the home players wanted to end that unwanted statistic of successive defeats at Creasey Park – but it took time. Farnborough had more chances in the half and the plus for Dunstable was the precise and confident defending. There was a replication of the resolute denial of clear goal chances as the game went on – and more evidence of good counter play.
Dunstable had kept their heads and as they went to the interval there was a definite feeling that they could improve further – even if it looked that this game would not yield many goals. Obstacles had been overcome. Other teams had found they could exhaust Dunstable with an insistence on possession football, capitalising on the fatigue that follows this chasing of the game. Happily the home side prevented this and the second half saw them countering efficiently and coming very close to adding to the one goal they did score.
Rightly praised by previous opponents for their willingness to contend to the last kick, this brought dividends as the hosts wrested the initiative and looked the likelier team to score. Lanre Ladipo gave way to the combative Ben Collins, the first of three substitutions.
Dunstable forced an early corner following more good work from Ryan Young and the diminutive Claudio Silva saw a fine shot saved. Scott Betts was cautioned for holding back Glen Southam and Harker saved the shot from the free-kick. Precise defending from both sides did not detract from the attacking intentions but it did give a flickering thought that we might be looking at a goal-less draw – which I think at that time both teams might have taken, since no-one could fault either side for effort and endurance. An inspired set-piece might have altered the perspective since all players seemed to embrace their individual roles with confidence.
The only goal came from an error- largely unforced and psychologically it gave Dunstable a greater advantage than is normally associated with a slender lead. Aiden Upward and his skipper Josh Huggins had their wires crossed and what would normally be a straightforward clearance was gently botched, with the goalkeeper failing to hold the ball. Andrew Osei-Bensu, may his goals increase, was onto the error in predatory fashion and had the luxury of finishing the move with the goal untenanted. An error is not luck as such and Dunstable had established the lead which had the suggestion that it would not be relinquished. It was like the granting of a long overdue reward for effort and persistency.
Celebration was muted since there was a good twenty minutes or so of normal time to go, and it was important not to let elation override attention to duty. In these situations, discipline is all, and it was maintained and improved as each minute played brought the home side closer to the massive effect of a first league win. Farnborough were, of course, keen to get back on terms as no team wants to incur the wrath of its manager for losing to a side that is currently propping up the division. They had their moments, with Huggins putting one over the bar and Perry Coles once more testing Harker.
But the better chances of this half undoubtedly fell to Dunstable and but for sterling work from Upward they may well have bagged another goal or two. Arel Amu really did fancy his chances and one beautiful chip was only just tipped over the bar and Osei-Bensu came close to adding to his tally in another attack. Amu also saw another on target shot well saved by Upward and at this stage it was clear that Dunstable were the more aggressive in going forward.
When your side is a goal to the good, added on time seems to last an eternity, and conversely if you are trailing it evaporates in no time. We had no signal from the referee as to how many minutes were to be added on, so we had to bite our nails for longer than we expected.
A word here about the referee Daniel Hanna – he had performed accurately and fairly and it was noticed by many that he emerged from the ‘tunnel’ a few minutes ahead of the players before the game kicked off, to chat with the numerous mascots, which was clearly appreciated by them – and all of us. It was a fine gesture in keeping with Non-league day which is all about community involvement.
For hardy supporters, every game is Non-league day and we hope that many new faces among the 254 in attendance will make a return to Creasey Park – and even try an away game.
When the game finished it was marked by the home players acknowledging their supporters in a vibrant manner. Hey, no matter- as the sub text was burgeoning. Players and their management team were keen to share their first victory with those who had seen them get a few good hidings hitherto. It was an emotive scene, and for me I was appreciative of the gracious comments of the Farnborough officials who were genuine in their good wishes. They had lost, but they were keen to acknowledge just what it meant to us all in the home contingent. In a way it was another by-product of Non-league Day – a sign that sportsmanship is still alive and well in the nether regions of competitive football.
Now I am going to spoil it all with the cliché that one swallow doth not a summer make. This victory is but a start. We have serious work to do to consolidate this win and it starts Tuesday at St Neots. It was a win but it took a lot of hard work – but the continuing improvement is the most encouraging factor as the team, and the managers are growing to their task. They have stuck resolutely to their task without shouting the odds or hurling abuse at their contemporaries with the luxury of large budgets. We are what we are and we can enjoy the fact that the three points take us clear of the bottom spot and, of course, there is a long way to go.
Casey Harker, Peter Kioso, Gedeon Okito, Jonathan Barnett, John Sonuga, captain, Scott Betts, man of the match, cautioned, Ryan Young, (Joseph Chidsyausiku, 87), Andrew Osei-Bensu, GOAL, 71 minutes, Arel Amu, Claudio Silva, (Brandy Makuendi, 72), Lanre Ladipo, (Ben Collins, 45). Other substitutes- Sam Odusoga, Keiran Ogden.
Aiden Upward, Jake Evans, CJ Fearn, Josh Huggins, captain, Jack Saville, cautioned, Keith Emmerson, Glen Southern, Kieron Forbes, Jamie Cureton, (Matt Roberts), Perry Coles, Connor Calcutt, (Nick Hutchings), Other substitute – Jack Barton.
Referee- Daniel Hanna, assisted by Sarah Grundy and Shaun Gregory. All had good games.