ST NEOTS TOWN 2 DUNSTABLE TOWN 2 HT 1-1 ATTENDANCE 180
After their first league win over Farnborough at the weekend, Dunstable rose to the challenge of gaining a positive result at St Neots. This was achieved late in the game, when, following the foul on substitute Keiran Ogden, Arel Amu calmly converted the penalty that would ultimately gain a point which was ample reward for the team’s persistency under pressure in a game where they briefly led.
Gaining four points in two games is something of a tonic, especially as it seemed that the home side would eventually convert from their continual marauding up front, necessitating resolute defending. But from the kick-off, it was clear that Dunstable had come with the intention of consolidating their notable improvement. The Saints countered quickly and were swift in their passing and soon it was clear that they had a player of notable pace and quality, one Dion Sembie-Ferris, a home gown product who progressed to Colchester United, where he played a couple of dozen League games. His return to the fold was no doubt welcomed and he played a full part in his team’s goal tonight.
His first run and cross brought a corner, and if this was dealt with, no defending was needed as the culmination of some stylish home attacking sent the ball high into the trees. Saturday’s hero, Andrew Osei-Bonsu showed that he too had some pace and it was though his enterprise that Dunstable secured the lead. With the Saints committed to going forward, they were caught a little short in the opening minutes and Dunstable indeed looked very capable of scoring.
Both flanks had been utilised with a freedom they were soon to have circumvented, but Osei-Bonsu’s charge along the left, a deft cutting in and an angled cross saw Taylor Parr presumably try to head the ball out for a corner but instead he headed past his loquacious and colourful keeper Mike Emery. We had played ten minutes and it would be fair to say that Dunstable deserved this cheeky lead for sheer enterprise.
The announcer did his bit and, as is characteristic with a lot of clubs, the goals against are mentioned in a bland, apologetic tone and home goals with elongated vowels and a rise in volume that implies a big cheer should follow.
After a quarter of an hour the Saints lost Ryan Horne to injury and he was replaced by Harry O’Malley (which sounds like a mild imprecation) and towards the end of the half veteran Dunstable midfielder Jonathan Barnett took a knock and he was replaced by Lanre Ladipo (which still sounds to me like an esoteric card game). St Neots had a number of free-kicks and these were executed by Jack Bradshaw and were generally effective insofar as they caused a bit of mayhem in the Dunstable defence. Casey Harker, in the Dunstable goal looked confident under pressure, and needed to be as corners were conceded to add to the several crosses whipped in by the Saints.
The hosts were soon gaining a lasting initiative and an equaliser did seem to be there for the taking and when it was it was through a wonderful piece of play from Sembie-Ferris. Blessed with natural pace and skill he took the ball along the right, eluding challenges and his cross to the far post was converted by Tom Meechan. Dunstable had a second ‘goal’ disallowed for off-side, as did the hosts – well the whistle had gone and their player finished the move for the sake of it. But Dunstable’s disallowed effort showed that they could penetrate and the finish was heart-warming in any case.
Saints finished the half strongly and a free-kick, centrally outside the penalty area was well-struck by Jack Bradshaw, and it rebounded off the foot of the post with alarming force before being scrambled away. It was a vital miss and it meant that the teams went to the interval level.
It had been an eventful half, if not entirely satisfying for both teams. In relative terms Dunstable had done well to resist the home side’s frantic efforts to gain a lead to reflect their overall creativity. What was needed for the visitors was some calming play in possession. They had worked hard and were forced to defend and on resumption they had limited attacking chances, but did finish quite strongly.
Dunstable were on their fourth visit to St Neots and indeed a couple of years ago came close to winning, being 3-0 up and were then held to a 3-3 draw. A characteristic of the games has been good entertainment and some fine goals, and the usual disputing of the referee’s decisions. Tonight was no exception, the main one being the award of a penalty to Dunstable which secured the draw.
The Saints were aggrieved at this as it looked very much like they would secure maximum points once they had gone ahead. They had one particular tactic that I have always seen as a valuable one – that of the well-placed long throw-in. we could do worse than cultivate a player who can be a successful exponent of this. Dunstable survived a scare or two, once with Scott Betts clearing close to the goal line and a free-kick from Claudio Silva was on target but straight at Mike Emery, who gathered the ball with a look that echoed his namesake, Dick Emery, with the catch-phrase, ‘Ooh, you are awful,’ but we liked it, even if it was a rare attempt on goal as all hands were at the pumps staving off repeated attacks by the hosts.
A slick move from the right saw a good cross and Dylan Williams put the Saints ahead, with a kind of flourish that suggested they would go on to win convincingly. This did not happen, since Dunstable resisted with characteristic stubbornness. It is all very well having the opportunities but they must be made to count and this was not achieved.
When Dunstable countered there was some suggestive play with Ben Collins glancing a header that brought a corner, but what came his way was generally well monitored by Emery and his defenders. The volatile, ex Barton Rovers defender, Luke Knight, put one wide and he managed a few good moans at the referee for sundry decisions, which, needless to say, had gone against his team. Saints had a number of corners which were always threatening and by now we had noticed that the electronic score –board had a timer that definitely had a mind of its own, seeming to be stuck for a long time on 70 minutes.
Brandy Makuendi had replaced Claudio Silva, but a turning point came after the substitution of Ryan Young by Keiran Ogden. It was the latter who was definitely fouled for Dunstable’s penalty, and before the kick was taken we saw Mike Emery claiming that he had been fouled before he let the ball slip from his grasp with a lunging action. Sundry others joined in the vehement appeal but the referee told me later that it was definitely a penalty as Emery had unwittingly collided with his own player and Ogden was virtually upended.
I had a pessimistic feeling since in the match against AFC Dunstable, the Dunstable players had underwhelmed in the penalty shoot-out, but cometh the minute, cometh the man, Arel Amu stepped up converted a well taken penalty in the seventy-sixth minute. It may be filed under the category of ‘against the run of play’, but the fault lay with the Saints themselves. Indeed, as the game headed towards the last period, regardless of the electronic clock’s confusion, Dunstable looked as though they might indeed snatch a winner. Peter Kioso (two games, two cautions, tut tut), had a fine shot that was only just over the bar and a later header that was even closer.
Some robust defending and the launching of the ball into a separate part of Huntingdonshire rounded off the match and Dunstable players had earned their point, and looked a bit exhausted as they trooped off the pitch. It was a good all-round performance and manager Tony McCool called the gaining of the point as ‘massive’.
It means that Dunstable now have five points and are level with St Ives, the team above, with a game in hand and they also have a game in hand over Gosport Borough, who remain on just the one point. When they and Dunstable play it will be a feisty affair.
ST NEOTS TOWN
Mike Emery, Scott Sinclair, Johnny Herd, Luke Knight, captain, Jack Bradshaw, Taylor Parr, Dion Sembie-Ferris, man of the match, Kyran Wilshire, cautioned, Tom Meechan, GOAL, 24 minutes, Ryan Horne, (Harry O’Malley), Dylan Williams, GOAL, 64 minutes, cautioned. Other substitutes- Dave Bridges and Josh Dawson.
Casey Harker, Peter Kioso, cautioned, Gedeon Okito, Jonathan Barnett, (Lanre Ladipo, 40), John Sonuga, captain, Scott Betts, Ryan Young, cautioned, (Keiran Ogden, 77, Andrew Osei-Bonsu, GOAL, 10 minutes, Arel Amu, PENALTY GOAL, 77, Claudio Silva, (Brandy Makeundi, 60), Ben Collins. Other substitutes- Sam Odusoga and Joseph Chidyausiku.
Referee- Lee Grimesy, assisted by James Sedley and Matthew Ball.