Image supplied by Andy Fitzsimons
A piece of Dunstable Town FC history was created on Tuesday night at a very cold ProKit Stadium, Bishop’s Stortford, when former Watford & Brentford goalkeeper, Richard Lee, took to the field wearing Dunstable colours to play in place of regular ‘keeper Nick Hayes who had been called up into the U19 England training camp at St George’s. To have a former Premier League player in our Team was a first for the Club & Richard distinguished himself throughout with some fine saves. Richard had not played a competitive game at any level for over three years and that should tell you all you need to know about the man and his desire to help us out in Nick's absence. Pure class. A huge thank you Richard from us all.
There was something of a Luton Town "old boys" reunion in the dugouts with Stortford Manager Kevin Watson being former Luton Town club mates with our own Tony McCool & Kevin Gallen. There was a genuinely respectful social media exchange between Kevin & Tony in the days leading up to the game and a friendly drink in the bar after the game, no doubt to relive the 90 minutes that had seen Bishop’s Stortford win the game with two goals of genuine quality and two more which suggested a more one sided affair than the one that actually took place.
Dunstable were competitive for most of the game and produced their own brand of free flowing, pass and move football which deserved a better outcome than it did. For long periods Dunstable were more than equal to their opponents.
Daniel Trif took the place of Scott Betts to partner our own captain and leader of men, John Sonuga, and Ty Ward passed a late fitness test. There were welcome returns to the bench for Johnny Barnett & Claudio Silva. Both of whom made second half substitute appearances
Dunstable's bright, attacking start was duly rewarded in the 12th minute when Charlie Black took full advantage of the Stortford defence's failure to clear a ball in from the right which enabled Charlie to swivel and smash the ball home from close range. This was no more than Dunstable deserved having started the brighter and the more attacking of the two sides. Further opportunities were created but the ball stubbornly refused to cross the line a second time. At the other end Dunstable were grateful for Peter Kioso’s defensive nouse when he made a last man clearance that maintained Dunstable's lead and Richard's wise, experienced head organising the defence.
Lanre Ladipo shot accurately at goal on 28 mins but the Stortford keeper made a good save. Stortford by this stage had recovered from their early set back and were producing some good attacking moves switching the ball around and trying to disrupt Dunstable's shape. The equaliser, on 33 minutes, was a goal of quality scored by Orient loanee, Freddy Moncur, son of former West Ham stalwart, John Moncur.
It was evident that Kevin Watson set his side out to play the same brand of attractive passing football that Tony does for Dunstable. For the neutrals in the crowd this proved to be an absorbing and enjoyable first half between two evenly matched teams. There were creditable appearances from most of the players on the pitch last night, all of whom adopted classy pass and move football. The game remained at one apiece as the Teams went off the field for half time.
The second half was only two minutes old when out of nowhere half time substitute Dean Ager scored a goal as imperious as that scored by our own Lee Roach, away at Northwood one Tuesday evening in August four years ago. If you saw Roachy's goal that night then this one was its match. Hit from far out on the right it went high into the corner of Richard Lee's goal. Goal scorer Ager has only recently returned to Stortford on loan having signed for Colchester Utd.
Now 2-1 down the Dunstable team looked to regroup and cut off the dangerous supply of balls from the attacking midfield shape Stortford adopted. Dunstable kept at their task and tried their best to gain parity. Our lads never gave up despite the uphill task they now faced. When you're playing for the shirt every week, you have to have a desire and commitment to overcome the difficult odds that are stacked against you every week. These are qualities this group of players have in abundance and in Tony, Gareth & Kevin, they have three football men who will guide and manage them to be the best they can be. Once again they played wholeheartedly, but could not find that magic spark which had entertained us in the first 30 minutes. Stortford scored two more goals on 58 and 84 minutes to give the score a flattering headline, which didn't tell the whole story.
We would like to add our gratitude to the loyal and long serving Dunstable Town fan who generously donated his 50-50 winnings on Saturday to the Club, and also to say how much we appreciate the presence at games of players, some of whom travel long distances, who have not been selected for the squad. The same goes for their parents who cheer on, not just their son's, but the Team as a whole, unfailingly week in week out. We salute every single one of you.
Tony told the committee when he was interviewed for the Manager's post, the type of young man he wanted to represent Dunstable Town this season. Young men who personified the very best in work ethic, commitment and skill, but also and just as important, he wanted players who would represent the Club as ambassadors on and off the field. Players who would be respectful and well-mannered and be a credit not just to themselves and their parents but to all of us associated with the Club. Well Tony & Co have achieved that. We received notification on Tuesday that Dunstable Town are top of the referees' Respect League which is a wonderful credit to players and management as we reach the half way stage of the season.
The tide will turn and performances that are not currently, adequately rewarded as points on the board will be very soon. Make sure you're there to see it happen. If you can't make it to Hitchin please come down to Creasey Park on December 9th & 16th when we take on Weymouth & Basingstoke respectively. Both matches have already been sponsored by supporters who believe in the path we're taking so please add your support for the lads by showing them you care about this great club of ours as it makes its way along the transitional path to become a sustainable, community orientated, supporter run club. Every single player, manager, coach, committee member and volunteer has a desire to see this new model of running a football club succeed and be a beacon for other clubs who may find themselves in the position we found ourselves in 6 months ago. Work continues every day behind the scenes to achieve our dreams and ambitions for Dunstable Town FC.