The morning postponement of the First Team's match against Weymouth allowed the Chairman & Secretary to venture deep into Surrey to watch Simon Reilly & Colin Lauder's young Development side take on higher league opponents, Corinthian Casuals, in the 2nd round of the Mike Bidmead Suburban League Challenge Cup. The Casuals are steeped in non-league history and in 2015 were invited to Brazil to play their professional namesakes, Corinthians Paulista, who play in the top tier of the Brazilian league. Corinthians Paulista formed in 1910 and had taken the name Corinthians inspired by the original incarnation of Corinthian Casuals. Corinthian Casuals played out a highly creditable 0-0 draw. Photos of that match adorn their club house wall and show their 50,000 capacity stadium well populated.
The casuals play in the Premier division of the Suburban League, a league higher than our Development Team, and are currently unbeaten in the league sitting in 4th position in a 14 team league. Our Development Team are mid table in the Central Division with a creditable 50% win record, and determined to put behind them a 3-2 reverse in their last match at Frimley Green.
On paper this would have been a home banker. Higher placed league team, who were playing some of their first team, at home against lower league opposition. But this of course is the cup where recent form can easily go out of the window. Just ask Division 1 side Fleetwood Town who stuttered to a 1-1 home draw against Southern League new boys Hereford FC last week in the FA Cup 2nd round. Hereford FC, you may remember, only narrowly beat Dunstable Town 2-0 at Edgar Street in October in a performance which saw our Boys warmly applauded off the field at the end of 90 minutes by the home crowd faithful.
And out of the window predictions of a home win went yesterday. Dunstable were deservedly ahead at half time with a coolly converted penalty by Alex on the half hour mark separating the teams and were so nearly 2-0 up in the second half following a delightful turn of pace by winger Nathan Mullings who's shot from the angle had the Casuals keeper beaten all ends up but narrowly whistled past the post. We all thought the net would bulge and with our hands already in the air ready to celebrate the gasps of "No ... how did that not go in" were met with relieved sighs from the Casuals bench and a stern ticking off for their defence.
The first 20 minutes or so had shown what a capable defence Dunstable have. The Casuals passed the ball around nicely and several times tested Nev in the Dunstable goal who stopped everything that came his way, pulling off several difficult saves and christening his new goalkeeper gloves and certainly keeping his hands warm on the type of day that makes you rummage through your wardrobe pulling out any item of clothing that has a "Thermal" tag on it. Dunstable didn't let their higher placed opponents settle and set about disrupting the Casual's pass and move football and started to impose their own stylish football on the game. The back line was superbly led by our tall centre halves and with Ben Collins & Erin Amu also featuring yesterday both defence and midfield looked tight and solid.
The Casuals equaliser, somewhat against the run of play, came from an industrious piece of play by the Casuals no. 9 who had pace and strength, who let fly with a powerful drive which evaded Nev's diving fingertips. With 15 minutes still to play both sides went all out on the attack. Dunstable were forced into a couple of substitutions firstly with the industrious James being replaced late on after putting in a stirring performance then followed by Marawan, who had belied his youthful years with a confident display needing to come off with an injury.
Both defences held firm for the remaining minutes and the Dunstable fans then headed off behind the goal to watch the expected penalty shoot-out. Expected I say because there was no apparent extra time to be played. Simon & Colin congratulated their Boys on a collective "job done well" and sought volunteers to take the penalties. Names were gathered and the players assembled on the half way line....only for the Casual's Secretary to inform all and sundry that the League had informed him in a telephone call that the game was in fact a two legged match with the second leg to be played at Creasey Park in the near future. News apparently to everyone. Who'd be a Club secretary ?
Overall this was a highly creditable performance by the young Blues who had gone head to head with their illustrious opponents and had more than held their own and no doubt will have created a few headaches for the home management team on how they should set their stall up for the return fixture.
These young men are an absolute credit to the Club and to Simon & Colin's tutelage. The fact that four of the Development side have already been selected for the First eleven this season shows the tremendous steps forward the Club has made recently, and how successful plans are coming to fruition in making the Development squad a natural stepping stone into the Senior Team. On yesterday's performance those four will be joined in the future by several more of their team mates.
Please keep an eye out for the Development squad's upcoming fixtures which will be advertised on the website and on all our social media platforms. Yesterday was a genuine pleasure and a really enjoyable game to have watched. I hope you in future will show them your support and be similarly entertained by these young stars of the future.