Viv Curtis @vivcurtis

Dunstable Town arrived in the historic Devon town of Tiverton yesterday, after another gruelling four hour cross country journey caused by the temporary closure of the M25, but with high hopes of reproducing the form that had earned them a deserved point away at Dorchester a fortnight earlier. Instead they left somewhat shell shocked after going down 7 – 1 to their hosts, and with a potentially serious injury to goalkeeper Will Hunt and a red card dismissal for Peter Kioso. In truth it probably couldn’t have gone much worse for Tony & Gareth’s brave, battling soldiers.

Our hosts had worked hard to get the pitch in a playable state following deep snowfall last week and heavy rain in the 24 hours leading to kick off. Dunstable were keen to get the match played as long as the pitch was safe in order to avoid another Tuesday night match away from home, with a return journey time in excess of 7 hours. They had to do it at Hereford in October and again last month at Merthyr and on both occasions won plaudits and the respect and admiration of the opposition and their fans. But this is clearly not the type of preparation you would wish for any competitive match, when it means your unpaid players have to take (unpaid) time off from work, return home at 3 in the morning and be back up again in time for work 3 or 4 hours later. All the time traveling in a loaned minibus and eating supermarket meal deal sandwiches.

Tiverton were also keen to get the game on as they had made yesterday a “pay what you want” occasion with the club house showing the Man Utd v Liverpool matches they were clearly keen to attract a big crowd and swell the Club’s coffers. The attendance was a healthy 288 and the 3rd highest attendance this season at the nicely appointed Ladysmead stadium.

It meant though that the pitch was heavy, it cut up easily and was not conducive to the style of football Dunstable like to play. However let that not detract from the fact that on the day Tiverton were clinical in front of goal, well organised and produced a team performance which has been well drilled and perfected to a fine art and comes from having a relatively small group of players who have been with the Club for a sufficient period of time to understand their roles and duties on the field. Complimented by their Manager ,Martyn Rogers, a seasoned ex-pro, who masterminded last season’s promotion into the Southern League Premier division and who is now in his fourth season in charge. Tiverton currently sit 7th in the table with an exceptional record of 13 home wins from 18 matches.

Dunstable were without Charlie Black, whose exquisite lob away at Dorchester two weeks ago had supporters purring with delight. Ethan Lamptey partnered Arel Amu up front, but Tony & Gareth kept faith with the rest of the side who had performed so well in recent matches.

From the opening exchanges it was clear that the pitch was likely to play a part in the outcome. Players found it difficult to turn and keep their footing on the heavy surface. The pitch slowed down the pace of the ball as it made its’ way to expectant Dunstable feet. Tiverton employed effective tactics similar to those deployed at Creasey Park in November and the conditions suited those tactics perfectly. In Levi Landricombe and Jordan Rogers, they have two players who rattled in the goals in the last two seasons at a rate of nearly one a game. And while Landricombe didn’t score yesterday, Jordan Rodgers got a brace, and sponsor’s man of the match, Tom Bath got a hat trick.

For the first 20 minutes or so both teams appeared to struggle to adapt to the conditions. There were chances at both ends in the opening two minutes, firstly Will Hunt needed to get down smartly to save from Michael Landricombe and then a minute later Andrew Osei-Bonsu had a threatening shot blocked.

A few minutes later lovely approach work from Andrew, Gedeon Okito, Arel Amu and Ryan Young deserved something more for the beauty of its creation and execution. Again a few minutes later Arel set up Andrew but again Tiverton defensive bodies were there to block the shot.

Two minute later Dunstable players, management and fans thought we’d grabbed the opener as Ryan Young tore down the left hand side and played the perfect cross into the box, which evaded the Tiverton backline but also the incoming Alex Ward who must have been a couple of blades of grass away from connecting and scoring what would have been a deserved opener for Dunstable Town.

You know the old saying, “ When you’re down, luck doesn’t go your way and decisions don’t go your way” ? That was evident bucket loads !

Alex Ward “took one for the team” after 19 minutes when he obstructed a Tiverton player and two minutes later Tiverton were a goal ahead following a well worked move down the Dunstable right hand side finished by Jordan Rogers with a well- placed shot that left Will no chance of reaching.

The goal lifted Tiverton and gave them the impetus to look for another crack to exploit in the Dunstable defence. Twelve minutes later they were further rewarded by a second goal despite Will making a fantastic save from the first attempt. What did I just say about luck ?

Minutes before the second Tiverton goal Andrew Osei-Bonsu had weaved his way past a couple of Tiverton defenders and, on the edge of the box, appeared ready to unleash one of his thunderbolts ( If I say Kings Langley away 48th minute you’ll know what I’m talking about) but was dispossessed just as he appeared ready to strike. From what could easily have been an equaliser Dunstable now found themselves two down and in that state of wondering what they needed to do to get back on terms.

An uphill task became a mountain to climb when in the 43rd minute Tom Bath took advantage of Dunstable failing to clear their lines to put Tiverton 3 goals up.

Tony & Gareth changed things up at half time bringing on Captain & Leader of Men, John Sonuga to replace Alex Ward and Lanre Ladipo to replace Ethan Lamptey.

Dunstable’s mountain then became of Everest proportions as two goals in the first 4 minutes of the second half meant Dunstable would now be playing for pride and hoping to keep the score down in order to not cause further damage to our goal difference in the league Table. 5-0 down after 49 minutes and a productive 6 minutes either side of half time for Tiverton who managed to score three times.

Will Hunt was clearly struggling and had appeared to be for periods in the first half. I’d seen him go down in the first half at a corner unable to get to the ball and wondered whether the heavy pitch had affected him or whether he’d been injured in a challenge.

Will’s a battler. Everyone in the Dunstable team is a battler. But there’s only so much help the “magic sponge” can give. To generous applause from the crowd, Will left the field of play with 20 minutes left to play clearly in much discomfort and distress. How serious his injury is remains to be seen but every Dunstable fan will be wishing Will a speedy recovery not just because he’s such an important member of the squad but also because he’s such a genuinely nice man with a very modest disposition and a great heart, committed to the cause. Even when injured he produced two very good saves in the minutes leading up to his replacement in goal by the “ever ready to do his bit” Kieran Ogden who repeated more of the heroics he’d shown when asked to play in goal at the last minute earlier in the season.

On 64 minutes Arel Amu deservedly got a goal back from the spot for Dunstable managing to beat on loan Bristol Rovers keeper Alexis Andre Jr. Dunstable thought they should have had a second penalty when Peter Kioso appeared to be tripped from behind. Voices near me opined a penalty should have been awarded. However the Assistant Referee kept his flag down and the referee waved play on. Peter, clearly incensed by the perceived injustice, appealed the decision and presumably used an expletive audible to the referee which earned him a yellow followed by a red card. Peter will know that his momentary lack of discipline cannot be excused but as a young man still learning and perfecting his craft these are harsh lessons which hopefully he will learn from and not repeat in the future. Peter stands at the threshold of a promising career, one which seasoned watchers of the Team will know he deserves for his loyalty, passion and natural gifts and abilities.

A second penalty wasn’t going to change the course of the match or its outcome. There’s nothing to say that we would have even scored from a resulting penalty but it matters to the players and to the management that if we’re going to lose a match we lose by the smallest margin of goals, and at that stage with the possibility of reducing the deficit to three goals, there was nothing to say that Dunstable could not have scored another goal later on and further improved our minus goal difference.

A minute later after Peter’s dismissal Tiverton scored again to make the score a flattering 6-1.

Dunstable kept plugging away and both Arel and Ryan got shots away before Tiverton rubbed salt into Dunstable wounds with a seventh goal in time added on. As the game reached its final seconds a tannoy announcement gave the match sponsor’s award of Man of The Match to Tom Bath but in a nice touch the Dunstable Town Man of The Match to Andrew Osei-Bonsu and a bottle of wine to reward his efforts.

A harsh scoreline. Dunstable will feel that conditions and some important decisions went against them but the loss of Peter to suspension and Will to injury will be a worry for Tony & Gareth as they prepare for the remaining nine matches of the season.

Credit to Tiverton for reproducing in full Tony’s account of our trip last month to Merthyr in the matchday programme.

Long after I should have gone to bed last night & still musing over the day’s events, looking at all the possible permutations of our remaining fixtures and those of our closest rivals, Gosport Borough, I saw on Twitter a tweet from the Tiverton Town FC programme editor and press officer, Jay Richardson, which read;

“Absolute pleasure catching up with Tony & Gareth at Tiverton Town today. You guys deserve success. Safe journey home. A real credit to football”.

And that they are. It’s genuine respect our Managers and players earn by how they acquit themselves on and off the field, how they handle themselves in the face of adversity and how they treat opponents with genuine respect, not deference or subservience, but proper respect that sportsmen show each other before and after the game. Wherever we go, we come correct and leave correct.

Wherever this wonderful team of ours play I receive nothing but praise from our opposition for the way in which the players conduct themselves and that’s not just because they’re all thoroughly decent, honest, hard working young men, these are the attributes Tony & Gareth look for in selecting players to play for us. No egos, no big time Charlie’s and no shirkers. This is the work ethic and principles that Tony & Gareth instil in them on the training ground. You’re not just an ambassador for yourself and the Club you are out there on merit and because you meet all the qualities the Club believes in.

Next Saturday the Team are away at Weymouth, but before then you can catch a glimpse of tomorrow’s rising stars as our Development Team take on Westfield FC in a Suburban League fixture at Creasey Park on Thursday 15th March k/o 1945 hrs. Admission is just £3 for Adults. Concessions and children get in free. The Development Team then travel back to Tolworth in Surrey on Saturday to complete the postponed Mike Bidmead Cup match against Corinthinan Casuals. If you’re unable to travel to Weymouth next week, please make every effort to get down to Tolworth and support Simon & Colin’s team.

The First Team are back in action at Creasey Park against Hitchin Town on Saturday 24th March and then entertain promotion chasing Slough Town on Good Friday 30th March in the only local fixture for miles around. We’re looking forward to a good game of football with a healthy attendance as Slough always travel in numbers and hopefully neutrals and Hoppers will be attracted by it being the only senior match locally.

The Club has recently established a link with SLBD Distribution Company who will manage Dunstable Town’s leaflet drop to 5,000 local houses promoting the Club & offering reduced admission with the flyer. We see this as an important link with an established local business and hope it attracts some newcomers to Creasey Park.

We have agreed a date for our postponed home match against Gosport Borough which should take place early next month but this is yet to be confirmed by the Southern League.

Despite yesterday’s disappointment the mood in the camp remains positive and upbeat, but if you’re feeling pessimistic or dispirited seeing yesterday’s result remember the old saying; “It’s always darkest before the dawn”

We are Dunstable Town, never bowed, never giving up.

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Dunstable Town Football Club is a members owned football club that is run by the Club Committee

through its annually elected Club Officers, constituting the Chairperson, Treasurer and Secretary.