A battling, dogged and determined, performance yesterday by Dunstable Town very nearly earned them a share of the spoils at the Camrose. Ultimately Dunstable succumbed to two second half goals for the home side while Dunstable will feel aggrieved that a late John Sonuga header was ruled out and a bobble on the pitch was enough to change the trajectory of the ball as Arel Amu rounded the Basingstoke ‘keeper with an open goal at his mercy. A draw would not have been an unfair result and would have been a worthy reward for Tony & Gareth’s young gladiatorial protégés.
Such are the narrow margins that can determine victory or defeat, success or failure. As the season finale looks as though it may go to the wire a cruel twist of fate would be if the fortunes of the Club were to be decided on goal difference, surely life could not be so quite so cruel ?
With both Peter Kioso and Ryan Young unavailable yesterday, Lanre Ladipo filled in place of Peter and Charlie Black returned having been unavailable for the past couple of matches.
Basingstoke Town sit in mid table with an impressive home form which matches the top five teams in the League and which has seen them drop only 12 points at home all season. To put that in perspective, that’s only two more points lost at home that table topping Hereford. It’s been on their travels that they’ve struggled for form and consistency however with uncertainty hanging over the future of football at the Camrose, and with a limited budget, Terry Brown has assembled a talented squad of players who have not gone unnoticed by clubs at higher levels in the pyramid.
Warm spring sunshine greeted the Dunstable players as they arrived in Basingstoke and surveyed the playing surface resplendent in Club colours. There was a healthy away support for the Lads present in a crowd of 310.
The first half proved to be a battle fought predominantly in the middle of the park with both captains, who both just happened to be wearing the number 5 shirts, playing pivotal and outstanding performances. Dunstable Town Captain & Leader of Men, John Sonuga, caught the eye of the Basingstoke committee who commented favourably on his performance both at half time and full time.
Chances to both sides in the first half were limited due to solid defensive displays. I commented last week in my report for the Kettering game that Dunstable had shown real fighting qualities which were again on display for the full 90 minutes.
All over the park the Dunstable lads scrapped and went toe to toe with their opponents. Every single player yesterday stuck to their task and stuck to the game plan. Good performances all round.
Lanre Ladipo hobbled off on 19 minutes to be replaced by Erin Amu who got stuck in straight away and helped nullify the normally free scoring Basingstoke attack.
Five minutes later Dunstable were indebted to Daniel Trif for an outstanding piece of defensive work matched on the stroke of half time by Gedeon Okito who had rather unluckily found himself in the referee’s notebook on 35 minutes after being on the receiving end of a heavy Basingstoke challenge.
I’ve seen all but four of the games this season, including pre-season friendlies, and know our lads don’t cheat. Tony & Gareth wouldn’t pick them if they did. Simple as. So to hear Gedeon being lambasted by a section of the Basingstoke support using industrial language which would make a navvy blush was not pleasant to hear and certainly not deserved.
Half time cups of tea taken the second half kicked off with Dunstable attacking the far end and hopefully able to exploit the slight slope in their favour. Within a couple of minutes of the restart Andrew Osei-Bonsu let fly with a stinging shot which caused Basingstoke stopper Colm Mcadden to fling himself to his left to parry the ball to safety.
Six minutes later Nathan Harness in the Dunstable goal pulled off a wonderful save to keep the scores level. A minute later the Dunstable defence was breached by the very impressive, Dan Bayliss to give Basingstoke the lead.
Dunstable weathered the expected onslaught that every team employs once they’ve got the lead and the bit between their teeth (that’s the only Grand National analogy I’ll be making) and managed to rebuff the offensive onslaught that came their way.
With just one goal separating the sides Dunstable started to gain the ascendancy and began to make further inroads into the Basingstoke danger areas. There, however, they found Basingstoke captain, Guri Demuria in commanding and masterful form. He marshalled his back line with intelligence and experience and limited Dunstable’s chances.
At the other end and in equally commanding form was Nathan Harness who produced another strong display and who, on 72 minutes when he went down bravely at the feet of an oncoming Basingstoke forward, kept Dunstable in the game.
However even Nathan was unable to stop Callum Bunting from seemingly putting the game to bed in the 89th minute with Basingstoke’s second goal. Game over surely.
As the Basingstoke faithful breathed a collective sigh of relief, Dunstable came back strongly and with the game already in stoppage time, so nearly rescued the game. Never, ever, doubt the courage and commitment of our Lads. They simply don’t know when they’re beaten and NEVER give up.
In the first minute of stoppage time, Arel Amu powered through the Basingstoke backline and rounded the goalkeeper only for the ball to hit a bobble on the pitch and spin back to hit his heel and fall kindly for Colm Mcadden to get to his knees and pounce on the ball with Arel already a yard ahead. When that happens you just know it’s not going to be your day.
Two minutes later John Sonuga had the ball in the back of the Basingstoke net, only to find the goal ruled out for an infringement. The raised eyebrows and puffing of cheeks from the Basingstoke fans near me suggested they’d got the rub of the green on that decision.
I’m almost tempted to say something about Lady Luck and narrow margins again but I think I’ve probably exhausted those expressions for this season. So suffice for me to say it was a narrow defeat which on another day could have been the comeback of the season !
We go again this Saturday afternoon when we entertain St Ives at Creasey Park. This is the first of the Team’s four games in the last week of the season which will decide whether we retain our place in the Southern Premier League for next season.
On Tuesday night (24th April) we are away at Biggleswade Town with a 7 45 kick off, followed 48 hours later with the visit of Gosport Borough to Creasey Park on Thursday 26th April.
The final game of the season away to Frome Town on Saturday 28th April draws the season to an end. Demand for seats on the coach has outstripped expectations and a bigger coach has been arranged with our friends at 3 Star Coaches in Sundon Park who have been exceptionally considerate and professional in trying to meet the Club’s requirements. There are still one or two seats available, so if you would like to come please let either myself or Ian Bateman know. The cost is £25.
If you’re not able to come to Biggleswade on Tuesday, why not spend the evening in the company of the talented Development Team who play Eversley & California at Creasey Park on the same evening with a 7 45 kick off. Admission is only £3.
There are several exciting developments taking place behind the scenes which we hope to finalise and publicly announce in the next couple of weeks. We hope when you are aware of them, you will appreciate the vision and determination the Board & Committee of the Club has to make our great Club financially sustainable, socially and community orientated but also a Club which will attract a growing fan base and reward the players who represent us.
You can still do your bit to help us achieve our collective ambitions for the Club. The games against St Ives & Gosport potentially could define our season. I urge every single one of you reading this to be present for both matches. Show Tony, Gareth, & the Lads that you care just as much as they do. Show them that every single second of unpaid match and training time has been respected, valued and appreciated and just as they’ve been here for us every single game, let us be there for them.
We are Dunstable Town. Never bowed. Never giving up.