This was the third meeting between these two sides this season, and at the end of a pulsating, finger nail biting game, honours ended even for a second time, with both camps probably feeling that their side could have come out with all three points.
Three games and sixteen goals. A brace from Arel Amu took his tally to one shy of double figures for the season, and another goal from Chris Wreh in the 65th minute gave him his 8th goal of the season. Not bad going when you consider we’re only a quarter way through the season.
Tony & Gareth had a shuffle of the pack due to the unavailability of John Sonuga & Hassan Sheikh. There was a start at the back for Marius “Paddy” Patru, with Joe Mead partnering Kyle Lincoln in the centre back slots.
Despite being only 9 weeks away from Christmas it was still warm enough for a reasonable crowd of 127 to be in shirt sleeves in the warming autumn sunshine.
The Corby side contained two former Blues in their ranks, Elliot Sandy & Gary Mulligan. Both men experienced, seasoned, performers at this and higher levels in the football pyramid. A couple of weeks ago Corby had been playing in the FA Cup away at Stockport County and had given a good account of themselves, cheered on by 300 of their own supporters. Experiences like that, at our level of football are not forgotten in a hurry and, while improving the Club’s bank balance also serve to attract new supporters from the town and hopefully return some of those who have drifted away. The irony that it was Corby who had knocked Dunstable out of the FA Cup in an earlier round was not lost on anyone.
Before kick off Corby had not been beaten in the League and had only conceded four goals in over two months of League football. Sitting in third place but with two games in hand over leaders Bromsgrove, Corby fans have high expectations of their team getting back into Step 3 this season.
It was almost as if the fates had pre -determined that Elliot Sandy would open the scoring after 22 minutes, capitalising on Dunstable not being able to clear their lines following a wonder save by Nick Hayes. Corby were good value for the lead but smart work by Chris Wreh, Saul Williams and Arel Amu, saw the latter round Dan George in the Corby goal on 27 minutes to get the Blues level.
Two minutes later and a ferocious, swerving strike from Arel Amu appeared as if it would nestle in the top right hand corner of Dan George’s goal, until, diving at full stretch George somehow managed to push the ball away for a corner. The save was as worthy of praise as the shot was. This period of play saw Dunstable get more on the front foot as they took the game to the opposition.
Unable to get a second goal despite exerting pressure Dunstable needed to be tight at the back to keep Corby getting ahead.
As the first half was drawing to a close Saul Williams played a delightful back-heeled flick for Gedeon Okito to place narrowly wide of the far post, as the Blues tried to end the first half on a high note.
Corby though had shown plenty of attacking endeavour themselves and both sets of supporters could take plenty of positives from their sides’ respective displays.
Kieron Ogden replaced Marius Patru at half time and four minutes after the restart the Blues took the lead, with Arel Amu finishing off a good move which had seen Saul Williams strike the post seconds earlier in a productive passage of play for the Blues.
Two so nearly became three ten minutes later as a chance fell invitingly for Arel Amu to get another hat trick as he received the ball gratefully from a mis hit clearance. Corby keeper, Dan George appeared stranded in no mans’ land but with a defender retreating at speed to try and block any shot from our number 9, Arel went for a chipped shot which cleared the defence but also, unfortunately for the Blues, the crossbar as well.
Minutes after that Kyle Lincoln caught an elbow to the face jumping for a ball which, one suspects, had it been seen by the officials would have been punishable with a straight red card.
Chris Wreh though did make it three on 65 minutes when he doggedly harried Dan George into conceding possession and knocked the ball into an empty Corby net. Neutral observers were keen to comment that Dunstable were worthy of their second half lead, and I had visions of snappy headlines I could write for this report and Alex Alexandrou could send to the NLP. I should have learned a long, long time ago, never to count my chickens when it comes to football. Had some of Rio Dasilva and Saul Williams dribbling prowess secured a fourth goal then maybe, just maybe, I could have been forgiven for some literary licence.
But this is Corby Town we’re up against. And Corby Town don’t read scripts. Five minutes later Jordan Crawford pulled a goal back converting at the far post only for Greg Ling to even matters up with 12 minutes and stoppage time still to play.
You know what you’re going to get with a McCool / Jackson team. Never say die. Fight ‘till we drop attitude and application. And there for all the world to see, was that spirit in abundance for the remaining minutes of the game. Last season I fear I would have been reporting the dropping of heads, the loss of shape on the field when adversity struck, and a cruel twist of the knife to have deprived us even a point.
Far from putting men behind the ball and inviting Corby to come forward, Dunstable went on the offensive and Alex Taylor looked as though he might just go all the way through the Corby midfield and defence and finish the job off himself. One such move engineered a chance for Rio Dasilva who couldn’t quite convert Arel Amu’s cross into a goal.
Rio then set up Chris Wreh back to goal, turned on a sixpence using every ounce of muscle to make an opportunity for himself, but Dan George in the Corby goal was equal to Chris’ shot.
At the other end, Dunstable needed to be live to the Corby playmakers and runners and make sure their team left Creasey Park only with a point.
It’s a useful barometer of where we are at the moment, in that in the past few weeks, our last three league games have been against sides sitting in 1st, 2nd and 3rd positions. A return of only 2 points from a possible 9 is scant return from three battling performances where we have matched our opponents at every stage, and one that doesn’t tell the full story. But for our young lads this is all about learning and should improve their confidence no end knowing that in 270 minutes of competitive football they’ve gone toe to toe with the League’s top clubs and done themselves and the Club proud, and never once played second fiddle to their higher placed opponents.
This is a season of consolidation, one where we continue to try and lay more foundations for a sustainable future off the field and help the young men in both the First & Development teams increase their confidence, abilities and game management as the season progresses. There are teams in this league with playing budgets we can only dream of, hence we have to do things differently and that is exactly what we’re doing, slowly but surely, methodically and purposefully, every step is a step forward along the path we are determined to tread together, united in our shared purpose and shared goals.
Be patient, be optimistic and be loud and passionate in your support. Our young men need to know they have your backing and support. I was on secretarial duties at the end of the game and not able to applaud our players off the field as they walked up the tunnel after the customary post match on field de-brief and warm down, but the volume of applause they received was not only thoroughly deserved but heartening to know that there are enough of you out there who understand our goal and buy into the vision of what we’re trying to create, and to all of you, thank you for your incredible support once again.
Eagle eyed readers will have spotted that there was no mention on Friday of the promised fund raising drive. A last minute hiccup prevented this occurring but we hope to be up and running very soon. There will be more news very shortly.
Finally I thought I’d pay tribute to two young men who have made names for themselves in the last couple of days. Firstly U 18’s player coach Tyler Dunnell’s sterling work with the U 18’s was recognised by Beds FA who awarded him the prestigious Young Volunteer of the Year award and Tyler’s goalkeeper team mate, Ben Lincoln, who made his Development Team debut yesterday at Garden Walk, Royston, and according to Development Team gaffer, Colin Lauder, had a fantastic game, saved a penalty and never once looked out of his depth up against the reserve team of a Step 3 Club.
Two more stories that give everyone associated with the Club genuine pleasure to read knowing that we really are, One Club, One Family, Dunstable Town.