Written by Andrew Madaras and photo by Roger Neal.
For a second consecutive week, Dunstable Town found themselves on the wrong end of a 2 – 1 score line, in a game they deserved at the very least a share of the points if not all three.
Playing in the all- white kit, Tony & Gareth were able to welcome back fit again Alex Taylor to the starting line up and Arel Amu, to the subs’ bench in a side that contained four teenagers and had an average age of only 20. With the Club’s philosophy firmly committed to developing young and talented players, Dunstable knew the game would be another stern test and close examination against a team with a marginally better points per game ratio.
There was plenty of experience and wise heads in the Didcot line up, boasting many seasoned campaigners demonstrating commitment and loyalty to their Club. The spine of the Team boasted four players with almost 700 appearances between them alone. Make no mistake Didcot have proved difficult opponents for most teams this seasons; they drew at Top Field against Hitchin Town, and then only went out on penalties in the replay at the Loop Meadow Stadium in the FA Cup. They had earned the right to play Hitchin having beaten Step 3, Wingate & Finchley on their home patch. Home wins in the League this season against Cambridge City, Aylesbury Utd & Thame Town demonstrate they are a force to be reckoned with and have them sitting in 5th place in the home form table.
But it’s been on their travels that Didcot have struggled with only a solitary draw in four attempts and the worst away record in the League.
As you might expect from the stats this was a closely fought match with little to chose between the two sides. A bumpy surface made close control and turning difficult, but Dunstable know on another day their share of chances may well have had them taking all three points back to Creasey Park.
Dunstable started on the front foot and so nearly went ahead with the first attack of the game, with Joe Mead only being narrowly denied. On 11 minutes Chris Wreh pounced on a defensive error and majestically lobbed the ball from 35 yards to put Dunstable one up. This was Chris’ 6th league goal of the campaign and took his tally for the season in all competitions up to 11. If you’re a bit of a statistics anorak then how’s this for a bit of a Sunday pick me up ? Dunstable Town have already scored more goals this season in the first four months of the season than in the entire campaign last season with both Arel Amu and Chris Wreh into double figures already.
A sensational piledriver from Daniel Trif just three minutes later so nearly gave the Town a two- goal cushion which would have been a fair reflection on the opening quarter hour of the game.
Didcot came back into the game, and the Dunstable midfield and backline needed to be alert to the increasing attacking intentions of the men in the red and white shirts. James Connell did what was required of him, while John Sonuga and Joe Mead were reading their intentions and keeping direct shots on goal to a minimum.
Injury to Alex Taylor just before the half hour caused Manager Tony McCool to use the first of his three substitutes with James Lauder replacing Alex in midfield.
Didcot’s equaliser on 39 minutes from Oxford Utd loanee Brando Taverner came after a period of sustained pressure, but minutes later a free- flowing pass and move passage of play involving Chris Wreh, Saul Williams and Daniel Trif, so nearly saw the latter give the lead back to Dunstable. Only the finger tips of Didcot goalkeeper, Leigh Bedwell, diving at full stretch to his right kept Daniel’s shot from nestling in the back of the net.
Minutes after the restart, Daniel was at it again, but again Bedwell was up to his task.
Dunstable were clearly in the ascendency at the start of the second half as they produced some crisp passing and intelligent running but still couldn’t get an advantage.
Momentum changed as Didcot pressed forward in numbers and Dunstable hearts were in their collective mouths on the hour mark as a Didcot chance landed on the roof of the net and a minute later James Connell needed to be at his best to keep out Brandon Taverner.
On 70 minutes Dunstable thought they had gone ahead when a deceptively curling shot from Chris Wreh looked as though it was going in, but struck the upright instead with Bedwell well beaten on his goal line.
How important that lick of paint on the upright was became apparent moments later when Seth Humphries sliding in at the back stick got on the end of a searching cross from substitute George Reid to put the Railwaymen 2 – 1 up. There was a tangible sense of relief from the home crowd who knew their Team had been given a real contest in the 80 minutes played thus far.
Charlie Black came on for Saul Williams to partner Arel Amu, who had earlier replaced James Lauder, and Daniel Trif & Chris Wreh as Dunstable prepared to throw the proverbial kitchen sink in an attempt to rescue a point.
As white shirts pushed forward, Didcot got the ball in the net for a third time, only to see it chalked off due to an Assistant Referee’s raised flag. Dunstable pressed for the elusive equaliser right up to the final whistle with Charlie Black’s last- minute header from a corner being perhaps being the most likely to get a deserved point, but it was not to be.
I deliberately made the point at the start of this report of reminding supporters just how young this Team are so people do not allow expectations to run away from reality. To be competitive at this level you need the right blend of experience, maturity, skill, desire, and potential. For our young men the first two will come with time, nurturing and patience, which the Club will ensure they receive. There was no shame in losing yesterday, nobody shirked a challenge or let their heads drop when either of the Didcot goals were scored. Everyone put a shift in and everyone gave a damn. And everyone was hurting when the final whistle blew. This is a united team with a united corps of volunteers in the background ensuring Tony, Gareth, Simon & Colin, receive all the support they need to keep both our senior teams competitive and in the mix. The future is neither uncertain nor is the end near. Thankfully. We are building on and off the field. New sponsorship from local business was secured earlier in the week and more is being discussed. Two more volunteers have made themselves available to help the Club in it’s various off field activities and players are turning down moves to higher leagues with the chance to earn higher wages, because they believe in what is happening at this Club and want to see it progress and reach it’s conclusion.
This is very much still a work in progress. If you thought that a Club which was on it’s knees 18 months ago and days away from folding would be able to attract a squad of hardened and seasoned players to get us back to Step 3 at the first attempt, with the playing budget that we can afford, then I’m afraid you’ve not understood the harsh realities of life in non-league football.
Don’t believe me ? Look at the fortunes of North Ferriby Utd who yesterday lost 6 – 0 at home yesterday and with just one win all season face their third successive relegation, 10 points adrift of safety in the Evo-Stik Premier Division. Having won the FA Trophy in 2015 North Ferriby’s sad decline is yet another example of what can happen when the money runs out. Thurrock FC anyone ?
Next Saturday’s game away at Bedford Town has been postponed due to Bedford Town’s involvement in the FA Buildbase Trophy. The rearranged date is Tuesday 4th December.
Hence next Saturday expect to see a good away following for Colin & Simon’s young guns as they take on Cranfield in the 2nd Round of The Beds FA Intermediate Cup. There was good news coming out of Pancake Lane yesterday at 5 pm as news filtered through to Didcot, that goals from player / coach Val Qoku and Darnell Muir-Martindale were enough to beat a strong Leverstock Green side, a result which consolidates the team’s third place position and sees them only one point behind leaders Westfield but with a game in hand.
The Southern League table shows what a difference to places a couple of wins can make. With there being only 20 teams in the division the play off places and relegation spaces are separated by a mere 10 points which sees 13 teams huddled together.
The First Team are next in action on Saturday 1st December in a local derby against Barton Rovers, managed by Tony Fontenelle, who is fondly remembered by many of us at Creasey Park as both a player and then latterly as a manager. Yella’s team will be looking to turn recent results around while Blue’s management duo of Tony & Gareth will be looking to turn decent performances in all three recent games into some points and push on up the table.
With a pretty much cast- iron guarantee I can assure you the shops will be full of people shopping for Christmas, the car parks will be equally full, and the in-laws really won’t mind you popping out for a couple of hours. See you at Creasey Park on the 1st December at 3 pm.
One Club. One Family. Dunstable Town.