Written by Andrew Madaras,Picture credit courtesy of Northamptonshire Telegraph.
Saturday’s match marked the 100th competitive game in a Dunstable Town shirt for Mr Loyalty personified, Gedeon Okito, who, along with John Sonuga, nailed his colours firmly to the mast in the turbulent weeks of the Spring of 2017 by re-signing for the Club and agreeing to play unpaid and without expenses for the whole of last season. Gedeon’s loyalty and devotion to perfecting his craft needs to be celebrated and applauded for it is thanks to his tremendous spirit and appetite for the game that marks him out as one of Dunstable Town’s all- time greats. It was therefore entirely fitting that the Team were able to celebrate not just Gedeon’s own personal achievement but something only Thame Utd had managed to do all season, namely go to Fortress Steel Park, and walk away with three points. Up until yesterday Corby Town had the second best home record and the second meanest defence in the league. They sat third in the table, still in with a shout for automatic promotion, but 13 points ahead of 6th placed Berkhamsted, surely nailed on certs for at least a spot in the play offs. So, in a week which saw experienced and influential defender, Kyle Lincoln leave the Club for Bromsgrove Sporting, Gareth, Colin & Val masterminded a tremendous result which lifts the Blues up into 15th position and 5th in the Form Table (last 6 matches) That’s two wins and a draw now for the management trio since they took over the reins on the 19th January. There was a debut for forward Davide Pobbe who signed for the Club from Berkhamsted Raiders, who along with Kings Langley & Haringey Borough, were kind enough to waive the 7 day approach rule to enable Gareth to increase his attacking options. In another bit of good news, Stevenage have agreed to extend Marcus Gouldbourne’s loan until the end of the season. On the bench there was another new face , midfielder Jonathon Osae, and Development Team starlet, Ehban Nancarrow-Martin. George Naismith, Kieran Ogden and Saul Williams making up the rest of the bench. Club Sports Therapist, Seana O’Reilly had been working overtime during the past couple of weeks as a succession of players limped or hobbled their way into her Treatment Room. Several of the outfield players yesterday had been playing through the pain barrier, so last weekend’s postponement meant that several of the walking wounded could feel the benefit of Seana’s magic sponge. The match kicked off a couple of minutes late in desperately cold and windy conditions. The pitch looked in fine condition and held up well, providing an excellent playing surface for two sides who like to play football on the floor. Corby had averaged four goals a game in their past six matches and in former Dunstable Town man, Elliot Sandy have the League’s third highest goalscorer with 21 goals to his name already this season. Another name familiar to many was Steelmen skipper, Gary Mulligan who also wore the DTFC shirt some seasons ago. This was the 4th time the two teams had met this season. Painfully remembered was the first match in the Preliminary Round of the FA Cup, where after being 3 goals to the good at half time, Dunstable were unable to stop the tide of Corby attacks in the second half which took the game back to Creasey Park for a replay which was deservedly won by the away side in a 4 -0 demolition job. A couple of weeks later and Corby were back at Creasey Park for another thrilling 3 -3 draw. While Saturday’s match may have lacked the number of goals from previous encounters it lacked for nothing in terms of excitement, controversy and unfortunately at the end, some ugly scenes involving supporters from the home side which even more distressingly continued in the bar 30 minutes after the game had finished. The first five or ten minutes were an even affair with both sides patiently getting to grips with the others’ style and set up. While Corby had the greater share of possession, Connor Coulson didn’t look in any serous trouble. At the other end the pace of Marcus Gouldbourne and the muscling power of Chris Wreh was already starting to worry the Corby back line. Dunstable went behind after 22 minutes following a period of sustained Corby pressure, Connor Kennedy getting on the end of a clever free kick to help the ball past Coulson. Nobody at that stage could argue that Corby were not good for the lead and I fully expected them to adopt the steamroller tactics that had been deployed so effectively in the second half of the FA Cup tie and the first half of the FA Cup replay. When they attack down both flanks and then through the middle they are a genuine threat and a side difficult to contain. But yesterday they did not. In fact the strong leadership of John Sonuga and partnership with Daniel Trif got stronger as the game progressed and with Gedeon Okito and Joe Mead pushing forward, Dunstable took the game to them. The best form of defence is attack, model of football so to speak. This positive response then was fully rewarded from the boot of Daniel Trif in what may well prove to be the goal of the season. Fully 30 -35 yards out and on the Corby left, Daniel let fly, and with the wind behind him, the ball flew in past Dan George in the Corby goal. Blinked and you’d have missed it, such was the ferocity and accuracy of Mr T’s right foot. We know Daniel has this in his locker, we’ve seen him do it before and score incredible goals from distance. 1 – 1, game on and all to play for. Five minutes later, a training ground corner routine saw Marcus Gouldbourne strike the ball to Daniel Trif on the edge of the area, the latter swivel, and power another drive, but this time, over the bar for a goal kick. Half time came with no further major incidents, and you sensed, both camps feeling that they were still very much in it. Corby expressed their attacking intentions from the kick off to the second half. A shot from Kennedy and a diving header from Elliot Sandy within the first few minutes. Dunstable weathered the storm and came back strongly. Marcus Gouldbourne was not that far away just shy of the hour mark. Minutes later Dunstable were indebted to the Centenary Man, Gedeon Okito, with some outstanding defensive work to help keep his side in the game as Corby looked to up the pace. Some contentious decisions from referee Reece Davies began to ire the Corby players and faithful who cheered loudly when they were awarded a free kick. But as the half wore on, both sides started to use tactical substitutions, Saul Williams coming on for debutant, Davide Pobbe, who made an impressive start, and Player / Manager, Ashley Robinson replacing Greg Ling, and Sam Grouse replacing Jordan Francis for the home side, it seemed as though if there was to be another goal, it could well prove to be decisive. There was no lack of effort on display from anyone on the park today in both shirts, the windy conditions didn’t help but a feast of football was served with Gareth & Colin seemingly getting their tactics and formation just right to keep the Corby hotshots at bay. While a precious point away from home would have been eagerly grabbed (at least by me) if offered before kick off, Dunstable continued to probe and with the pace of Marcus Gouldbourne and the vision and industry of Erin Amu coming from midfield, a second Dunstable goal could not be discounted as Corby pushed further forward in search of all three points. If you watched the pre-season games you would have seen Chris Wreh perfect the art of curling the ball in from the edge of the box with power and accuracy and leaving keepers routed to the spot. Well six months into the season and with the clock ticking away, Chris did it again. Following good link up play between Gouldbourne and Williams, Chris was there around the corner of the box, he shimmied, he moved sideways and made room for himself to deliver the perfect unstoppable drive. His smile told you everything it meant to him to get back on to the scoresheet. 10 minutes plus stoppages remained and we prepared for the proverbial kitchen sink to be thrown. Ehban Nancarrow-Martin came on to replace Erin Amu and within minutes saw yellow following a challenge on Sam Grouse which needed the latter to have his injury checked out at the local hospital. We know Ehban is not a dirty footballer. If he were he wouldn’t be at the Club, simple as. There’s no room for cheats, divers, cloggers or big time Charlies in our ranks. When we win, we win fairly and without resort to cynical fouls or unprofessional tactics. When we lose, we lose with our heads held high and a determination to look at ourselves and our own performance first before accusing our opponents or match officials of cheating or bribery. The photos of Sam Grouse’s leg doing the rounds on social media look bad, and he has our sincerest best wishes for a full and speedy recovery. With five minutes to go, Connor Coulson produced a fine save to keep the Blues ahead as Corby continued to go after an equaliser. They thought they’d got it in the final minute of the 5 minutes added on only for the referee to blow for an infringement. In the crowded box I was unable to see what had happened but the decision unsurprisingly infuriated 95% of the crowd and the Corby players. Whether the decision was correct or incorrect the scenes which followed at the end of the match were disappointing and unnecessary. I am sure the board of Corby Town will have been as horrified at the explosion of anger and vitriol which was directed at the match officials as were most sensible, right minded people. Match officials do their best to officiate without favour or bias. They are human beings doing the best they can. Just the same as any of us do. We all make mistakes, so ask yourself this one simple question. If you were to go to work tomorrow and your boss or your work colleagues started swearing using the most industrial language imaginable then accused you of theft and dishonesty, would you go back to work on Tuesday knowing the same treatment awaited your return? If grassroots football is going to not just survive, but prosper, there will need to be a tough and sustained effort to enforce the FA Respect campaign and make watching Division 8 football fun and free of incendiary atmospheres aimed solely at bullying and intimidating. There were further incidents which involved Committee members and one of our playing staff which we will be raising in the strongest terms possible with the Board at Corby Town. So on a day which marked the dedicated loyalty to one of our own, Gedeon Okito, the fledgling managerial partnership of Messrs, Jackson, Lauder & Qoku remains unbeaten, a battling and ultimately well- deserved three points made the journey back down the M1 a pleasant Saturday evening drive and the viewing of the rest of the results and the league table an equally pleasant late evening pastime, please spare a thought for the men in black, not Will and Tommy, but the likes of Reece Davies, David Constable and Oliver Torrance, Saturday’s match officials, who are the backbone of our non- league system and without whom none of us would be able to enjoy the game we love so much. They deserve our support, our respect and our gratitude. Colin and Val get back to Development Team duties on Tuesday as Harefield Utd come to Creasey Park for a Suburban League fixture. Kick off is 7 45 pm, and admission is £5, with U16’s admitted free. On Saturday 16th the First team are at home to table topping Peterborough Sports, followed on Tuesday 19th by Kempston Rovers at Creasey Park, in a re-arranged fixture due to the heavy snow causing the postponement of the fixture on the 2nd of February. The Development Team, meanwhile, will be in semi-final Intermediate Challenge Cup action against Biggleswade Development Team away from home. Committee members will be at both matches to ensure both teams know their importance to us. One Club. One Family. Dunstable Town.