Written by Andrew Madaras, Pictures by Chris white.
Pictures of Goal scorer Charlie Black.
Dunstable Town left Sharpenhoe Road on Saturday with a precious point following a battling display against county rivals Barton Rovers. On another day one point, could have been three. Twice Dunstable hit the woodwork, Hassan Sheikh from a free kick, Alex Taylor the second, and John Sonuga had one cleared off the line. So near, yet so far. The draw pleased Blues Manager, Gareth Jackson, who paid credit to his side who had put in a strong performance on the back of two solid training sessions during the week. How important this result will be come the end of the season remains to be seen, as Dunstable look to scrap their way away from the wrong end of the table. The managerial trio of Jackson, Lauder & Qoku, were able to welcome back captain, Gedeon Okito & Saul Williams following their suspensions & Hassan Sheikh from injury. Chris Wreh was still sidelined through injury, and in the pre match warm up, Joe Mead pulled up & was replaced by John Sonuga, while Kieran Ogden made a welcome return to the squad. Barton are of course managed by ex Dunstable Manager, Tony “Yella” Fontanelle, who has assembled a competitive team which took apart promotion chasing Corby Town 5 – 2 a couple of weeks ago. Dunstable supporters would have noticed several familiar faces in the Barton line up. Gary Malone, Stefan Bailey, Mason Spence, Victor Osubu and Drew Phillips have all played for Dunstable in the last couple of years. There was a good turn out of Dunstable fans numbering around 45 for this local derby. Barton Chairman, Darren Whiley had tweeted earlier that Rovers had passed the FA dressing room inspection and would be competing again at this level next season. The away team dressing room had the urinal removed to satisfy the new ground grading regulations. Whatever happened to common sense ? Brilliant sunshine and a cloudless sky were the order of the day as Dunstable kicked off heading down the slight slope towards the car park end. Dunstable started brightly and with a spring in their step. On six minutes Charlie Black broke free from his markers and was only denied by some brave goalkeeping from Gary Malone. Charlie Oddy powered forward on several occasions and looked sharp, skilful and tenacious in the tackle. The return of Gedeon Okito and Saul Williams looked to give the side greater stability and bite. For Barton Victor Osubu’s pace was telling and a threat throughout the afternoon. His movement down the right and crosses into the box proved a challenge for the Dunstable defenders, although one they were thankfully up to, and when a cross did find a home shirt, shots were either blocked, saved or off target. On target, but for a coat of paint was Hassan Sheikh shortly before the half hour with a freekick, which evaded the wall and left keeper Gary Malone, possibly unsighted, stationary, as the ball cannoned off the post. A few minutes later & Hassan was again involved in an intricate piece of play, linking up with Alex Taylor & Charlie Black which again required Gary Malone to be alert and up to the task. This was a good period of sustained Dunstable possession and pressure as more white shirts pressed forward. Just six minutes after Hassan hit the post, Alex Taylor thought he’d put the Blues ahead only to see his effort pushed on to the post by Gary Malone. This all the result of a flowing move involving several Dunstable players and a fine cross by Gedeon Okito. Daniel Trif looked to get forward at every available opportunity and with Erin Amu’s clever runs and Charlie Black’s refusal to give up on any ball punted forward, Dunstable looked good value to go into the break on even terms or perhaps even a goal to the good. As we entered stoppage time in the first half, Dunstable had a corner which was cleared up field, and although Connor Coulson was quickly down to save the first effort, he could do nothing to prevent Tony Williams firing in from close range. Perceived football wisdom has it that a goal scored just before half time gives a team a psychological boost apparently better than most other times during a game. If this was the case then Dunstable came out for the second half ready to try and get back on equal terms. A Charlie Oddy run and cross so nearly delivered and a few minutes later the tireless running of Saul Williams almost brought a reward as he was inches away from guiding the ball past Gary Malone. The equaliser when it did come, came on 58 minutes from the boot of Charlie Black who ran on to a delightful through ball from Hassan Sheikh to guide the ball past the advancing Gary Malone. The relief among the players and Dunstable supporters was palpable. Three minutes later John Sonuga was on the end of a corner but his effort was cleared off the line. Gary Malone was the busier of the two keepers now as Dunstable tried to find a second. On 67 minutes he was at full stretch to keep out a Saul Williams effort. However as hard as they tried, Dunstable could not find a way through again. Indeed in the last few minutes Dunstable were indebted to Connor Coulson who made a flying save to his left to keep Barton out and then to an Assistant Referee’s flag for offside as Barton pounced on a rebound from a free kick to bundle the ball into the back of the net. There were good performances from all 11 players, individually and collectively and the point was thoroughly deserved. Gareth Jackson praised his players for following the game plan and digging in when necessary and showing both pride in the shirt and in themselves when it mattered most. Next Saturday Bedford Town come to Creasey Park for another local derby. In the play off places and with a big away support they’ll be hopeful of doing the double over the Blues. You suspect though as the likes of Bromsgrove, Corby, and Thame have all discovered this season, Creasey Park can be a difficult place to come to and our managerial trio will be looking to upset the form book. You’ll notice next week that the kit has some additional sponsors’ names on it. We’re delighted to have forged a relationship with our sponsors and look forward to raising the curtain on Saturday and revealing who they are. The Development Team were in action against Woking based Westfield in a Suburban League fixture on Wednesday at Creasey Park. Bay Fassida scored the only goal of a closely fought and competitive match although Kuda’s whipped in free kick had enough venom behind it to beat the wall and deceive the Westfield goalkeeper only to cannon off the crossbar. The young guns are back in action at Creasey Park on Thursday 4th April when they take on Fleet Spurs Reserves with a 7 45 pm kick off. Admission is £5. U16’s Free. Less than 48 hours they’re on their travels to Eversley & California (no, not that California) in Hampshire. If you’re in the area then the postcode you’ll need is RG27 0NS. A last word to say thank you on behalf of Gareth, Colin, Val & the players to say a huge thank you to everyone who came up to Barton & shouted themselves hoarse to urge the lads on. Your support was appreciated far more than you might realise. One Club. One Family. Dunstable Town.