27th July 2019,North Leigh 3-1 Dunstable Town.
Written by Andrew Madaras, Picture by Steve Lewington.
You may think it strange that the Club chose to end our pre-season campaign at the home of the team that we had gone down to the wire with at the end of last season to decide who was going to join Aylesbury FC in the Spartan South Midland League this season. Dunstable’s emphatic 4 -0 home win over North Leigh at the end of 2018 gave no hint of the drama that was going to unfold over the last four months of the season. As Dunstable’s form and confidence evaporated, North Leigh suddenly found theirs in abundance and thanks to some remarkable results avoided the relegation trap door, but in so doing, nudged Dunstable towards a second successive relegation. Rivals on the field ? Of course, but not off it. North Leigh FC speak our language and tread the same path we do. Marvellous hospitality on the first day of the season which included our mascots being treated like VIP’s helped set the tone and when the offer of a friendly arose, it was, as they say, a no brainer. Newly appointed Chairman, Ed, is only 23 years old, and along with my “oppo” Matt, they have gone about their task to revamp the Club root and branch and in so doing take with them our sincere best wishes for the future and thanks for a splendid and exciting game in the Oxfordshire drizzle. The close season has seen gaffers Gareth & Ryan ring the changes in personnel as the Club seeks to get back on solid foundations following the disappointments of the previous two seasons. Only Ben Collins & Daniel Trif, who had featured in the season’s opener at North Leigh a year ago, were in Saturday’s line up. Plenty of new faces and new heroes to take to our hearts. Some of our old heroes have moved on and a special word of thanks needs to be paid to Gedeon Okito who has signed a contract at Banbury Utd. Along with Captain & Leader of Men, John Sonuga, who visited Creasey Park recently when Barton Rovers were our visitors, were the two Dunstable Town players who stayed loyal when the Club was within hours of folding in May 2017. Both played throughout the 2017-18 season without being paid a penny either as wages or in expenses. Both played again last season, and despite the awful end to the season the Club will never forget their loyalty in 2017. So, back to Saturday. A keenly fought game ended with a 3 – 1 home victory(exactly as it had done on the opening day of last season), but in addition to a stunning goal from former Chalfont St Peter and Kings Langley man, Evans Lamboh, Skipper Seb Smith had a goal chalked off and twice the woodwork came to North Leigh’s rescue. Overall then the pre-season results saw the Blues win twice, draw twice and lose twice. We scored 17 goals and conceded 12 goals. Not a bad record for a team that has been hastily assembled with most of the players having to quickly adapt to new colleagues and new managers. Training three times a week, whether it’s been in30 degree heatwave or monsoon like rain, since early June has given Gareth & Ryan a good idea of the strengths of individual players and areas where they can coach them into improving their overall game. It’s been a gruelling pre-season and I have nothing but total respect for the gaffers now helped by coaches Wayne & Rory, and all the players, as they go about trying to turn around the fortunes of our beloved Club. The commitment from all has been total and absolute.
North Leigh’s ground is in the picturesque Oxfordshire countryside and has a “downhill” slope, and sheep grazing in adjoining fields. The majestic Eynsham House serves as a suitably traditionally English backdrop. After some pretty even early exchanges North Leigh took an early lead in the 3nd minute as George Seacole outjumped his marker and sent a looping header over McKenzie Taylor’s outstretched arms. The goal buoyed the home side who sought to take the game to Dunstable. Wave upon wave of yellow shirts tore down the slope and several half chances came and went but Dunstable survived the heavy onslaught without conceding again and slowly got their own game going moving gracefully through the gears and on the quarter hour Evans Lamboh restored parity with an absolute cracker into the top right hand corner. Ten minutes later, and coming after a spell of good pressure from Dunstable, North Leigh edged ahead again with a goal from Aaron Woodley. The goal again came from the head of a North Leigh player. As the light drizzle turned into a more steady downpour, spectators took cover in the stands while the players sought to expose opponents weakness’. Chances at both ends went unconverted and the players took half time shelter with the hosts still one goal ahead. This being North Leigh our three intrepid mascots. Brandon, George and Freddy, were invited onto the pitch to take on the North Leigh mascots in a game. The boys loved the experience and were excellent young ambassadors for the Club with their impeccable sportsmanship. Dunstable enjoyed the better of the early second half salvos and thought they’d equalised when Seb Smith towered above his marker only to see the Assistant Referee raise his flag for an infringement. Dunstable’s sense of injustice was amplified when the same player looked to be fouled in the build up to the third goal for North Leigh, but this time there was no flag and Tyriq Hunte finished decisively to leave McKenzie Taylor with no chance. With both Chris Stapleton and Evans Lamboh seeing efforts cannon off the woodwork this was not to be Dunstable’s day in terms of a result, but it will have been a good learning experience for this new team and increased Gareth’s knowledge of the work that still remains to be done between now and the first game of the season on Saturday 3 rd August v Broadfields Utd at Creasey Park, kick off 3pm. Match day admission prices have been reduced this season to £8 for Adults and £5 for Concessions. Season Tickets are already on sale for just £99 for Adults and £79 for Concessions. It’s vitally important for the future of the Club that supporters get behind Gareth, Ryan and the players. They work their socks off seven days a week for our benefit and they value your voices and your loyal support tremendously. You’ll notice now on matchdays pre match music and some stirring Queen “One Vision” to delight your aural senses and get you pumped up for the 90 minutes ahead of you. Colin & Val’s Intermediate Cup winning team also took to the road on Saturday and gave a very creditable account of themselves in Peterborough where a brace from Kam Khan, and goals from Cam Wynard and Clayton Lauder gave the aspiring Blues a share of the spoils in a tight 4 – 4 game against a strong Nethrton Utd side. You can watch the Development Team lads in action again on Tuesday 31 st July where they take on Crawley Green on the 3g with a 7.30 kick off. Admission is free.