Unwavering Officials Help Gedling To Cup Success
League Cup Final, a.e.t.
Gedling Town 2 Dunkirk 1
A referee who started the game efficiently and with good intentions, appeared to make critical errors during this feisty final, in which Dunkirk failed to do themselves justice, for several players were well below par. Although Dunkirk ‘keeper Mason didn’t really have too much action to deal with and his colleagues missed chances to win the game, the dogged Gedling defence held on, the winner coming in extra-time, after the officials erroneously awarded two successive and telling corners to Town. Mason made little real effort to save Jepson’s game-winning, close-range shot, being too caught up in appealing for handball and cynically applauding the referee. Grant had been dismissed for a nasty looking challenge on the Gedling goalie, yet the referee had waited to see the extent of the injury before sending Grant off and my contention is that if he thought the challenge worthy of dismissal then there was no need to wait. Dunkirk fought more effectively after that and substitute Westcarr, Gregory and Day all went close to scoring but it wasn’t to be the Boatmen’s night…
Mason collected an early shot on the turn by attacker Epps, who was dangerous for Gedling at times but there was little pace on the effort then Robinson, who was typically robust during the difficult evening looked to be fouled as he hammered the ball long and led to a run on the right by Garmston. Sadly, with Day open in the centre, the midfielder’s cross was low and easy for Town goalie Miles. Dyce was solid enough in defence for Gedling as the game wore on but he seemed nervous in the opening exchanges, as Day smashed a wild volley well off target. Mason’s handling didn’t let him down from the irritating Large’s clip but another Day drive from outside the 18-yard box was wayward, following set-up play by Hopkinson and Grant. Hopkinson’s foul led to Spiers slipping Epps through at inside-left but a superb tackle by Robinson saved the day for Dunkirk, who were struggling to get going, missing the cup-tied Smith and the unavailable Moore. Gedling also seemed to want to win just that little bit more.
Epps and Large caused more problems for the Boatmen but with Dyce challenging, again it was Robinson who cleared the danger. A poor defensive header by Jepson left Day running at inside-right but he checked and fed White, who was blocked too easily by Dyce. White barely got going all evening, struggled to shrug off markers and his short, pacy runs generally ended in disappointment. Garmston struck a 25 yard free-kick to Miles then a long ball by McKay saw Miles run from goal and kick the ball vertically, leading to another free-kick for Dunkirk, which was taken by Garmston but it took a deflection on its way through to Miles’ left for an easy save. Jepson’s left-wing cross was headed upwards by Dyce from 15 yards but Mason deemed it necessary to tip the dropping ball over his crossbar with some awkwardness. Epps turned Jepson’s right-wing corner helpfully away from goal at the near post but still Dunkirk were finding control difficult and Gedling looked the stronger group.
Brady was having a quiet and less than memorable half but he fought well to set up McKay for a left-wing centre, which again went to Miles at the near upright. McKay and Brady looked shot-shy as Dunkirk battled to be effective but when Day slid a pass right to White, the winger’s drive from 15 yards was easily saved by Miles. A mistake by Gedling midfielder Smith, whose long throws were problems for the Boatmen throughout the game, led to stalwart and effective defender Beck popping up on the right flank to cross the ball but Miles collected at his near stick and with Beck caught upfield, just after the half-hour, Gedling broke away to open the scoring. McShane hooked on the ‘keeper’s quick release and Robinson and McKay were exposed as Epps ran at them and drew Mason, driving his right-footer beyond the ‘keeper’s right hand to net with glee from 15 yards.
Offside flags were plaguing Dunkirk, just as Smith’s throws put pressure on Robinson and Beck. One left-wing hurl was contested for by three defenders and the ball fell to McShane, just 5 yards out but he could only fire his quick shot straight at Mason. Another launched throw, this time from the right saw Beck leap and head clear as Mason jumped behind him to clutch a bunch of evening midges but Brady’s touch deserted him again when Robinson’s booted clearance drifted towards him. Epps was a tough player to mark, Garmston had failed to stamp his considerable mark upon the game and with White misfiring and Gregory too quiet, the Boatmen were rocking. Too much work was forced upon the defence and typical of the first-half performance, Grant and Day combined well to offer Brady a shot but it was blocked out to Garmston and the irritated midfielder’s drive from 26 yards ended up in the distant evening sky. Strange then that Day netted right on half-time to change the complexion of a game Gedling deserved, just about, to be winning.
Gregory lobbed the ball forward, something Dunkirk did too regularly but Day, after recovering from a slight skirmish moments before, chased away at inside-left, onside, surprisingly and he lifted an audaciously high clip over the stranded Miles from around 17 yards and the ball took several generations to fall and bounce up at the far post into the netting under the angle of bar and post. Parity at the break but Dunkirk were out for the second period a long time before their foes, yet Gedling began more strongly.
Epps’ work on the right led to the ball ricocheting to Smith but his angled effort from 15 yards cleared Mason’s crossbar. Hopkinson had not shirked his responsibilities, even when under severe pressure and he received an attacking pass from Day but volleyed too high from the right-flank. Gregory nearly set Day clear but Miles was alert then Brady took a quick throw to Grant on the left and from the bye-line, the striker, who wasn’t at his best, crossed right-footed but White failed to direct his upward 6 yard header. Smith continued to pound throws for mainly Beck to head clear but when the defender conceded a corner, Mason kicked the ball away to Large, 20 yards out, who lobbed poorly over the target. Smith drove wide before Garmston defended then created with great ability.
First, he raced back to stem a break by Gedling and then played a fine pass along the right flank for White, whose unconvincing footwork did manage to feed Day for a shot from 18 yards, after a smooth turn but Miles was equal to the decent effort, down to his right. Dyce nodded a long throw by Smith to Mason, who released Day with a quick throw but the finish was weak to Miles, from the left. Dunkirk were beginning to take charge and Gedling were having to defend more regularly but when White got away on one occasion, there were four attackers to two defenders. Brady received White’s pass on the left but his centre found only Dyce and not the waiting Grant. Dyce hooked a clearance from a corner over his shoulder and Mason’s bar from 12 yards then the game turned ugly.
The referee’s lengthy and rather dogmatic lecture policy had meant that nobody had been cautioned so far and it seemed that although some Dunkirk players had been correctly pulled up for fouls, Gedling’s intermittent offenders were sometimes allowed to avoid punishment and so, when Grant, who was still fairly anonymous anyway, chased a ball into the penalty-area, following interplay between the delaying White, the struggling Gregory and the foraging Day, the ultimate collision looked unpleasant. The ‘keeper writhed but unlike McShane, who was not averse to milking a heavy challenge, Miles was hurt and the referee maybe should have taken immediate action, if he had deemed the challenge worthy of dismissal but he tarried and allowed the ‘keeper to be treated and only then did he send off Grant. Substitute goalie Smith replaced Miles, Westcarr replaced Brady, unsurprisingly and Dunkirk began to scrap for their lives. Finally.
‘keeper Smith struggled to catch McKay’s cross, Epps fed McShane for Gedling and he showed a smart trick but drove well over the crossbar from 21 yards then Gregory headed only just wide of the right upright from Garmston’s left-wing corner. Jepson was smilingly cautioned for a cynical pull on the escaping Day but Hopkinson began to play a solid role in the Dunkirk defence, blocking a drive, following Jepson’s left-flank cross, which was rebounded over the goal-frame by Smith. Labatte smashed wide, following a right-wing corner for Gedling but Dunkirk finished the 90 minutes the stronger and Beck so nearly won the game with a far post header from the second of two Garmston corners, the ball grazing the crossbar from an angle.
At least, out of the poor play and the relentless hacking of the ball forwards, Dunkirk were competing and Gedling had found themselves with opposition at last but Gedling’s Epps gave way to Abbis at the start of an open extra-time period. Labatte drove wide of the right post from 18 yards, following a corner, before the Boatmen missed a real chance of glory. McKay’s right-wing corner fell to Day beyond the far post and his left-footed measured volley across goal was met by the otherwise mostly ineffective Westcarr, whose powerful close-range header was superbly pushed aside by goalie Smith, diving right and the ball was scrambled away. The referee was being given some real criticism by the Dunkirk fans but Westcarr did manage to sprint to the left bye-line, beating two defenders, only for Day and Gregory to freeze as the ball rolled past them both, just yards from goal. Mason’s kick was then flicked on by White for Day, whose 17 yard drive stung the goalie’s hands, before Beck fouled McShane and earned a deserved caution.
The referee was then really under pressure as he appeared to make two errors of judgement, which ultimately won and lost the trophy. He awarded a corner when Dyce headed wide from Smith’s free-kick and the flag-kick was again put behind by Gedling as Smith challenged and he looked like he’d greedily eaten the honey out of a jar and got away with it as the decision of a corner was made. Robinson was incensed but as the 101st minute corner looped across, heads went up, a Gedling hand did too although I suspect that it didn’t connect with the ball and Large shoved the ball back across the goalmouth for the unmarked Jepson to turn into the net from a few yards. Mason made barely an effort to stop the ball, probably because he was incensed at the award of a corner in the first place and he believed that he had seen the handball. Jepson celebrated, Dunkirk went crazy at the officials and it was all turning rather desperate and sour.
Garmston was running madly around for a few moments and deserved his booking for a wild foul then Spiers drove wide for Gedling as the opening overtime period expired.
Frawley replaced McKay for Dunkirk and Hopkinson began to defend brilliantly, now more in the centre of defence. White headed Mason’s clearance towards Westcarr but the goalie reached it first then Frawley’s centre from the left found its way to Gregory, 24 yards out and his superb drive soared towards goal, beat the diving Smith but crashed against the right upright, with many Boatmen holding heads in dismay. Day’s right-wing cross struck Dyce, possibly on the hand but an adamant linesman failed to comply with vehement penalty claims, Hopkinson still battled manfully at the back for the ten men and Frawley’s 22 yard free-kick was held up to his left by Smith. At the final whistle, Spiers put Large away but the Gedling player delayed and held up the ball, so that time ran out for the Boatmen.
There had been no pattern at all to Dunkirk’s play, just a Dunkirk spirit in the latter stages but disappointing performances by Brady, Gregory and White didn’t help. Garmston was busy but not often successful and once again, the defenders held the team together. Day was brighter than Grant, whose petulance let him down but credit to Gedling for playing well enough on the night to beat their league’s champions, getting at them in the early stages and capitalising on their two real chances, for Mason was rarely tested, in truth. The atmosphere at the end was unpleasant, the referee was no doubt rather unpopular with Dunkirk’s staff and incredibly the two teams meet again on Saturday, when Dunkirk’s players receive the championship trophy. I shall be there, hopefully. It’s what I do…