HARD WORK AT THE MEADOW BRINGS NO REWARD
Debuts for Jack Lampe and Sam Baffour
THE EVO-STIK SOUTHERN LEAGUE – PREMIER DIVISION 07 JANUARY 2017
CHESHAM UNITED 1 DUNSTABLE TOWN 0 HT 1-0 ATTENDANCE 369
NO REWARD FOR HARD WORK AT THE MEADFOW
The two league fixtures between these teams has brought only one goal and that was scored in the eighth minute by Ryan Blake for the hosts, and quite frankly Chesham ought to have scored more but the woodwork and profligacy kept the score to what was ultimately a narrow and nervous win by a very strong home side, who still have an excellent chance for title honours this season and have games in hand over the leaders.
With suspensions and injuries exacting their price, Dunstable fielded two new signings, namely Jack Lampe, from Kingstonian and Sam Baffour from Bedford Town, the latter making his debut as a substitute. Manager Tony Fontenelle knew it would be hard today, following the laboured win over St Neots Town on the Bank holiday and indeed only after a few minutes a double clearance from the goal-line suggested vulnerabilities that would be easy to exploit. Such was the case before we had completed ten minutes’ play.
Dave Pearce had looked lively and dangerous and Matt Taylor’s shot needed a desperate clearance, as did the following effort. This inauspicious start called for Dunstable to get the ball into the Chesham half and this they did, with one effort off-side but also a fine shot from Kelvin Bossman, saved by Ashlee Jones. Just after this, a fluent move from the Generals brought the game’s only goal. It was a portentous moment, suggesting that this was just the start of a goal fest. The square pass to the advancing Ryan Blake saw him finish simply and virtually unchallenged.
Dunstable did respond, not particularly well in the first half, but their second-half performance was greatly improved, shaded a little by their continuing good fortune in avoiding what looked like certain goals. This is not to say they did not defend well, as they did overall, but for the second game in succession, they lived dangerously.
The chances that fell to Dunstable in the first half were generally well-worked, with the usual sprinkling of route one balls, but a battling Shane bush had drawn a good save from jones and a further effort cleared the bar by inches. Blake hit the side netting following a throw-in and a misjudgement from new signing Lampe led to an immediate Chesham attack where a corner followed the shot and two headers slammed against the Dunstable bar. As in the St Neots game, I wondered how we had avoided conceding. Exciting though it was it led to a bit of frustration among home supporters. I was standing with a couple of Dunstable supporters close to the pitch and we plainly heard one Chesham substitute say loudly to the air ‘we should be five up by now.’ It was an exaggeration, but not by that much. This tends to overshadow the competent efforts from Dunstable – especially a shot from Bossman that could have brought the equaliser. I thought it was going to go into the bottom right corner, but Jones got a hand to it and was glad to concede the corner.
Zack Reynolds had been as enterprising as ever, his effort on goal was gathered by jones, but uncompromising defending from Gedeon Okita, ( who was rather unfairly cautioned later, in my view), and Danny Talbot, who would not be averse in putting one over his old club. Indeed it was Talbot who was again on hand to clear from the line in an effort from the hosts that ought not to have been permitted by the visitors. Dunstable were awarded a free-kick whose mediocrity was underlined as it led to a vehement Chesham attack, calling for Talbot’s heroic clearance. Dunstable mistakes were being pounced upon by a very canny and experienced Generals’ side. The Green brothers in blue and white showed excellent commitment in several moves as well as some recovering tackles. Bossman and Pepera were volatile in criticising the perceived errors from one of the linesmen, solidly backed (naturally) by the Regiment.
As the half progressed, it was clear that the better and more numerous chances fell to Chesham but they did not have it their own way by any means. The drama of the rattled woodwork and the missing of ‘sitters’ took the gloss off Dunstable’s persistence in midfield and the pleasing insistence on getting forward. Shane Bush did as well as Bossman in holding up the ball, but it seemed that the visitors were a man short it each attack, as so many moves were thwarted. In a psychological sense, being just a goal down and with the Generals misfiring here and there, Dunstable (and their supporters) sensed that there could be something in the second half for them. This seemed to be emphasised by skipper Pepera who as the players of both sides mingled for the routine pushing and shoving before a Talbot corner, exhorted his comrades with the view that he sensed ‘something was coming’, presumably meaning an equaliser. He was wrong but who can blame a captain for urging the troops on?
This prelude to a corner in this and, well- all games, seems to me to be a bit of a waste as it takes the tempo out of the play and always results in a schoolmasterly lecture and sometimes a booking or two from the referee. It seems to have become worse as every corner is rigorously contested off the ball in the crowded goal mouth. From observation it does seem to be the case that many players know that they may well bet away with an illegal shove or two as the referee is overburdened with keeping a weather eye on everyone.
Pepera was not entirely wrong, now I come to think of it, as although Chesham replicated their near misses on numerous occasions, Dunstable had a very good second half. Bossman proved to be a handful and Bush was there to assist. Jack Green finished a move with a shot he would have liked to have hit harder and Blake came very close to adding to his first half strike and the follow-up move was a close shave as well. Talbot combined with bush and the cross was aimed at the straining Bossman who just could not reach the ball for what would have been a good header. Bush and the Green Bros exchanged passes but Bush was only able to slice his shot in front of goal. Ah, only connect - as E M Forster’s epigraph echoed in my head.
Dunstable won several corners and so much time was taken up with the jostling it seemed to ensure the ensuing kick was an anti-climax. Both teams made use of substitutes and thus Sam Baffour made his debut. By this time there was a dual aspect in Chesham’s play. They got forward when they could and generally well, but they were also adept at using up time without appearing to be unsporting, which is the hallmark of any experienced side. Danny Green had a shot deflected for another corner, but Jones in the home goal had a pair of safe hands in this respect – and he was also there to gather probing free kicks.
Dunstable essayed the long ball, disregarding finesse as time was of the essence. It proved to be a slightly worrying tactic for Chesham who in a sense paid their opponents the ‘compliment’ of taking play to the corner flag in the late stages. This was in response to the sheer hard work from Dunstable who were not beyond snatching an equaliser – if they were presented with a clean chance. This was largely denied them with good defending from the likes of Darren Purse. This experienced defender expertly defended another searching cross from Bossman, who in my view was the Dunstable star man today. A free-kick for the visitors near the corner flag saw Danny Green manfully try his luck, only to fine it successfully blocked.
Jamie Head, who had been rather busy at times was adept at leaving his line to clear, and advancing to take free kicks, a good tactic as it gave Dunstable that extra man in or around the box – but none fell fortuitously, and errors were only marginal from the hosts. The referee, who had a generally good game was quick to spot a crafty Dunstable handball that put an end to another attack.
It seems odd, but both sides looked as if they might score, but as Dunstable’s efforts fell away and some judicious time-wasting from the hosts led us to the final whistle. When I went to collect the ‘crime sheet’ (cautions for Talbot, Okita and Pepera), the referee told me he had enjoyed the game but said he felt that Dunstable would have scored. He did not say should have scored but I think I know what he meant. He referred of course to the number of inglorious misses from the hosts (‘they should have had a hatful’), but he and the assistants had been impressed with the good fight put up by Dunstable in their much improved second-half. ‘You would not have been disgraced by a 1-1 draw’ were kind words but also quite realistic if not overly comforting.
In all it was a curious game as Chesham’s opening forays suggested a win by the same margin as last season here, but Dunstable were a lot better than that game and their continuing efforts show the respect they have for their manager. The Generals are a good and an experienced side whose cup runs have again drawn praise, and they have gone a good half dozen games without defeat in the league. The Regiment were right when they took the view that all the hard work from their team had not brought a point, but they were encouraging rather than dismissive.
There follow two home games for Dunstable in the space of a week. Kings Langley come to Creasey Park on Tuesday, and they dutifully sent a spy to the Meadow today. On Saturday (14 January) Kettering Town are the visitors and will be looking to avenge their 3-1 defeat against Dunstable at Latimer Park.
I will finish on what was a pleasing first for me in terms of club hospitality. The Chesham caterers had prepared a special veggie dish for me – a quorn shepherd’s pie. There was so much left that a very gentlemanly home official gave me the remainder in three take away cartons. This enabled me to get a few brownie points from the missis. I told her I picked up some food for her on the way home, to make up for being out all day. I then brushed off the pleasing remarks about my thoughtfulness with uncharacteristic modesty. After she had eaten, conscience made a coward of me and I owned up to the origin of the take away nosh. I might have got away with it though.
Ashlee Jones, Benji Crilley, Brett Longdon (Toby Little), Mat Mitchell King, Darren Purse, captain, Adam Martin, (Sam Youngs), Dave Pearce, Matt Taylor, Barry Hayles, (Drew Roberts, Brad Wadkins, Ryan Blake, GOAL, 8 minutes; other substitutes – Stephan Hamilton-Forbes and Taylor McKenzie.
Jamie Head, Zack Reynolds, Gedeon Okita, cautioned, Danny Talbot, cautioned, (Vences Bola), Jack Lampe, Adam Pepera, captain, cautioned, Kelvin Bossman, Danny Green, Shane Bush, David Longe-king, Jack Green , (Sam Baffour); other substitutes – Adam Moussi and Jack Smith GK
Referee- Robin cox, assisted by Irenios Christodoulou and Thomas Kelly.