TERRAS SNATCH EQUALISER IN STOPPAGE TIME
Dunstable let slip a three goal lead
THE EVO-STIK SOUTHERN LEAGUE – PREMIER DIVISION 14 February 2017
WEYMOUTH 3 DUNSTABLE TOWN 3 HT 1-3 ATTENDANCE 328
TERRAS SNATCH EQUALISER IN STOPPAGE TIME
What, most improbably was beginning to look like the St Valentine’s Day Massacre ended with the hosts bombarding the Dunstable goal to force a draw in the fourth minute of stoppage time. But it all needs putting into proper perspective. The Terras had alarming moments of defensive aberrations in the first half which saw Dunstable go into a three-nil lead. They pulled one back with a shot from range that Jack Smith seemed to have smothered but it crept underneath him. This in my view, and later, the referee’s was the pivotal moment. That goal gave the shell-shocked hosts sufficient belief that they could turn it around and they did so with incessant attacks in the second period that gradually wore down their plucky visitors.
They were helped by the goal of the game from Danny Talbot, but unfortunately his looping header deceived his own goal keeper and goes down as a spectacular own goal. Curiously, Dunstable’s last three visits to the Bob Lucas Stadium at Radipole Lane have all ended in draws, with the sequence being 2-2, 0-0 and 3-3 tonight. Further perpective can be etched in with the news that Weymouth’s talismanic skipper, Stewart Yetton has returned to Truro city, his home club, and his departure was rightly lamented. Dunstable had the bare bones of a squad, with the manager forced to name himself as a substitute and both Zack Reynolds, David Longe-King and Kelvin Bossman unable to gain time off work for the necessarily early departure.
We were due to travel by minibus, but this vehicle refused duty with an electrical fault, so players had to drive. I took three players in my own car and their response to my scintillating conversation was to doze off at the earliest opportunity, waking up at Winchester Services, where they pointedly ate their own food. One of those players was Nathan Weekes, who has been signed on loan from Mansfield Town. Drafted into the right full-back position was Jordan Odofin, barely recovered from his ankle injury. The two substitutes were Sam Baffour, (who went off injured not long after coming on) and Weekes. So it was the bare bones, but fair play to the lads who made the journey from Dunstable sunshine into murky mist and rain in Dorset.
Originally scheduled for a sensible Saturday, this evening game was necessitated owing to Weymouth’s progress in the FA Trophy, a competition they eliminated Dunstable from in an earlier visit to Creasey Park. They return to Bedfordshire for the corresponding league fixture on All Fools’ Day, so make of that what you will. We passed Dorchester Town’s ground on the way and saw the word DUNSTABLE on their fixture board – and yes, we go there on Saturday.
A number of people had told me by word of mouth or by text messages that they would have taken a point before the game, but Adam Pepera summed it up best when he said that to concede a goal in the last minute of stoppage time made it seem like a defeat. Indeed it seems rather careless of the team to forsake a handsome three goal lead, but, putting it into perspective again, Weymouth woke up after their first-half showing that had a section of their supporters giving the view that they were not good enough to be used as toilet tissue. Fickle and harsh, but it did the trick as they absolutely caned Dunstable in the second half. They had hit the cross bar, a post, forced successive corners, put in more crosses than a league of vampire hunters and honesty compels me to admit they deserved their point, through sheer force of character and some majestic football.
Yes, Dunstable ultimately buckled under the severe strain, but they deserve credit for their cheeky first-half exploits where they made the most of some rather poor defending. With the Terras lording it with some sweeping passing moves and curiously inaccurate finishing, Dunstable had a distinct purpose about them. They took the lead in the sixth minute, following a Danny Talbot free-kick on the edge of the area, to the right. This was converted by Bradley Hewitt, after what is known colloquially as a ‘wicked deflection’. But the award of that free kick seemed compensatory because immediately before it, the pace of Nathan Olukanmi was already highly suggestive and in possession he was clearly elbowed and a penalty ought to have been awarded. It happened right under my nose so to speak and I could not believe that the nearby assistant referee did not wave his flag in the appropriate manner. To underline this, the home officials were in full agreement that a penalty ought to have been given – but then a goal came from the free kick so fair dos and all that.
Dunstable’s splendid start had something to do with the home crowd’s reaction, which was pools of discontented silence interspersed with vitriolic comments about the referee’s pertinacious manner of awarding free –kicks against those in claret and blue. I stood on my own at the Dunstable attacking end, and at one time had the undivided attention of no fewer than three stewards who perhaps felt that I needed to be kept in order for some reason to justify their under employment. One of them told me that he was domiciled in Luton for a while but he missed it not as jot. He also likes Dunstable Downs and so do I. Weymouth substitutes were warming-up close by and snatches of conversation I heard revealed a critical attitude. The odd baleful glance was sent piercingly my way but more, I suspect out of routine.
Weymouth just could not raise a purposeful head of steam at this point. Stuart Fleetwood was fleet of foot but ran into blue and white traffic on the edge of the area, gaining a free-kick that he then sent way over the bar. Olukanmi had a diagonal shot that needed alertness from goal keeper Tom McHale. With both Olukanmi and Bola making insistent runs forward, it seemed to underline the direct play of Dunstable, and one slick forward pass saw Odofin just short of making what would have been a telling connection.
Dunstable’s weakness was the loss of possession without real pressure. This had the effect of an immediate home counter attack, with Jake Wannell and Chris Allen leading one charge and necessitated a hasty clearance close to the Dunstable goal-line. But we have become used to this. Nevertheless I must quote one of my passengers who pointed out that defensively Dunstable were in the play-offs but offensively they were in relegation form. I nodded in agreement as if I fully understood what he meant. Suffice it to say that there was some heroic defending and at other times They Got Away With It.
But given the kind of pressure they were put under in the exhausting second- half, they came within seconds of not only getting away with it but sneaking off with three points.
Shane Bush had a half-chance, a Talbot pass picked out Pepera who had a header cleared and then a fine cross to Bush saw him just fail to get a meaningful boot onto it. Mark Molesey, who had a fine game, shot over the bar – but four minutes later (five before half-time) his shot from range deceived Smith who seemed to have it covered. Jack Smith was very angry with himself at conceding that one and after the game I could not get a word from him, and I understand how he feels. I am getting ahead of myself here because on thirty –seven minutes, a Terras defensive error in midfield saw Bola exploit it to the full with a magnificent solo run that saw him put the visitors two ahead. Then, incredibly, this error seemed to be replicated a minute later and Bola nipped in to score his second of the game. I could hardly believe it. With Bola scoring the goal of the game last Thursday against Luton town in the Bedfordshire Senior Cup, semi-final, it had obviously given him a rush of confidence.
Both Bola’s strikes were greeted with boos and derision – aimed at the home players, who, with Molesey’s fortieth minute strike giving them a life-line. I am of the view that had Smith smothered that then Dunstable would probably have gone on to win this somewhat remarkable game. Mind you there was a peach of a strike from Aaron Rodriguez, from range that pinged off the top of the cross bar, and it deserved to be a goal for the sheer audacity of it.
After the home goal, Olukanmi tried his luck again but his shot was blocked and the half finished with some stern Dunstable defending that was indicative of the second half siege.
Dunstable had shown character in gaining that was viewed as an outrageous lead, but the hosts had only themselves to blame. They atoned for this in a most pronounced fashion, but scrambling a draw at home in the dying seconds is unlikely to get praise heaped on them by their own. I find it difficult to denigrate Dunstable in the second half as they had very little chance to put together more than a handful of attacks, and if at times defending was desperate, it was also heroic here and there. But it was not comfortable viewing as it had an air of inevitability about it.
Poor old Jack Smith spilled a couple, needing a defender to hoof it to what was hoped to be safety but it always fell to a Terra who continued to terrorise. ‘Dodgy keepah’ was the chant, but the fellow had to deal with successive corners, crosses and shots. Bush had a header saved by McHale. Dunstable desperation in defence led to three cautions – Talbot, Odofin and Bola. Baffour came on for the injured Danny Green , and then he had to hobble off, replaced by Nathan Weekes. Hewitt and Okito had splendid defensive headers but with all hands to the pump, that metaphorical thing was creaking from overuse. Notable in the search for goals was the persistent Calvin Brooks – who ironically reminded me of our absent but influential Zack Reynolds.
I brought to mind Tennyson’s line about ‘raw haste’ being met with ‘cunning delay’, but the urgency of Weymouth was laudable. The only respite Dunstable had was from a conceded free-kick and these were not employed in the best manner. Wild clearances did not delay the next attack by much and there is a touch of irony that the architect of Dunstable’s opening goal, Danny Talbot, with ten minutes to go, headed into his own net. He tried to cover this aberration by claiming that it was he, not Hewitt who scored that opener, but it was Hewitt, and from a deflection.
It was an appreciable time before the fat lady’s song could end proceedings and not for the first time Dunstable conceded a goal right at the end of stoppage time. I was put in mind of the calamitous ending of the game at Merthyr Town, where hitherto undefeated Dunstable led 3-2 at ninety minutes only to concede not one but two goals in that period of ‘Manchester United’ extra time. These Roy of the Rovers endings are of great benefit to the team that produces them but my eye was twitching at Pennydarren Park and it was again at Radipole Lane. I like to think we are due one of those endings to spice up my store of anecdotes. ‘and then in stoppage time, although down to nine men we scored three……’ you know the sort of thing – it makes the beer taste better. But not tonight Josephine, as Napoleon probably never said.
For the record, Weymouth substitute Ashely Wells was the hero who netted the equaliser in the last minute of stoppage time. It was suitably celebrated and so a draw was gained. Dunstable had defended valiantly but with only sporadic attempts on the Weymouth goal in this one way second-half.
Dunstable could have won, and this is not to say they should have won. The three goal lead was greatly bruised by the Molesey goal at the end of the first half. The visitors were simply not allowed to play or settle in the frantic second period and thus errors crept in. If they had had another substitute it might have made a difference. We could not have expected Fontenelle to don his boots as the poor chap was manager, kit-man and physio as it was. He also had to co-ordinate the travel arrangements since the minibus refused service. The illustrious Zack Reynolds would have been a good one but he was work bound and that was that. Well, he would have started in any case and we know how he can influence a game.
Still, from a patched together squad this was still encouraging, and they scored three goals for the second time in two games, thus ending what had been a bit of a goal drought. The team returns to Dorset on Saturday to face Weymouth’s rivals Dorchester Town ( and when they meet, well over a thousand watch the games). I look forward to the match but not so much the travelling as on our way home tonight we were diverted from the M3 into the nether regions of Surrey, (I recall Bagshot and then a level crossing.) Not only was that bit of motorway closed but the A5 north from the M1 was also closed making another diversion necessary. I arrived home at 1.45 am and I am finishing this report at 4.10 am.
My dog greeted me with enthusiasm, but my partner and mother of my children, who waited up for me, said witheringly that she felt it rather silly to ‘go all that way just for a game of football’. Ah, if she only knew that it is a lot more, a lot more than that.
Tom McHale, Calvin Brooks, Mark Cooper, Stephane Zuber, captain, Jake Wannell, Billy Lowe, (Jordan Copp), Chris Allen, Mark Molesey, GOAL, 40 minutes, Stuart Fleetwood, Ben Thompson, Aaron Rodriguez. Other Substitute – Ashley Wells, GOAL, 90+ 4.
Charlie Davis – Conor Jevon, Dom Panasar- Dower.
Jack Smith, Jordan Odofin, cautioned, Gedeon Okito, Danny Talbot , OWN GOAL, 80 MINUTES, cautioned, Bradley Hewitt, GOAL, 6 minutes, Adam Pepera, captain, Nathan Olukanmi, Danny Green,(Sam Baffour replaced by Nathan Weekes Vences Bola, two goals, 37 and 38 minutes DTFC man of the match, Shane Bush, Jack Green
Other named substitute – Tony Fontenelle.
Referee- James Cockle, Bristol, assisted by Michael Ballard, Poole, and James Gallagher, Bath. All had good, even handed games.