A grey damp afternoon in Dunstable, on a surface that was described in a pre-match chat, “as a great surface for Rugby”. A step up in class for the Hurricanes facing a team at the top end of the division above.
The game started fairly evenly, what was evident from the start was Dunstable were a little quicker to the loose ball’s in the midfield, which was allowing them to get good possession in the middle third of the pitch. A well drilled home defence, holding a tight high line, coupled with an assistant Referee who’s flag was in a permanently half raised position, was proving a frustration for the front three, with Louie in particular being caught offside, more times than he had touched the ball.
With around fifteen minutes in, Dunstable took the lead, a spell of pressure led to a moment of hesitancy in the Hurricanes back line which was duly punished 1-0. The goal prompted a good spell from the away team, they carved out three of four really good attacks, but unusually their final ball let them down when trying to create a goal scoring opportunity. The offside ‘trap’ was still working well and proving infinitely more frustrating for the attacking threesome, and infuriating for their coach on the sidelines! Hayden then pulled off a fine save, diving down to his left, to get a a strong hand on a shot that would have nestled in the bottom corner. For the first time in the half, Louie managed to breach the offside trap, and get just in front of the back tracking defender, but his flicked lobbed finish sailed just wide of the target. Dunstable then went forward and doubled their lead, a clever reverse pass, caught two defenders in no man’s land, and the resulting cross was stabbed home despite a lunging attempt to keep it out 2-0. Hurricanes huffed and puffed but weren’t able to grab a goal to get back in the game, our striker offered a seat on the subs bench, to view from the sidelines the effectiveness of the oppositions back line, and discuss a tactic of how to break it.
An unusual half time team talk for us, two goals down, how do we stop them scoring more? More importantly how do we resolve being second best in midfield, and how do we beat the offside trap? After a frank and passionate discussion, Benji was asked to ‘put his money where his mouth is’ and play central midfield to show how to increase the intensity, and some coaching advice on how to be more productive going forward, was taken on board.
It was a much brighter start to the second half, Benji was full of drive and aggression in midfield, ably accompanied by Joe and Luca who were following his example, the Hurricanes certainly looked more than a match for their opponents, Louie now timing his runs better was looking a real threat. However it was Dunstable who carved out the first opportunity, but Hayden in great form proved equal to a dipping half volley and at full stretch tipped it round the post. The resulting corner was cleared, to mid way through the half, a lobbed pass back in, was headed back towards the centre of goal and this time the half volley was perfectly executed and beyond Hayden’s reach, 3-0.
A devastating blow for the away team who had been the better side for the opening 10 minutes of the half. A couple of heads went down, but were quickly picked up by the rest of the team, a sense of team pride kicked in, and the Hurricanes rallied themselves. They thundered in to challenges, passed the ball with precision and attacking intent, they were dominating the game and got their reward, a through ball from Benji, was picked up by Louie he charged at the last defender, turned him inside out and smashed a shot from the edge of the box in the top right hand corner, 3-1. Belief and passion now running through their veins, it was all the away side, Louie skipped past two defenders down the right and sent a low cross in the box for the onrushing Oscar, who met it first time, six yards out and straight at the goalkeeper, with the goal at his mercy. The next attack saw the same pair combine, this time down the left, Louie glided past a defender in to the box and approaching the next defender slipped it sideways, for the underlapping Oscar to whack it across the ‘Keeper in the top corner 3-2.
Game on! Hurricanes were flying, Louie sent a shot just wide, Dunstable’s first half swagger was firmly stamped out. Oscar was enjoying himself down the left, ably assisted by Benji & Joe, he was a real threat and causing the Dunstable defence a real headache, again he latched on to through ball, delivered a cross which was clearly handled by the centre back, the Ref waved to play on, Oscar again picked the ball up and slipped it in to Louie, who in the box stepped round a defender who responded with a two footed lunge from behind, there was no decision to make for the Referee, he pointed straight to the spot. Benji put the ball on the spot and stepped up, his penalty went to the ‘keepers right, and although well placed,it didn’t have enough power and the ‘keeper guessed correctly and made a one handed save, Oscar was quickest to react and got to the ball first, a yard out and with the ‘keeper scrambling to block, he somehow managed to blast the ball a yard over the bar! There were a few distraught faces, with less than ten minutes to go, it felt that the dramatic comeback had ran it’s course.
Dunstable knew they had a lifeline and responded by going on the attack, a miss clearance had hearts in mouths of the home defence, but Kian quickly made amends and crunched into a tackle, coming away with the ball, he ran in to the space evacuated by Dunstable’s midfield, and slipped a ball through to Louie who was attacking the right channel. He went past one defender, beat the second with a trick, advanced in to box and cut the ball back to the unmarked Luca, who was calmness personified in his side foot shot, which despite the Dunstable ‘keeper getting a hand to it, saw the ball nestle in the bottom corner 3-3. With just a minute or so left surely that was it? To their credit Dunstable were not prepared to let the ‘upstarts’ from the division below go and win the game, and it was the home side who drove forward, a lapse of concentration gave them too much space in midfield and the attacker was given time and space to shoot, it wasn’t the cleanest strike and it aided the spin of the ball as it bounced and just evaded Hayden’s despairing dive and in to the bottom corner 4-3. A heartbreaking end to the game for the away side who could hold their heads high on a spirited come back of almost epic proportions.
Scorers: Louie, Oscar, Luca
Summary: We just didn’t quite get to grips with the speed and intensity of the game in the first half, probably a two goal lead flattered the home side a little but they certainly took advantage of defensive mistakes. After conceding a third against the run of play, the response was truly magnificent. For 25 minutes they showed passion, hunger, desire, courage and skill and rightfully fought their way back in the game. Conceding a last minute goal was not what their efforts deserved, they should be immensely proud of themselves.
M.O.T.M: A hard day to single out individuals, it was real team spirit that dragged them back in to the game, Hayden made two crucial saves. Benji, Oscar and Joe were outstanding in the second half, but this weeks award goes to Louie, a goal and two assists put the frustrations of the first half behind him, in a superb second half display.