A groundhopper from another Forum was present:
Dunstable Town 2 v 3 Tring Athletic - FA Vase 3rd Round
Programme 52 pages £2.00 - Admission £5.00 (c) - Att. 252.
With the Clubs being in close geographical proximity to each other, plus playing in the same Division and also having played each other three times this season, there was a certain reticence about starting out on Sunday morning at a time when The Riverbank streetlights were turning themselves off. In the end the reticence was misplaced, though from a home perspective this was largely an avoidable defeat.
Saw Dunstable Town at the end of October and at the time they were unbeaten in the League, and they had only lost one game in all competitions. Since then, their season has gone from acceleration into reverse with only two wins and double the number of defeats (though it should be added that their Vase win over Enfield caught the eye) and their performance here confirmed the decline in their season. Defensively they were lacking especially on either flank as swift Tring attacks down the wings were always a threat and most noticeably was the number of occasions when possession was needlessly conceded in their own half, either as a result of a misplaced pass or alternatively when defenders dwelt too long in possession and ended up conceding control of the ball.
In contrast, Tring Athletic were quick and incisive, particularly in the final third and in Godlove Oppong they had the player that made the crucial difference between the two teams. The direction of travel was clearly shown in the opening minutes as Leo Farruch progressed purposefully down a poorly defended left flank, ideally Farruch should have pulled the ball back to two waiting attackers in the middle but chose to go alone and was perhaps a little fortunate that his heading into the side netting shot took a deflection leading to a corner. The visitors then deservedly took the lead when Farruch's pass to his right located Oppong who angled a shot beyond Connor Coulson into the far corner. Lead should have been swiftly doubled, but in what was the only noticeable occasion that Oppong gave a negative contribution he placed a clear chance wide of the near post. It was only a matter of minutes before Oppong's presence was positively felt as he again found space in the inside right channel, and he placed a shot past Coulson into the same left-hand corner of the net that he had located when scoring the opening goal minutes before.
For the remainder of the half, the hosts pushed forward but it was always the case for the remainder of the contest that they were unsuccessfully 'chasing the game'. Pulling a goal back just before half time may have led to a very different second period but all that could be threatened was an effort from Harvey Greig whose foot was far too much under the ball when struck with the shot soaring high over the bar and a more accurate effort from Oliver Davies which had the power removed by a deflection which led to Oscar Frost in the Tring Athletic goal gathering with ease.
The hosts expectations were briefly raised with them pulling a goal back from what is once again becoming the daily penalty award awarded after Lennie Armstrong clumsily and unnecessarily bundled over Tolu Ikuyinminu and Kelvin Osei-Addo sent Frost the wrong way to halve the deficit. Expected waves of sustained home pressure over the next period, but it simply did not materialise, with Tring especially Oppong pushing forward as frequently as their opponents. Coulson pulled off an instinctive save to deny Farruch who did well to find enough space through a mass of home defenders to direct a shot, however passage to the last thirty two of the Vase was made certain with the visitors third goal of the afternoon which arose from a conceding of possession by the home defence which was exploited by Farruch on the left and his run was concluded with a shot which deflected off of Coulson into the net.
With six minutes, home expectations were once again temporarily raised as Osei-Addo's low cross was touched in from a yard out by Danny Webb, however, as was the case prior there expected pressure from Dunstable Town failed to happen and the if it was not for a flying leap of a save from Coulson to push a shot from Harrison Mead which was travelling inside the left hand post then the margin of victory for the visitors would have been two rather than one. Overall visitors more than deserved their win, though it was clear that Dunstable Town's form has deteriorated since the last time that they were seen.
First visit to Creasey Park since a similar chilly Sunday fixture in February 2018, though recalling the previous visit recalled that on this occasion there was no hailstorm that threatened to cause an abandonment, just the similarity of winters perpetual chill. One of the wiser decisions of the day was to sit in the stand which negated the rawness of the wind, but which became much more noticeable on departure. Good to have a brief catch up with B Wingstone of this parish and also with Andy Short and PMW. Massive thanks to the latter for the lift back to Watford Junction post-match which lopped a considerable amount of time off of the return journey.
The reticence in making the trip was enhanced when it was noted that due to the curse of weekend engineering work there were no trains between St Pancras and Luton. In the end on the outward leg travelled by train to Leighton Buzzard and then catching bus F77 (details for the benefit of GT) onwards to Dunstable. Arrived at the latter just after midday and the sparsely attended environs of the Gary Cooper (JDW) was quickly located for an average couple of pints of Oakham Brewery JHB and a warming Halloumi Burger which had a slightly more generous portion of chips. I should admit at this stage to a partiality to JDW chips on a cold winters' day.
The plan for the return leg of the journey was to visit the Leighton Buzzard micropub and hope that it did not have a blaring TV set showing another game taking place several thousand miles away, in the end PMW's offer of the lift trumped the plan and noticeable how the numbers travelling declined over the course of the evening. Negotiated the c2c rail replacement bus service in place as a result of the never-ending Sunday engineering work that takes place on the Tilbury Loop for the final leg of the journey. Indoors at 20.30.