Knock on wood for a programme

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Wednesday September 26th, FA Cup 2nd qualifying round replay at ‘Creasey Park’, KO 19:45.
AFC Dunstable (Blue/Blue) 0-3 Northwood (Red/Red) , HT 0-1, attendance 109.
Admission 6.00, programme 1.00, tea 1.20.

And so, onto game ‘5’ of my ‘Path to Wembley’ – >

Having never previously seen AFC Dunstable play a home game. And having not visited Creasey Park since it was  recently re-built (having visited for Dunstable Town in 2004), this was the tie that took my fancy.
The teams had played out a 1-1 draw the previous Saturday. Perhaps the result being influenced by the early removal of the Wood captain Reece Yorke for a sending off.

Arriving a good fifty, fifty-five minutes before KO, I found the car park to already be full of cars. And it was clear Creasey Park is now very much a community facility, with other sports fields surrounding the main pitch. The bar and functions facilities which sit to the left of the main football field, accessible from the other pitches also.

The bar/functions rooms and changing rooms were all housed in what looked like a fairly eco-friendly long low slung wooden structure, which ran a good distance down the side of the pitch to the left of the entrance turnstile.

Once I was in the ground, I was aware I was one of the first spectators to pay in. When it comes to FA Cup matches I do tend to veer on the side of caution, as clubs that normally attract forty or  fifty spectators, can regularly see double or even treble the normal walk up support, and a programme is a necessary requirement for my visits to any ground, hence my early entry into the ground.

I was proved correct, as by 19:25 (20 mins before KO) the club had run out of programmes. Being a nosey parker, as I  was loitering by the club officials room scribbling down the teams from the excellent white board, I  overheard what I presumed to be a local regular asking if they had any. Only on the gate he was told, but it was clear the gateman had already run out. The official he was speaking to sounded generally surprised, and retorted with a priceless comment, “I printed loads, at least 40”. The fella retorted with, well you should get “at least a hundred tonight”, which I thought sounded about right, this stunned the official into silence, hmmm.

Even I, who knew nothing about AFC’s normal turnout thought that sounded a ridiculously low print run for an FA Cup tie. This had followed on, from me having asked, a reasonable request I thought, as the club committee were wearing polo shirts with the club badge on them, “do you have an enamel badge to buy?”
They hadn’t, but then told me, that I was the first who’d ever asked for one, which did surprise me, as I know of many ground hoppers who like to buy one.

I was already getting the impression of perhaps an amateur club who come a long way quite quickly to be playing at Step5 in the NL pyramid. Although established in 1981, they had previously been associated with Dunstable grammar school. And famous actor Gary Cooper had once been a playing member, many many years ago.
As I walked by the turnstile on the way to the stand on the opposite side of the pitch, I was hearing the gateman having to apologise for running out of programmes, but to ask in the committee room, no chance I thought to myself.
As it was, the programme was a very poor effort indeed (apart from the Gary Cooper fact!), but many didn’t get the chance to find out!

The old Creasey Park, was a ramshackle run down ground, which had been left to rot a certain extent, but it had character.
From memory, an elevated stand, and plenty of terracing. The new facility, although shiny, bright etc, did not impress me. An atcost stand as well. No terracing of any sort, just flat standing all around.

AFC took the game to Northwood in the first quarter of the first period, with tall fast striker BJ Christie impressing.  But the game was to change on fifteen minutes when from a free kick about 50 yards out, AFC Keeper Leggett punched the ball into the back of Scott Rader and the ball bobbled over the line, 0-1.
Shortly after Leggett, again, when it looked easier to catch the ball, punched it direct to a Northwood player. Some questions were asked by his defenders! Shame really, because frankly he kept them in the game, with a number of fine saves, particularly with his feet.

They say the cup can be a great leveler, which in my experience can be true, in this case, it was not. As it seemed pretty clear that Northwood played one step higher, as their players had more time on the ball, and didn’t give possession away as cheaply as their opponents on the night. The final ball in the last third from AFC was pretty dreadful all night.

HT 0-1.

In the 64th minute Northwood took a stranglehold on the game that their dominance deserved, as the ball was played into the right side of
the area, lively winger Adamson Ajayi, jinked passed a defender and then hit a strong shot into the bottom left corner, 0-2.

In the 88th minute, Northwood took a short corner, looking like they might play keepy by the corner flag, but they suddenly changed tactics and a deep cross to the far post was met by an unmarked Ajayi who nodded in easily, 0-3. To be fair to AFC they continued trying to probe the Northwood backline, with BJ Christie continually looking to be the only player capable of breaking through, but it was not to be.

Both the team, and perhaps the committee of AFC learnt a few lessons tonight, and Wood go on to host Boreham Wood in the third qualifying round.


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