Fans were treated to six goals as Dunstable Town were held 3-3 in a pre-season friendly at home to Marlow on Saturday.
Marlow were the opponents in a game originally scheduled for St Albans City, and they certainly provided good enough opposition and in doing so exposed a number of defensive frailties which enabled them to eliminate a two goal deficit with 20 minutes to play.
The teams had met three times last season, one being a cup game which the Duns were victorious in, and the league games saw both sides win their home encounter.
There was some concern at about two pm as the Marlow team was still a few players and officials short since there had been a severe hold up on the M25. But all was well eventually and the kick-off was on schedule.
Team news for Dunstable was that they had parted company with Nathan Frater (always a stalwart, and reportedly joining St Neots Town). Kyle Anthony has also gone, after joining the Duns at the latter end of last season from Egham Town. Starting on Saturday was Nick Beasant and among the substitutes was Michael Noone from Hitchin Town. Goalkeepers Ben Barnes and Jamie Head played a half each and Tony Fontanelle made his usual cameo appearance in the second half.
Marlow, in their red away strip made a confident beginning in a game that was expected to end in a Dunstable victory. After the initial probes from the visitors Dunstable settled into a good rhythm yet could not retain the early effectiveness in the final third. A good move on the left involving a smart exchange of passes from Charlie Henry and Terry Dixon saw the later shoot firmly but the ball was deflected for a corner. This ant the next two corners were easily cleared.
The opening goal came from a rather astute long ball forward from Henry which picked out Jamale McKenzie-Lowe who judged his run well to avoid the off-side and his pace meant he had just the goalkeeper to beat, which he did comfortably, and thus scored his third goal in two matches.
This signalled a period of dominance from Dunstable but they were strangely goal-shy. McKenzie–Lowe judged the bounce of one cross very well, and he was in a good scoring position but volleyed over the crossbar.
A direct free-kick from Newman Carney left the visiting goal keeper untroubled and we remember his fine performances against us last season. There was a degree of irony about the Marlow equaliser, which virtually replicated the Duns’ opener. Lee Barnett left the defence flat-flooted and secured the equaliser with equilibrium.
Dunstable had been enjoying better possession and a superior number of chances – but they were now having to do it all again. It seemed that there was a disinclination from forward players to put in a short shift in defence when required, and as we saw later, marking was a little lax. A good chance from Tony Burnett was deflected a little fortunately to the keeper and a weak header from Adam Watkins was easily held. As the half ended Barnes needed to make a precise save from a late Marlow attack.
After the interval Dunstable established themselves and with two goals from Terry Dixon, with 20 minutes to go a routine win seemed highly probable. Henry was brought down by the Marlow skipper and this was deemed serious enough for a booking – and this is a little unusual in pre-season games where referees often take the route of issuing a stern reprimand and a warning.
But before Dunstable regained the lead there were moments for Marlow who saw one chance well defended before the ball was swiftly regained and a shot fired in, albeit wide of the target. The visitors were adept at absorbing a Dunstable forward move and leading the counter at a good pace. On one occasion it needed a well-timed intervention from Leon Cashman to cut out what would have been a superb and intuitive pass. Dunstable did bring on Noone for what was his debut and later Fontanelle but already there was a dropping off in real effectiveness.
But after a headed effort was cleared Dixon, who had bustled well throughout seized on the loose ball just outside the area and fired in precisely enough to restore the lead for the home side. This was after 68 minutes and on the crest of this Dixon added his second and his team’s third two minutes later, with fine assistance from club skipper Ben Herd, who had driven in the ball from the right.
That would appear to be that in terms of Marlow’s challenge, but they stuck at their task commendably and exploited Dunstable’s sudden waywardness. This was not translated into a goal until seven minutes from time and it was a goal that caused a lot of tut-tutting. A corner sailed in and Craig Scott rose unchallenged with a free header that was beautifully placed and reduced the arrears to suggest a bustling finish.
The marking was inexplicably poor and we began to wonder if this would be the final relapse.
With so few minutes remaining it was still expected that Dunstable would win and then, with two minutes to go, Marlow won an undisputed penalty and John Bennett converted to earn his side an unexpected but in the end, a deserved draw.
Even then with the last kick of the game Tony Burnett had a fine chance which he put wide. So, the mixed fortunes of the pre-season games continue, but of course we all accept that it is about a lot more than results.
Dunstable are at home to Kettering Town on Tuesday, July 29.
Dunstable Town: Ben Barnes, Ben Herd, captain, Newman Carney, Nick Beasant, Leon Cashman, Scott Davies, Adam Watkins, Charlie Henry, Jamale McKenzie, Terry Dixon, Tony Burnett. Substitutes: Ryan Plowright, Michael Noone, Chris Marsh, Tony Fontanelle, Lee Roache, Jamie Head.
Match dedicated to L G ‘Bill’ Harris, former Marlow grounds man and supporter.