Penalty heartache for AFC Dunstable as they lose play-off semi-final on spot-kicks

Southern League Division One Central play-off semi-final: AFC Dunstable 0 Ware FC 0 (Ware win 4-3 on penalties)

By James Smith
Wednesday, 27th April 2022, 9:13 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th April 2022, 9:45 pm
AFC Dunstable were beaten in the Southern League Division One Central play-offs on Tuesday night
AFC Dunstable were beaten in the Southern League Division One Central play-offs on Tuesday night

The penalty spot proved to be unkind for AFC Dunstable in their play-off semi-final at Creasey Park on Tuesday night as they suffered a gut-wrenching shoot-out loss to Ware.

Ahead of the game between the sides who finished third and fourth in the table, manager Steve Heath was dealt a blow just before kick-off when the experienced Ryan Frater pulled out of the warm up with injury, meaning Alasan Ann moved to centre back and Nathan Frater came into the starting line-up.

Ware started on the front foot and dominated the opening 20 minutes, taking the game to the hosts who found it difficult to get out of their own half.

The last minute change clearly affected the home side as Ware almost opened the scoring after five minutes when a Liam Hope effort crashed against the bar.

Tom Silford had AFC's first shot, but his effort from Newman Carney's corner was high and wide, Lewis Ferrell also off target too.

An injury to Ware's Christopher Arthur lead to him being replaced by Jay Lovell in the 27th minute, while Ben Farrell almost sent BJ Christie through on goal, and Silford had an effort blocked as AFC stepped up the tempo.

Controversy came in the 38th minute when Kieran Hamilton was blatantly bundled over in the box but to everyone's amazement the referee and assistant referee gave nothing.

AFC did get a spot-kick a minute before half time though when Christie was tripped in the box, the forward stepping up himself, only to hit the bar.

The OD's enjoyed some good possession at the start of the second period but there was no real chances until the hour mark when Jamie Head superbly tipped a header over the bar.

Hamilton was causing all sorts of problems down the right and a fine run ended with a cross which Christie couldn't divert on goal, while Sam McClelland had a header deflected on to the woodwork.

With no goals in 90 minutes, extra time was needed and AFC began well, McClelland heading Carney’s set-piece wide.

Saul Williams was introduced for Hamilton who had run out of steam after giving his all, while Jack Harvey, an earlier replacement for Frater, saw a header cleared off the line on the stroke of half-time.

Ann did superbly to block an effort on his line in the second period of extra time, with Sam Meakes’ header dropping just the wrong side of the post with a minute left.

The lottery of a penalty shootout was the only way to separate the two teams, Christie putting his side in front this time.

Ware levelled before Carney fired home, but with the visitors making it 2-2, Williams put his attempt over the bar.

Ware made it 3-2, Meakes levelled, as after the away side had gone 4-3 in front, Ann was denied by Brad Robinson leading to wild celebrations for the Hertfordshire club as they went through to the final.

AFC: Head; Ferrell; Okito; Ann; McClelland; Carney; Hamilton (Williams 99); Farrell (Meakes 76); Christie; N Frater (Harvey 71); Silford.

Subs not used: Austin, Tavernier.