23rd November. AFC Dunstable 3 Kirkley and Pakefield 2 (FA Vase 2nd Round)
A nail biting end to this FA Vase game, saw AFC hang on to progress into the 3rd Round proper for the first time in the clubs history.
Leading 3-0 on the hour, what was to come was no surprise to the watching faithful. Conceding silly goals 5 days earlier against Hillingdon Borough in the league, to be fair to the defence this time, they put their lives on the line as Kirkley threw everything at them in the closing stages.
Two changes were made from the midweek draw. Wayne Mills came in for Taishan Griffith and a welcome return of top scorer Jermaine Hall replaced Chris Francis. They say things happen for a reason. Francis who had scored twice in the week was late to the ground, so the AFC manager decided to start Hall. Francis though made a massive impact on the game, as he replaced Leon Simpson on 16 minutes as he picked up a dead leg. Within a minute of his introduction, he set up Hall to give AFC the lead.
The visitors who started the game very brightly, probably felt this goal was against the run of play. On 20 minutes Francis was through on goal but did not get enough on his shot to test Luis Tibbles. AFC were now starting to settle down and when Jimmy Hartley was tripped on the edge of the box, up stepped Newman Carney, who's free kick picked out Fabio Bufano at the far post for him to head home on 26 minutes (photo below)
Half time. AFC Dunstable 2 Kirkley & Pakefield 0
If the watching crowd thought the tie was over, the visitors made a couple of changes at the break as they continued to threaten. All of a sudden they found themselves 3-0 down. From another pin point Carney free kick, Francis headed home on the hour. Within a minute of the goal the game changed. A hamstring injury saw AFC lose the influential Bufano as James Bishop replaced him. While Bishop works extremely hard, Bufano's defensive quality and ball winning was now missing.
On 62 minutes Kirkley pulled a goal back with a smart finish from Kyle Baker. The pressure was now on as the team from Lowestoft went all out to save the tie. The AFC defence though repelled everything they threw at them, with Leon Cashman outstanding. AFC were now hoping to catch Kirkley on the break and when Jamie Warne broke away, he wasted the chance as he hit the side netting.
With the game well into added time, Bishop gave away a needless free kick. Ian Hunter decided to take the responsibility and he curled his strike into the top corner. Now it was time for nerves to start jangling, as the referee added on 2 more minutes of injury time. The AFC defence held on to move into the next round.
A delighted AFC Manager Steve Heath said after the game " if you want entertainment come and watch AFC. Our 3rd goal was the 100th in games we have been involved in this season and we have only played 27 games in all comps. Near enough 4 goals a game is not bad but I would rather cut out the opponents goals though" he continued " I had Kirkley watched last week and knew we were in for a tough game. We worked on their weaknesses at training on Saturday morning and was so pleased that our 2 goals from set pieces came off. I was so proud of our defending today after recent mishaps. Losing Fabio was a set back but we still stuck in there"
AFC Team: Perks. Mills. Carney. Biggadike. Cashman.Warne. Hartley. Bufano (Bishop 60). Hall (Griffiths 82). Olaleye. Simpson (Francis 16). Subs not used. Cooper. Porcelli
Scorers: Hall (17). Bufano (26). Francis (60)
Crime Count. Carney. Olaleye (both yellows)