2nd December. Risborough Rangers 3 AFC Dunstable 2 (SSMFL Challenge Trophy)
For the 2nd SSMFL cup game this season, AFC went out by a controversial penalty decision in the last minute. The exact same happened in the Premier Division Cup against St Margaretsbury.
With the big FA Vase tie coming up on Saturday against Saffron Walden, AFC boss Steve Heath decided to rest 70% of his squad in fear of injury and promoted 4 players from the Under 18's and Reserves who have been getting good reports. He also gave some fringe players a start. In a way it may not have been justified with result, but it was the exact thing to do, as 2 players left the ground with ice packs on their ankles and they just so happened to be from the 1st team squad, so now he will have to sweat to see if they recover in time for Saturday.
Travelling over to Risborough reminded us of our Divison Two days, as both clubs get on extremely well and it is great to see them now in Division One and doing very well. The ground has changed with floodlights now in place but the last time AFC made the trip it was 80 degrees compared to -2 degrees on the night.
The opening exchanges were very even with both teams sounding each other out. With five 17 year old's in the AFC starting line up, they were coping well with the home teams advances. AFC played the ball around well but did not really have any cutting edge up front. Jamie Warne did go on a few decent runs and put in some telling crosses. Unfortunately with no Jermaine Hall, Chris Francis or Leon Simpson leading the line, they all went begging.
Risborough had a strike at goal on 42 minutes which went wide. Somehow the referee gave a corner as he thought Matt Fallon got a hand to it. From the clearance Risborough's penetrated into the AFC danger area, they scored a quality goal with great movement when Rory Lonsdale was on hand to finish off the move.
Half time: Risborough Rangers 1 AFC Dunstable 0
The 2nd half got underway and it seemed the temperature had dropped but the play on the pitch kept the fans warm. The young lads from AFC were still holding there own and causing the home teams defence some problems. Pushing forward a misplaced pass by Jamal Harvey saw Risborough break away and their top scorer Martin Griggs finished with aplomb on the hour
Being 2-0 down, Heath with 3 regular first teamers on the bench, decided to introduce Saturday's hat trick hero Enzo Silvestri and within 3 minutes they had pulled a goal back through Jamie Warne. AFC were now getting up a head of steam. Unfortunately AFC's goalscorer Jamie Warne had to be replaced with a knock on his ankle and Jimmy Hartley came on. With time running out, the home side could have taken a 3-1 lead but Fallon tipped a Griggs shot onto the bar.
AFC continued to press for the equaliser and it came with 4 minutes left on the clock from Hartley. Heath looking at extra time, threw on skipper Moses Olaleye to see the young lads through but then disaster struck. A goalmouth scramble in the last minute saw Adrian Pitfield deemed to have handle the ball on the line. The referee gave a penalty and proceeded to give Pitfield a red card. Griggs scored from the spot to put Risborough through to the Quarter Finals.
On a frustrating night, Heath said, " make no doubt, I did want to win this competition, but we have bigger fish to fry on Saturday, so I did not want to risk too many regulars. I decided to blood a few young lads tonight and I was very proud of their achievements. With the structure the club has, it is nice to give them then chance of senior football" he continued " I had some big guns on the bench that I could have introduced at half time but the team was performing admirably, so I felt there was not need too. I would like to mention 17 year old Adrian Pitfield at right back, he had a tremendous debut and was distraught at the end, as the ball hit him high on the chest and even showed me the mark on his shirt. I told him not to worry, as refs occasionally guess on major decisions as tonight"