17th January. Harefield United 1 AFC Dunstable 1
AFC boss Steve Heath was full of praise for his team, as they battled the 2nd half without his captain Moses Olaleye when he received an unjust red card. He said " my defence put their lives on the line, as wave after wave of Harefield attacks were rebuffed but it is a shame the referee spoiled a very good attacking game by both teams, by reducing us to 10 men 5 minutes into the 2nd period, which meant our attacking options were limited even further"
AFC went into the game with no recognised striker. Jermaine Hall and Leon Simpson were unavailable and Chris Francis is still injured. There was a doubt over midfielder Fabio Bufano's groin but he started the game and muscled through. During the game Heath experimented with 4 different strikers to try and get the right balance.
The visitors started quite brightly with Jamie Warne starting upfront. The Hares then started to settle and decided to target AFC's 17 year old keeper Louis Porcelli, with a couple of tough challenges. The breakthrough for AFC came on 32 minutes. A quick thinking Newman Carney slipped in Leon Cashman from a free kick. Cashman rounded Harefields keeper only to be brought down. The resulting penalty was converted by Carney.
It was looking like AFC would hold out until half time. Harefield lobbed the ball forward again, Cashman seemed to win his header fairly, as he rose early to win the ball but as the home sides forward fell to the ground, the man in the middle awarded a free kick. Ben Gill curled in a super free kick, which Porcelli got a hand too but could not keep it out of the net.
Half time: Harefield United 1 AFC Dunstable 1
Heath decided to re shape is team, with moving Warne back to midfield and placing Wayne Mills upfront. This was soon to change again with Olaleye's red card. With Liam Hind and Olaleye getting into a push me pull me situation, referee Doug Steel pulled out the yellow card. When as captain Olaleye asked him a question, he decided to change his mind and showed him a straight red. Hind received a yellow for his involvement.
Now the shape of the team changed again. Mills was pushed back to right back and James Bishop to midfield. Jonathan Cooper then took up the number 9 mantle. It was now backs to the wall time, as Grant Fryer now stepped upto the plate alongside his defensive colleagues. Harefield then had a golden chance to take the lead when Mark Smith broke clear on 72 minutes but Porcelli was up to the challenge. Then Porcelli pulled off a wonder save from a Ricky Pither header.
Harefield probably felt the only way to beat Porcelli, was to start the rough challenges again. He was taken out a couple of more times with the worse getting a boot in the face. AFC introduced Jimmy Hartley for the last 15 minutes and 4th striker in the game. All of a sudden AFC started to catch Harefield on the break. Hartley's first touch of the ball set up Warne who was crowded out. Then he went on one of his mazy runs but did not get enough on his shot. Then he picked up the ball on the half way line and was taken out hip high. If Olaleye received a red card for his indiscretion, surely one was now coming for Harefield but no only a yellow, as the referee carried on his inconsistency.
AFC then forced a corner and Fryer's header smacked against the Hares crossbar. A couple of free kicks on the edge of AFC's box were awarded but they were kept out. Then in then final 20 seconds Hartley found his way into the home teams box but Nathan Bull pulled off a fine save.
So a hard earned point against another team challenging for the title and Heath was extremely pleased " we have had 3 very tough games in a week. To convincingly beat leaders Kings Langley 3-0, then Hertford Town 2-0 and to come here with no forward line is great credit to the lads" his thoughts then changed to the official " for the first time this season I had to see the referee after the game and asked why our keeper did not get better protection. His reply, he was over reacting. I then brought Louis to see him and asked about the stud marks down his face. He had no answer" he continued " we don't have a midweek game, so it gives me the chance to assess knocks that players are carrying. Losing Moses now for maybe 3 or 4 games is going to hit us hard"
AFC Team: Porcelli. Bishop. Carney. Fryer. Cashman. Mills. Warne. Bufano. Cooper. Olaleye. Griffith (Hartley 75). Subs not used. Biggadike. Harvey
Scorer: Carney (32 pen)
Crime Count. Olaleye (red). Cooper (yellow)