12th September - Leiston 1 AFC Dunstable 0 (FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round)
AFC came so close to taking this FA Cup tie to a replay. Where in the last round they had the fortune of scoring in the 45th and 90th minutes, this time lady luck was not on their side, as the same timings saw 2 great chances cleared off the Leiston goal lines.
The team made the 130 mile trip to deepest Suffolk leaving Dunstable at 9am. Awaiting them was a Ryman Premier Division team currently sitting 3rd in the league. Leaving in overcast skies, they reached their destination in bright sunshine. A few on the coach quipped, if it had anything to do with Nuclear Power Station Sizewell B only being 2 miles away. Dare say Leiston have heard this on many occasions.
AFC manager Steve Heath was forced to make a couple of changes from last week. BJ Christie was attending a wedding and Jon Cooper was unavailable. This gave Roy Byron and Billy Baird starts.
On a beautiful pitch, both sides seem to be sounding each other out. On 10 minutes a Newman Carney free kick just went past the post. Within 2 minutes Byron had a strike at goal but it flew over the bar. It was now the home side's chance to test the AFC defence and from a free kick, Ricky Perks made a smart save.
With half time only 2 minutes away, a soft free kick was awarded to Leiston out on the left. The resulting cross found an unmarked Joe Jefford who headed home. AFC should have been level on the stroke of half time, when somehow Leiston's keeper kept out Brandon Carney's flick. From the following goalmouth scramble the home side cleared their lines.
Half time. Leiston 1 AFC Dunstable 0
Perks was soon called into action again, as he made a flying save on 50 minutes. The next piece of controversy came on the hour. A flashing strike by Courtney Massay was flicked home by Brandon Carney. It was though chalked off by the assistant referee for off side.
Heath decided to push more players forward and removed Josh Humbert who was on a yellow card. He introduced Terry Griffiths and that gave him the option to partner Leon Cashman with Jermaine Hall upfront. Also on came Taishan Griffith for Billy Baird. AFC started to exert a bit of pressure and started to test the home defence. Some long range shots though did not bother Ashlee Jones.
Leiston continued to play the long ball on alot of occasions and with the game entering the final 10 minutes, their fitness was starting to tell. With AFC chasing the game, some gaps started to open up but they could not capitalise on this.
So with the game entering the 4 minutes of added time, once last push by AFC saw them so nearly force a replay. A Massay shot from 20 yards was arrowing into the bottom corner but from nowhere Jones sprang to his right to make an outstanding save. Again from the ensuing scramble, the ball was firstly sliced off the line then cleared.
That would be the last action of the game as the AFC team came so close.
Heath felt mixed emotions after the game saying " firstly I would like to say how proud I am of all the players for their commitment today. No one gave us a chance against a very good step 3 team. They are not only 2 leagues above us but a top 3 team. I thought in the first half we were slightly nervous, but after the break we put them under pressure. I hope they give us credit for our tactics and don't put it down to an off day for them" he continued " I have been told this is the first time we have faced a step 3 team in the FA Cup and we can be rightly proud in the way we approached the game and performed. Also to be without BJ Christie who has scored 10 goals in 9 games, we still created good chances"
Even though AFC made an exit from the FA Cup, fortune in the league was on their side said Heath " it could have been the worse scenario, going out today and ending up 3rd in the league. While I am disappointed not making the next round, with Hadley losing and London Colney drawing, we still top the league"
AFC Team: Perks. Massay. N.Carney. Ryan. Cashman. Baird. B.Carney. Olaleye. Byron. Humbert. Hall. Subs used. Griffiths. Griffith. Jones. Sub not used. Bufano