26th December - AFC Dunstable 1 Kempston Rovers 2
For the first time in 9 years, AFC were back playing on Boxing Day but succumbed to defeat in a close game. Kempston Rovers, who are having a great season since promotion from the UCL, occupy the lofty position of 3rd and are right in the mix for a play off place.
While the hosts were missing key players in Newman Carney, Bill Morgan, Brandon Carney and James Bishop, the visitors went into the game at full strength according to their management team. Saying that AFC battled all afternoon and gave Rovers a run for their money. Good news for AFC was the return at left back of Danny Murphy. Earlier in the week it was looking like his injury, which has seen him miss the previous 3 games, would keep him out and compound AFC manager Steve Heath's selection headache even more. He was also pleased to welcome back Tom Silford, who has been out for over 2 months and took his place on the bench. So those pieces of good news eased the pain.
The game started at a frantic pace and Rovers thought they had taken the lead on 4 minutes, but Danny Watson's effort was ruled offside. They continued to look the more dangerous but it was the home side that came close next, when a BJ Christie shot struck the base of the post with 14 minutes on the clock.
After the early scares, AFC seemed to settle in a decent pattern and started to grow into the game. They finally took the lead just before half time when a penalty was awarded for handball. Jermaine Hall stepped up and gave the OD's the lead.
Half time: AFC Dunstable 1 Kempston Rovers 0
The visitors came out a different side in the 2nd half and started to apply pressure. They drew level on the hour, when a pin point cross found Watson at the far post and he headed home.
They only had to wait another 5 minutes to score again. A neat lay off by Watson on the half way line, saw Sam Johnson run a full 40 yards unchallenged and fire home.
With the game now being contested at a fierce but fair pace, the referee started to brandish a few yellow cards, which was a shame, as the players were giving everything they had from both sides.
So for the 2nd time this season, AFC have held a lead against Kempston at half time but could not hold on for the win.
Heath said after the game "just when we were getting back to full strength, I was hit with unavailability and suspensions for this game, but that happens in football, as we have faced teams in the same boat and it will keep on happening. Thankfully Danny Murphy and Tom Silford made a return which helped, as on Thursday I was hoping for a white Christmas. While the game was not a spectacle, you could not fault the commitment from both teams. For 2 promoted teams from step 5 to be so far up the league, shows how strong the SSML and the UCL are"
Team: Perks. Massay. Murphy. Griffith (Silford 66). Cashman. Byron (Silvestri 75). Mannion (Kissiedu 85). Olaleye. Christie, Humbert. Hall. Subs not used. Langston. Cosmin
Scorer: Hall (43 pen)