11th February - AFC Dunstable 0 Hartley Wintney 1

A sublime free kick from Hartley's skipper Dean Stowe just past the hour, was all that separated the two teams that fancy getting into the play offs.

With a heavy pitch at Creasey Park after it had been played on the day before, there was a doubt if the game would go ahead if any further rain fell overnight. In the end the playing surface was dry but it was not looking it's best with large areas of it being badly worn.

Playing on a Sunday, AFC were hoping for a decent attendance after a few disappointing ones, so a crowd approaching 150 was satisfying.

Even though the game started in bright sunshine, it was followed by strong winds then finished off with a hail storm.

The home side welcomed back Brett Longden at right back after his 5 match ban. With Ryan Frater being subbed early in AFC's last outing at Hayes & Yeading through injury by Danny Murphy, it was the latter that kept his place in the starting line up.

Back in September when the OD's visited Hampshire, that game versus Hartley was a tight affair and this one was expected to be the same. With the game being sponsored by Dave Cook, he was on a 4 match tour to celebrate his 50th birthday and we were 2nd on his list.

As expected, the game started very even as both teams seemed to be cancelling each other out. Jamie Head in the AFC goal was called upon to pull off a smart save early on. With the pitch affecting the run of the ball, both sides were finding it difficult to put together any decent moves.

AFC forced a few corners which put a bit of pressure on Hartley's defence, but they dealt with them pretty comfortably. A half chance fell to Terry Griffiths at the far post but he could not get his header on target. Then with 5 minutes left of the opening period, the first hail storm turned up.

Half time: AFC Dunstable 0 Hartley Wintney 0

Again the sunshine was out to welcome the players for the 2nd half. Then on 66 minutes the only goal of the game came when Stowe's strike was too hot for Head to handle.

With the game still very even, AFC knew they had to put some pressure on the visitors. Then back came the hail. With the pitch now turning white, the home side pushed for the equaliser. A strong penalty shout came when Louis Bircham seemed to have his legs taken from below him, but the referee waved away the appeal.

Two headers from corners for Leon Cashman and Bill Morgan failed to test the Hartley keeper and with that went AFC's any hope of getting back in the game.



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