AFC Dunstable are one of two senior non league clubs from the market town of Dunstable, which is thirty miles north of London. The club were formed in 1981 as Old Dunstablians for former pupils of the defunct Dunstable Grammar School. The clubs' nickname is the OD's as a reference to this.
The OD's began life playing local football and playing home games at Manshead School as well as a spell at Dunstable Town Cricket Club. The club joined the South Midlands League in 1995 and then the Spartan South Midlands League a couple of years later. Progress was hampered as the club didn't have sufficient facilities to move through the divisions. In 2004 the club became AFC Dunstable and in 2009 they were given the opportunity they'd waited for as they were invited to become tenants of the new Creasey Park Community Football Centre.
The club applied to be promoted, which was accepted and the following year promotion was won on the pitch to reach the premier division.
AFC Dunstable will compete in the Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division in the 2013-14 season.
AFC Dunstable 2 Grays Athletic 3 (Sunday 4th September 2011) FA Cup Preliminary Round (att: 196)
It was FA Cup weekend and I was off work. I had a vital cricket umpiring appointment on the Saturday, and I knew that I'd be waking in slightly tender condition the next morning. Despite this I was determined to make my way to this fixture, which was the stand out fixture of the day as far as I was concerned.
I figured there may have been a chance of a giant killing, there was certainly going to be a decent attendance, someone at Berkhamsted had mentioned the impressive new Creasey Park and I wanted to find out from the Grays fans how the plans for the new ground was coming on.
I went to the pub to study the papers and have some vital sustenance in somewhat summery clothing. The previous two days had been beautiful, but on leaving the pub it started raining heavily. I was nearly put off, but I went home to put on some extra layers and then took a taxi to beat the slow bus to Hendon station. My train was on time and in thirty minutes we pulled into Luton.
I made my way to the Silver Street bus stop to catch the number 31 to Dunstable. During the ride, which took me past Kenilworth Road as well as the grounds of 61FC of the SSML and former members Luton Old Boys. The rain was really hammering it down now, and I had some concern whether the match would be postponed.
After a forty minute journey I arrived in Dunstable town centre and set off on the long walk up High Street. I found Brewers Hill Road just behind The Mullberry Bush pub, which is where the Grays website advised their fans to go for a pint as the ground was still awaiting a license. I decided to go onto the ground and purchase my programme in advance. The ground looked neat and tidy on first impressions. A couple of coaches from Essex were already there, as I walked back down the hill for a couple of pints.
I got chatting to a local at the bar of the foodie based pub who was intrigued with my programme. He asked what game it was for? I explained why I was there (my Scarborough Athletic shirt really confused him!) and about the match around the corner. He admitted he'd never been of late, despite the huge investment that had been made. He said he was going to go home and ask his footballing son if he fancied an afternoon out.
I set off back to the ground with a few really friendly Grays fans. They were optimistic of the new ground happening soon and one older gent told me all about his days of following Tilbury when I mentioned I'd been there the previous Friday. He said he'd heard the changing rooms at Creasey Park had been vandalised over the weekend and we both agreed what a sad world we lived in for anyone to want to carry out such an act. I was then introduced to a truly remarkable character.
A Scottish chap from Carluke in a Grays polo shirt told me he travelled down to nearly every game. When I asked him why, he said he preferred going to grass roots football. He said, "My surname's Gray and I'm not very Athletic! I couldn't argue with that. I walked into the ground with Drew and chatted about how both our clubs had suffered with certain mismanagement leaving us homeless. Drew also told me he went to Runcorn Linnets games when he couldn't make it all the way down south after some fans were in a pub collecting to raise money after a sponsored walk for their new home ground. He gave a donation and made some instant new friends!
|The incredible Drew Gray|
That was it. I'd gone to the game as a neutral, but just as I'd predicted to the bloke in the pub, I'd find a reason to choose one of the teams to support. It was definitely Grays for me that day.
I went on my way and had a walk around the ground to survey the scene. There was still obviously work needed to complete everything, but it was very functional and tidy. The main building had sloping hard standing in front of it. It contained the changing rooms, toilets and club rooms. When completed it would house the clubhouse and bar. The end to the left had a sloping earth bank leading up to a 3G floodlit pitch. The opposite end had a small covered terrace directly behind the goal and the far side a small covered seated stand on the half way line. The rest of the ground had a mixture of flat open grass and hard standing.
Incidentally my pre buying of a programme had paid dividends as they sold out near kick off time. The teams came out in front of a crowd I honestly thought to be more than the announced figure, but there were many youngsters belonging to the home club who could well have been admitted for free. They congregated under the cover behind the goal, with one of them imitating someone from the 1970's with his taunts and hand gestures. He was the only one in the group not in a OD's outfit.
I went round to the overstretched catering van, which rocked like a ship in a storm as the two gents moved about inside. They were doing their utmost to look after everyone, and did it with more of a smile than i would have had under the circumstances. That said, they probably took more over the counter than they would at matches until Christmas.
The pitch was lush and rain before the game had slickened the surface, making it conducive to attractive football. Grays played with more control, probably a bit too much at times, whereas OD's had plenty of skill but were more direct. A fine move saw Athletic take the lead before a terrible back pass let AFC in for a well taken equaliser.
There was a good atmosphere but the Grays fans were a little frustrated. Then their defender Junior Baker decided to do something about it and set off on a fifty yard run and then released the left winger who beat his man and crossed to Baker, who bulleted a tremendous header into the roof of the net. It was a great FA Cup goal which lit up the tie almost as much as the scorers smile towards his adoring fans.
Grays made it three with a free header straight from the restart before they were reduced to ten men as a defender was adjudged to be the last man after committing a foul. I had a walk around and had another chat with Drew, just as the home side pulled a goal back with a superb free kick.
OD's weren't not finished yet and they missed a guilt edge chance and had two penalty claims turned down. The player who was turned down was a lively substitute, but he had upset the referee with his feedback. Surely a lesson to be learned?
Grays hung on to claim a deserved victory and send their fans home happy. I was delighted that I'd chosen that particular match. Some people were saying that the FA Cup had lost something of late. Matches such as this one proved that to be pure fantasy.
I made my way back to High Street North and jumped aboard a bus headed for Luton, via Houghton Regis. This as it turned out was an error as it went the long way round. I got back to the station with a while to wait before my train back to Hendon, so I refreshed myself in the George II.
I had a wonderful day out. Long live the world's oldest and greatest knock out competition and all who are involved in it.
To see a highlights video taken of the game by Enfield Town fan 'thecoldend', go to: