The match will be remembered by many Rebels supporters who made the trip to Creasey Park on a cold December evening not just for a comeback from the hosts, which for a long time had looked unlikely following Warren Harris’s first-half goal, but also for a number of key decisions made by the officials which had a significant bearing on Slough’s fortunes and the destination of the points.
It was clear from the outset that Slough had planned not to let Dunstable have too much time on the ball, and combined an organised back four, Ben Edwards again stepping in to replace Dave Woozley, with a tenacity in midfield which appeared to unsettle the hosts early on.
After George Short received treatment following a collision with an opposition player, Jake Somerville was called upon to rush out and claim a low cross from Jerome Federico, and he later pushed behind a dangerous ball played across the face of goal. Long range efforts were exchanged, with Nathan Frater’s effort easily saved by Somerville, whilst Darren Wheeler put a dipping shot over the bar.
The opening goal came Slough’s way on 25 minutes, and the Rebels looked good for the lead after a bright start to the game. Wheeler was found on the left by Eddie Smith, and the winger showed good footwork to gain half a yard before clipping a ball across to the back post, where Harris beat Danny Murphy to the ball and headed down past Jamie Head and into the net.
Slough held the lead comfortably, with Somerville not tested, despite Dunstable applying pressure which resulted in a blocked strike, and an effort from Adam Watkins sliced well wide from 20 yards after the Rebels switched off momentarily.
Early in the second half, Smith suffered a heavy challenge from Marc Leach which went unpunished. To many, it looked as if Leach had made contact with both Smith and the ball with two feet, but referee Adrian Piggott waved away appeals whilst Smith received treatment. Smith would later limp off to be replaced by Scott Harris, and this incident was the start of the evening’s controversies.
Slough still looked comfortable with their lead, both defences on top and neither side looking likely to break the other down in a game of very few chances, bar long range efforts such as that from Watkins, who forced Somerville to dive to his left and make a save.
That changed in the 65th minute as Dunstable won a rare corner, which Slough failed to clear, and were punished severely as Leach fired the ball through Somerville’s hands to equalise.
Smith then made way for Harris, and later Ryan Lake replaced Ben Edwards, who was carrying a yellow card and at risk of further punishment as tempers began to fray.
With fourteen minutes remaining, Slough suffered again, and this time it was self-inflicted. Guy Hollis, who with Adam Foulser had another otherwise solid game, slammed what looked to be a routine clearance off the back of a Dunstable player, and neither he nor Somerville could get back to the goal line in time to prevent Lee Roache from poking the ball in and turning the game on its head.
Things then went from bad to worse for the Rebels as substitute Lake was dismissed for a foul on substitute Bernard Christie, which initially was spotted but ignored by referee Piggott, but after consulting his assistant, Piggott produced a red card for the defender, who now looks set for a lengthy ban following another red card whilst at Bedfont last week. Lake was adjudged to have denied a goalscoring opportunity, despite being 25 yards out and having clearly won the ball in a foot race with the striker after a high ball forward.
Dunstable wasted the free kick, but extended their lead with six minutes left, Christie striding forward before rifling in a shot from 20 yards which game Somerville no chance, hitting the underside of the bar on its way in.
The game looked to be up, but there was still time for Wheeler to give Slough a glimmer of hope with a perfectly-struck free kick from the edge of the box. Leach tripped Wheeler, but went unpunished, whilst Johnnie Dyer saw a yellow card for dissent. Wheeler’s textbook effort gave Head no chance, the winger scoring his fourth goal in his last six games.
His joy was short-lived, though, and with tensions still running high, Wheeler committed a cynical foul of his own by the dugouts, and was dismissed for a second booking, leaving Slough to battle on with nine men for the remaining stoppage time.
An equaliser seemed unlikely, and eluded the Rebels despite their best efforts – and the Slough contingent left Creasey Park with mixed emotions after leaving with nothing despite being in a commanding position for much of the game.
Dunstable Town Line up
Jamie Head, Danny Hutchins, Danny Murphy (Leon Cashman), Joseph Bruce, Marc Leach, Moses Olaleye (c), Adam Watkins, Jerome Federico (Bernard Christie), Lee Roache, Nathan Frater (Danny Ryan), Christopher Marsh. Subs not used: Tony Burnett, Jonathan Cooper.