Billed as a cracking local derby the game exceeded expectations with 93 mins of non stop end to end football from the Counties two finest Non league clubs, with AFC Dunstable sitting pretty in 4th place in the league, Rovers two places lower in 6th the stage was set for a great game.
Rovers made several changes to Saturdays winning side as injury, illness and unavailability forced manager Jimmy Gray to shuffle the pack. New signings Tommy Smith and Michael Malcolm were given full debuts and Jack Keating was restored to the starting line-up.
The game as expected was frantic, played at 100mph from the off. The Rovers settled straight away and forced AFC back into their own half for the opening 20 mins. Resolute defending from the home side kept the scores locked at 0-0 until Steve Gentle nodded home in the 21st min past a stranded Ricky Perks in the home goal to give the Rovers a well-deserved 1-0 lead. Rovers determination to grab a second was their undoing as a needless free kick saw Newman Carney pick out his brother Brandon who headed home to level the game up, 1-1
Rovers still pressed but AFC had stepped up a gear and soon took a 2-1 lead as an unmarked Brandon Carney popped up again to give the OD’s a somewhat fortuitous 2-1 lead.
With the game now well on, AFC slowed things down and several bouts of hand bags ensued with both sets of players pushing out their chests to get their teddy back. With the pram back fully loaded with a plethora of teddys Rovers went deep in search of the equaliser, Connor Calcutt had a great effort go wide before Jack Keating failed to connect when in a good position. With it looking like AFC would take a 2-1 lead into the break, a well worked free kick made it 3-1 on the stroke of half time, another Newman Carney delivery was slotted home by ex Rovers player Jermaine Hall.
AFC Dunstable 3 Barton Rovers 1 at the break with the visiting fans and manager wondering how the score line paid no attention to the equality of play and possession.
Rovers hauled themselves back in to the game just before the hour mark as a series of strong challenges resulted in Tommy Smith being felled in the box and Connor Calcutt gave the home keeper no chance from the 12 yard mark, 2-3 and game on again.
Rovers took control of the game by the scruff of the neck and were not going to let go until it was over. The game was now fully on. Ricky Perks in the AFC goal was called into action to keep out a powerful Calcutt shot as Barton were on the front foot and looking for the equaliser. Jimmy Hartley forced Perks into a good save but the new boy Tommy Smith capped off a man of the match performance as he popped up at the back stick to head home on 67 minutes.
The last period of the game was the same as the rest, full on end to end stuff with the Rovers going all out for a winner. Three successive corners came to nothing for the battling Barton side and when the exhausted ref blew for full time a 3-3 draw was probably a fair result of chances created but Rovers will feel a tad robbed after periods of dominating play.
A full-on encounter, a great advert for local football and ‘mummy’ hugs all round after the game as the rattles were buried back in the pram, even the ref forgave those he put on the naughty step with his 8 yellow cards, spookily that ended 4 a piece! So, both sides left as friends, a sausage roll and a glass of Creasey Parks finest lager followed the game with both Boards debating the what if’s.
Rovers line up