For Rovers, Josh Mollinson returned in goal in place of the unavailable Niall Cooper with stalwart Paul Andrews retaining his centre-back spot in partnership with Lewis Thomas for this New Years Day local derby against near neighbours AFC Dunstable. With both teams sitting in mid-table a win would see either side opening a small points gap on the other so all to play for. The visitors were first to threaten when Joel Gyasi got in a dangerous looking cross but the home defenders were on their toes and cleared upfield. Rovers midfielder Charlie Smith popped up with a shot at goal after 9 minutes but Dan Green in the AFC goal held the effort with ease. AFC centre-back Ryan Frater ought to have done better when, following a corner, he headed straight into the arms of home keeper Mollinson with 23 minutes gone. Mollinson was immediately in action two minutes later when he pushed a goal-bound Tom Silford shot round the post at the cost of a corner. The chance of the match thus far then fell to Rovers winger Connor Furlong when he was put clean through on goal by a clever Nathan Tshikuna pass but, inexplicably, Furlong failed in his attempt to lob Green in the AFC goal. A minute later Mollinson, once more, kept Rovers clean sheet with another excellent save from AFC centre-forward Nathan Frater. With 39 minutes gone a Smith cross cum shot looked to have been forced home by Dean Dummett but somehow both Green and a fellow defender contrived to prevent the ball crossing the line after 39 minutes. Rovers skipper Garry Jones picked up a yellow card on 40 minutes before AFC’s Frater fired a free -kick well wide to close off the first half action with Rovers thanking their lucky stars that Mollinson was in fine form and AFC ruing several missed chances after dominating the half.
It was more of the same second half with AFC much the better side in possession but wasteful in their finishing. Nathan Frater was in most of the good scoring positions on the end of much good passing and movement within the AFC ranks but a combination, once more, of wayward finishing and excellent goalkeeping from Mollinson, the Rovers defence remained un-breached. With just 7 minutes remaining, AFC had the chance to grab all three points but, once again, Rovers keeper Mollinson stepped up to the plate and denied AFC striker Tony Burnett the opening goal. Smith had a late free-kick saved for Rovers before the final whistle sounded and closed out a match that was begging a goal to inject some proper derby day fervour into proceedings. Rovers will want to quickly put this performance behind them with a tough run of fixtures upcoming which will test the depths of the squad.
Final Score: Barton Rovers 0 AFC Dunstable 0
Rovers Team: Mollinson, Jibodu, Jones, Smith, Andrews, Thomas, Osobu, Dummett, Vincent (Gibson 76), Tshikuna, Furlong (Griffiths 59).
Rovers MOM: Josh Mollinson