"That man should never play for our club again"…

…were the words of the old boy who sits in front of me and who I have never heard utter a comment before. He was, of course, referring to our skipper Kevin Nicholls who was a passenger in the game. The second half I watched Rushden pass the ball around him, whilst he puffed and panted like a sixty year old smoker playing in the back garden against a team full of kids. Fortunately the new manager would have been watching from the stands probably thinking “Why have they stuck this bloke in? Is he blackmailing the MD?”

In his defence he did two nice passes in the first 20 minutes, one a lovely dink through for Craddock to run on to and hit the post. The other good thing he did was to manhandle Alan White away from the ref at half time. Once again, someone had managed to press Whitey’s mad button at some point in that half.

That was it though, as the game went on he looked more and more out of place. The fastest he ran all game was when the ref blew the final whistle and Nico disappeared up the tunnel like a rat up a drain pipe – fortunately not quite quick enough to avoid the constructive comments issued from the front few rows of the main stand.

Oh – I haven’t mentioned their first goal have I? Do I need to? Nico tried his hardest to lose us the game in the very last minute against York. He went one better in this game by getting the ball stuck under his foot, slipping over and gifting the ball to the Rushden player who ran on and slotted the ball home.

As I’m on the Nico bashing theme let’s do a few stats – an empirical test if you will:

Games played with Nico:

P12 W5 D4 L3 win percentage 42% loss percentage 25%

Games played without Nico:

P7 W5 D1 L1 win percentage 71% loss percentage 14%

QED – or as that meerkat on the telly would say “simples”.

Right on to the match report, such as it is:

Game of two halves – officially. First half it was all us – we had the ball in the net twice and Craddock et al had plenty of chances. It looked a breeze and only a matter of time. We were getting the ball behind R&Ds back four time and time again and looking good on the ball. Second half – we were appalling. Our game dropped significantly whilst R&D raised theirs considerably. I think the main difference was that they closed us down rather than letting us play and played further up the park. What they did do was to time waste from the first minute. I’ve not seen too many sides do that, but they did. Shockingly. But who said cheats never prosper? Rushden’s finishing and crossing in the first half, and frankly for much of the second were woeful. Sub-non league. Which probably states how poor we were.

Tyler hardly got a touch all game, apart from a couple of good saves in the first half and a nice save in the second, most of his effort was expended in picking the ball out of the net.

Ed A-A was in the mood to impress his new boss, he tackled and passed well all game and was let down by his team mates. The only criticism I had is that he didn’t push forward enough when we were attacking. He should be an option for the winger to lay the ball back to and cross, or should overlap – but too often Newton (and then Gnapka) had to search for him.

Pilks was sound as ever. I’m hoping that he will be wearing the skippers arm band from next week onwards.

White had a good game. Not only was his heading and tackling good, but his running and long passing were impressing. Got into their box once and laid off a cracking pass hoping to get a 1-2 from Craddock. He also played a super crossfield ball to Burgess at one point (I think it was Burgess – happy to be corrected).

Howells, was slightly more subdued and got caught in possession a couple of times but still managed to put in a good performance.

In midfield, Jarvis started on the left, though he did keep swapping with Hall who started in the middle in the ‘hole’. Jarvis was far too narrow – or rather perhaps felt he had to come inside to get the ball- but he hardly touched it in the first half. I was surprised when it was Hall and not he who was substituted. And this first substitution turned out to be an error, as I will mention later. Once Burgess came on for Hall, Jarvis swapped into the middle, and was still anonymous, and was then replaced by Gnapka/Gnakpa after 70 mins.

Have I mentioned Nico yet? Right, onto Adam Newton through whom most of the play went in the first half. Good game first half and then was swapped into the middle with the introduction of Gnapka/Gnakpa.

Craddock looked lively and hungry in the first half, but hardly got the ball in the second. I was delighted when he put the ball in the net for what I thought was a good goal, following on Ed A-A’s thunderbolt shot well parried by the keeper. But it was ruled offside.

Poor Tom. I so want him to score for when he does the goals will start flooding in. Come on Tommy – perhaps the new manager will get him scoring again. One thing to mention about his game though, once again he got booked for another stupidly obvious handball this time from a corner. Don’t know why he does that.

Gallen played well; again good effort, without perhaps the finesse he has offered previously, which I suppose is understandable bearing in mind this is his first ‘proper’ game back after the training game last weekend. One thing to mention though was his sublime chip over the keeper for the first disallowed goal.

Back to the substitutions. Rio and Burgess were warming up and were stripped off ready to come on- but only Burgess came on. Then Gnapka came on (and looked the liveliest of them all) for Jarvis, and then White took a knock and was replaced by Freddie Murray. No Rio. How did we manage that? We left the liveliest and the player most likely to score on the bench in a game where we needed to get a goal. Dropped the ball there.

What should we have done? Well, if we needed to bring Burgess on – then Jarvis was the obvious choice for the substitution and Gallen for Rio. When White got injured we could still have brought Gnapka/Gnakpa on and swapped Newton to right back with Ed in the middle. Or, God forbid, just played three across the back.

So, all in all, unsatisfactory and 2-0 was a piss-poor result in a game we could and should have had sewn up in the first half.

Richard Money – you have plenty to do, including having the balls to drop the skipper.

P18 W9 D5 L4 – Pos – 5th still. But 11 points behind that 1st place.

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Team News vs R&D

Mr Money has promised not to tamper with Alan Neilson’s selection for tomorrow, so in effect it is AN’s final match in charge. It will be his players and his tactics for tomorrow with RM only interfering if we are doing badly!

Rubbish and Dustbins could be a potential banana skin – they are in 9th and have scored plenty of goals this year, but this game will allow us to put even more room between us and the chasing pack and put pressure on the teams above us.

In terms of players Rossi Jarvis is back after his three match suspension, and only Keet’, Porno and Liam Hatch are injured still, but all training I understand. Looks like Mr Money may nearly start with a full squad – something that poor Mick never had.

As things settle down just to confirm the appointments today:

Richard Money – Manager
Alan Nielson – Assistant Manager
Gary Brabin – Chief Scout.

Brabin’s appointment is an interesting one – from listening to Gary Sweet’s interview(s) it sounds as much that he has been appointed to give us the lowdown on the players and teams in this division as it is to go searching for new talent, it also seems as if he is in learning mode too, gleaning what he can from RM, acknowledging himself that his experience is only non league. I guess it remains to be seen whether the cheeky scouser is on an inevitable crash course with the softly spoken Alan Nielson. Personally, in the fullness of time, I hope that AN is our next manager, once he has a bit more experience and can demonstrate knowledge of the marketplace too.

These days, thank goodness, once again Luton have an excellent scouting network and we must acknowledge that finding raw talent that can be nurtured and harvested must be our modus operandi henceforth. It is the lifeblood of this club.

I can only hope that with promising youngsters on the sidelines Richard Money is the type of manager who will not be shy to try the youngsters and will not create an artificial barrier between the youth set up and the first team.

When Newell was appointed he had little choice but to hurl the youngsters in at the deep end, and they did him and us proud. My hope is that RM will be able to gently introduce the present crop into the first team over the next few years.

Oh, and get us promoted at the first attempt too…

Predictions – the heart says we introduce Money and send off Nielson with another hearty 3-0. The pessimist in me says that the party will be spoilt by a cheeky 0-1 defeat and we will all come back to earth with a big bump.

Come on you Hatters – and well done 2020 for following my suggestion of the 23rd September!

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Welcome back Richard Money

You’ve got a good squad and manage the biggest team ever to play in the conference.

1st objective: Hatters play football
2nd objective: get back in the league
3rd objective: Hatters play football
4th objective: Solid, sustainable progress, bringing through Youth players, recruiting good value experienced players, and promising youngsters.
5th objective: Did I mention Hatters play football?

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Show me the Money….

Back in September on this blog I suggested that Richard Money might be the man for the job. Looks like the board will be following my advice!

Egg on face if it’s Gary Brabin!!

Hatters Player will announce it at 1pm – ahead of a press conference at 2pm.

I can’t make the press conference but I will be able to confirm just before the announcement at 1pm. Sod’s law of course, but I’ve got 5 people coming to view the house this afternoon and this evening, and in between I have to feed and water the boy. So I’m grateful to 2020 for scheduling this on about the most inconvenient day of the year for me!

Team news to follow later…

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Amazing Grays…

…or not as the case may be. A match more like a pre-season friendly ended up with the Hatters deserved 3-0 victors.

Because of the anticipated small crowd it was one of those unreserved seating games where the Upper bit of the Kenny, and the David Preece Stand were closed. This gave me the opportunity to sit behind the goal like I used to, and also to make a personal discovery. Since moving from the bearpit to a slightly more reserved location a few seasons ago (coincided with our slide down the divisions..mmmm..) I have clearly honed my shouting technique to ensure that the players and ref can still hear me thirty rows back. However, I shocked myself yesterday when shouting at one of the players, as I used the full force from three rows in, which frankly could be heard at the Oak Road end. I think poor Mark Tyler put his hands over his ears. I turned down the volume from 11 from then on.

Yesterday was of course an FA cup qualifying round game, the first time we had played in the equivalent of this round since beating Great Yarmouth 15-0 in 1914. The FA had it in for us even then because we should have got a bye, and made a mockery of having to play at that level even then. I read in the programme that three goals was the fewest goals number we had scored in a tie in this round, so it was fitting that we didn’t break that particular record yesterday.

Strange game for me yesterday as I was unfettered by friends or by Godson and was all on my lonesome for the first time since the Plymouth game last year. My Godson had received a one-match ban from his Mum for bunking off his flute lessons, apparently there was further punishment in store for him as he had to go and see his mad Granny too.

It was like a ghost town behind the goal in the Kenny bar, and I think at one point I had been the only customer for 20 minutes. At least being on my own gave me the chance to read the programme from cover to cover for a change and also to sink three pints. However, I still had plenty of time to spare at about 2:30pm so reluctantly I took my seat early and watched the players warm up and play dodge ball from all of the stray shots.

Three things stood out from the pre-match warm up – firstly Rio Charles knows where the goal is instinctively and was knocking them in for fun. Secondly, yesterday at least, Liam Hatch couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo. He must have had twenty shots at goal, just one on one with Shane Gore, and didn’t hit the target once let alone score a goal. Can it be that difficult receiving and hitting a ball into the net from 12 years? Even I might have got one on target, and I was a very slow left back who never scored in over 150 games.

Thirdly, it struck me what a good keeper Shane Gore is. I think he would have easily made the team if we hadn’t had Tyler, or if we still had Dean Brill.

So, onto the match: Tyler started in goal and had very little to do other than put his hands over his ears and to kick the ball to the opposing centre halves. Reynolds started at right back and treated us to the heaviest contact on a back pass I have seen for many a year, giving them a corner early on. White and Blackett teamed up in the middle, both having sound enough games, and I think Blackett is much better at centre half than left back. Howells started at left back and had a cracking game I thought. He linked up with Burgess really well down the left, made some good runs, got some crosses in and generally did very well. I think he must be the most improved player this year, and he has come on leaps and bounds since Mick left.

In the middle we started with Burgess on the left who played about 80 minutes. He did look at bit tired and wasn’t completely in the game, but it was a good workout. In the middle was Asa Hall, now back to his best and surprise surprise Pilks who played in the holding role because Nico had the ‘flu. He showed what a quality professional he was and how poor Nico has been by not putting a foot wrong and looking as if he had played there for years. The only thing that let him down slightly (and only slightly) was his distribution, but if he kept things simple he was excellent. On the right Adam Newton started, and had a sound if not spectacular game.

Up front, we started with Rio and the returning Kevin Gallen, who must have been pleased to get 90 minutes under his belt again.

We started well with Burgess and Howell linking up nicely to put Gallen in and created a few chances from the start. It was only about 10 mins before the first goal came when Pilks, aiming to take the leading scorer mantle back from Craddock, shot and Blackett pounced on the rebound.

Grays weren’t showing much at all hardly surprising bearing in mind they were missing all of their loan players, including our own Geo. Beavan esq. The only one who stood out for me was the long haired Jamie Slabber, who played some nice passed and laid the ball off well, but couldn’t shoot for toffee, which is just as well as I think all of their decent chances fell to him.

Reynolds redeemed his early blunders by powering forward a la Ed Asafu-Adjaye and struck one from about 25 yards which brought of a great save from their keeper.

Meanwhile Rio was having a great game. He must have managed two or three runs down the right resulting in good crosses, the best of which presented Gallen with an easy header to make it two nil but he put it wide.

The second goal was as inevitable as the BBCs baiting of Nick Griffin. Newton ran down the right crossed well (I do like Adam Newton) and their poor centre half Rnkovic put it in his own net, a fraction of a second before Gallen would have done. Later on Rnkovic was involved in an amusing off the ball incident with Rio, which they both saw the funny side of. Rnkovic outpaced Rio down our left to then shield and to see the ball out. As the pair of them ran back up the pitch Rio clipped his heels as if to say ‘that’ll teach you for being so clever’ and he fell over. Rio gave him a wink and Rnkovic grinned and shook his head.

In the second half the game became much more of a training match as the result was already known. After an hour Gnapka came on for Newton and Ed A-A replaced Alan White. Interesting to see Reynolds switch to centre half and Ed to stay at right back. Reynolds looked much more comfortable from then on. So we ended with the unusual back four of Howells, Blackett, Reynolds and Ed. Numerous chances came and went for us in the second half, and Grays looked a bit better but only because we dropped the tempo a bit.

As I mentioned above, Burgess came off after about 80 mins and Nielson brought on one of the trio of youth team players on the bench, Taylor Nathaniel. Taylor looked lively down the left with an excelent turn of pace and was immediately involved. The ball was played to him from the back and he ran down the left, turned the ball back to Asa Hall, carried on, as looking to get the 1-2 but instead Hall steadied himself and finished beatifully to make the game 3-0.

Apart from another chance for poor Slabber that was about it. I enjoyed the game, even though it had a pre-season friendly feel to it. It’s hard not to enjoy 3-0 wins, we have had so few in the last few years.

Fair play to Grays they did look down on quality, but did play some decent football, when we failed to close them down sufficiently.

The only other thing of note was Gary Sweet’s very informative notes about the process of recruiting the new manager. Without saying so in as many words he made it clear that AN isn’t being considered which is a real shame. He even described Nico et al’s comments calling for Neils to be given the job as “rather outspoken” – which to me seemed a bit snooty or clumsy, which I am absolutely sure it wasn’t meant to be.

To quote the latest position he said:

Having conducted numerous interviews to date, we are confident that we will soon be able to appoint a manager who matches our immediate need and our longer term ambition and a man who should be popular with you all.

That last line was tantalising. Does he mean that the manager should be popular with us because he will match the clubs ambitions and get us promoted, ie he will become popular because of success? Or, intriguingly, does he mean that once the manager is announced he will be a popular because of who he is?

That’s Graham Taylor out then!

So the draw is later on today – I bet we get Leeds away…

UPDATE: It’s Rochdale at home on the 7th.

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Team news vs Grays…

…such as it is.

Apparently AN is going to use the game to give “those who would not otherwise get a game” and the recovering Kevin Gallen a go as well as the nearly-fit Andy Burgess.

Which means Basham, Reynolds and Blackett, who together sound like a dodgy solitors firm if ever there was one, may be in with a shout, especially as Freddie Murray is still shaking off manflu.

Unreserved seating tomorrow, which means I can annoy a season ticket holder by sitting in his seat. Presumably this means that not many will be coming, which always strikes me as odd as I would never miss a game at home normally. Poor Grays might just be the unlucky ones who cop a hammering.

Anyway onto the predictions – heart says 2-0, head says an annoying draw.

Come on you Hatters!

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Pleat’s Players

Thinking about managers for a second, how many Luton players who played under David Pleat have gone on to be football league managers?

Off the top of my head I can think of: Harford, Stein (one game vs Ipswich) Newell, Moss, Fucillo, Horton, Hill, Antic and Richard Money.

If we cast the net a bit wider and include all Luton players since the 80s to become managers then we have Danny Wilson, John Dreyer and Gary Waddock.

Please let me know if I have missed some (I’m sure I’ve missed lots).

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