End of Season Report

As previously promised, here is my take on those players who turned out for us in the 2009/10 campaign.

Mark Tyler

An excellent signing in the Summer – I don’t think MT let us down all year. Apart from his occasional kicking errors, which diminished as the season went on I think I witnessed only two clangers all year. However he made countless saves that kept us in games including some memorable full stretch tips over the bar. Well liked by the Kenny End he has rapidly become a fans favourite and is our best keeper for years.

Attainment: 9 Effort: Outstanding.


Ed Asafu-Adjaye

Ed continued his progress in the team this year, when injuries allowed and it was important to get some decent first team experience in non-league before stepping up to the league, which I suspect is where he will play the majority of his career. Though Ed is an excellent centre-half, it seems that RM has him nailed down in his original position at right back. On the downside Ed is occasionally dragged out of position, and also can be beaten for pace and made to look a bit silly at times. On the plus side, he continued to get forward once he and the team gained in confidence and showed that he is an adept crosser of the ball. He’s no Kevin Foley, but then again he has no Steve Howard to aim at either. Now Dan Gleeson has been signed he has genuine competition for his place.

Attainment: 7 Effort: Satisfactory

Kevin Nicholls

I’ve been accused of being too anti-Kev on here in the past. I don’t think I can add anything to those comments which always do the rounds on the message boards and also on here.

Kevin Nicholls loves this club, and demonstrated this by returning to us in our hour of need, but also demonstrates it by his passion and committment on the field. However, his spirit is willing but his flesh is weak. Successive injuries down the years have clearly taken their toll on him and he has lost the pace he had. Too many times last year non-league teams passed the ball around him and took the piss. Too many times he looked like my Grandad trying to keep up with my kids. It must be so frustrating for him. Sometimes that frustration boiled over into terrible panicky decisions towards the end of the game where Nico would time and time again press the self-destruct button and lunge in or play a mind-bogglingly daft back pass or hospital balls.

He has a choice ahead of him. I know he has a year left on his contract. RM has indicated that he is unlikely to play before Christmas as he is currently recouperating from another operation. Our rise up the table last year coincided with his absence. RM wants shot of him or at least wants shot of the player he had last year. KN has to show, once he is fit again that he has regained his former fitness and speed. If he can’t then we can’t afford to keep him. Rumours abound that we can’t afford to keep him anyway. He is truly at the crossroads. I genuinely hope that he manages to get back to his former self and his former fitness. No one can doubt his committment to the cause. Anyway, scores on the doors:

Attainment: 4 Effort: Outstanding

Rio Charles

Poor old Rio – when I started to draft this he was still on the books, but now he’s been given his cards. Crowded out I think is the phrase. Too many strikers at the club for poor Rio to thrive. He had a partial run in the side earlier in the season and as you know I think he played well. I also think he has a good eye for goal – the most natural scorer we’ve got – or at least had. I genuinely wish him well in the future, and I will be watching his career closely.

Attainment: 5 Effort: Satisfactory

Asa Hall

Another player who has since left. He has been signed by Oxford, presumably not to give the midfield any bite. Asa is an attacking midfielder who is good going forward, has a cracking shot on him and is a surprisingly good header of the ball. He had a good scoring rate for us, but this season didn’t quite live up to the expectations bred by last season’s good return and encouraging efforts. Dropping down a division doesn’t mean dropping down a gear, but somehow Asa seemed to a little. It didn’t help that tackling back and marking and playing at a high tempo is the opposite to Asa’s game, but that is precisely the midfielder Richard Money was looking for, and once Asa stopped starting for us the results picked up. Remember: Asa was the player dropped for Simon Heslop, and you know the instant success Heslop was – a breath of fresh air. Disappointing I guess that we had to let him go – but I guess in a hard-working midfield there is no room for luxury players. That said – he is still very young and learning his game. I hope I’ve not been too harsh.

Attainment: 6 Effort: Satisfactory

Steve Basham

I felt sorry for Basham, 1 start: 2 goals. Didn’t he play well against Rochdale? But that was it and then he was gone. I thought he was the striker we’d been looking for all season but it wasn’t to be. I still think that Burgess’ through ball for his first goal was the best pass I saw all season (other than Keane’s goal against Oxford!). At least he leaves with being part of that memory. I bet he gets another hatful for Hayes next year. Probably against us…

Attainment: what can I say? Effort: hard to tell

Liam Hatch

The roaring lion. The Kenny End can breath easy again as its tormentor has not been signed. Plagued by injury for much of the year he didn’t play until mid September and was booked twice and sent off in his first three games. I’ll remember him best for the winner in the one nil at Barrow. He didn’t quite pull it off. He was certainly a handful and made all the difference when he came on against the hoofers from Hertfordshire. He has some big shoes to fill at this club, which is used to very good ‘big men’ up front. Perhaps because of his fitness he didn’t quite click. Again, I wish him well.

Attainment: 5 Effort: Satisfactory

Claude Gnakpa

What can I say about our Claude Le Crosse? He had a season of two halves – seemingly rejuvinated by his old ma’s soup. I’ll pay for her to live here if it’ll make a difference to Claude again next year. He is our flair player: our joker in the pack. You never know quite what you get. However this sporadic brilliance was transformed into a consistent and ever-present threat and danger from the second half of the Hayes game onwards. He, more than most, was the figurehead, the standard-bearer for our improvement. He was the barometer, the bellweather of how we were playing. If Claude was on song then the Hatters were on fire. If Claude was dreaming of the Dordognes then the rest of the team were playing as if they were on their hols. Once Claude was injured, towards the end, the wind went out of our sails and our confidence and form started to slip. As I’ve said before, once he was out of the team we remembered we were mortal again instead of having the supreme confidence of world-beaters. Bring on some more of that soup in August sil vous plait Mme Gnakpa.

Attainment: 8.5 Effort: seems to vary somewhere between outstanding and substandard. But mainly pretty damn good.

Rossi Jarvis

Rossi was another one who didn’t quite fit into any plans. Who was the real Rossi Jarvis? Right winger? Central midfielder? Holding midfielder? Poor lad doesn’t quite fit into any of them. Not fast enough to be a winger, not creative enough for the middle, and not good enough at tackling to hold. Saying that, he did show glimpses of brilliance at times and score some cracking goals. But in Richard Money’s brave new world he was an unaffordable luxury. I thought his best game for us was the Wembley final where he was the right hand player in a front three. His long ball which set up Luton’s first goal was sublime. All the best to you Rossi.

Attainment: 6 Effort: satisfactory

Tom Craddock

24 goals in the season was a fine return. A fine return for any striker. But it could have been so many more – remember earlier in the season when Tommy went months without scoring, when his confidence was rock bottom? I remember writing that when he found his shooting boots he’d be banging them in more often than a squaddy back from a tour of duty. One prediction I managed to get right!

But what would it have meant for the his goal tally if he had banged a few in during the dark months? What about netting a handful of the dozens of half chances he had? Would it have been 35? 40? Would it be unrealistic to think that if, if we stormed to success next season he got a hatful such as that? It would be a double-edged sword if he did as I am sure he would be nabbed from us by a league team. In any case, he has stiff competition next year now in the form of Danny Crow.

Craddock’s efforts to win the ball back and to work hard have been a noticable change to his game under Richard Money. Whilst always having an eye for goal in the slightly selfish way a striker always should he has nonetheless been hugely successful at setting up passes and opportunities for his team mates.

Attainment: 9.5 Effort: outstanding

Ben Wright

We signed Ben from Peterborough (who else?) for a month on loan. He got a good goal on his first full start against Tamworth.

Attainment: 5.5 Effort: satisfactory

Callum Reynolds

Callum was signed from Portsmouth at the start of the season on a long loan. He made a few appearances, looked quite good going forwards, but was not able to overlap, and lacked the confidence to cross. He got injured then and presumably went back to Portsmouth never to be seen again.

Attainment: 3 Effort: substandard

Janos Kovacs

Janos signed as long ago as January can you believe? I was initially concerned as I was told that he was trouble – why else would Lincoln let him go when he had been player of the season? – but nothing seems to have transpired in the dressing room since then so perhaps the rumours were wrong.

Defensively he is pretty sound, and mostly ideal at this level. But, there’s always a ‘but’ and you know what I’m going to say don’t you? Great in the air, capable of excellent vision and passing, but turns slower than a tortoise on sedatives.

Lost his place towards the end of the year to a fit again Blackett, but certainly reliable when picked.

Attainment: 7 Effort: satisfactory

Blackett

Speak of the devil – it’s Shane’s turn. Sent off in the first game of the season – alarm bells were ringing. Played at centre half and then reappeared as a piss-poor left back. Then, under Money transformed into a tidy centre half. It was Blackett who didn’t give Tubbs or Obubade a sniff in those key games. It was his ability which got him the nod over Kovacs – Blackett’s average performance is marginally better than Kovacs, however, unlike Kovacs whose errors are more common but smaller, Blackett does have a down-side: periodically he makes big game-losing clangers.

After the Cambridge game he was dropped, seemingly never to reappear. But reappear he did and partnered Pilks in a successful defence, whilst always being the junior partner.

Attainment: 7 Effort: satisfactory

Porno

Made one start (and two sub appearances) stubbed his toe and has been swinging the lead ever since.

I seem to recall he has spent quite a lot of his time at the club “off sick”. It is hardly any wonder that we are looking to recruit an additional left back as cover for Murray, because Porno is never there when you need him. Last chance saloon for Mr Emmanuel. His decline as a player has mirrored our tumble down the leagues. To think, when Newell signed him we were a Championship side. If he was Championship material when we signed him, how come he doesn’t stand out when he plays? The truth is of course he was signed from a club that had been relegated and wasn’t good enough to play at Championship level. He did have a very good game in the Wembley final but that was soooo long ago. Get well soon Porno.

What can I say? How can I rate him? I can’t of course.

Adam Newton plays-for-Luton

What can be said about AN that hasn’t been said on these pages already? He promised so much at the start of the season, giving us some much needed width and a glimpse of the skill which graced the Premiership (I kid you not). His freak winner against Barrow meant that he was warmed to by the crowd, but by the time we played Southampton in the cup his confidence was at as low an ebb as any player I can think of, and the unbelievable miss pushed it to new depths. For a while perhaps he became the player we loved to hate, especially when in one game in particular he singularly failed to close down his man who proceeded to create chance after chance against us, having been given a free run. At this point I thought the writing was on the wall. But Money started to play him regularly at right back now that Keane was picked in the holding role. Apparently right back is his no1 position, despite big Mick signing him as a winger. He functioned okay at right back, before Ed came back to claim his place. He certainly seemed a bit more confident there anyway.

I suspect his days are numbered, having signed Gleeson as another right back. Perhaps Adam is going to warm the bench as potential cover for Claude or for Gleeson/Ed. Who’s to say? Must be difficult for him and I feel for him a little as he comes across as a nice lad. There must be much more to come from him and I hope he does well next year, if he gets a chance.

Attainment: 5.5 Effort: mmmm…at times lacklustre other times much better…borderline satisfactory.

Shane Gorne

Shane Gore,
Shown the door,
Played three games and not one more.

Poor Shane – eminently likeable, always did his bit, played well in his three games without setting the world on fire. He was on a temporary contract until January and then signed until the end of the season. As I said in my note when he left, if he had been a genuine contender for Tyler’s place, RM wouldn’t have signed Kevin Pilks when MT got injured. Another player who I wish all the best to for the future, though I suspect he will end up at the likes of Chesham United or back at East Thurrock.

Attainment: 6.5 Effort: outstanding

Matthew Barnes-Homer

M B-H made his debut in December, carrying a big reputation with him after success at Kidderminster. No one was quite sure what sort of player he was. Is he big? Can he hold the ball up? Is he quick? “Well – not really” would have been the answer to all of these. However he does have a canny eye for goal as he showed with the winner against Stevenage. For much of the first half of his time with us he was labouring whilst his step-father was dying, and this seemed to affect his game. He certainly had a new lease of life and a fresh chance when he returned shortly afterwards and his mediocre performances to date were put behind him. I’m still not sure if he is the right player for us – the jury’s still out. He certainly does well as a fresh set of legs to come on and terrorise the opposition near the end of the game. Next season will demonstrate if he has what it takes to score goals for us. I want him to do well.

Attainment: 6 Effort: satisfactory

Taylor Nathaniel

I think I saw the total extent of Taylor’s involvement this season when he came on as sub against Grays in the cup. In the short time he was on, he looked lively and sharp and even crossed for a goal. Shame really that he is not fast tracked into the first team squad. I am sure in most other clubs in this division he would be playing week in week out. I’d hate to see him let go at the end of next year without being given much of a chance to prove himself at this level, and signing Nelthorpe on loan was a bit of a kick in the teeth. Jakey Howells has the left wing spot for the moment, I’d love for TN to start to challenge him for the position.

Kevin Gallen

We are the club who enabled KG to achieve his first first-class hat trick – we must now have a special place in his heart, and I am delighted that he is no longer on the transfer list and has done enough to earn another season’s contract. His record for us is excellent – overall his goal tally is one goal every three games, whilst his record last season was nearer one goal in two. These bare statistics alone don’t illustrate the totality of what he brings to the team. His vision, touch and ability to bring others into play was a key factor to us finishing 2nd overall.

How many times last year was he able to lay the ball off or do that unique turn that he has and set shots up for the rest of the team? Time and time again his experience allows him to play exactly the right ball at the right time. However, he seemed to have a season of two halves. Whilst his touch and ability was still there at the start of the season, he didn’t really seem to come into his own until plopped on the transfer list by Money in January. I don’t know if it was a lucky coincidence or a classical piece of man-management, but what I do know is that he scored 9 goals in 8 games in March and April.

Attainment: 8 Effort: first half of the season satisfactory, second half of the season outstanding.

Jakey Howells

On Facebook I asked for some ‘H’s to describe Jake – Andrew Archer duly obliged with Honest, home-grown, hopeful, headstrong, hard-working Hatter which sums him up pretty well! He is another player who had an outstanding season and who benefited from having his role clarified and then exploited by the manager.

There we were wondering if Jake was in fact a good left back or a handy left midfielder, when all along he was in fact an excellent winger. My God, at times last year he played brilliantly well. Brilliantly well. Some of the football linking with Craddock and the gang was truly sublime. Reminiscent of times gone by and a certain Mr Moss (though Jake can head the ball). If he continues to improve and grow (physically as well) then we have on our hands a very real prospect.

So many goals and great passes to comment on – I’ve already done 3,000 words so I don’t have time or space. But I was mightily impressed with Jake’s season.

Attainment: 9 Effort: outstanding

Freddie Murray

“Who is this player?” we chorused against Mansfield, suddenly we had a left back who was competent defensively and who linked up with Burgess down the left like they’d been playing together for years: it was reminiscent of Sol and Unders. Unfortunately, like so often, Big Mick wasn’t watching the same game, and fate and poor management conspired to ensure that this dream ticket was never to be repeated and fluttered away on the winds of time.

Freddie Murray didn’t flutter away however and was pretty much ever-present at left back (other than a few dalliances with Blackett and Howells) for the rest of the year. What can we say about Freddie? He can’t take throw ins – but when he does and one manages to stay on the pitch we often score shortly afterwards. Is he quick? No – and regularly gets outpaced on the left. But he does what he does in a tidy and competent way – not for him the huge clangers that Blackett brings. His mistakes tend to be more frequent but much less fatal!

Matt Taylor he isn’t, but he managed to do a sound and unsung job for the majority of the time.

Attainment: 6.5/7 Effort: satisfactory

Mark Nwokeji

Mark has lightning in his boots, or so I’m told. We saw so little of him, other than an occasional substitute appearance that it is in fact hard to believe he was on the pitch for long enough to score us a goal. But score he did against Rotherham at the end of November to give us a glimpse of what might have been. If he had been fully fit, I suspect his pace would have been lethal. As it happens Money’s patience ran out and off he toddled back to Dagenham and Redbridge without making much of an impact (other than on the subs bench). To be fair to him he was still playing at Staines Town 18 months before he signed for us so to think of him as a league player (yes, Dagenham and Redbridge are actually a league club!) might be a bit keen.

I wish him well – I’m sure he will get someone a bucketload of goals, if they know how best to play him.

Attainment: 5 Effort: satisfactory

Kevin Pilkington

Not many non-league teams can ever have had a goalkeeping pairing as strong as Tyler and Pilkington. What an able deputy he was in MT’s absence. He’s joined us for next season and I’m sure he didn’t come to the club to warm the subs bench all year.

Able deputy.

Attainment: 6 Effort: satisfactory

Alan White

The big man came back and joined us for 16 games reminding us of what we have been missing all these years before buggering off back to the North East only to be relegated to non-league. Alan White stands there and nods long balls away all day, that’s what he does, and he does that well enough. He also reminded me that he is in fact a ticking human bomb waiting to go off. How many times did we see those mad-stary eyes storm off at half time, seemingly at war with the rest of the world?

Attainment: 5 Effort: satisfactory

Adam Watkins

One for the future, our Adam is well thought of and is likely to benefit from the tutelage of Alan Nielsen next year. As for this year he came on against Southampton for 10 minutes or so, did quite well – though not as well as Taylor Nathaniel did and I am sure we will see more of him in the future.

Craig Nelthorpe

Eight appearances and eight brief flashes of left-wing brilliance. Always seemed to look lively when brought on. And very impressive in the warm ups.

George Donnelly

Remember him? Sorry – I can’t! Four sub appearances on his loan spell from Plymouth and he went onto get four goals for Stockport in the league.

So down to the last three – and what a last three. I’ve left my three favourite players for the end because of the impact they had on the season – I know one of them will definitely be back next year, I suspect our success will be down to whether or not the other two are also returning.

Simon Heslop

In April I bumped into a Barnsley fan who works in the same organisation as me. “You’ve got our Heslop” he said, “Is he any good?” Lost for superlatives temporarily I simply said this: “He has single-handedly transformed our team”. Which I think is fair enough. Now, I’ve watched quite a few Luton games down the years – I estimate around 500 to 600 and I can think of only a handful of players who have made such a difference to our team in such a short space of time. Two others who leap to mind are Rory Allen (you knew I was going to say that) and Tony Godden. I’m more than happy for people to let me know of others with a similar impact (in fact I’ll start a separate thread in a few days).

Heslop’s impact was immediate. We were like a new team when he started. I pinched myself. Suddenly we had a midfield with two players who could press, harry and tackle. What a delight for Keane not to have either a pensioner or a passenger alongside him. I recall doubting the benefit of having two ‘defensive’ midfielders in the middle of the park. How wrong I was.

Heslop finally allowed Money to deploy what I presume is his favourite game plan – to close teams down from the front and to play high tempo passing football. A must of course for Hatters fans – and Heslop was a sight for sore eyes and manna from heaven. His harassment of the opposition was second to none but also his touch and passing were the catalyst for our conversion from also-rans to contenders. He was looking knackered at the end and no bloody wonder.

Can’t shoot for toffee though….

Attainment 9 Effort: outstanding

George Pilkington

Captain reliable and first name on the teamsheet. All you ever need from a centre half: dependable, good positioning, a cool head and an ability to read the game. In his 49 appearances this year you could count his cock ups on the fingers of one hand and I am delighted that he has signed for another two years. On top of his defending he also managed to come up with six goals, five of which were Tuesday nights under the lights at home until he blotted his copybook by scoring away to Tamworth. Who can forget his equaliser against Oxford?

And he became a Dad this year – fortunately he has had good practise at tears and tantrums having Alan White in the changing room this season; and being the captain of our club will already have prepared him and conditioned him for the sleepless nights.

Outstanding George – all of those awards were well-deserved, thanks for sticking with us.

Attainment: 9 Effort: Outstanding

Keith Keane

My player of the year. At times he single handedly bossed the team and the midfield without little help, but Keano did it without making a fuss and just by working hard in his unsung way on the field.

To think that I saw him as the weakest link when he was Foley’s deputy when we were in the Championship. I did at least until that cracking goal against West Brom on the telly when I had to start eating my words. Perhaps at Championship standard he wasn’t quite up to it when he was a younger man, but he has gone from being a very young pup under Newell to a veteran of nearly 200 games since then. He is the player who has been on our books for the longest unbroken time and a senior member of the team, despite still only being 23 years old. Perhaps if a pass goes astray occasionally or if he breaks a bit of the stand with his free kicks we should forgive him a little bit more: he is still learning his trade. And think of the turmoil and chaos he has been learning his trade in.

At last he is now being played in his best and preferred position of central midfielder. The management team have appeared to have finally settled on this and it is no coincidence that his return to the centre of the park (and his partnership with Heslop) rather than being played at right back or centre half coincided with our fabulous run. It is to Keano’s eternal credit that he is equally adept at right back (if a little slow) whilst being able to out-jump most strikers when playing at centre half.

It was Keith Keane who kept Ryan Babel in his pocket in the 1-1 draw against Liverpool (remember that when watching Holland in the World cup) and it was Keane who played the through ball for Gnakpa for the winner at Wembley last year.

He also added a ‘Brko’ moment to the history of Kenilworth Road by scoring directly from the corner with the last kick of the game against Oxford. No one there will forget that moment, nor will those listening on the radio who heard Simon Pitt’s fantastic commentary on the goal.

So I could continue to wax lyrical about Keano but I won’t as I have typed about 4,500 words and my fingers hurt. Suffice to say that I think his determination and drive and energy are exactly what this club always needs, and he never, ever lets us down.

Attainment: 9.5 Effort: Outstanding.

So I think that is the entire playing force for last season, I hope my comments have been fair – I’ve gone on what I’ve witnessed myself and the impressions the players made. It is a credit to Richard Money that so few of the players get a ‘substandard’ effort rating. Whilst in the past I got a distinct impression from some of the players that they really couldn’t be bothered ( for example I would love to have scored Goodall, Jackson, Pescisolido et al) that is not the case now. However we perform under Richard Money it isn’t for want of trying.

I’m off to bed now. Bon Anniversaire to Claude for today.

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Signings update

Good news this week:

Kevin Pilkington has signed as a second keeper.

New permanent club Captain George Pilkington has signed a two year contract.

Kevin Gallen has signed a one year extension.

We have signed the exCambridge duo of Danny Crow and Dan Gleeson .

Firstly to Pilks #2. He played for us on loan earlier this year when Mark Tyler’s back went and did the dirty on him. Played very well, and this is an excellent signing. The only downside is that I feel a bit sorry for MT. He has done nothing wrong all year and suddenly his place is up for grabs. Nothing wrong with healthy competition I hear you cry. But it still makes me feel a little for him. Ironically, in our second year of non-league we will have a better pair of keepers than when we were two divisons above and we had dumb and dumber in the shape of Ovengloves and Emberson. Isn’t life peculiar?

Secondly to Pilks #1. Great news that the rock at the heart of defence and club Captain has put his faith in us and signed for another two years. Just by having Pilks and Tyler/other Pilks at the back is probably saves us the equivalent of 10 goals a season.

Next: Kevin Gallen. Spurred on by being placed on the transfer list KG’s second half of the season was immesurably better than his first and so having his experience and touch in front of goal is a bonus.

On to the new signings. Dan Gleeson signed earlier in the week. He is a right back who has played most of his career at Cambridge, where he was born. He is 25 and has played for them 176 times. He’s played for the English non league side 7 times too. More healthy competition – this time for dear Ed A-A who was in and out of the side with injury last year, with his run in the side largely coinciding with our glorious run. Even if Ed starts as first choice – at least we will have decent cover for him.

Lastly Danny Crow. I remember him scoring against us twice in the 2-2 last year. Probably not Nico’s best mate – but how long is Nico going to be here? I recall him being pretty short, so he is not the vaunted target man that Money spoke about at the end of the season. It also means that once again we are spoilt for choice up front: Gallen, Craddock, Crow and M B-H. With more to come no doubt. Not forgetting O’Donnell who was signed from St Albans.

It is no coincidence that Gary Brabin – now assistant manager – used to manage Cambridge and knows these two well. I dare say, K Pilks not withstanding, we will continue the trend of buying players from the non-league (Brabin’s knowledge base) and not league players. That is fine as long as they can step up and are ambitious, which I am very sure the new boys are.

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More changes

As predicted by some Kevin Watson has been shown the door as first team coach. Many had expessed their doubts about him. Also he managed to turn the reserves from champions to chumps in the space of a season.

Not unsurprisingly the elephant in the room, Gary Brabin, has been made Assistant to Richard Money. Demoting poor Alan Nielson who has been given the grand title of “First Team Development Manager” which presumably is “Coach” rebadged. Alan seemed to be at his happiest a couple of seasons ago successfully coaching the youth team, so perhaps this is more of an opportunity for him in this direction. It would certainly be a good thing to keep him at the club in the long term, because, as I’ve said before I suspect he will make an excellent manager for someone one day.

Rumours abound about Rio Charles too, his facebook website thingy still says he’s a Luton player but apparently he’s not signed his new contract and is off. Only time will tell if this is the case. If he is off it will be a shame becasue I think he has a real eye for goal. I’d prefer to send him off on season-long loan somewhere so he can get some first team games and goals under his belt. However, perhaps with teenage goal machine Liam Toomey not too far off there would still be too many strikers on the books and Rio can read the writing on the wall.

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Revolving Door

Luton have released Asa Hall, Rossi Jarvis, Shane Gore and Steve Basham.

None of these are much of a surprise really. Though impressive on their days, and both contributors of vital and occasionally spectacular goals Hall and Jarvis didn’t have the bite in midfield that clearly Money prefers. They haven’t really featured since Luton’s fortunes have turned around and have become luxury players.

Steve Basham, whilst he looked promising with his two goals against Rochdale went on loan shortly after and hasn’t been back (or looked back) since.

I feel sorriest for Shane Gore – a nice lad, clearly popular with the players, he never really let us down. Again the writing was on the wall when Tyler was injured Money moved to replace him with a loan keeper Kevin Pilkington rather than use number two keeper. However good Tyler is, and as you know I think he is very good indeed, you want your number 2 to be genuinely competing for a place and to have full confidence in the replacement sitting on the bench.

Of the loan players, Nwokeji, Hatch, Nelthorpe and Caines have all returned to their clubs.

Nelthorpe showed flashes of brilliance, but with Jake in such good form, and presumably Porno back from his sick bed at sometime in 2011 trying to retain him was something we couldn’t afford.

Hatch – we could have kept him if we’d wanted him, but clearly he is not the man for Money. RM hinted that we need 1 or 2 new big men up front, but neither of them will be Hatchy – thanks for your services Liam. Those of us sitting in the Kenny End can breathe a sigh of relief and will sit safer in our seats next year.

Nwokeji – well I thought he would be a revelation, but clearly he was not fit enough to be the shock troop that we’d hope at the end of games. Probably right that he’s gone, because nice though it is to have a lightning fast front man, it means we would be more inclined to play on the break which doesn’t really appear to be the game plan.

Caines – never got to find out if he was able.

Many thanks to all 8 players for their efforts over the past year, and to Rossi Jarvis for his excellent crossfield ball at Wembley last April.

I presume that Nico will still be on the transfer list and Money will be trying to get shot of him ahead of the transfer window closing at the end of August. Not sure about Gallen – is he still on the waiting list? He was a man transformed in the latter part of the season.

Heslop – he is the key – I suspect RM will be doing his utmost to keep him. I really hope he does – retaining his and Keano’s services is probably the difference between pushing for top spot, and fighting for the play offs again.

Damn those play offs – it’s still hurting…

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Dejected, despondent.

On the day we were simply not good enough. We flunked it. Too much hustle-bustle and not enough elegance or thought. It’s like we forgot everything we had learnt since the start of March.

Great atmosphere at the start and a full home end, and nearly-full away end. Not since the hordes from Leeds came to town have so many Yorkshiremen graced us with their presence. The sound of clogs in Bury Park was deafening.

We started with pace but no purpose, playing at pace but with little pattern. Craddock was working hard and covered most of the pitch, but too often chose to dribble rather than to pass, or, heaven forbid, have a shot.

Whilst York were a well disciplined side and tidy at the back they were nothing special coming forwards but they didn’t need to be. They still managed to prevent us from getting much of a sniff. It was wholly frustrating. We could have played for a week and still not scored. Nothing would drop, nothing would come off. The little interchanges with players never quite clicked, we didn’t get the room to play the one-twos on the edge of the box and were forced to dribble around the edge of the penalty box trying to find and opening time and time again. It was one of those days. It was one of those seasons.

Our cause wasn’t helped by some poor refereeing, lousy timekeeping, plenty of time-wasting and a bit of ‘managing the game’ by York.

Season-wise I think we peaked too soon. I know our last three games have been against better quality sides, but we had already hit our peak this year, and we were on the down-slope. Scoring for fun a few weeks ago, but now struggling to shoot.

It happens to all sides, and all sports and all sportsmen for that matter. No one wins forever. The signs were there, when we lost Claude (in such blistering form)and then Ed, the solid team that was winning week in week out and scoring for fun had been disrupted. Once we had stumbled the first time (against Tamworth) the players realised that they were mortal and the wind was slowly squeezed from our sails. Since then, the six goals against Histon aside, we have played well without looking like we were going to score every time we get forward. When Claude returned he wasn’t was quite as dominant as he was before. From 35 goals in 8 games we have gone to 1 goal in 4. We just stumbled at the wrong time. Craddock, Gallen and Jake have all mislaid their shooting boots at the same time.

Today’s game was so vitally important, it would have meant another Wembley appearance with the chance of salvation through promotion. Key players such as Keane and Heslop could have been signed up and stronger ones attracted. Now we face another season battling the likes of Barrow, Hayes and Crawley safe in the knowledge that one or two of our players will be leaving, and one or two of the other better ones might fancy their chances back in the Football league. I’m sure Richard Money would have had his eye on a number of players already, but he might have to patch up the holes in the squad first before he can build and improve. If we do lose Keane and Heslop, they are two almighty holes to fill. Heslop has been a revelation at this club – rarely has a loan signing made such a difference so quickly and so dramatically (names like Rory Allen, Tony Godden and Steve Sutton spring to mind). He was the turning point, the catalyst from Luton being good to being outstanding. In the past few games all of the effort he has been putting in has started to show and he had lost a bit of edge. And no bloody wonder either.

Similarly with Keano. Engine room he may have been all season, but today though his tackling was still superb his delivery and vision had gone. Another symptom of playing in top-gear for most of the season. Not a criticism I hasten to add, just an observation. He needs a rest. A good rest. Chance to put his feet up and reboot over the summer. I just hope that he starts and ends next season as a Hatter. Don’t listen to your agent Keano – listen to your Luton heart.

After last season’s injury worries, this year George Pilkington has been a very-nearly ever-present rock in the heart of the defence (and occasionally at right back). He deservedly won 4 awards on Tuesday, and it was an almost inevitable and cruel twist of fate that meant that it was his ugly lunge which gave away the free kick which led to the goal which led to the writing being written on the wall with still half of the game to go. He has been captain fantastic since Nico got injured, and I would be gutted if we wasn’t a Hatter next year.

Mark Tyler parried the freekick which Carruthers pounced on and scored from. Tyler has been an outstanding keeper this year, in relative terms one of our best. His shot stopping has been superb. His willingness to pass the ball short and to distribute it quickly is a revelation – and his positional play and communication with the defence is excellent too. He even took a throw-in today. What more can the man do? Time and time again this year Tyler has kept us in games we had no right to be competing in.

Not much of a match report I know – and perhaps I’ll add to this tomorrow. I’m still feeling pretty gutted, and am still sober, so I’m going to do something about that shortly.

I also haven’t commented on the to-do at the end of the game which Three Counties radio seemed to be making a bit of a fuss over. I hate football violence of course, and frustrations and tempers were running high at the end. But from what I could see there was plenty of surges and lots of gesticulation and I even saw a few things thrown, but I think the police and stewards held firm and no actual blows took place. Just a lot of hand bags. I went on the pitch myself and had a wander around. I could see a lot of people taking pictures of each other and their kids and larking around with beach balls. I even saw a couple of oddballs searching the pitch for the hidden sprinkler system heads. Quite surreal really whilst all of the hoo hah was going on up at the other end. If you listened to some you’d think the world was actually ending. But 30 yards away from the ‘front line’ kids were skipping merrily around whilst their parents discussed the match with friends.

Anyway, like I say I might add to this tomorrow. In any case I’m going to do a seasons review and players review at some point in the next week or so and then have a rest for a few weeks. I will still be posting of course if some major revelation occurs or if someone leaves or someone joins.

I’d like to apologise to the little lad sat in front of me today. About 10 minutes into the game I cursed like a navvy at the ref and whilst I think the lad had heard the words before, and his granddad turned around and smiled when I apologised it still didn’t make me feel any better. I have a golden rule of not swearing if there are kids directly in earshot – as I don’t like it when adults swear in front of my kids.

Another season in the Blue Square Premiership next year. I’m gutted I really am. It’s never boring being a Hatter. Renewing my Diamond season ticket tomorrow morning.

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Yorked

Such a shame to lose our unbeaten record in such an important game. However, would you expect anything else? We always have to make it interesting. It has set up a cracking second leg on Monday. At 5:45 we will either have Wembley-bound joy or utter dejection.

Fair play to York, big crowd, passionate fans (lots of bog roll thrown, not sure what that means for the toilet hygene in North Yorkshire) , lots of noise (at the start at least), and they tried to play football. It was only because we closed them down so well that they resorted to going long, which ultimately cost us the goal.

Their formation was similar to ours – 4-4-2 with two battlers in the middle and two wingers. However they include two big lumps up front, including the league’s top scorer Brodie.

Our line up was: Tyler, Newton (in for Ed) Pilks, Blackett, Murray; Claude, Keano, Heslop and Howells; up top Craddock and Gallen.

We played really well, it was slightly worrying that we should make so many chances, play so well and yet come away goalless. I do hope that the goal-fest hasn’t dried up just at the wrong time.

The ref was determined to stamp his presence early on and booked Heslop for a bit of a lunge. I disagreed with the booking and it neutered Heslop from then on. We started brightly. Gnapka played the ball back nicely to Heslop who crossed it in beautifully for Craddock who only needed a touch and it would have gone in.

Next to try was Keano who really caught hold of a hospital ball from Craddock pulling out a good save from Ingham the keeper who palmed it wide of the post.

A quick clearance from Tyler was muffed by McCurk and Gallen intercepted playing a well weighted ball out left to Howells who dribbled the ball at pace into the box (oh when he is good he is very, very good) and crossed it, it didn’t quite reach Craddock, was played out and this time found Craddock who showed nice skill to bring the ball down, beat his man and shoot, but his shot was blocked by the sprawling McCurk.

Howells skipped down the left crossed it for Claude who stretched to get the ball, saved again by Ingham, Gallen was beaten to the rebound.

Keano took a corner for the right which was met by the full-length diving Blackett who didn’t quite get hold of it Gallen also dived and met it with his head/shoulder/arm and again it was palmed away for another corner by Ingham, who was earning his crust.

After some lovely fast paced passing (and boy do we look good when we do it – full marks to RM for getting us playing the Luton way again) Howells nipped in at pace and crossed it for Claude who turned and layed off a la Gallen (has he been watching him?) to Craddock whose snap shot flew over.

Onto the second half, bit more York- from a corner the ball was played back in from the right to Graham who out jumped Murray and nodded it onto the post before Newton cleared the ball.

Another cross from Smith on the right towards the lump Brodie who jumped with Claude but nodded it straight to Tyler.

Gallen fed the ball left inside to Murray who marched forwards and played it to Craddock in the inside right position, he turned and ran into the box crossed it, it evaded Gallen and dear Claude came crashing in only to have the ball taken off his toe at the last second.

After some good build up play by York Smith played in a long cross to the far post for Carruthers coming in at the far post to blast over whilst the defenders stood frozen staring at each other.

M B-H came on for the knackered Claude, who whilst showing some sparks, not unsurprisingly clearly isn’t at his best yet, having been out for so long.

York piled lots of pressure on towards the end and peppered us with corners. We had one chance where Barnes-Homer crossed it but Gallen coudn’t quite get onto it.

Then the goal came. Mackin was doing nothing in thier own half, wandering around in circles going nowhere, doing nothing other than playing himself into trouble. Probably wondering if the pubs had shut yet. Heslop wandered towards him, got no nearer than sniffing, and Mackin thought about it, wandered on a bit, then had a calamtous comedy fall. The ref blew up. Bizarrely.

Ingham took the free kick. Lumped it foward, it was nodded on (by whom?) and the ball dropped to Blackett who mistimed his header, the ball flew over his shoulder but it was too late as Brodie had run onto it and flicked it first time with his left foot past Tyler. 1-0 Bugger. Fate smacks us in the mouth again.

As I said at the start, being one down makes it harder work, but not impossible. I’m assuming they will stick the team behind the ball and play on the break for the second leg aiming to frustrate us. One goal is all we need to get and then they will have to try to come at us. They are a footballing team which plays into our hands. One defeat hasn’t transformed us into a poor team. It might have taken the wind out of our sails, but we are a strong side, by far the most talented in the division, and with a full Kenilworth Road roaring the lads on hopefully there is a chance for one of the Hatters to emulate Brko and Keano and take the roof off with a famous winner.

Come on you Hatters! – I can’t wait.

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