A Hell of a Week

A lack-lustre surrender at the hotbed that is Haig Avenue. Crawley move further out of reach. Richard Money clears his desk. The new boss, a former night-club bouncer, promptly ejects Owusu and Claude. Unremarkable Barrow grind out a goalless bore. Crawley move even further out of reach. We lose LT comrade Pearcey. Yes, it’s been one hell of a week.

But wait! The clocks have come forward and it’s spring. Lawless is coming back and MBH is itching to score at his old stamping ground. We’ll be smiling by Saturday night won’t we?

:-/

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More of the same, but early days…

Different manager, similar performance. I had hoped that the Luton players would, liberated from the shackles of their former tactical approach, suddenly burst into creative life. However we were more like baboons bred in captivity, taken to the Outback and let out of the cage for the first time. It’s as if we were blinking in the daylight, not knowing what to do with our new-found freedom. I am hoping that in the next few games we will start to run free again, unfettered by the recent past.

On the way back I thought we were a bit like the fledgling democracies in Tunisia and Egypt. The concept of freedom suddenly dawning on the people there and thinking “Shit, we’re in charge now, it’s down to us, what on earth do we do?”. Well at Luton suddenly the Wicked Witch is dead and the players were actually gradually realising that the future is in their hands, with the yoke removed from their shoulders. It is up to Brabin to show them how to use that freedom to make them enjoy playing attacking, creative football and scoring goals in non-league for fun. Brabin, has a blank canvas and an opportunity (albeit only over the next month and a bit) to allow the players to play his way with his methods.

But last night it was not to be. We came up against an in form Barrow team who knew how to close down and to pass along the floor. What Barrow lacked in ambition they more than made up for in energy and belief. You can tell that they were a side confident in their own company. Whereas on occasions we did look as if we had just met half an hour before kick off.

I’ll not do a match report as such, as other than a handful of chances there isn’t much to report. We came pretty close on a couple of occasions, and a bit of luck or a deflection would have given us the victory. It wasn’t to be. There were some spippets of great play and good touches – a couple of excellent overlaps from Murray and on one occasion he got to the byline and pulled the ball back after a lovely weighted ball inside from Howells. Not a typing error – a Luton player got to the byline.

The best bit about the game was at our first corner when, surprise beyond surprise, we actually left not one but two players up. Ironic mirth filled the stadium with relief. Those days are behind us. This tactic nearly bore fruit immediately. Crow and Wilmott were left up, but stayed wide apart and having made a quick save from the corner, Tyler whacked the ball down the middle of them and their markers allowing the strikers the opportunity to outpace their markers. On this occasion Crow was outpaced by Edwards (I think it was) who snuffed out the opportunity. What a good counter attack though – that’s when you are allowed to punt it upfield with impunity.

One man who I was surprised was missing from the starting line up, was Saturday’s super-sub Dan Walker (his namesake Jason couldn’t play against his old club). He was about the only breath of fresh air on Saturday and surely would warrant a starting place. Perhaps Brabin is going to give everyone a chance to show what they can do? Perhaps he was injured?

One player who did play was the pedestrian Carden who did manage a forward pass on a couple of occasions, but coupled with Keano in the heart of midfield means we had as much creativity as Darwin’s Origin of Species. Never has a returning player (Lawless) been more guaranteed of a place in the first team on Saturday. There was no spark in midfield. When Carden was clattered by Sheridan (I think) in the second half, it was the first time I’d heard a groan from the crowd when a Luton player got to his feet and resumed playing.

Claude came on after 70 minutes in what should have been a much more common role this season as a flair player to put tiring defenders to the sword for the last half an hour or so. For the first time in weeks he tackled back and indeed went back at one stage, but also got forward well and put in a couple of crosses – he looked a bit livelier and less shell-shocked.

My man of the match was Freddie Murray. But Pilks was given it by the sponsors, and he had a pretty solid game, despite a mix up with Tyler who passed him the ball when he was clearly having a little snooze. Fortunately – it came to nothing.

In the second half we played with much less width for some reason, Howells tucked in, as did Wilmott. Our build up was slow – by this I don’t mean we were knocking it around casually like Barcelona – just that our players are generally slow, laborious, and there isn’t really too much lightening pace, which is why Dan Walker looks so lively when he comes on.

So – I’ve run out of time, time to go back to work.

Scores on the doors –

Tyler – 7 – looked to roll it out a couple of times after realising that punting it towards MBH and Crow was not going to bear too much fruit. He also made a lovely save from a Curtis drive heading for the top corner.

Newton – 5.5 – played at right back. Didn’t set the game alight, and was a little slow to close down on occasion (was caught out of position too).

Pilks – 6.5 – soundish, a couple of passes went very astray.

Kroca – 6 – poorer game than usual, spent plenty of time up front, but managed to get penalised each time by the ref.

Murray – 8 – welcome back.

Wilmott – 6.5 – showed attacking intent in the first half but drifted out of the game in the second.

Keano – 6 – in dire need of a long rest poor bloke. Tried his heart out – also a lazy pass played in Curtis for that shot that Tyler made the good save to.

Carden – 4.5 – and that’s being kind.

Howells – 6.5 – sparkier in the first half – tucked in and less dangerous in the second.

MBH – 7 – worked hard with little result.

Crow – 7.5 – harried and parried, huffed and puffed and was knackered at the end, had a number of half chances which would have made all the difference.

Sub

Claude – 6.5 – hopefully on the upslope of the form curve now, having bottomed out recently.

Yesterday was pretty ropey – ‘something to build on’ as my teachers used to say if I was near the bottom of the class. Big improvement needed for Saturday, but a big test too: away to the buoyant Kidderminster. I’d be happy with a point there at this stage to be honest. Though if we play like we did yesterday Kidderminster will be kicking themselves if they don’t waltz to all three.

So, not too much to write home about. It’s early days in this accelerated honeymoon period that Brabin has. It’s a win – win for him surely though? Get us up and he’s a hero. Fail in the play offs and he can claim that he needs a whole season and that he hasn’t had long enough to turn the team around.

Over the next two games I’d like to see a spark, a suggestion that there is a chance that we can pick up some form, and that the liberated Hatters can stop licking their wounds and express themselves again.

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PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions

Here is PDW’s report on last night’s ‘match’:

A point in the bank with the Money withdrawn with a very low interest rate, not the best way to start yet another ” bright new era”. Still, on a positive note, our performance was like vintage Barcelona compared to the Southport shambles. Neither game was a barrow of laughs.

After an OK start with some more thoughtful approach play, we faded badly, it was soon back to the Raggy Arse Rovers routine. Rarely looking like troubling the jittery looking Masters in goal, almost a year to the day, he conceded a mere 8 (eight) at his last visit to Kenilworth Road for Hayes.

We are what we are: a team chronically lacking form and confidence. Same old story, lack of creavity in middle of the field. At least Lawless is back at Kidderminster, well I say that if Brabin can manage to drop his missus from the team. Easy target aside, where was Dan Walker tonight? Looked by far our best attacking threat on Saturday and not even in the sixteen. Appreciate most in professional football are utterly clueless, but bloody hell, going on Saturday’s oasis of delights, Walker should have been one of the first names inked in.

Had we gone Howells and Keane in the centre, with Walker and Willmott down the flanks it may have given us more thrust. May not have worked, but it’s a tad more attacking than two defensive midfielders(AGAIN) at home against a team in the bottom eight, with all due respect to the Cumbrians, who are in decent nick, Bath pulling the plug on them, breaking a four match winning run.

To be fair to Brabin, although far from convinced by him, given he that was the man brought in to identify future new players when Money came in, that hasn’t be a rousing success. He probably could have done without the game tonight ( him and me both). He will live or die on the play offs, given both his and our success at failure in them, the omens aren’t good. Not going to judge him on one game and maybe two training sessions. Need a lot of hard graft to turn us around, presently. Starting with attacking corners, all low flat to the near post would be a place to begin. With some difficult looking away games in the near future, it may well get worse before it gets better again.

Barrow were worth their point, put in a very determined defensive performance, and had they supplied their left winger Almond more service to run at Newton, could have nicked a win. Barrow looked to have improved significantly (or is it we have got far worse?) They are a barber’s nightmare, more slapheads in their team than in a Telly Savalas lookalike competition. The most famous baldy of the lot, Darren Sheridan, now a 856 year old veteran, good to see he he can moan as well as ever though he refereed the game quite well. Although his little legs can’t run. Can still pass the ball, relatively well. They defended well as a team, willing to put blocks in and bodies on the line. In particular Bolland and Spender have an unfortunate habit of always being in the right place at the right time.

The longer the game went on, the less we looked than scoring, with the exceptation of some pinball mayhem in their box. Once again, few out and out chances created in open play, yet another goalkeeper put under not much pressure. Despite having plenty of the ball, most of the passes were going sideways and backways, hardly hurting Barrow. Hoped they would have been a bit more of a reaction from the players.

There was more green on the green than mud, after the pre-match watering. Murray, Willmott and Crow all returned to the side in place of Graham, Gnakpa and Owusus. Murray , back at left back, Howells pushed one place ahead of him, Willmott straight swop for Gnakpa, ditto Crow for Owusu.

Start was OK, passes popped around well, Crow put himself about, and was involved in our best two moves. However was dead on his feet at the end, why Owusu wasn’t given the last ten minutes , just in a bid to put some balls in the box, was very strange indeed.

Most of our decent football was down the flanks, Howells tucked inside, with Murray giving us attacking threat than Howells at left back has done recently. Barrow it was whom had the first attempt on goal, ball played out to the left by Ferrell, Almond, fed Curtis, playing up front on his own, hit the ball low and Tyler made a comfortable stop.

Decent give and go between Barnes-Homer and Howells, saw the latter chase into the box, a potential mix up between Spender and Masters, was only averted by Spender probing the ball behind, with his keeper glued to the line.

Talking of corners, the biggest cheer of the night, was we left two men forward on defending a corner, Crow and Willmott. Some quick thinking by Tyler, saving a weak effort from Bollard, immediately belted the ball forward, Crow denied by a fine flying intereception by the speedy Edwards.

Crow controlled a high ball very well, but his second tried to loop the ball beyond Masters, but merely got under it and poked it wayward of the target. Considering he scored twenty odd goals for a mid table Cambridge last season, he has shown little of that goal scoring ability in a Luton shirt.

Crow with his back to goal, found Howells, lovely weighted ball towards the byline, Murray knocked it across, Crow losing his marker Bollard, stabbed the ball towards the near post, but Masters managed to deflect it wide.

In terms of any promise, that was just about it, Keane played an awful flicked pass to put Kroca in all sorts of trouble, Curtis managing to find Smith, the drive was destined for the top corner before Tyler got up well and tipped it over. Fine save to keep the game level.

Barrow look comfortable in possession, taking advantage over a lack of closing down, had they noticed the amount of times Ferrell run from midfield unopposed and gave him the ball, we could have been in trouble.

Attempts from Crow and Willmott threatened the scoreboard and Keith Keane’s guttering more than the goal. We were beginning to run out of ideas, slightly, although Crow winning a loose ball from Sheridan, playing his pass out to Willmott finding Barnes-Homer snatched his strike as Barrow defenders waded for the block.

Barnes-Homer chesting down the ball into Crow’s path, neat flick over, Willmott on the shoulder of the defence, raced through, Masters was fast as well off his libne and Willmott was cramped for room asnd his shot hit Masters and bounced away.

Barrow, in the first half anyway, were more positive than I expected, and again looked dangerous as Almond got the better of Newton bfefore shooting/crossing which rolled past the goal.

Second half, we didn’t really get going. Would have preferred if Brabin had used his subs quicker than he did, even then it was only one.Considering three of our subs were attacking options, it was slightly negative of the manager not to react when you saw how the second half was developing. Barrow were happy to sit back, soak up pressure and counter attack with pace when needed. It was very frustating, as we didn’t use the ball well enough, not using the flanks as much as in the previous half and our build up was fairly slow and predictable. With little movement, we made it easy for Barrow than it should have been for them.

Crow and Barnes-Homer linking up again well, MBH’s attempted return pass for Crow, was intercepted by Howells, who ended up knocking the bll away from Crow. Pearson shoved Crow to the deck. Keane’s free kick, was headed across gaol by Kroca, Pilkington neatly finished with his head past Masters, but the flag was up for pushing.

Willmott on the end on a cruching tackle by Edwards, following through on him( not very hygenic), and was correctly cautionly. Willmott was full of running, but didn’t get enough service. He definately offers some hope. But with the left back on a caution, admittedly he was fast, no one bar one Gnakpa attempted run at him to bring about the second caution. Fine wing play by Murray, losing Rutherford well before dispatching the centre, Crow only only prod his header at Masters. . Murray and Howells got in each other’s way from keane’s free kick, the ball dropped to Crow but was unable to turn it in.

At the other end, almost a terrible misunderstandingbetween Tyler and PIlkington cost us dearly, Tyler rolled a short goal kick to Pilkington not looking, Rutherford picked up the loose ball, luckily his pass was to an offside positioned Curtis, who to Tyler’s credit blocked a fierce shot, not aware of the raised flag.

More huff and puff towards Barrow’s goal. Keane’s pass out to the right, found MBH, decent ball in, Howells outstretched leg hardly making any connection to cause Barrow problems. Apart from the chance created to them by Tyler and Pilkington, Barrow ‘s nearest moment came after a rash, late tackle by Murray on Spender, Ferrell’s deep free kick drifted, but no one moved.

The first much neede change came with Gnakpa on for Carden. Whose main attribute seems to be shadowing opposition players. Howells went central, Willmott swopped wings and Claude entered stage right( wing). Kroca up like a tin of John West, couldn’t keep his header down after Howells’ short corner from the right found Willmott.

Keane was starting to get the better of the midfield, beating Sherdian to the ball, finding Willmott, Masters smartly off his line, lumbered into him, the ball dropped for Crow, the angle wasn’t the best, nor was the finish, chest trap and sending the ball in the crowd. Gnakpa had one of his trademark, elephant charges, past Edwards, low and hard towards the afce of the goal, a semi block by Pearson, but again it was a white and blue shirt following up to hack clear rather than an orange one.

Time was ticking away, our passing was going astray, scuffy chances were the name of the game, Keane’s ball into the box ( everyone piling in at the back post….is that the most creative we can be from free kicks) Masters made a right old hash of it, dropped for MBH , almost slipping but managing to find the target ( something that some be celebrated given the past two games), but Spender on the line cleared away.

Another free kick belted into the box, Pilkington won it, MBH took possession but his shot cannoned off Edwards. On the break, we were short on defensive cover, as Curtis found Smith, but his attempted curler was well over and never troubling Tyler.

As the match reached it’s not so thrilling conclusion, a couple of things did sum up our play , a huge , horrible slice by Kroca which would reached Caddington but for the Mian Stand. His distribution in the opening stages was fine, even coming out of defence with it a couple of times, but went to pot and in the final seconds of injury time, Murray taking an age to dry the ball with a towel, before lobbing it gently on the name of the first defender.

Mark Tyler 7, Adam Newton 5.5 , Zdenek Kroca 6, George Pilkington 6.5, Freddie Murray 7.5 , Robbie Willmott 6.5 , Keith Keane 6.5 , Paul Carden 4, Jake Howells 5.5, Danny Crow 6.5, Mathew Barnes-Homer 6.5 .

Subs not used – Luke Graham, Amari Morgan-Smith, Kevin Pilkington and Lloyd Owusu. Booked – Murray

Barrow – Masters, Spender, Pearson, Bollard, Edwards, Rutherford, Smith, Sheridan, Ferrell,Almond( Nicholas), Curtis. Booked – Edwards, Sheridan, Almond.

*THE DISCLAIMER* The above ratings were picked on a whim and very rarely are an accurate reflection on the player’s performances simply to annoy the reader. Today’s fatous comments about happy as larry Ricky Ponting’s resigning from the Australian captaincy. In his honour, Im going to say ” Yeah look” before sniffing loudly without the aid of a handkerchief, repeatly for a minute whilst chewing gum without closing my mouth, like someone dragged up from the gutter in honour of the ( Gary) Pratt.

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Another one bites the dust

Farewell then Richard Money – my pick for the job when Mick went, but who didn’t lead us to the glory we needed. The performance on Saturday was dire and things had to happen. Fair play to RM that
he didn’t stick it out to the bitter end.

I’ll miss his press conferences – I’ll miss his complete re-interpretation of events I had witnessed with my own eyes. I’ll miss his incessant tinkering and his predilection for buying countless strikers and wingers. I’ll miss everyone having to come back for corners without leaving anyone up.

I won’t miss the dross we’ve been playing recently. He had – to use the common parlance – ‘lost the changing room’. The players weren’t playing for him or for anyone really.

They need a kick up the backside from an angry Scouser – fortunately, we have one waiting in the wings.

What I’d like to see:

Hatters play football: fast, high tempo passing football, closing the opposition down in their own half.

Some goals
A settled team
A settled formation
Some creativity in midfield
Some decent wing play and crosses
A genuine poacher in front of goal
Youngsters blooded instead of going into the market place.

But most of all promotion.

Money’s record was: P83 W45 D21 L17 – too many losses and not enough wins – even though that ratio is very high in the scheme of things. But let’s remember he inherited a team that was evicted from the league – not because we weren’t good enough but because of the arbitary and unfair points deduction by the FL and FA. We should have murdered this league, and perhaps now we will.

One final point, will they have changed the programme notes in time for tomorrow’s game?

I wish Richard Money well. As I said before he is complex, sometimes frustrating, sometimes confusing, slightly antagonistic man, but a man who I think is honest and likeable and passionate. Whatever he did on the field, at least he was man-enough to fall on his sword off it.

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PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions

Here is PDW’s excellent take on yesterday’s less than excellent performance…

Horse manure. It’s available for a bargainlicous 50p just outside Ormskirk and it’s also an accurate summary of the mighty Hatters performance at Southport. A feeble, pathetic shambles. Out played and out battled by the hosts who wanted it more. Talk about going through the motions. Whether tiredness set in or what, I don’t know, it was lacklustre in the extreme. Absolutely abysmal.

Three shots on target tells it’s own story ( MBH’s goal. Cracking strike it was too, McMillian parried out AMS drive, which Crow could only tap back to him when he was on the ground), tells it’s own dismal story. Harold Macmillan could have been in goal today and it wouldn’t have made a difference. The only positive was apart from the game had little riding on it from our point of view. It helps our play off chances if we finish fourth or fifth to have the first leg at home. However we will need to improve an awful lot on what we had shown in the past two months to win them. Possible of course, but wouldn’t lump on.

Trouble is since Drury left (good job we weren’t a one man team. Oh.), we have stumbled around like a drunk in Hampton Court Maze, aimlessly drifting but going nowhere quickly, despite the results being adequate. You can get so far playing badly. That performance and result has been coming, however whilst the management and the board come up with PR rubbish in the media about catching Crawley, they must have a nice view with their heads up their bottoms. Can’t say Im overly chuffed about Cauley Woodrow going to Fulham. Excellent fee blah blah, waste of time developing players if they are going to be flogged before they have even made an impact in the first team. It’s setting for mediocrity. Bollocks to that. Apart from going nowhere fast, where exactly is the club heading?

The writing was on the wall when the starting line up was announced. After a reasonable performance at Rushden, to reshuffle the team just to accommodate a player wildly out of form, is clearly nonsense.

Graham came back at right back, with Newton moving to the left wing (all that does is narrow our play and have a defender out of position. Doesn’t Money ever learn from previous mistakes?)
Also Crow unlucky to be omitted in favour of Owusu, who has scored a lot of goals since he arrived, but personally don’t think he should be an automatic pick in every game.

Fair play to Southport, the better team by far. Got around the pitch better, won most of the second balls and were generally sharper and brighter in all areas. It’s galling to get turned over by a side filled with players from the North West Gal├ícticos of Skemersdale and Burscough. One thing they did well was go for it and unlike most teams when they play us. It’s lucky that teams are scared of us and don’t attack. In Kissock and Moogan, they had by far the best two players on the pitch. We couldn’t cope with Kissock playing in the hole, nice head band dear, full of back heels and flicks. Considering he was supposed to have broken his leg, then severe bruising on Wednesday to playing on Saturday, was it maybe a paper cut? Or likely the medicial people in this country are very pleasant but utterly hopeless. Still Blackett will be available next week, won’t he?

We defended the goal in front of the away terrace, pre-match the lap of honour of the impressive Outlaws flag (it’s big, but never seen the point in flags really or scarfs in the car windows when travelling on the motorway. Smacks of desparate insecurity to me. Being so happy that keeps me going). Southport are quite a big side,who always looked to find the head of the human lighthouse in McNeil ( height wise about as tall as Kroca), although they looked a better side when Moogan got on the ball and passed it wide.

We struggled to cope with them. After an aerial collision between Graham and Ledsham, which Graham needed lengthy treatment for a bang on the nose, came back with the old crowd favourite of looking like someone had shoved a Tampon up his hooter. A free kick from the left by Kissock, Owusu won the header but wasn’t cleared, Kissock receiving the ball but took one touch too many and wasted his shot.

Southport dominated, we strung three passes in their half. They did close us down quickly, but played too narrow. Claude and Newton on opposite flanks isn’t the answer. Would prefer AMS and Willmott on the flanks, if they aren’t available, give a O’Donnell a trundle down the left when he is back from St Albans. Or Howells when Frederick stops malingering. Southport’s two centre halves were big units, Davis in particular built like a brick outside toilet, and his centre half partner Marsh-Evans was no shrinking violet. Owusu was fouled often by Marsh-Evans but one only got a decision. There was no flow to our play, no movement, very stale and stagnate. We never got started.

Despite them being on top, they didn’t create that many good chances, always dangerous at set pieces (varying them as well. How novel), a few Tyler flapped at under his own bar. Their best chance came after Kissock, played an inch perfect pass to Ledsham taking advantage of our square non moving backline, should have done better than to drag a shot which hit the outside of the far post.

A good run by Whalley to the right sent in a deep cross to Ledsham, which Kroca hoofed away. Up to this point, a a body swerve by Claude to beat McGinn, rolled the ball to Owusu, with Davis patrolling the area, Owusu took a shot which cannonned off Davis and back off him for a goal kick.

It showe you how badly we were playing that Money, usually so stubborn and inflexible, changed it tactically after half an hour. Crow on for Graham. Shuffle houses. Newton right back, MBH out to the left, Crow on just behind Owusu. However that failed to change the obvious, Keane and Carden were being outnumbered and out manvoured in midfield.

One player who was excellent was Pilkington who put in numerous tackles, blocks to contain the Merseysiders. Brilliantly timed tackle on the lively Whalley after Turner’s clip down the left channel. A real ‘AVE IT clearance by Lee went skywards and backwards, causing brief panic in the Southport rear guard, unfortunately Marsh-Evans kept his composure nodding back to his keeper McMillan.

Crow’s introduction brought a brief, vague improvement. Well, we had a shot, Newton’s long throw finally for MBH to strike cleanly but Moogan blocked it. AMS replaced Gnakpa, possibly the slowest walk of in the history of the game. The regular selection of Claude in the last six weeks is scandalous and gross incompetence by Money.

Southport ended the half as they started it on top, pressing us Kissock running at Howells and only managing to loop the ball at Tyler.

At least we got to half time 0-0, however pathetic the performance. We managed to get worse. Weird formation, three up top AMS, Owusu and MBH, with Crow behind. So apart from being wide open down the flanks, it was still four versus two ( correction with Carden make that one and a half), so the midfield two could serve the front men.

Southport continued to take the game to us, Whalley whipping in a cross from the left which Ledsham couldn’t get on the end of. A raking pass from McGinn found Turner, who in turn gave Kissock a run which saw his bandy legged run finish with a strike which hit the side netting of the near post, Pilkington on the cover to make the angle a tricky one.

A cynical body check by Carden on Whalley, which the referee very lenient chatted him up but didn’t take his name, a free kick by Kissock floated in, good movement by Marsh-Evans, but his effort wayward.

Another Southport corner, Davis climbed above Keane, but Ledsham got his header all wrong and the ball sailed tamely over. A big boot by McMillan (who could have easily sloped off home and not been missed), found the head of McNeil, Whalley hooked over.

Our final chance saw Dan Walker on for Owusu, who could do with a game or two off. At least walker run at the their defence and on sixty eight minutes forced McMillan into action, a cross fired fire in which was neatly handled by the keeper.

It looked like Southport were running out of ideas in open play, Kroca made a mess of a corner, but Pilkington bailed him out of trouble clearing before Marsh-Evans could pounce. Excellent punch clear from Tyler, Howells inadvertently flicked on and Tyler reacted before the man mountain Davis.

Against the run of play (under statement of all time), we took the lead with a well crafted and finished goal. Walker running at McGinn on the right side, pass into AMS sent up MBH on the edge of the area, to drive sweetly past McMillan into the corner of the net. Excellent clean strike.

Turner’s hit lacked power to trouble Tyler, after a nice combination between him and Kissock. A long hoof downfield, saw AMS get into the box, and get bundled over by Davis, however the referee played on. A couple of Southport subs helped turn the tide. Barratt on the left had far too much pace fo Newton and Gray upfront, continued to control the ball and fire it into Barratt’s path.

Whalley was allowed an all too easy path into the area by AMS, his cross splendidly positioned into between Tyler and our defence for Moogan to head in unchallanged in front of the goal.

We went down the other end and should have retaken the lead. Some good composure, movement and passing between MBH and AMS, the latter’s hit his strike hard and low, which McMllan blocked but only to Crow but with the goal at his mercy could only hit the ball at McMillan. Crucial miss.

As Barratt was felled for a soft free kick, ten yards in from the left wing, about 35 yards from goal, good flighted free kick to the far post, Lee got around the back and nodded in beyond Tyler. Two free headers in the box, sums it up really.

Justice done on the balance of play. If we had got anything from that game, it would have merely papered all the yawning cracks. Ten games to sort it out.

Mark Tyler 6.5, Luke Graham 5.5 , Zdenek Kroca 7, George Pilkington 8, Jake Howells 6, Claude Gnakpa 4, Keith Keane 5.5 , Paul Carden 5, Adam Newton 5.5, Lloyd Owusu 4.5 ( Dan Walker 7) Matthew Barnes-Homer 7

Subs not used – Godfrey Poku, Kevin Pilkington. Booked – Crow

Southport – McMillan, Lee, Davis, Marsh-Evans, McGinn, Turner, Moogan, Ledsham ( Barratt), Kissock ( Gray), Whalley, McNeil

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PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions

Sorry these are late – been stuck in bloody Leeds. My thanks to PDW – as ever:

Bearing in mind the efforts which could have easily taken their toil from Saturday, a very good start to our dozen in season friendlies. Showing good character to record a victory against a side on a decent unbeaten run. This ” Team Luton ” moniker can bally well do one though – is somewhat trying. Not the greatest footballing performance, but that has been the case with the vast majority of our away matches this season. With no pressure now until the beginning of May, Im fairly demob happy. Would be better just to cut to the chase and get on with the play offs.

Not the most sparkling display against the Diamonds, but at least their had the joker in the pack, Huke having a horrendous game and socialably assisted the winning goal , rather than intercepting Pilkington’s long ball forward deciding to pass the ball to Willmott, whose lively performance desrved a goal, instead of his goalkeeper, Willmott finished well, despite the best efforts of Jamie Day between the sticks.

Second half we rode our luck slightly, plenty of the pinball in our box but defended well against an aerial assault by the team managed by a pinch faced commoner with a dubious taste in knitwear. We rarely controlled the ball in the second half, rarely got out apart from Willmott’s pace, had a couple of opportunities to kill the game. However, once again on our travels had to rely on our increasing stoic defence. Only at set pieces, not to mention Johnson’s huge throw ins, were we troubled. Tyler making a wonderful reflex save to deny Gash (his name still makes me laugh) to preserve our clean sheet, after Mills powerful drive had been seized upon by the York loanee.

With Pilkington making a quick recovery from the hole in this foot( what a brave little soldier) resuming his place. There were a number of changes from Mansfield’s World Cup Final victory on Saturday. What’s that phrase modest in victory , humble in defeat. Still you can’t buy class, but you can buy elocution lessons. Something EVERYONE in the East Midlands should take note of. Tyler back in goal. Newton at right back for Graham. He looked comfortable enough and if he has to play better there than anywhere. Willmott and Carden replacing the suspended duo Gnakpa and Lawless, with Crow in for Nando’s favourite client Owusu. Crow played slightly deeper off Barnes-Homer. It’s not a bad idea, but relies on giving him the ball, which as the match progressed was less and less.

But considering we down to skeletons the team wasn’t as weak as could have been. Although two defensive midfielders are never particularly edifying viewing, two natural wingers counteract that, would have been nice to use the width more on a pitch which looked in excellent nick.

Without Owusu or Gnakpa, it was nice to not to get neck ache, watching the ball pumped up. Our ball retention was better and at times knocked it around reasonably. More width would have been nice. Although, as outstanding as Pilkington was at the back, sometimes a simple rolled ball into midfield would suffice rather than looking for the Glenn Hoddle style fifty yard chip.

Keane had another decent game, breaking up the play and covering the ground (liked the quote in the Luton today website), where he stated he felt like a 48 year old, he looks like a 68 year old) and Carden was at least better than he was at Cambridge and even had a shot (which started wide and went wider), but considering Rushden had man extra in the middle, they both coped OK.

Rushden boldly electing to play one up top, Gash. His ability to back into defenders illegally without being penalised was poetry in motion. But a negative formation for a side who have to go on an unlikely winning streak to have any chance of nicking a play off spot. Five in midfield, which included Ryan Charles. Poor bugger, playing for another manager who sees him as a wide player. The long you watch football you realise the vast majority in the game are idiots who haven’t got the slightest idea what is going off out there. Apart from one good run doing Newton for pace before a low centre which Pilkington played a lucky ( or clever)pass off Gash for a goal kick, seriously it could have ended up anywhere. Charles didn’t really got involved in the game. Hope his luck turns around and manages to fulfil his early promise at Luton.

Rushden were competitive, solid and generally nothing special. Their best player was Oshodi at centre half, who looks rather too good considering his parent club is Watford. The start of the game was even and fairly undistinguished. Few chances were created.

Not a great deal occured before Willmott’s winner. A strike taken early by Porter, comfortably saved by Tyler. Newton getting the better of Mills, sliding the ball to Crow, who could only help the ball into the arms of Day in goal. Corcoran’s header was a tad weak after Huke’s cross.

Our goal was courtsey of a terrible error, Pilkington’s raking pass looked to be going nowhere, as Huke appeared on the scene, to tidy up and make an easy back pass. Instead he had a right old hash of it, Willmott gleefully took advantage breaking clear and having enough on the shot and into the far corner.

We should have pressed our advantage home, but as often the case, we shuffle back and play for the 1-0. With MBH being well marked by Oshodi, most of best play came through Willmott and Crow linking up. We rarely attacked down our left, as AMS had a quiet evening, but if he hasn’t got the ball, what can he do?

In the first half, we looked the better side in possession, there was a certain amount of hope and hit about Rushden’s play, looking like a side lacking confidence. A powerful burst forward by Power, tried to play Gash in, but for a vital touch by Keane. Tyler kept out Power’s optimistic free kick from thirty yards if not further out. Pilkington cleared Huke’s long straight free kick across goal, Johnson hit his volley sweet enough, but sailed across harmlessly across goal. Crow did superbly on the far post to keep out Jamie Day’s vicious inswinging corner from the left.

The Northamptonshire side continued to press, but we held out with a degree of ease, after Corcaran’s free kick hit Carden and went behind. Mills drove over with a dipping strike from Power’s corner.

Charles had an opportunity to get a shot in but was let down by a poor first touch.Kroca felled Jamie day just outside the box, decent delivery, Kroca headed behind, at one stage he appeared as if he got his angles wrong and was heading into the net.

The second half, whilst defending very well again, dropped too deep and simply couldn’t hold the ball up. Which unless this is altered could well cost us. As you can’t defend well forever. It was an open game, which got very stretched even in the early stages and we couldn’t take the opportunities to kill the game rather like at Newport last month. Rushden started the second half quicker and got stuck in by fair means or foul. An awful two footed scissors kick by Jamie Day took out Keane, followed by a late tackle on Willmott by Huke. Both cautioned, but though day’s attempt was worthy or a red card.

However once again, Rushden’s best moments came from set pieces, they forced an awful lot of corners. They would bang it into our box, Pilkington and Kroca dealt with most very well. Corcoran was the first to have a crack at goal, Jamie Day floated the ball up to him, some neat skill to get the better of Howells but as with most of their shots Tyler barely had to move, down to his excellent positioning. Then a needless foul given away by Willmott on Power, Huke thumped the ball into the box, only for Gash unbalanced to flick his header off target.

The pressure continued a miskick by Jamie Day was sent into the box, Pilkington being fouled by Gash (not given, naturally), Kroca had to hoick behind. Morgan-Smith was brought off to be replaced by Jason Walker . His pace and tigerish attitude at least gave us a much needed out ball. But when opportunities came his way in the box, he is lacking confidence. Got to say in the times Ive seen Walker play for Barrow against us, never thought sign him up, he’s the bloke to score us the goals to win promotion, in a way which Tubbs would have done.

His first contribution was to chase down Keane’s throughball, wonderfully missed by Huke, Oshodi closed down the angle and the ball dribbled through to Joe Day, he dithered with his kick out , Willmott managed to get the ball, looping high into the nightsky and his namesake jumped higher than Willmott to head the ball over his own crossbar.

For a spell, we did get back to passing the ball on the deck, Newton’s square ball, gave Howells the opportunity to play a neat one two with Walker before smashing a left footed low into Huke and the ball dribbled back to the keeper.

Tyler proved his worth again, a fantastic flying save to his right, to deny Gash whom got decent contact from Mills’ strike after a corner have been half cleared. Poku appeared for Crow, strange one that as he played in the same position as Crow. Now, as much I admire his work, he is as comfortable there as a a goldfish on the moon. Quite why he couldn’t have played fifteen yards deeper and just matched up Rushden’s formation will remain a mystery.

Another decent save from Tyler, Jamie day’s free kick, flicked goalward by Corcoran, Tyler slightly off his line, readjusted his feet to tip it over.

Willmott’s pass into Walker held the ball up and found Willmott continuing his run down the right, a cross which come down with snow on it, found MBH, simple lay off which Howells belted not that far over. Walker then ran directly into their box, an obvious trip by Oshodi, ” play on ” waved the ref. Erm….hang on, it was penalty or if Walker dived (which I don’t think he did), that’s a booking then.

We had seen out the danger and the last chance was created by Charles on their right, getting the better of Howls to deliver onto Gash’s nut, which Tyler , as he had all night dealt with well.

So onto Southport, scene of many a famous sporting venue. The Royal Birkdale Golf Club, the beach where Red Rum was trained on from time to time. Not to forget the club where poor old Steven Gerrard’s clenched fish was headbutted by a DJ.

Mark Tyler 9, Adam Newton 7, Zdenek Kroca 7.5, George Pilkington 8.5, Jake Howells 7, Robbie Willmott 8, Keith Keane 7, Paul Carden 6, Amari Morgan-Smith 5 ( Jason walker 6) Danny Crow 6 ( Godfrey Poku) Matthew Barnes-Homer 6.5

Subs not used – Luke Graham, Dan Walker, Kevin Pilkington. Booked – Poku

Rushden & Diamonds – Joe Day, Corcoran, Huke, Oshodi, Jamie Day, Johnson( Sharif), Mills, Porter, Power, Charles, Gash.Booked – Jamie Day, Huke, Mills.

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