I’m a Luton Fan, get me out of here. (alternatively: Strictly come Prancing)

With two chances in the first minute and four in the first four minutes – you’d be right in thinking – “how many?” Alas shortly afterwards Telford woke up a bit and started to close us down more. They still permitted us plenty of chances and half chances in the first half, one of which Robbie Willmott was good enough to take after a lovely turn by The Shadow.

Some points to make here. First of all – the Shadow has now been instrumental in our last three goals, so much for him not being able to cross. He is on fire at the moment (not in a Poku sense), and deserves some respect, not least from me.

However, let’s look at the recent scores. The drubbing of Hendon aside, we’ve scored either 1 or 0 goals in our last seven games. Not good enough. So for all of the chances we created today, it was amazing that we only scored one goal, yet again.

Another thing to ponder – it’s an old adage at Luton that you need to be at least two goals up as we will invariably ship one. Today was no different, and for all of the chances we made, and for all of the bright football we put together, we were never going to get a second.

Another common theme – what on earth does he say to them at half time? If we haven’t got enough goals to win the game in the first 45 it strikes me that we are stuffed, because for some reason – and I can’t think what it might be, Brabin’s half time team talks seem to demotivate the team. They switch off and to a degree stop playing, giving the opposition a sniff and allowing them back in. I’m struggling to think what words you could say to disempower (yes, it is a word) the players so many times in a season. Is it the non-rousing half time speeches – or perhaps the tactics. Does he say “keep going as you are lads – the opposition are bound not to change anything.” Is it naivety? Is it a lack of experience or a lack of football nous?

Whilst I’m having a go – I’ll keep on…what has Adam Bloody Watkins got to do to get a start? Lawless was like a puff of air today – shirking tackles and missing passes. Just what we need in the middle.

Another thing – if you have two shortish strikers up front towered over by centre halves who are paid to nod the ball away all day – get the ball down lads.

I thought Brunt looked good, a real prospect. It is what our rivals down the M1 do very well and what we do very badly: they tend to get good young prospects from better clubs to play for them for a season – the thinking is that it is better to have a young player who is going on to be very good, than an average player playing at the top of his game. We need players at this club who are going to ply their trade at the top end of the leagues, not non-league specialists who are going to be out of their depth a division above. This is the fundamental error in our club. Goalkeeping and experienced players aside. Just not enough class.

Therefore – I am thinking that perhaps Brunt should start. I am thinking that perhaps Kissock, Watkins should start – or be there or thereabouts. I am thinking that Howells and Keane and perhaps Amari (when he’s fit) should start. The rest of them we’ve got to think ‘is this a player who will grow as Luton Town grow and progress through the leagues – or is this guy going to be out of his depth in the divison(s) above?’ We’ve got to be honest. Crawley were – The Shadow was let go presumably, for this reason.

But of our squad – and let’s be honest here – which would you be confident that we would want to hang onto if we got promoted? Gleeson? Beckwith? Big Hips? Fleetwood even? Lawless? Blackett? Osano?

So what I am saying is that I would rather we have a squad with a combination of experienced decent pro’s and youngsters who are on their way up, whose coattails we can piggy back on for a couple of years, than a squad full of make-weights and journeymen.

We were good at that under Kinnear and Newell – how many of their squads went onto much better things with us as a staging post, getting the benefit of them as they improve and grow on their inexorable rise for a couple of years? I can name Curtis Davies, Kevin Foley, Carlos Edwards, Dave Edwards (I know he wasn’t Newell or Kinnear) Matt Taylor, Emmerson Boyce, John Hartson etc etc. We want a squad of players who we are afraid might be poached, not a squad of players who we have poached from non-league. And this is where our problem lays. Too many players who are going nowhere. They are relying on our reputation to get them up, rather than us employing them to get us up. Let’s be brutally honest. Would you rather have the benefit of a Craddock for a couple of seasons or a Barnes-Homer for life?

So therein lies the problem. If our youngsters are good enough they should be in. Otherwise why have them at the club? Would Dan Walker be banging them in for us in League One? If Chris Tavernier is on the books, give him some games. If there is a spark there, it will be obvious. If he looks out of place or needs experience, give him some games elsewhere. My argument is that if he can’t get into the squad when we are as low as we are ever going to go – then what hope might he have in the event we do get promoted? If you can’t get some games for us in non-league then you are not going to magically improve, just because the club has gone up a division or two.

If our management is good enough we’d be recruiting more Brunts and Kissocks and fewer quite-good-on-their-day-but-not-quite-consistent-enough Lawless-es, Beckwiths, Gleesons, Crows, and to be honest, Willmotts, O’Connors and Fleetwoods. I’m not saying that that I dislike Big Hips, Osano or O’Connor etc, I’m just saying that we have recruited from non-league for non-league.

Surely the three questions that should be asked before signing a player are:

“do we expect this player to be good enough to be still playing for us two divisions above?”

“Do I think this player will spend the majority of his career two or more divisions above? Are we lucky to have him until he moves on?”

Or finally “Will this experienced pro add quality to the squad and balance to all of the youngsters?”

If the answer to one or more of these points are a brutally honest ‘yes’ then they should be signed – if not then keep looking.

Some of you might argue – where’s the money to recruit this type of player Dave? Well youngsters tend to be cheap – it is the experienced pros who are the problem. But how much does our enormous squad cost anyway? Surely a squad of 20 players could cost the same as a squad of 30 or more. I’m not sure we have to recruit all and sundry in the ultimate quest to find the right balance at the club. Well it’s not an ultimate quest, it’s a bloody scatter gun approach of a manager who knows only non-league and can use the lure of our history and 6k crowds to get players to the club, occasionally turning up a gem. To badly paraphrase Mike Atherton in his autobiography “What do they know of football, they that only non-league know?”. Other managers have to work harder, try harder, to get decent players to their clubs.

Two years ago I was saying on these pages – get the youngsters in – and readers would argue, no David we need a team to get out of this Godforsaken league and then we can worry about the youngsters again. I fundamentally disagreed then and still do now. Where has that policy got us? 1-1 at home to bloody Telford. It was a flawed policy then and still is now.

When we picked up Aaron O’Connor in the summer (and Aaron has been the most improved player during this season, so hats off to him) the questions GB should have asked himself is not “can he do a job for us next season?” but

1) “Is Aaron so good that he is capable of playing at least in League One?” or

2) “Am I scared that he might be off in six months because he is so good”.

The answer to the “can he do a job for us” question was undoubtedly yes – but if the answer wasn’t yes to at least one of the others should he have been recruited? I’m saying not.

A poor manager won’t be able to look into the future and spot the potential of the player, and so won’t ask himself questions 1 or 2.

An average manager will be pretty good at spotting the potential, will usually ask the questions and will get it right much of the time.

A great manager will ask the questions, spot the talent a mile off and snaffle the player.

So, as well as being a good tactician, a decent manager must be able to recruit the ones with potential, not just the ones who can ‘do a job in non-league’.

Right – it is 1am now, and I think I have ranted for long enough. Sorry if I’ve gone on a bit and sorry if you were looking for a match report – that seems to have gone by the wayside.

Perhaps I care too much? Perhaps I want too much for my club to be able to lift itself out of this league by being so obviously better than the others that we walk it. I know that there is a manager out there who is capable of finding the right balance between excellent youngsters (on our books or elsewhere) and good experienced players. Unfortunately I am increasingly led to think that our manager – pleasant and keen enough though he is – is not that man and perhaps, just perhaps, is a little out of his depth.

Rant over – apologies if I have offended anyone, least of all the players I have described as journeymen. Hopefully you appreciate the point I am trying to make. And if not, and if you think I am wrong, please say so.

Come on you Hatters.

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Oh Lord

I’ve just seen the opposition for the FA Trophy draw. Swindon Supermarine. Going onto their website I was intrigued to learn that one of their keepers was signed as a midfielder and has just converted and the other looks like James Corden’s younger brother. Should be an interesting game…

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PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions (Newport AWAY)

In a match which was to the beautiful game what Fatima Whitbread is to beauty. We stumbled to a narrow victory in a Valleys. Monotonous is the probably the best word to describe the entertainment value, but we have got to the stage of the season where results are more important than performances. However when we play the better teams again, we need to use the ball with far more quality than today. Hoof and hope for the first hour. Start of a glorious much needed winning run ( with the ease of the fixture list it’s very possible) or merely papering over the cracks. The choice is yours.How Newport floored Fleetwood Town with ease in their own back yard is somewhat of a mystery on this evidence.

Start with the positives, with more draws than Ann Summers today in the League, we have gained ground on all bar Southpoku. We defended grittily with Newport having the better of the opening half, Pilkington of the Kevin variety was forced into few difficult saves, although given the weather conditions his handling was first class ( only grip would be wish he would throw the ball out more same remark applies to Tyler as kicking it out only increases the chances of the opposition winning it back quicker) Newport had a lack of cutting edge in attack. Both full backs were steady, although Osano’s distribution was wretched, although ironically was involved in the build up for the goal. Kovacs still wearing his Basil Fawlty headband, but there was nothing faulty about his defending. Exceptional, George Pilkington not far short of that either. Top marks for our defensive display, no marks is an apt description of our attacking play .

Although Lawless wasted a golden opportunity,after that rariety of a incisive build up between Dance and Fleetwood, neat turn and excellent through ball from the latter, all Lawless had to do was avoid kicking the ball into the fat Potter prone on the ground to score, but he failed to do so.

Credit to Brabin after a lacklustre, almost disinterested display, he used his subsitutions early and wisely, all three ( Brunt, Crow and Willmott) made a positive impact on the game. Wouldn’t be aversed if they all started aginst Telford. Our goal deep into stoppage time, was possibly the first time we strung more than four passes together, from the fifth Osano poked forward, Dance controlled, touched it down the line, beat the excellent Hughes for pace, driving a low cross, rolled out to Crow via Brunt to finish into the far corner. A good week for him, after a fine game for the stiffs at Stevenage. Looks in a better shape, more hunger to his game( free fell to add your own predictable joke about any fast food place you wish to name). Being dropped may have focused his mind.

A deserved victory for our fans, putting up with the delights of the South Wales weather for the second successive season.Highly debatable the team deserved it, but in these tight games with few chances being created, if you keep yourself in the game at 0-0 and don’t do anything stupid , there is always a chance to nick something. Not disimilar to the Wrexham game, looked heading for a certain goalless draw.

Newport on the balance of play were unlucky to lose, but on reflection anyone who plays in an athletics ground and only one up front at home, doesn’t deserve much. Hopefully will never have to go there again. What Newport lacks in majestic grandeur it makes up for in ugly, cheap housing and a plentiful supply of roundabouts. It’s certain we will play far better than we did today somewhere along the line this season and lose.

Brabin picked the same starting eleven which played at Cambridge. Fair do’s, they played well enough as a group to have another shot. Nothing that Brabin does now surprises me, but was wasn’t expecting both Watkins and Kissock to be omitted from the sixteen. Warming the bench instead was Crow and Keane, our very own Beavis and Buttocks.

The first half at Cambridge and the first half today were poles apart. Witless and shambolic on the ball. A bobbly, increasingly damp surface , with a strong wind wouldn’t have helped, so was never going to be a classic. But just to aim hopeless punts forward was poor and thoughtless. Newport pressed us well in the midfield, but only Hand tried to shift the ball without knocking it long. Felt sorry for O’Connor no service to his feet, had to try and combat Hatswell with a significant height distadvantage and Fleetwood faring little better either. So whilst they both got hooked off, it was neither of their faults.

Defensively we were very good. Matthews up front, one of Bernand’s Turkeys would make a better footballer, but he’s a presense in the air and won his fair share of headers. Most of Newport attacking play came from down the flanks, Foley in particular, the only forward who run at the defence and put in a number of decent crosses and attempts, Buchanen started well on the other flank, but Taylor soon had him under control.

The midfield were outnumbered, with two busy pressers Doherty ( Sol Davis’ little friend at Bristol City) and Pipe ( charming chap convicted of GBH, although aren’t most people from Bristol criminals? Most of them look like photofits on Crimewatch. The disease of a regional accent strikes again) didn’t give our pairing of Hand and Lawless much time on the ball, nor reduce the space given to Rose their playmaker. Dance and Howells were on the quieter side of anonymous.

The first effort of our game, came from a raking crossfield pass by Hughes into Buchanen cutting inside and thumping a drive which K.Pilkington stopped low by his left post. But generally it was scrappy fare, with a running track along the pitch, the games at those places lack any flow or rhythm, as when the ball goes out of play, it makes the ball boys hours to get the ball back. The sooner they ban all teams who play an athletics grounds the better.

Foley cut in from the left, leaving Osano and Lawless in his wake, finding Buchanen, his cross, punched away by K.Pilkington. Foley found by Doherty’s square pass, sidestepped Osano to drove over with a crisp strike.

By this time, we had hardly kept the ball in their half for long. Appreciate we are only a Conference side, but we are far, far better team than we produced in that half. A long ball down the right channel, sent Pipe gallopping forward his cross eluded all bar Osano sweeping it away. Pipe again involved the ball dropping for efforts by Foley and Buchanen were blocked by Pilkington and Taylor .

Osano got forward well, exchanged passes with Fleetwood, to send in a dangerous low centre, which Potter who could push towards Howells who was unable to turn it in. They then wasted a good opportunity Matthews’ flick found Foley in space after a miscontrol by Osano, managed to get the better of Kovacs before shooting staraight at Pilkington.

Apart from Lawless’ gulit edged chance the half ended in a drab stalemate except for Osano’s brave block on Yakubu, denied him a header at goal from inside the six yard biox. We looked devoid of ideas.

Thankfully, the second half saw an improvement. Our passing was still poor, but we started getting to grips with the midfield, winning the second ball, closing Rose down and looking more in control of the game. Newport were unable to bulid on a reasonable first half display and as confidence dwindled, look like they they are set for a long, hard Winter ( oddly enough I fancied them in the Summer for a Play Off Place. Which was tactically retarded tipping even by my woeful standards). Maybe we dragged them down to our first half level.

The ball spent longer in the sky than on the green, the air miles it gained would have been an impressive tally. Apart from Matthews flick wide from Buchanen’s left footed cross, neither goalkeeper had more to concern him. Until an outstanding through ball by hand caught out their square defence, Fleetwood to fleet footed for Yakubu, clean through, credit to Potetr for producing a magic save, standing o up, and when Fleetwood tried to dink the ball over him, he reached up and stopped the ball from going in over him.

The first change saw the Stoke tea boy, old hat trick hero himself replace O’Connor, he is a willing runner and will always chase lost causes, so even our more optimistic hoofs, Brunt was always going to try and catch them. Lawless lost out to a firm tackle by Rodgers, the ball fell to Rose, placing a tremondous through pass to Foley, denied by Kovacs with a brilliant tackle which cannoned off the Newport player for a goal kick. Willmott replaced Taylor, which was a change of thought, as the board five minutes prior to him coming on showed Howells’ number. Willmott’s appearance meant Rodgers had to stay further back, denying the hosts one of their attacking options, Willmott produced a decent cameo, running at Rodgers down the line. When Crow replaced Fleetwood. We looked better for it, Crow held the ball up, Brunt all over the shop ( in a good way) and Willmott causing the defence to have to defend deeper, generallyn cause them some different problems. We improved no end.

Although Newport sent on another attacker in McAllister. Lawless couldn’t control Osano’s pass, Foley intercepted and drove low, which K.Pilkington got down and smothered.

The game was stretched, but for all the effort , either side looked like scoring. Newport looked nervy, giving away silly fouls. Until in the second minute of three added on, Dance got the better of Hughes, drilled a low centre to Crow via Brunt, finishing with a firm strike into the far corner, giving Potter no chance to stop it. Newport players flung themselves to the floor ( how over dramatic). That was the last significant touch, whilst Newport kicked off, there was no time for them to respond. Hopefully the stepping stone to better things.

Kevin Pilkington 7, Curtis Osano 6.75 , George Pilkington 8.5 , Janos Kovacs 9, Greg Taylor 6.25( Robbie Willmott 6.75) , James Dance 6, Alex Lawless 5.5, Jamie Hand 6, Jake Howells 5.5, Aaron O’Connor 4.5( Ryan Brunt 6.5), Stuart Fleetwood 5 ( Danny Crow).

Subs not used – Mark Tyler, Keith Keane. Booked – Lawless.

Newport – Potter, Rodgers, Yakubu, Hatswell, Hughes, Buchanan( McAlister), Pipe, Doherty, Rose, Foley, Matthews.

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BINGO #2

10 more points for me – ‘Consistency’ spot:-

“But it’s consistency I’m after. I know I keep saying it but it’s so important.”

Good to see a win today – I think we just deserved it on balance, but only just. It was a pretty dismal afternoon. So pleased for Big Hips Danny Crow for the winner, delighted for Brunt for the pass and The Shadow, who crossed – especially when I’ve been knocking his crossing for months. A win is a win is a win, but after that performance, weather notwithstanding, if we hadn’t have won folk would have been calling for GB’s head.

Right – that’s 3/3 from the first of the five must win games. Let’s have another win on Tuesday to keep the pressure on.

Come on you Hatters!

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BINGO!

I’ve spotted it – have you?

In this weeks no more excuses piece on the website, cunningly named “No more excuses” – I’ve spotted it:

“We need to be consistent and start winning football matches.”

Bingo! 10 points to me.

Look out for it again this time tomorrow….

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Where do we go from here?

 

Another promising first half followed by a disappointing second half, resulting to another away draw.

Apologies for the dearth of blog postings recently. I’ve been so busy with work, I’ve barely had a moment to scratch my nether regions, let alone spend hours composing a piece!

I’ve been to each of the games and I think there was an intriguing contrast to all three.

The Fleetwood game was played in front of a loud, united atmosphere, hosted by a terrible ref, and a side pretty hell-bent on frustrating us. I thought we played pretty well in patches on the day, and had it not been for that stupid first non-goal, and if Aaron’s post-bound shot had gone in – then we would have been celebrating a justified ugly win. I was impressed and proud of the fans that day, Neanderthals and happy clappers alike were unified in their rejection of the hopeless ref.

The Northampton game was a breath of fresh air, and renewed my faith in away teams. Whilst not the best team in the world, at least Northampton came to try to win. With a decent away following and a handy manager (who has now lost his job, unfortunately) it was good to play a proper club with a proper following again, rather than the collection of mickey-mouse clubs we have to face week in week out in the conference. We deserved the win and I was delighted that young Mr Watkins got the winner. Poor love, what’s he got to do to get a start!?

And onto Cambridge – truly a game of two halves – Brabin’s post match interview allowed us to glimpse a little of the problem. He said that they knew that Cambridge would come at us in the second half, but he told the players just to try to carry on as they had been. Keano said that Brabin was no tactician, and I think Brabin might have confirmed this in one interview or another. Famously of course, another scouse manager Mr Newell, said “I don’t do tactics”. My point is – rightly or wrongly – you know Cambridge are going to change their game-plan, up their tempo in the second half, but you don’t anticipate that and surprise, surprise we allow them to dominate the play. No plan B. We could be doing so much more. How many games is that now where we have switched off and floundered at the end of away games? Ebbsfleet, Bath, Stockport and now Cambridge. How many more? Is it a statistical blip, or a worrying trend?

More and more people on the message boards and phone-ins are calling for Gary Brabin to go. Is ditching yet another manager part-way through the season the answer? That would mean four managers in three seasons in the conference. Which is embarrassing if nothing else. But, I suppose, not as embarrassing as not getting promotion yet again. I think we have a strong (and large) squad of players who are definitely good enough to go up in their own right. Players like Watkins and Kissock would walk into any other team in the division. Our cast offs, Dan Walker and Godfrey Poku are part of a team who are third and who have won 11 out of their last 15 league games. Form we can only dream of. I’m getting bored of hearing post match interviews where the phrases “we need to get more consistency” or “we’ve had a lot of players out injured”.

I remember writing earlier in the season that our (then) up-coming games against the teams above us, namely Gateshead, Wrexham and Fleetwood would be a true barometer of our realistic ambitions this year. Well, we lost two of those at home and were 7th at the end of it. Not good enough. On the face of it, yesterday, a point away to Cambridge is not too bad a result their excellent form considered – but if we were to win this division then we needed to be winning these games.

To get to 90 points we need to average 2.15 points a game from here. Is there any indication of that? Frankly, no. We’re nine points behind the top two, but more worryingly only six points off 14th.

It’s ironic, Mick was sacked when we were doing better than we are now, indeed, though the performances under Richard Money had ground to a halt, I believe his record was superior too. As my Granny would say, you don’t know what you’ve got until you’ve lost it. I’m not saying either shouldn’t have gone –but it is funny how our expectations have been lowered the longer we spend in this division. Perhaps it is just part of us experiencing the transmogrification from being a league team, to a league team cast off into non-league, to being a non-league team. Perhaps Cambridge, York, Mansfield et al have gone through the same process. But of course none of them have experienced the highs we have, or indeed enjoy the huge loyal following LTFC does.

I think the fans this year have been outstanding. Our patience tried, time and time again, yet still we come back for more. The away end at Cambridge was full yesterday and we sang our hearts out (well, whilst we were winning). We are like battered wives who keep coming back for more. Does this make us stupid, blindly loyal or just passionate? I don’t know, but despite what some might think in some quarters, I think our club is bloody lucky to still have the fans it does. I know ours is a unique club which engenders a special kind of loyalty – a loyalty and passion that the vast majority of teams, including some in the upper reaches of the football league can only dream of, but nevertheless – for how long? Realistically? We are pretty crap junkies: only the occasional high these days and yet we are still hooked for life.

So where do we go from here? What criteria do we have to set for things to stay as they are? How much further away from the play offs do we have to slip before the board decide enough is enough, or GB falls on his sword? I would argue that only a play off place is a realistic goal now. So we have to do what we need to do to get there? The last four seasons 5th places have been remarkably similar: 81, 81, 78 and 78 points. 44 more points in 26 games is only 1.69 points per game – the equivalent of five points every three games. Or three wins and a draw every six games. I think we can manage that. If we can’t your correspondent is going to chuck himself in a reservoir I think.

Our next five league games are Newport (a), Telford (h) Stockport (h), Lincoln (a), Tamworth (a). If we all wake up from this nightmare and think about things for a second, that should really be five wins as the best of those teams, Tamworth, are 11th. Realistically though, I think we should be aiming for 13 points. I’ll excuse a draw at Tamworth. Ten points from those games is passable, but any less than that and GB should know that there is something fundamentally wrong and that his time is up.

But – conversely, imagine what it will feel like to have won all five – to have dumped Cheltenham out of the cup, be drawn against one of the local M1 teams, and to have scored six in the FA trophy?

Stranger things have happened.

 

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PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions (FA Cup – Northampton HOME)

Back to winnings ways in a competition which only a spineless organisation as the F.A. could devalue a once proper knockout tournament, to it’s current state of being a national Bedfordshire Premier Cup without the prestige or grandiose of playing Wootten, Potton, Langford or Biggleswade. Still they could give the F.A. Cup Winners a Champions League spot. It’s asking a lot for then to be forward thinking, when they have their heads stuffed in a money trough. Still the prize money is decent and a step nearer to a potential big pay day at the Hampshire giants of Totton. They are just a small town in Chandlers Ford.

On the day it was more about the medicority than the magic of the Cup, sponsored by a product which leaves an nasty stale taste in the mouth. Just the F.A. in fact.

Bit of a smash and grab job. Just as a unwanted romantic reunion in a retail park in Duston looked on the cards on Tuesday week, although if a game at Sixfields is bad, at least you can always walk to the Cineworld instead, the recently arrived Watkins’ stepped up to boot Northampton out with a threaded left foot shot past Walker after a poorly directed headed clearance by Langsmead.

Everyone’s a winner. We get a much needed confidence booster, ahead of a far more important trip to Cambridge, some welcome prize money and did the job at the first time of asking. Northampton can now sack Johnson Out now( for my sake, am bored of people I know banging on and on and on and on and on about it. Told them all they merge with Kettering and Corby to create a Northamptonshire superpower. Chuckles.) and try to rescue a season of stunning ineptitude, considering the players they have avaliable. Although, losing both Keane to a tight hamstring and AMS after ending up second best in a collision with the Oak Road end hoardings could be a bigger deal than winning the game.

In truth, we didnt play well. But dug in and the work rate was impressive, although we were poor in possession, Hand in particular found more maroon shirts than orange ones. Encamped in our own half for long periods in the second half. At least we defended well, Kovacs was absolutely magnificent, both in air and on the deck. For a loanee his commitment is outstanding. The Pilkington ‘brothers’ were assured, rode our luck at times as they wasted countless chances. They beat themselves – not complaining though. If you miss chances, you get what you deserve.

D’Urso far too busy looking out for Steve Howard to send off to give one of two stick on penalty shouts. Morgan-Smith pushed by both of Johnson’s hands after Hand’s free kick was floated over, then in the second half Tozer grabbing Lawless’ shirt on no fewer than three occasions were clear penalties. Ray Charles running the line with a clear view missed it as well.

With our usual catalogue of injuries, there weren’t many options, particularly in forward areas, avaliable to Brabin. Kevin Pilkington seems to be our cup keeper this season, he’s old enough to have appeared in the first season of it. Everything he was required to do, he dealt with well. Good handling, commended the six yard box expertly, which was difficult against a side who looked to ping as many balls into the box as possible as they have some large chaps (particularly Akinfenwa who is half rhino, half weeble. Nicknamed Bayo as his arse is the size of Colwyn Bay. ) Downside to Pilkington, is his distribution. It keeps the opposition in two minds they dont know if he’s slice the ball to the left or the right touchline. Doesn’t have the vision of Tyler to throw the ball out either. As far as the basic goalkeeping skills went he had an excellent afternoon.

Pilkington in goal, back four of Osano, Kovacs, Pilkington of the George variety, Howells. Midfield of Lawless, Hand, Keane, Kissock. With Goldilocks or should be Gingerlocks AMS and O’Connor up top. Three defenders on the bench in the cast of thousands, but no Charlie Henry, he’s not injured again is he? Read he played well for the reserves in the week. He will be our secret weapon, but only becuase everyone has forgetton about him.

Would have preferred Keane at right back instead of Osano, an accident waiting to happen, with Watkins in midfield. With Gleeson playing for the stiffs in the week and Edward recovering, didn’t really see the undue haste to extend Osano’s contract. Although as I dont have a qualification in first class cone fondling or handing out the bibs badge, my opinion is therefore invalid.

Horrific is the politest way to describe the season of my mates and chums up the M1. Backing them each way to win their division wasnt perhaps my finest hour as a gambler. Jacobs is a cracker, creative midfield player destined for greater things. The WBA loanee Berahnio is a livewire upfront but it’s not difficult to see why they are on a lengthy losing run. having a foll in charge doesn’t help them much either. At least they came to attack and didn’t try to manage the game. The tactics of the likes of Fleetwood and Wrexham will just kill the game stone dead, not helped by referees who are weak to apply the laws of the sport.

Splendidly observed minute’s silence. Sure a similar event took place at the KFC in Dunstable Road on the departure of Big Collin. The club will hopefully do the correct thing and retire the number 23 shirt in his honour, aptly was also his weight in stones on leaving the club. It’s remarkable what high intensity training does! Disappointed not to see a bathroom towel flying at half mast in honoured of Murray. Nobel of him to accept a pay off, when he could have sit there and take money for nothing, which those tiresome turds Peschisolido and Emmanuel did oh so well.

Northampton settled the quicker in a fast start which was open and end to end. Good early pace to the game, with a away large following who must have been at a loose end (the only proper sport in the town, is played from April to September after all), the early promise faded quicker than the Italian economy in the first half, the end product was lacking so both keepers weren’t seriously tested.

Our first chance came from Kissock’s throw, had a quiet game, an excellent run down the left by Howells,smashed the ball across goal , but no one there for a tap in. Both teams looked up for it , but few chances were created. With AMS and O’Connor as our forwards, it gave us a plenty of pace, but with Northampton’s slow backline defended deep, we hardly managed to pick a pass to get behind them and get their defence turning towards their own goal.

The game was generally scrappy, O’Connor showing quick feet laying the ball off AMS, controlled and lost his footing in the box. Northampton’s first effort came from Jacobs’ free kick on the left, Akinfenwa unmarked in ocaenas of space nodded a downward headed which Pilkington helped over. A rare slip by Kovacs allowed Berahnio to cruise towards our goal, holding off Hand, entering the box, George P moving across and won a vital tackle with a solid challange.

The ball bounced off Keane’s head, not expecting to be the target from a floated Kissock corner to the edge of the box and sailed harmlessly over Walker’s crossbar.

Most of the half was even, although it could have been turned on it’s head, by Jacobs pass into Berahnio, a corking finish in off the bar, ruled out by a lino’s flag. The game stumbled to half time, more like a episode of Casualty, with Keane and Morgan-Smith leaving the stage, not long after Young, brother of Ashley ( my sincere condolences to him for that) limped off , taking the scenic route after than hopping off behind the goal.

We had to reshuffle, Crow replacing AMS and Willmott for Keane. Lawless moving to the middle, prior to that was rarely involved,allowing Willmott to fill in on the right, both he Kissock changed wings for the majority of the game after that.

Crow almost had an immediate impact, O’Connor defeating Crowe, rolled the ball into Crow but he failed to control in the centre of the box. George Pilkington ghosted past Johnson, wastefully nodded wide, after being found perfectly from Howells’ inswinging free kick.

So with nothing to choose between the two sides at the break, there’s little between the League places of the two clubs and it did show. Once again Northampton started quicker,as they looked to upper their game. Didn’t have much to show for it, apart from a decent effort from Davies curling a shot wide. Jacobs moved to the left, so against Osano, one on one it could have been carnage.

Lawless was the key along, he managed to screen the centre backs and break forward.On the counter we did create opportuntuies, O’Connor’s unstinting tireless efforts and always had Crowe, Langsmead and Westwood on the turn But generally, we couldn’t get a grip on the game.

A arcing pass sent O’Connor through down teh right, he could only help the ball into Walker, and got the ball back with time to pick out an option, could have side foot at the grateful keeper.

D’Urso fooled ( doesn’t take much) by Jacobs standing on the ball, Osano near but even Inspector Gadget couldn’t have touched the player from there. The free kick by Jacobs fizzed into the wall and bouncing out to safety. Hand’s pass out to Howells, squared to Lawless who in turn nicked a pass of Kissock,the ball may have bobbled, but it was a pretty awful strike skewed well away from Walker’s posts. Lawless, look far fitter than last week, climbed high to knock down Willmott’s corner , Kovacs back to goal, tried a rather optimtsic bicycle kick, with the ball is still orbiting the Earth. That’s why he plays in the defence.

Jacobs drifting inside from Crowe’s pass, drilled a shot which Pilkington dealt with Akinfenwa diving in failing to get a touch. The tremors are still being felt. Pilkington was having a busy time, getting back to knock Berahnio’s chip over, as it threatrened to nestle into the net.

Lawless showing good endeavour through a crowd of Northampton players , sent up Crow, his strike nicked of Tozer for a corner. From which O’Connor could only help Willmott’s set pice wide of the far post.

Our play did have a certain amount of self doubt to it, it doesn’t take much for our current motley mob to lose confidence. A fine thoughtful move involving Bergahnio, Akinfenwa and Turnbull’s low pass, found Davies in an alrming amount of space, the shot accurate but lacked power to trouble Pilkington. We have a lucky escape, a quick corner which we didn’t react to, Davies’ cross was pathetically headed over by Johnson from close range unmarked, he ciould opnly miss, but miss he did. Well played, sir. The old couldn’ty hit a cow’s bottom with a banjo type of effort . Akinfenwa heading Davies’ centre over. Whilst we bottled up the centre of the pitch, we did let a lot of crosses in to the box, against a team with a cutting edge we would have been punished.

Lawless and O’Connor linked up well again, but O’Connor’s drive across the box, had too much pace for Crow to get to. Watkins replaced Kissock, in an ideal world he would have come on earlier, as JPK looked very tired, but obviously using two subs just before half time, the third change couldn’t have been made until late. Only moments after Watkins introduction, we had three players down receiving treatment at the same time, Kovacs, O’Connor and Crow.. Willmott, looking more interested than of late when his performance have at best been laboured, managed to get the better of Turnbull , Walker down quickly to parry away.

The breakthrough came after Howells strolled forward, his cross headed away by Langmead to Watkins, his calm low finish defeated Walker. I know people cream their pants about Kissock. Yes, he’s a promising player with crowd pleasing skills and a matchwinner on his day, but as Brabin rarely uses both ( or indeed either) from the start, would pick Watkins over Kissock. He brings more to the party, gets his foot in and see and makes the pass, and like today is assured in front of goal. Forza Adam Watkins.

After which, the kitchen sink plus any white goods they could get their hands, which the visitors could throw at us, they did. We stood up to the pressure well. If only we could take his mental strength into the vital league games, against our promotion rivals, where like today, the first goal was going to be crucial.

Jacobs’ volley moved the the right side of the post, then Lawless dive in , Jacobs managed to step side hand beore smashing a shot inches over. With four minutes of injury time to play, they missed their final chance Akinfenwa helping Turnbull’s centre wide.

Let’s hope for a socialable draw cup, the winners of Redbridge or Oxford City ( handily located near the John Radcliffe Hosptial just in case Brabin fancies an exchange of views with anyone) at home would do nicely. By the time we play it, let’s hope we have come out relatively unscathed of the two away games at Cambridge and Newport ( need to apply for a second mortgage to afford to cross the Severn Bridge), and have beaten Telford at home with their infamous invisible shirt numbers.

Although with Luton, we will bound to lose the league games and end up winning the Cup. Europa League, Im having a moan.

Kevin Pilkington 7.75, Curtis Osano 6 , Janos Kovacs 9.5,George Pilkington 8, Jake Howells 7.25, Alex Lawless 7 , Jamie Hand 5.75,Keith Keane 6.5 ( Robbie Willmott 6.75), John-Paul Kissock 6 ( Adam Watkins) Aaron O’Connor 7.5, Amari Morgan-Smith 6.5 ( Danny Crow 6.25).

Subs not used – Mark Tyler, Dan Gleeson, Dean Beckwith, Shane Blackett. Booked – Hand ( clumsy challange. A foul admittedly, but didn’t warrant a caution. Moments later Westwood upends AMS with a crude kick to the back of his heels. No booking, nor for Crowe late on in the piece, Olympic standard diving, even better than Wright’s bellyflop last week. Consistency eh? You can’t beat it. )

Northampton – Walker, Johnson( Holt), Westwood, Langmead, Crowe, Young ( Davies), Tozer, Jacobs, Arthur ( Turnbull), Akinfenwa,Berahnio. Booked – Johnson .

*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 fatuous comments about FIFA and Poppygate. Or maybe just Poppycock. Talking of whom, the F.A. should have just put the poppies on the shirts, doubt FIFA would have noticed, it’s a day which ends in a y so must have received a bung today or a free lunch to be had somewhere. What would they have done, kicked England out of Euro 2012, which will happen when Postman Pat’s brave boys play the first half decent team in the competition. Typical we beat the donkey botherers in a friendly. But in mincing about the F.A. and F.I.F.A. have allowed the EDL and even worse the Daily Mail an opportunity to score cheap points. Three cheers for a major cock up around, just should have been nipped in the bud straight away.

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