Gutted once again

 

And so the punishment continues. In all their wildest dreams Mawhinney et al couldn’t have hoped that we would be down here for four seasons, but we are. After three lots of defeats in the play offs I don’t want to do that again – we have to go out and grab the league title next term.

If it wasn’t for bad luck, we’d have no luck at all. A pair useless linos, a blind ref and yes, watching the game back this evening (which hasn’t lightened my mood) the winner was offside. How typical. I can only hope that one day a similar amount of good luck will balance all the shit we’ve had to put up with.  Which other team has to wait until the 72nd minute before being awarded their first free kick in a game? If you didn’t know better you’d think the officials were bent. That’s the second final running where an official’s poor decision cost us the chance to win the game.

That’s not to say that York didn’t work hard to have the better of the game. They out-did us at our own game. Quick to close us down and played on the break they did battle bravely to ensure that we didn’t build on the unbelievably wonderful advantage Andre Gray gave us after 70 seconds.

I thought Robbie Willmott had a good game, and when he got the chance to bomb down the wing did so with ease and effectiveness. We’ll need to work on the corners though – today they were so predictable (loopy out swingers to the edge of the box) that after the first couple, the York keeper, Ingham knew where to stand and just plucked them out of the air in front of the advancing Kovacs.

Stuart Fleetwood was less incisive today – apart from a period where he swapped with Willmott he was marooned on the right of a front three and got little service – that service he did get involved him jumping with the enormous centre halves.

Andre Gray was at his pacy best, but rarely got the service he needed to exploit his speed – just one of his two air shots towards the end would have put us on level pegging, but bearing in mind where he has come from and what he has done in such a short space of time he has been an utter revelation. If he stays fit next year you can see him being the 25-30 goal a season man we have been looking for.

One thing I noticed today was our propensity to cut inside rather than go wider when approaching goal – Willmott and Adam Watkins were both guilt of this on a few occasions today – whilst it does get you in the right place in front of goal, it also takes  you to where all the opposition are and the play either breaks down when you can’t slide a pass in, or you are forced to shoot from distance. That’s not to say we didn’t get into shooting positions – 21 shots to York’s 10 in the game tells its own story.

Mark Tyler made an outstanding save from a looping header from Jason Walker in the first half, he was keen to distribute the ball quickly, and save for a misunderstanding with Kovacs in the first half, was as good as ever.

Keith Keane, as keen as anyone to get back in the league fought and battled hard all match to win the ball back and much be gutted to miss out on promotion for the third season running.

Pilks and Kovacs knew they’d been in a game. Pilks was worked hard by the ginger-pixie Jason Walker and Kovacs was getting his head on the end of all of the bombs lumped towards him.

Jake was incisive on the left and Osano played excellently on the right (yes, I typed that) his mazy runs and left foot crosses bringing some welcome width.

Big Craig MacAllister came on for Stuart Fleetwood – but didn’t last too long –a brave challenge trying to get onto the end of an excellent Gray cross meant that his head was badly gashed and he was subbed by Aaron O’Connor who was making a rare appearance under Mr Buckle’s stewardship.

Kissock came on for Watkins and thankfully once again didn’t play like the performing circus seal Brabin had him doing. He got a bloody nose for his efforts when he bravely dived to get on the end of Osano’s cross, and lovingly and sensibly cradled big Craig’s head when it was pissing blood.

After a bit more running the clock down by York, and as the match ran over the 4 minutes the ref had added on for the two head injuries and five substitutions he put us out of our misery.

Like last year, I put my head in my hands, then got up and got out. I didn’t wait to acknowledge the lads for their efforts (which I wish I had done) I just wanted to get out. After  a long, a bloody long season I’d had enough. There’s only so much disappointment I can take and the last thing I wanted to do was to listen to both of York’s fans celebrating.

To be fair, we weren’t at our best today, a bit disjointed and flat especially in the second half– in a way, and it might sound strange, we might have scored too early, like Liverpool against us in the 5-3 a few years ago, such was the ease and immediacy of the first goal, perhaps in the players minds we thought it was going to be easier than it was and we dropped off a little, letting York in. We will never know. We needed to respond to York’s second goal, the way they responded to our goal – but we couldn’t quite do it. There were chances – we couldn’t quite click. Blair and Chambers have been thorns in our side all year and so it was kind of inevitable that they’d get the goals. At least we won’t have to play York and both of their fans next year – we are spared that at least. I’ll not labour the point, but whilst they are a proper team, they’ve no history and a tiny fanbase – their turnout today was embarrassing compared to ours. It grates a little, but there you go.

What we do know is that having worked with the players for eight games now, Mr Buckle does have a first team and a settled formation – something we never got under his predecessor. We also do have players who go into their shells a bit which I am sure he will want to address in the next few days and weeks when shaping his team for next year.

That’s six consecutive season’s of relegation or play off heartache. We already know that we are the biggest side to have played in non-league, the only side to have played in the top division for ten years and to have won a major trophy to end up in the fifth tier and now six successive seasons of things going against us. What other fans have ever had such luck? What other club would send 30,000 to Wembley at the tail end of such a run? There’s only one Luton Town, unique in British footballing history. What the fans have shown is that however much we have to put up with we just get on with it. Mirrors the people of the town itself I guess in a way too. Bearing in mind what we have put up with, I think we are permitted a little grumble now and again.

So where do we go from here? We have a huge squad which I am sure will be trimmed – Mr Buckle will have his own ideas as to who he wants to bring in, and working with Lil I am sure he will make some exciting signings. What I am confident of is that next season we will be in a position to be much more consistent, fitter and will put the poor sides to the sword much better than we did this year. Wouldn’t it be lovely to be the team that everyone one else is looking up to next year and trying to catch? Wrexham will still be strong, and will be smarting, Mansfield will be keen, Forest Green may splash the cash, but we should be the ones to watch. Whilst I couldn’t have said that with confidence this time last year – I have a sneaky feeling that next year might just be our time. Not just because of the improved way we have played under PB – but I refer you back to my dream I mentioned in here, that I had in August 2009. In the dream, I dreamt the unthinkable (at that time) that we wouldn’t go up for the first three seasons, but stormed the title in the fourth year, with a manager I hadn’t heard of at the helm. Well – let’s hope the omens were true and next time I’ll put some money on it!

I’m gutted and hurting and hacked off. I’m disinclined to watch any footie over the summer, and hopefully I’ll be back and hungry for it when the pre-season friendlies come around.

Oh boy – how I’m looking forward to Gateshead away and the delights of Braintree and their team of thugs again. Joy of joys. Here we go again…

Come on you Hatters.

 

 

 

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Go for Glory

 

Not long to go now.

If York deign to send more than our average home crowd I’ll be surprised, even Scunny sent about 10,000. It’ll be up to us to provide the atmosphere again.  Let’s hope that the boys do us proud – I’m confident they will. Is it our destiny to trump York in the final, third year lucky? I truly hope so.

It is only the next two days that we don’t know – that’s the funny thing. From Sunday evening onwards and for the rest of history we will know the outcome of this game and if the Hatters had their triumphal return to the league. But the butterflies are already there. Fortunately the nails have grown back after the Wrexham game.

Paul Buckle will have had thirteen days to work his magic after the assault at Wrexham. And what a match that was – I suspect it is the hardest game we will have for at least a year. Wrexham gave their all to beat us and we managed, somehow, to hold out.

If Buckle had just one day to turn around things before Hayes – he will have now had thirteen unfettered days to work the team hard ahead of just one game.  I suspect we will be up for it. I almost feel (even more) sorry for York.

It would be a fairy story of course to have turned things around so dramatically. It only took a decent manager with the right motivation and ideas to change the attitude of the players. I want us to win and win well on Sunday, and then hopefully take that momentum in the just-as-dismal division above.

You never know – Sunday might just be our time. Go for glory Luton Town and do us proud. Make me cry with joy this year. It’s long overdue.

Well – I’ll see you all at Wembley, I’ll be the one in orange.

Come on you Hatters

 

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PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions (play offs 2nd leg v Wrexham AWAY)

It wouldn’t be Luton to do something the easy way. The second leg at Wrexham was no different. Seemingly coasting to Wembley, we threw on Wrexham’s secret weapon Greg Taylor. It was a fine effort of utter incompetence from a usually very reliable player. Most of Wrexham’s attack came down the right from Cieslewicz and Little, Taylor did little to help Howells or make any of his trademark forward runs. He really was more of a hinderance than a help. I blame his new shaved haircut. Obviously without his side parting he is a lesser player. We did our best to throw away our three goal lead. Thanks to some robust defending and a peerless display of blantant time wasting saw the job done. Just. The irony of Wrexham fans moaning about time wasting after Mayebi’s antics at Luton in October is all rather amusing.

Whilst it was understandable, we did approach the game in an ultra cautious manner. Relying on Gray’s pace to create chances on the break. It’s a risky strategy, to play so defensively, when we murdered them playing with such an attacking verve in the first match.

Fortunately, we defended well as a unit, Wrexham threw the kitchen sink into our box. Although them deserved their victory on the day, there is little doubt we deserved to progress to the final. In some ways, it’s probably good to get a defeat out of the way, which wasn’t costly.

No surprise the starting line up was unaltered from Thursday. Just Gleeson for Kissock on the bench – you can never have too many full backs on the bench can you? The changes being tactical, Fleetwood and Willmott positioned very deep on either wing – neither a potent attacking force, with Gray playing centrally. Wrexham themselves had four changes bringing in the experience of Little, the pace of Speight and Alfei at right back replacing Stephen Wright, who is still probably giddy after the merry dance Willmott led him.

With the kick off delayed presumably with the other game going into extra time (which is delightful. The paying punter is always comes last against the ogre that is television), so we were treated to his annoying little man striding out on the pitch with a microphone he barely needed, trying and failing to whip up the crowd into a frenzy. Small town parochialism is incredibly cringe worthy.

We didn’t settle well, Wrexham were going to come out of the blocks quickly, and as we were playing one up front , we struggled to make an impact on the early stages of the game. Although under pressure, we did do well without the ball, Wrexham’s one tactic was Creighton’s big hoof up to Pogba in the early stages.

The first half, we looked nervous and for a rather lengthy spell struggling to get out of our half. Although Wrexham had plenty of frentic pressure, in the main they were reduced to Creighton’s long hoofs sail out for goal kicks. Only when Little had the ball, they looked to have some creativee element to their game.

Thanks to a rash tackle by Creighton, after some ball juggling by Lawless, was correctly penalised for a penalty. Pilkington, a cool successful kick in the circumstances, sending Mayebi the wrong way. Pilkington and Kovacs were oustatanding at the back all afternoon. We did keep our shape well, worked hard, but generally in possession we were very poor, not unlike the match at Gateshead recently. Keane held his position, but neither Watkins or Lawless looked to provide ever token support to Gray. Apart from some good fisting by Tyler from some Wrexham corners, he didn’t have much to trouble him, bar an excellent finger-tip save from Litttle’s well-stuck drive from just outside the edge of the box in the first forty five minutes.

Seond half we started quite well, Howells had been able to dink over some passes over the top of the Wrexham defence and Gray latched on to them. Gray had a pretty thankless task, Knight-Percival marked him far better than was the case in the first leg. To be fair to Gray, Knight-Percival is a decent defender destined to play higher up the leagues, as he will too at some stage.

Credit to Wrexham who looked down and out, had a second wind, by making a couple of effective changes both in personnel and tactical, they sent on Ciewleswicz on the right wing, well supported by Little playing as a very attacking full back. The pair cut through our left side at will. With Morrell bringing himself on, added to the burly physical presense of Creighton, even Kovacs struggled with his power in the air.

Wrexham scored a couple of goals which were preventable. . Ciesleswicz’s header across to the far post was hardly bullet like, then Taylor virtually escorted Little into the box, for Morrell to crash home at the second attempt, after the post had been struck.

We started off on the back foot, happy to soak up most aerial pressure, which became our default position, both Pilkington and Kovacs won plenty against Wright and Pogba.

In truth, had the match not had so much at stake, the first half would have been pretty stale with few chances or goal mouth incident.

We were very well organised, as often is the case at this level, if you wait and let the opponents make mistakes, that tends to be enough. Wrexham probably too much of the ball, either hoofing up to the disinterested Pogba or at times, almost passing the ball to death, not getting very far but ended up getting smothered by a mass of white shirts.

Our problem was being unable to get out of our half. Being inexperienced, it was a big ask for Gray to play up front on his own. We did have opportunities to break, Howells snapping in to some tackles, managed to get some forward moves started.

Wrexham’s first sight of goal came from a move down the left, Little feeding Ashton to centre Pogba knocking down for Speight being closed down quickly, only being able to hit the ball into Tyler with the aid of a heavy deflection.

We defended strongly, throwing bodies in front of shots. Pilkington blocked Harris, when he had sight of goal.

Watkins become the first man in the book. A lunging studs up tackle on Alfei. Our first shot came from Willmott’s free kick, after Keates tripped Gray, by the D, his hard hit strike cannoned off Harris’ head – where there is no sense there is no feeling.

Little combined with Harris, the cross but Wright and Pogba both fluffed headed opportunities.

Wrexham fiddled around defensively, the ball richoshed to Lawless, showing neat control of the ball at a difficult height, turning past the immobile figure of Creighton, being tripped in the box. Lawless needed treatment before the penalty was taken. Pilkington kept calm, sending Mayebi the wrong way with a low spot kick.

That settled us down and both the Wrexham crowd and team quickly went flattered than an exploding breast implaint.

Tyler took hold of Alfei’s centre after a one two with Wright. We had a chance on the left Gray having a run at Creighton, his pass got to Fleetwood, getting there before Ashton, his attempt lacked the elevation to trouble Mayebi.

The only moment of trouble came when Little cut in from the left and let fly with the ball seemed destined for the top corner, but for Tyler tipping over. A dangerous move between Little and Speight was stopped by a well-timed tackle by Pilkington.

The second half, as anxiety grew amongst the hosts, we had more of a threat on the attack with Gray’s pace.We continued to press Wrexham quickly off the ball. They shifted the ball slowly and their movement was static.

Lawless took advantage of a slack misplaced pass by Keates, popped the ball down the right channel to Gray, his attempted lob, just whistled past the far post by a whisker. Gray had another attempt, spinning off Ashton from a throw, missing the target by a distance.

A flurry of subs started to give them an advantage. Taylor replaced Fleetwood on the left, with Willmott switching to the right. It wasnt a bad move, but Taylor had a bit of a nightmare. Neither protecting Howells nor breaking forward. They stuck Creighton up top alongside the newly arrived Morrell. Bringing on Ciesleswicz to play on the right, with Little playing as a very attacking right back.

Whether we got tired or some slackness developed in our play. We struggled to cope down our left flank and the sheer size of Creighton in the middle. So plenty was banged in high in our box.We struggled to keep the ball, which towards the half time break, we had done so patiently, taking the sting out of the game.

Our shielding of the full backs wasnt as good, so they were able to get more crosses in, easier than previously. Ashton’s deep centre was nodded down by Creighton met by Morrell to finish weakly.

Taylor gave away a free kick on the right on Little which he played low into Speight, spinning away blocked and behind by Lawless. From the resulting corner, played in by Keates to the small figure of Ciesleswicz to prod a header across into the unguarded far post very delicately, it seemed to take an age to cross the line.

That gave them some renewed hope, Pilkington denied Little. Tyler had to make saves from Ciesleswicz and Creighton. With Keane struggled to run off a knock, with no midfielder on the bench. We could had been in a spot of bother. However McAllister playing in a midfield role helped out very effectively. Using his strength in defence and being an option on the break.

Tyler had to produce a superb punch away from Alfei’s cross. But it was from the other wing, Taylor in homage to Gleeson escorted Little into the box, just stand your ground, man. Morrell slammed it in at the second attempt, after the first strike had cannoned back off the post.

Lawless won a vital tackle against Harris picking out a fine crossfield ball to McAllister, sending in a wicked cross which just eluded the diving header of AMS on for Gray.

The final minutes were frantic, however we kept our nerve to see it through. Fortunately so did the officials, as the home crowd bayed for every decision.

With five minutes of added time to play, increased to seven, after Knight-Percival had elbowed AMS, who was promptly booked for reacting.Not going to complain about that, as Watkins, on a booking, booted the ball away after conceding a free kick. They were lax on our time wasting. Every team would do the same. But Tyler was taking the piss somewhat. Not as bad as Speight’s dramatic swan dive in the box, deep into injury time. 9.5 scored the Finnish jury.

Cue the tiresome traditional angry pitch invasion, with the Wrexham players doing a Pogba and lying on the floor. They should be used to losing at this stage now. It’s like they finished seventeen points ahead and had beaten the team which knocked them out three times. Oh. If people are going to throw money, why not show some class and make it £50 notes?

Viva Buckle. Under his stewardship, we can score a penalty and manage the game as well.So the hideous surroundings of North West London await. With the victors being the ticket agency based in Nottingham.

Our recent record against York is well documented. However the last couple of games against them, our woeful fitness has cost us shipping late goals, but on the balance of play, the two teams look very well matched. Since we last met, there is little doubt, we have improved significantly in every department. So that should help us.

York do have the advantage of playing there in the Trophy final against Newport at the weekend. Just hope it doesn’t go to the penalties again. As the perverse way football works, Jason Walker is bound to score the winning penalty.

Mark Tyler 7.5, Curtis Osano 7.25, Janos Kovacs 8.5, George Pilkington 9, Jake Howells 7.25, Alex Lawless 7, Keith Keane 7.25( Craig McAllister 7), Adam Watkins 6.25, Stuart Fleetwood 6, Andre Gray 6.75(Amari Morgan-Smith), Robbie Willmott 6 ( Greg Taylor).

*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 are about our glorious Bedfordshire Senior Cup win. Do we qualify for the Europa Cup Thursday night nonsense or go straight through to the Champions League?

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PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions (play offs 1st leg v Wrexham HOME)

There was a new piece of exercise equipment by the dug outs tonight, but it was Wrexham who were on their bikes, after a magnificent first half performance put them to their sword.

They simply couldn’t cope with a) our non-stop work rate and b) the pace of our front three rag their notoriously slothful defence ragged. They were rather their architects of their own downfall by holding a suicidal high defensive line.

The second half was more even, Wrexham had to be more involved after being out-classed in the first half. But our now resolute defence stayed strong, with Keane like a whirling dervish in front of them, meant Wrexham were restricted to a few raids down the flanks, which Pilkington, in particular made three important interceptions. Keates put some good deliveries in from corners and they are a big side, so always going to be a handful at set pieces, but we stood up defensively very well. Apart for a neat save from Morrell early in the piece, which naturally was awarded as a goal kick, don’t recall Tyler having a save to make. Pogba really the only threat.

Although they had more possession in the second half, at times, we defended slightly too deep, but created some good chances on the break, which should have killed the tie stone dead. Gray unfortunate to be denied by a superb fingertip save from Mayebi (so called, as maybe he will kick the ball out next week). Willmott should have done a whole lot better, after a raking run down the right by Gray, Willmott had time to do a crossword before scoring, but rather than take a touch, elected to go first touch and stab the ball into the goalkeeper. Even then, Ashton’s attempted chest trap eluded Maybei, and the ball span off the wet turf, it looked like Kovacs would have an easy tap in, but somehow Knight-Percival’s Inspector Gadget legs just nicked the ball away.

However, Buckle isn’t the sort of manager to let the team’s newly found high standards drop, and whilst Wrexham will be more dangerous (they could have been hardly anymore timid) at the Racecourse, they will have to play out of their skins to over turn the deficit against a side at their peak of their powers (that’s us by the way, just in case you are getting confused). Hopefully, we will repeat the positive approach shown at Fleetwood and we will be a step closer to getting back into the Football League come Monday. However it’s hard not to be impressed by two comprehensive wins against the two teams which ran away with the League this year

With Kenilworth Road absolutely packed, including an excellent travelling support from Wrexham on a work night ( those Poundland shelves won’t stack themselves). Nice of DJ Gobby to patronise everyone by saying “ What a massive game it is”. Really? Tthanks for letting me know.

Two changes from the Fleetwood win, Willmott and Fleetwood back in for Kissock and McAllister, both unlucky to lose their place, neither did anything wrong on Saturday. We managed Wrexham up, playing 4-5-1/4-3-3, Gray on the right, Willmott on the left, Fleetwood through the middle. Watkins the more advanced of the midfield trio. With the now usual back four in front of Tyler.

Wrexham were rattled from an early stage, struggling to cope with our tempo and closing them down quickly. Must have been a shock for them to see this performance, after we hardly troubled them in either of the two regular League season games. We went too defensive at Wrexham last time and conceded some poor goals The key against them is to much either work rat, press Keates their playmaker in midfield, as most of their play comes through him. not getting bullied by them. Both aspects of the game, we did extremely well. Wrexham are a very one dimensional, , try and hit Pogba (he didn’t have his traditional kip this evening on the Kenilworth Road pitch) and go from there. They were unlucky to run into Fleetwood, but their season ran out of legs a few weeks ago, whilst we have had the advantage of playing knock out football for the past month.

Good start we made and rarely let our dominance slip in a thoroughly one sided first half. No mean feat as both teams matched up formations, often resulting in mundane fare. A lot of these games are cagey, dull and tight; this one as they mostly are was played at a break neck speed.

We kept the ball patiently when need by, but used the width of the pitch to cause Wrexham all sorts of problems, Willmott galloped past Wright regularly and Gray and Fleetwood, ruthlessly exposed Ashton on the other flank.

Fleetwood’s back flick from Willmott’s floated free kick was comfortably pouched by Maybei. Kovacs got above Creighton but couldn’t direct his header from a Willmott corner.

The referee did make some strange calls all evening, after Ashton had flattened Osano, play was waved on, their break looked to be pttering out, but Pilkington slipped on the sodden surface, allowing Tolley a free run at goal, this was the moment the referee blew up ( not literally, more’s the pity).

Keane was everywhere on the pitch, his distribution excellent, sending a diagonal ball out to Willmott, forcing Creighton to conceded a corner. Willmott, who must have been watching Cisse’s goal for Newcastle, tried a similar attempt but the ball drifted near the corner flag.

Lawless and Watkins made progress forward, the ball shifted to the left, Wright charged down Willmott’s drive.

Wrexham’s only opportunity came from a long punt by Maybei, Pogba towering above Howells, not surprisingly, won the flick, leaving Morrell a shooting opportunity on the right, but Tyler made the save. Pogba is always going to be a threat with his size, but the service to him and the other forwards was poor. Morrell wasn’t able to bring to set up play others into the game, Ciesleswicz, the little Pole, who tends to cause us problems was on the quieter side of anonymous.

Willmott’s slide rule pass, put Howells breaking forward, clipped by Creighton. Thought a penalty had been awarded at first, but the linesman’s flag had ruled offside.

With Wrexham defending in numbers, clear cut chances were going to be difficult to make, and for a short time, we were forced into a long range efforts, not a bad idea, as Maybei being a huge man, struggles to get down quickly enough to low drives.

The break through arrived through an incisive break down the right, Keane’s raking ball, slowed up towards the right corner, Fleetwood patiently held the play up then beat Ashton before laying off for Gray to smack the ball past Mayebi in a flash.

We continued to press, as Wrexham did look like being there for the taking, Osano given license to attack ( nice of Wrexham not to track back), nipped past Knight-Percival before rolling the to Watkins, his touch found Gray breaking through in an offside positions.

Some of play between Gray and Fleetwood was incredibly slick, receiving the ball cleared by a corner, Fleetwood dashed past Knight-Percival, his pass to Gray cut out.

Wrexham looked a yard off the pace, but the speed which we got closed down the blue shirts, most teams at this level would have struggled to cope with. Morrell found by Ashton on the left, couldn’t shoot accurately to trouble Tyler.

A real collector’s item, a Lawless tackle on a 50./50 with Tolley, finding Gray breaking forward, a smart back heel to Fleetwood saw him race through, and score via the inside of the post.

Fleetwood, Watkins and Gray all caused the visitors problems and on the balance of the play in the first half play, would somewhat fortunate not to be out of the tie at a very early stage. Osano won an important header, after Harris swung in from Wright’s throw in, with Ciesleswicz ready to pounce. Fleetwood, making another barnstorming run, feeding from Howells pass, running past Ashton and Knight-Percival, but just rolling his attempt wide.

Wrexham were going to come out swinging, and they did force us bck for the first twenty minutes of the second half. They were always going to start better, after being completely battered. Pilkinton, looks back to his usal standard, far cry rom some of his nervy performances not long ago, made two crucial blocks , clearing a Pogba cross and then winning a great header as Wright hang up a centre towards Morrell.

The pressure did continue, a similar scenario at Fleetwood when we did struggle to clear our lines, but when as we would have folded, there is more steel to our play. We worked hard to stop crosses coming in and flood the box so it is very difficult for the opponents to pick out a pass or cross.

Keane adjuged to have fouled Morrell, when he looked to have got some of the ball, five yards from the area, Keates’ strike hit Lawless in the wall. Harris’ pass to the overlapping Ashton, once again Pilkington cleared his lines only for Ciesleswicz to fluff his drive.

They did force a number of corners, Keates floating them up, drifting into the near post for their tall players to attack them. Kovacs almost walked one of them in at the back post, as the ball seemed to get stuck between his feet, and Knight-Percival headed over from close range.

We were almost playing like an away side, Pilkington won a solid tackle against Ciesleswicz, dinked over a superbly weighted pass, allowing Gray to run at Creighton, he has allowed to drifted inside on the left, blazing over. The good thing about Gray, he will always look to shoot regardless of the angle.

We had a second wing, started closing Wrexham down, some of their diagonal passing was to be kind, utterly rancid ( unless they were intend in picking out people in the Enclosure), although Osano did get under Ashton’s punt into the box, Pogba’s control was lousy

Watkins’ drive was deflected from Willmott’s square pass comfortably smothered by Maybei. It looked like Kissock would be the first cab off the rank, but change of plan saw McAllister for Fleetwood. Fleetwood put a shift in and was a constant threat, but McAllister came on and held the ball up, as long as he has pace around him, he’s fine.

Pogba just failed to beat the offside trap latching onto Harris’ slide rule pass. By this time,. We had drawn whatever sting they had, and started to pop passes around, as Wrexham looked very weary. Osano’s arching pass was held up well by McAllister, pushing the ball out to Willmott, who does have an uncanny talent for booting the ball into orbit. Osano won possession from Ciesleswicz, finding Watkins, who pushed the ball into Gray, the angle looked against him, producing a fierce snapshot, that Maybei did well to move across and save at the concession of a corner. Excellent football all round.

Harris opened his body up to invite a tackle, and won a free kick against Watkins at a dangerous position, central, Ashton’s roll into the path of Tolley was given as a handball in the wall. It was right on the edge of the box, but it’s difficult to get it up and over the wall from close, Ashton’s strike hit Pogba rebounded to Harris to finsih poorly wide.

Gray set legging it down the right, from lawless’ pass, he had two targets to aim for – Willmott or mcAllister. Good run by Willmott, but elected to shoot first time and could only prod it at Maybei.

Kissock entered the fray late for Watkins, another who put an outstanding shift in (that applies to everyone); Kissock won a spectacular header off the ground. Unfortunately, the Wrexham goal lead a charmed life, Pilkington’s punt forward looked destined for routine defensive clearance, the ball rocketed off Ashton’s chest at pace, Maybei of his line, couldn’t get back, look for all the world to be bobbling in or for Kovacs to score from a few inches out, but somehow Knight- Percival snaked out a leg and keep Wrexham in the tie.

Morgan-Smith made his welcome reappearance late on to replace Gray. Not surprisingly looked very eager, but a couple of times would have been better standing his ground rather than give away unnecessary free kicks. But with four minutes allowed, the only effort Wrexham could muster, was the two Wright combined, Danny flicked on Stephen’s long throw and Pogba could only nod over.

A case of deja vu, with an excellent first leg victory over Wrexham. Hopefully, we won’t give them a way back into the tie unlike Mangan’s early goal last year, followed by Tyler’s penalty save from Taylor.

Obvious thing to say, but the first goal on Monday will be crucial, but if we continue to keep doing the basics correctly, it would be easier for Wrexham’s players to hop up Snowdonia on one foot, than to over turn this loss. Unless the nippy Speight is fit, they haven’t got anyone else from outside their team, who can change the way they play.

Mark Tyler 6.5, Curtis Osano 8, Janos Kovacs 8.5, George Pilkington 9 , Jake Howells 7.25 , Alex Lawless 7, Keith Keane 9, Adam Watkins 7.75 (John-Paul Kissock) , Andre Gray 9.25( Amari Morgan-Smith), Stuart Fleetwood 9.5 ( Craig McAllister 7), Robbie Willmott 7.5.

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PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions (Fleetwood AWAY)

A perfect away performance secured our position into the unjust Annual bun fight, so beloved by the TV Companies ( another good reason to dislike them) and continue our 100% record at Highbury. Changed a bit, from when Arsenal played there, not to mention being shifted 250 miles further north.

Funny little ground, the new Grandstand has improved the look of it, but very odd that their players have to resort to street parking. Defended very well as a team, restricting Fleetwood to a fair amount of possession but few clear cut opportunities. With Gray, back to form, after a couple of quieter games, we had an option on the break. For once we have momentum going into the knock out phrase of the season.

It’s the luck of the bird poo you know, deposited during the game on the car. Well, I say bird, judging by the size of the deposit must have had the bottom the size of an Elephant. Feel free to make your own Danny Crow jokes at this juncture.

It’s been a long time coming to produce such an authoritative display on the road. Only a slightly patchy start to the game, where Fleetwood threatened to out pass us, and the first twenty minutes of the second half, where they used the width better and penned us back. We were in any kind of trouble. For the majority of the game, it was a calm, composed performance, we looked like we had matters under control. Almost routine, if you didn’t know what was at stake.

The difference in how we defended recently was in evidence again, getting a lot of players back to defend the box, making it very different for the opponents to gain space into the penalty box. The recent run of keeping more clean sheets than a Launderette is no fluke.

The whole defence was excellent, Pilkington strong in the air, sliding in to make some crucial blocks, Kovacs was Kovacs, Howells kept Vardy extremely quiet. Osano had his best game for the club. At times Mangan looked to have the beating of him, but developed a knack of being able to get his leg in the way to intercept the ball. Also produced a mazy run at the death, which was only denied by Davies’ legs.

Apart from Lawless who looked knackered, after taking a knock in the first half and emptied out quickly, another good all round team performance. Under Buckle’s management, whoever is selected appears to have a defined role in the team. It’s so far working very well.

Two changes from the Gateshead game on Tuesday. McAllister and Kissock replacing Fleetwood and Willmott. Not really surprised McAllister started, although he was puffing hard before his eventual withdrawal, as he improved things at Gateshead and against McNulty, more rolls than a Bakery under his shirt alongside Pond, possibly one of the dirtiest players I have had the misfortune to witness, we needed some bulk up front. Gray had the easier option of running rings against Alan ( Not very) Goodall.

More surprised with the selection of Kissock, hardly featured under Buckle so far. But he did well enough . Pass and moved fairly well, keeping the Sealion impression to a minimum. He is like a magnet to flying boots, received treatment to a cut to his nose and after Fowler ( maybe he thought he was a six pack of Tennants Super Extra) grounded him, got up and expressed a difference of opinions with McNulty, a man who must be double his weight. A real meeting of the minds.

So we lined up with the same shape which Buckle has employed the majority of the time at Luton. Starting with a 4-4-2, but quickly changing as we were allowing Rose too much time and space on the ball, although they were gulity at times of over playing. Keane sat just in front of the back four, and from there on in, Rose failed to blossom. Tyler in goal, back four of Osano, Kovacs, Pilkington and Howells. Three in central midfield Keane, Lawless and Watkins. Old goal machine himself McAllister up front, with Kissock and Gray either side. So it worked out as 4-3-3 in possession and 4-5-1 when Fleetwood had the ball.

Fleetwood themselves picked a strong team. Not full strength, but it’s not like they threw in several youngsters. We matched their system, only Seddon up front, having Mangan and Vardy on the wings. Seems odd to have a player with a touch of class that Vardy does have, playing out of position,. Managers these days seem obsessed in packing the midfield. They looked to pass it on the deck, but their final ball for a team assembled so expensively and having such a successful season was dire. As well as we defended, they were below par.

Seddon’s pass from the left into Mangan, taking one touch but Howells hacked clear to deny a shooting opportunity. With players such as Fowler and Rose, they will always going to be decent on the ball, but we kept our shape, restricting Fowler to one highly ambitious dig which landed in someone’s back garden.

Our first foray forward saw us take the lead, Watkins broke up play shovelled the ball down the right flank, to McAllister, good job he has such vision and skill to pop the ball into the goal for an unlikely angle. Erm.. with Pond shadowing him, his attempted cross hit the defender, deflecting up across goal, wrong footing Davies at the back post, and nestled neatly into the far corner.

Stroke of luck which when things are going your own always seen to be on the right side of, but from that moment, we never looked back. Kept the ball well, always patient with it rarely ruffled and looked to get the ball behind Goodall for Gray to run at him.

Vardy run menacingly at the back pedalling Howells, but could only loop the ball safely over Tyler’s bar. Tyler was only called upon to block Mangan’s low drive, which was a routine enough save.

Keane playing wearing a plastic cast, slide the ball towards the right, Gray’s low cross, cut out by the sprawling Davies. After Cavanagh tripped Keane, we executed a perfectly worked set piece, pushed into the back of Lawless’s heel, Howells reacted quickly by booting the ball into the box. Must have spent literally seconds on the training ground practising that one.

Watkins cutting out Pond’s clearance, found Gray, he lifted the ball across to McAllister, there was too much pace on the ball, but McAllister did well to control it but was squeezed out by the number of red shirts. Rose feed Vardy, trying to jink inside, where Osano made a vital interception. Mangan drifting inside escaped Osano, the cutback put out by Kovacs.

We almost doubled in the lead in bizarre circumstances. Kissock’s right wing corner, found Davies who could have done almost anything with the ball, but punched it towards his own goal, where McNulty hoofed it off the line. As the clock ticked into stoppage time, Rose’s pass out wide to Vardy was dealt with by Howells before any danger occurred.

Fletwood started the second half strongly, mainly using Beeley and Goodall, their full backs to bomb forward. We defended too deep during his spell, and the ball kept coming back as McAllister was isolated up front. But apart from being a bit slow to react to a number of short corners, there was always a white shirt in the box, to win a header, put their foot in or just clear the ball out.

Gray had did a fine job in the first half of tracking back to assist Osano, but Goodall got forward well, supported by Vardy swapping flanks. They were able to send in numerous crosses, which almost all were dealt with very well.

Pilkington ended Vardy’s run down the left, from the resulting Mangan corner, Howells at point blank range stopped a lashed drive by Vardy again. They only really opened us up once, Cavanagh’s pass to Rose, Pilkington won the ball against Seddon, Vardy popped the ball out to Beeley in space, but smashed it wide of the far post.

Kissock and Howells exchanging passes, the move was in danger of going nowhere before a forward thrusting run by Watkins, picking out gray to his right, but Gray booted the boot well over.

Taylor replaced Lawless, who on the day was the weakest link. Taylor replaced him, coming on for his Gateshead reappearance, looked sharper. Helping Howells bottle up our left and using Taylor’s pace on the break against their two slothful centre backs.

Howells got a very important touch from an excellent Goodall cross towards Seddon and diverting it for a corner. Then probably their best chance, mangan stabbed at Tyler from close range, following Goodall’s low centre.

Our play did get slightly scrappy, as we found it difficult to take the pressure of the defence. Willmott replaced McAllister. Gray against two physical centre halves was a non-contest, however having Willmott and Taylor, two fresh pairs of legs, meant their two full backs were forced back and Fleetwood’s spell of pressure was gradually eroded.

Taylor made good progress down the left, looked to have lost possession, regained it, giving it to Kissock to shot wide. The game was finally put to bed, following a terrible pass by Pond straight to Willmott, who feed Gray to strike beneath the body of Davies, to send our crowd including the rabbit and the man dressed in the Orange suit ( mixture of Tango man meets Spiderman. His super powers solely consisted of running behind the goal, waving his arms in the air) into delirium.

Fleetwood gave up the game looking ahead to their summer riding Donkeys (or Scottish single mothers, to be PC) and we had opportunities to increase our lead. Howells’ pass up to Gray, knocked the ball out to Willmott, but Cavanagh turned it behind. Fleetwood replaced Gray to a well deserved standing ovation, Fleetwood got punched in the stomach by Pond for his troubles with the referee choosing to ignore it.

Willmott was denied by Davies’ punch clear following Watkins’ pass. Osano shimmied past Pond, only to be foiled by Davies’s legs. Pilkington confirmed the clean sheet but producing a super block on Beeley following Allen’s forward pass.

So a largely disappointing season ends on a high note with a promising unbeaten run. Whatever happens in the Play Offs ( you will be pleased to know Im NOT backing us to win them, therefore giving us a better chance of doing so. Taking one for the team), that next season ( whatever division) we are in, should be a good one having a proper manager in charge. Well done Paul Buckle, so far outstanding job .– which will be changed to that clueless tactical retard when we lose one game. :o).

Mark Tyler 6.5, Curtis Osano 8.75, Janos Kovacs 7.5 , George Pilkington 8.75 , Jake Howells 8, Alex Lawless 5.5 ( Greg Taylor 6.5), Keith Keane 7.5, Adam Watkins 7.25, John-Paul Kissock 7, Andre Gray 9 (Stuart Fleetwood). Craig McAllister 7.25 (Robbie Willmott 7)

Subs not used – Shane Blackett, Lewis Kidd.

Fleetwood – Davies, Beeley, McNulty, Pond, Goodall, Cavanagh, Fowler, Rose ( Rowe), Vardy(Milligan), Seddon (Allen), Mangan. Booked – Cavanagh

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The Calm before The Storm

 

As I type this we are in the quiet, nervous period between the two games. The eye of the storm if you will, where all that happens is that the respective managers give out positive messages, whilst concentrating 100% on the task in hand.

Whatever happens tomorrow (and I was one of the ones who were too slow off the mark to get a ticket) in this past month, since the last Bank Holiday Monday we have seen an unprecedented about-turn in our performances and fortunes.

A month ago if you had told me that the team that we were all happy to slag off, who were underperforming and limping along without a win in eight games would then go unbeaten in the next seven, with six clean sheets on the trot I wouldn’t have believed you – I don’t think anyone thought that the change around would be so comprehensive and effective.  It is fairy-tale Roy of the Rovers stuff – and is down to the discipline, determination and drive of Paul Buckle.

I can’t think of such a turnaround in a season before. To go from zeros to heroes in such a short space of time (Buckle had 24 hours) is utterly, utterly remarkable. Pinch yourself.

It isn’t just the results that are different. It is the fact that in the past few games we have been resilient at the back, we have always been first to the loose ball, we have closed down from the front,  got stuck in and winning challenges, and delightfully attacking at pace on the break. A little bit of the early 1980s Hatters have rubbed off on non-league Luton. Furthermore, if you could have devised a playing style and an attitude to get the Luton faithful on your side – this would be it. This would truly be it. For me, this is what I’ve been waiting for all these years.

It was so wonderful to be in a very nearly full Kenilworth Road once again. The atmosphere spurred the players on the way that the boos dispirited them previously. And what a buzz for Andre Gray. Playing in front of a few hundred a few weeks ago and now a near full Kenilworth Road – no wonder he is responding. Fleetwood too was on fire (in a Poku way) his determination for the first goal and his left-foot finish for the second raised the roof at the Kenny End once again. Good to see AMS back and playing again – and big Macca did his job well too when he came on.

Having gone all of the season without a performance or result against the teams in the top 5, to go and whoomp Fleetwood and whack Wrexham was very special and out of the blue. It would have fascinating to see what would have happened if we had been like this from the start of the season. This is most certainly the method that we should have been applying since that first game away to Wimbledon in August 2009.

My only worry is that having had all those chances to make it three, or four or even five against Wrexham, that fate turns around and slaps us in the face and punishes us for the profligacy once again. Perhaps, however, the fact that Wrexham have to get two goals, may enable us to counter attack for a third one in the tie?We can but hope.

But if we have a modicum of luck and play as well again as we have in the past two games, we shouldn’t give Wrexham a sniff, should we???

As the clock ticks around to 4 30pm tomorrow, I’m going to be getting more and more nervous – just one more sound performance and we are at our home-from-home again. …

All the best to those lucky ones of you going up to Wrexham in the morning – well done & sing your hearts out for the lads, I’ll be watching from behind the sofa…

Come on you Hatters.

 

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