PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions (Dartford Home)

With Newport beaten on Friday and Wrexham being turned over by Hereford (what a week for them), it was set up for us nicely. Set up for us to shoot ourselves in the foot..again. It’s happening too often to just be one of those days. More like one of those seasons. Paul Buckle isn’t getting the best out of the players available. Nowhere near. After a good performance at Hereford, there was no light at the end of the tunnel against Dartford.

If you concede soft, set piece goals and the manager buggers around with the team selection trying to be too clever , you get what you deserve. No excuses today. Just not good enough, miles below the standard we need to be. Well played Dartford, as good a team in this League ( damning with faint praise), Ive seen, bar Grimsby. But for their lack of numbers, they would be good enough to mount a Title challenge. They play like a team do the basics well ( that is all you need this Season), we have decent but wildly hit and miss individuals. How the likes of Noble, Hayes and Bradbrook are part time players is beyond my little brain unless they have well paid proper jobs. We gifted them goals, but it was a classic away performance by them. Deserved their unheard of, at Kenilworth Road for an away team, a standing ovation.

Buckle’s selection defied logic. He fiddles around more with the starting team than Jimmy Savile in a dressing room full of underage girls. If anyone really thinks Brill is a better keeper than Tyler ( if 100%) in a League game, they need sectioning. LRT one of our better performers at Hereford axed. Personally thought our midfield trio were excellent at Hereford. So why change it? Not for O’Donnell, full of endeavour and carries the ball forward well . But unless he is on the left wing, he’s not worth his place. Best will in the world, he is a boy trying to do a man’s job. Jake Howells isn’t a left back. Correction, he is a dire left back, as Hayes ran rings around him proved ( if anyone was in any doubt) . With Lawless at right back, against counter attack teams, it’s a risky choice playing two midfielders there.

Whilst the strikers for wingers formation works well on the road. Buckle, the 25 trillion coaching staff and the players need to come up with something better with at home. Personally I would prefer to play three centre halves and wingbacks. However if Buckle is going to persist with this system at home, our movement off the ball needs to improve massively, but also play an attacking midfielder, just off Rendell or Shaw. The lone front man is isolated, so even when Rendell won the ball, no one is running on to collect it or arriving from deep when crosses come in. Apart from the fact, we don’t get enough men in the box, so our crosses look worse than they are. Although there seems to be a magnet on top of the Oak Road roof, as a lot of balls are disappearing over there.

You can point to stats of possession, corners ( mostly daintly floated up easy for Bettinelli at the near post) shots, whatever you fancy. The most telling stat is we have lost six games by the middle of November, which is grossly unacceptable for Luton Town in this League. It’s only due to the fact that the standard in the League is universally rancid, we aren’t that far off top. It was a poor techincial performance, Dartford closed us down well , but too many unopposed passes went astray to light blue shirts, first touches awful. Appreciate players at this level are slow in thought and action, but that was very bad today, until we improved slightly, but too little too late.

Including a late flurry, we had about three efforts on target, whilst Dartford defended well, not once did you feel they were hanging on by edge of their fingertips.

If it wakes up Buckle up to his senses and goes for a different approach at home, then today maybe a blessing in disguise. Don’t hold your breath, boys and girls.

Two changes from the unfortunate Hereford defeat- Lawless and O’Donnell in place of Kovacs (one mistake and gets dumped) and LRT (at best a disgusting decision). Brill in goal, back four of Lawless, Henry, Ainge and Howells. Three centrally Smith (best performer by far, got around the field well, but there is a touch of the headless Chickens about me), Mendy (dire, got closed down, lost interest in the game thereafter. Disappointing as on his day, he has the vision to open up defences), O’Donnell. Rendell, in splendid isolation up front (apart from being groped by Bonner and Arber), with Gray and Fleetwood out wide.

Dartford, very tidy passing team. Simple approach, Bradbrook sweeping up in front of their defence, Noble’s quick feet and movement, afforded so many space, the two wingers Harris and Hayes, ran amok on the break. The main difference, they always have options on the ball and closed us down quickly. We didn’t and our movement was static. They were cheered on by a noisy, large travelling support ( aww. How sweet. Must be a blessing to escape the bed sit for a day?)

Hayes ran inside Howells, centred diagonally across to Harris, powering in a smart header, but had run offside. They passed it well and settled better. But Smith apart no-one else was rattling in tackles. Smith gave away a free kick, bringing down Noble. Noble arose, and sent in a drifting free kick, our defence stood and watched, Bradbrook ran across Brill, and the ball went into to the far post. Hardly worth noting, Brill was stuck on his line. So once again, we are playing catch up football.

Bettinelli took hours to take goal kicks. The referee rotating both arms really is very effective form of discipline. They were generally quicker and sharper to the ball. Plenty of possession, but little goal threat, hopeless final ball (why does Fleetwood take corners? Out of interest), once again plenty of possession, huff and puff, but Bettinelli only had to pull off one smart save to deny Gray.

From Champion’s long ball, Noble, did wonderfully well to take down the ball in his first touch, beat Ainge, but at least he recovered to deflect the ball over.

Rendell’s fine 50/50 tackle on Rose, gave O’Donnell a rather optimistic chance to shoot straight at Bonner, yards out of the box. O’Donnell played a nice forward pass, Gray showed good movement, and his first touch seemed to take the ball beyond Bonner, as Bonner slide in took Gray first the ball second, but nothing doing. Fleetwood enduring another frustrated afternoon fouled plenty of times by Burns on the left, but no further punishment. Whilst Fleetwood was about to take the free kick, Mendy shoved to the deck by Bonner in a box, and booked. Why isn’t that a penalty? Rendell’s low pass found Gray sprinting beyond Rose, his low drive blocked by Bettinelli’s legs; the rebound hit Gray in the psyhog and went towards the goal only for Burns to hack away. Lawless had a quiet game on his return, sent in a fine cross, Burns miskicked, but Fleetwood back on his heels couldn’t control the ball. Lawless played another cross in which fell to Mendy, Champion got a block on the ball, which O’Donnell scooped wide.

Most of many corners were held up for Bettinelli to push his way through the crowd, like someone shopping at Christmas Eve, to fist away. One he made an awful mess of the ball on a plate to Ainge, who fluffed the chance Dartford clearing their lines again.

Whereas some of our play was patient against Nuneaton and Hereford, more often than not, brill hoofed the ball downfield, with Rendell alone had little help. Hayes robbed Mendy, to break clear, Ainge standing up well to get a foot on the shot, it span for Harris to control with his arm, before Henry whacked it away.

Howells’ pass gave O’Donnell some space to run in to, but going infield on his right peg, meant his effort was more like a back pass. Their second goal was terrible goal to concede. A long straight free kick by Arber, headed on by Bradbrook, with no-one in an orange shirt moving Bonner tapped from close range. Dismal, shambolic defending. It could have been three before the break. Hayes eased past Howells, deliver a cross which Lawless climbed above Harris to win.

Half time brought no changes. The team came out early, which is done for effect nothing else. We did started better, Fleetwood unlucky, running onto his own header, drove with purpose into the box, , a fierce low drive, which eluded Smith by an inch or two. Dartford could have sealed the game on the break; Hayes passed Howells, his cross missed by Erskine.

Lawless was involved a lot more, looked to try and get the ball diagonally into the box, which not a bad idea, as we had little joy beating Bonner and Arber in the air. Better passing between Lawless and Gray, set up Smith to shoot tamely at Arber, Then Gray turned into space again only finding Arber. Gray looks a shadow of himself at the moment. Twice today, he refused to run after passes which he could have comfortably kept it play. His confidence is very low, keeps on snatching at the ball. He needs some help from our five million members of our coaching staff. If they can’t see he needs encouragement, they are blind.

Howells had the ball in the onion bag, following a superb low pass by lawless, but he was offside. His defending was scratchy, all over Harris to concede a free kick, which Noble located the scoreboard. A poor square pass y lawless played in Noble, beating Smith, but a heavy touch cost him, with Erskine screaming for the ball.

Dartford used the width very well. Handy having wingers on the flanks. Bradbrook’s pass into Erksine’s feet, neat turn, Hayes got to the edge of the box, before smashing his drive onto the roof. They have been watching us.

Mendy gifted Noble the ball, on the break out to Harris, low centre saw Ainge made a vital clearance. Walker came on for Mendy. We went 4-2-4, so at least gave Rendell some much needed support. Walker galloped down the flank and compared to some of his team mates, did OK. Smith, joining Mendy in the book, for a frustrated lunge on Rose, after Fleetwood needlessly gave away the ball. Arber elbowed Fleetwood, but this time the referee didn’t see the point in showing him yellow.

Smith and Fleetwood involved in a decent give and go the ball struck Arber and span behind.

Harris got on the ball bypassing Lawless and play a clever reverse pass, hitting the ball wide of Brill’s upright. Noble again involved, with Rose overlapping belted the ball against Lawless’ arm. Decent run by Walker, ending up hitting Bonner. Rendell nodded down Lawless’ centre, which Walker curled over.

Whilst it was far too late, we started getting more men in the box. Rendell picked out Gray, Bonner could only touch the ball back in Gray’s path, but he could only loop it over. It fell nicely for him. He wasted a better chance, Rendell winning a header from Lawless’ deep centre; leaning back he scythed it wide. Howells and Walker played a one two, Walker put an excellent cross in, again lack for Luton shirts, so Bettinelli managed to hold the ball comfortably.

A hoof forward by Brill, Rendell flicked it on, for Gray to finish badly as it sailed over. Gray was unlucky, a brilliant save by Bettinelli changing direction, to push his header away to his left, with his weight on the other foot. To be fair, we kept going and plugged away. The home form and performances are a great concern, no good moaning about teams who park the bus; you have to be quicker and more innovative to break them down.

Our current plan A at home is concede early then panic. We did create a few more opportunities late on, but Buckle needs to be braver, get more men forward to support the target man. Waste of time unless mistakes are cut out.

Tuesday night at Nuneaton will be as terrible as it sounds. Win, lose or draw. Mind you, the path looks open to Round 3, so doubtless we will muck it up. I long for the days we are plucky underdogs. Being favourities most of the time, is very uncomfortable. You can’t beat an evening out at an open ground in a Winter. The way we defended set pieces, gives me concern for Sunday’s game at Mansfield, against the giants of the underclasses. Cheers Notts Police, knew the lousy gits would come up with something. Never realised Mansfield and Nottingham Forest have NEVER EVER EVER played a home game on the same day before. Any old excuse. 1pm on a Sunday in Mansfield Im sure it will be as abject as it sounds. Any time spent in Mansfield is inhumane.

Dean Brill 5, Alex Lawless 6.75 Ronnie Henry 6.5 , Simon Ainge 6.25 , Jake Howells 4.5 , Arnaud Mendy 4.25( Dan Walker 6.5) , Jonathan Smith 7.5 , J.J. O’Donnell 5.5, Andre Gray 6, Scott Rendell 6.5 , Stuart Fleetwood 6.25.
Subs not used – Mark Tyler, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Janos Kovacs, Adam Watkins, . Booked – Mendy, Smith, Fleetwood.
Dartford – Bettinelli, Burns, Bonner, Arber, Rose, Green , Hayes(Collier) , Champion , Bradbrook, Harris(Rogers),Noble. Booked – Bonner, Rose, Rogers

*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 all this parlarva regarding Nadine Dorres going on I’m a Nonentity on the Telly box. She would be good at the Bush Tucker Trial; she looks like she must have swallowed worst things in her time than gobbling down a Koala’s anus and a pint of blended Witchety Grub.


Open Thread: Your turn to comment about where we are

I’m sick of it. I could sit here and type thousands of words about Luton’s two disappointing results this week, about getting lost on the way back from Hereford and so on. But I’m not, today it’s your turn. Please feel free to vent your spleen/give positive comments about what’s gone on and where we are. And more importantly where we need to be. This is the most open division for donkey’s years and no one wants to win it…least of all us.


FA Cup First Round: A cold wind, Tanglefoot and Offside.

Another cup game, another chance to sit where you like and a golden opportunity to sit behind the linesman and give him some stick.  He only had three decisions to make and got each one wrong!

October’s warm bits have been frozen off to create November. An already cold Kenilworth Road was made five degrees colder by a chilly wind.  Luton started well and immediately Fleetwood fluffed a volley within a minute.  Once again the ease of the first ten minutes gave rise to over confidence. I think we thought that it would be too easy and Nuneaton lulled us into a false sense of security by their lack of skill, vision or attacking purpose. It should have been easier, but Nuneaton, miles worse technically man-for-man, worked hard and showed that it is easier to close down, break up play with lots of effort than it is to break a side down and to create chances. It’s easier to be spoilers than to be entertainers. An obvious point perhaps, but one worth making. Otherwise we’d have scores like 7-5 and 5-4 in football matches and that could never be right.

The Nuneaton goal of course wasn’t. For some reason the lino didn’t seem to spot Waite a mile offside – an offside which brought back memories (bad memories) of Wembley in May. Waite pounced a few feet out after Sleath had crossed the ball, but he was miles off. Where do we get these officials from I wonder? Similarly I saw nothing suspicious about Fleetwood’s equaliser later on in the second half. That should have been 1-0 after all. But no. Not at Luton. We have to work twice as hard because seemingly we spend our time battling the crappy officials as well as a defensive opposition.

Our formation was intriguing – or perhaps not the formation, but the way PB insists on trying to squeeze four attackers into a 4-3-3. I thought Andre Gray started on the right of the middle three, though he did break down the wing a number of times. Nuneaton played a very defensive 5-3-2.

Dan Walker started with Jon Shaw pulled up lame before the game – too much herbal life perhaps? He started on the right, Fleetwood on the left and Scott Rendell in the middle. That changed once we’d conceded and Gray went through the middle with Rendell in a 4-2-4. Later on, we looked much better with a 5-2-3/3-4-3, with Howells up the left and Jake Robinson on the right and it was this formation that brought lots of pressure and eventually the goal. And yes, if we’d played for another ten minutes, we would have won. For a time, before Jake Robinson came on, Jake Howells, was on the right, playing behind Gray, they linked up well – Jake’s left peg on the right side, readily finding exactly the right pace and direction for Gray to run on to. Jake Robinson had more room on the right than a tramp at a disco and tormented them towards the end. He was lobbing for fun in the last 5 minutes – his lobbing is better than his crossing, which was a tad mixed. Oh? His lobs were crosses? Whatever next…

The front players played pretty well, without quite clicking, or perhaps having the room to click. Walker was bright and lively, but occasionally let himself down with a heavy touch or a wayward pass. Poor Fleets got no room and seemed a bit remote on the wing (“he is not a winger!” I hear you cry) and went off unfulfilled but not unbowed. On another day he could easily have had three goals, but was sawn off twice through the middle by the baldy lino who can probably still hear my voice ringing in his ears. Gray looked bright, but again, some heavy touches and crappy crosses let him down. Rendell, constantly in a battle, could hold his head up high and netted yet again. After a slow start, Rendell and Luton are getting on quite well now, thank you.

In the middle we started with JJ O’Donnell, Gray (as mentioned previously) and Bendy Mendy making his home debut. He has something about him and he worked hard. A funny sort of midfield though against the quick-to-kick hackers they were up against. JJ buzzed around like a bee – but didn’t have his best game. He still looks like a strong gust of wind would whip him away to Houghton Regis. Any player in the Nico mould would look at him, lick his lips and see him as raw meat to be kicked off the park.

At the back – Howells started on the left, LRT in the middle, Kovacs alongside and Ronnie H on the right. I’m going to get a T-Shirt printed, “I was there when Ronnie Henry got into the opposing penalty-box”. Apart from being caught in possesion to give the goal away Nose-bleed Ronnie had a pretty tidy game actually, but wasn’t over stretched frankly.

Jake had a good game, and showed a bit of class today I thought. The corners he took were very samey, but it was his free kick curling in which found Scott Rendell’s waiting head.

Kovacs had clearly learnt to head the ball again. Not that I particularly had noticed that he couldn’t, but PB had, and he’s the one who counts! In fact – so keen was Kovacs to head that sometimes he headed when a kick would have done, you can have overkill after all.

LRT was deemed surplus to requirements when we went onto the front foot – Jake Robinson took his place. Back from Loan Adam Watkins looked to do as much as he could in the time he came on for Stuart Fleetwood.

Dean Brill had a good game. He wasn’t called upon to do too much – but had to make a couple of good saves which kept us in the game and he did well. He was keen to distribute the ball by throwing out, and we saw why when he did one long kick which went straight back to his opposite number as opposed to finding Rendell or Gray who was in space.  Contrast Brill to Nuneaton’s keeper McNamara, who had a good game last time out, but was approaching comedy status this afternoon. His kicking came from the Carl Emberson school of mis-direction and Dreyer-net finding. He didn’t look confident. If only we’d tried him out a bit more.

So – in ten days time we are back to Nuneaton for the replay. Perhaps more of the onus will be on them to attack, rather than to sit back and try to get a goal from the bits and pieces. Or perhaps they’ll try for penalties. You never know. Not sure we’ll be playing on the Thursday as well as the Tuesday that week. Sod’s law of course because I’ve arranged to be in Mansfield on the Thursday ahead of the televised game. It’s bad enough going there anyway, I’d not have chosen to go there, so now I’m lumbered with a meeting late in the afternoon, with quite possibly no game at the end of it.

Today, we started well, got over confident before our belief was snuffed out and our confidence ebbed. We always looked the better side, but kept at it and I think we always looked as if we would get a goal somehow. That one goal should have been enough – but wasn’t. We looked better once again when we had two wing backs and three at the back. Yet again a side set out to frustrate us and managed to do so. It wasn’t the most sparkling of games, but I quite enjoyed in a bizarre sort of way. It’s quite nice knowing that a home draw doesn’t mean that we slip back in the table. And I’ve got no worries that we won’t prevail with our present away form.

What is the difference between this season and the last one? Slightly more settled team, and formation. Fitness levels such that we are the side scoring in the last 10 minutes, instead of the opposition. We’re showing determination and self belief when we go behind. Other than shipping so many goals from set pieces the only thing that isn’t quite clicking is the quality of the play. We’re still in second gear lurching along. I’m sure at some point we’ll slip into third and fourth gear and get some early goals and cane some of these teams. That said – we are in second place whilst being in second gear. This bodes well.

Edgar Street on a Tuesday next. I’d like to personally thank the fixtures computer for that one – a six hour round trip on a Tuesday night. By then we will know who we might get in the second round. Harrogate, Hastings or Chelmsford would be nice at home please…

One surprise face on the bench today was **The Shadow** Jame Dance – remember him? Glad to see him back – but I fear his days are numbered – now the only winger at the club, he stands out like dandruff on a dinner jacket. No proper wingers here please. 50p says he’ll be out on loan to “get some match fitness” sooner rather than later…and then will be gone. The Shadow will be no more than a memory – you’ll not be sure you ever saw him.

I’ve sat in the main stand/enclose three times now in 18 years. I was there for the Sheffield Utd 6-3, The QPR FA cup game where we held them with 10 (or was it 9?) men and then today.  I’d never been in the Nick Owen bar before today, and was delighted to see they have Tanglefoot, a proper beer behind the bar, albeit in bottled form. None of that at the ‘Hatters Bar’ at the Kenny End, oh no, it’s a flat Fosters or John Smith’s putrid flavour-free brown beer there and we shiver as the wind whistles through the turnstiles directly from the Russian Steppes and claws at your back like a Siberian tiger. How the other half live eh? You’ll be telling me they serve prawn sandwiches in the Century Club next.