If its Gateshead then it must be raining. A wet afternoon and a cracking game. The Hatters played at such a pace in the first half that perhaps it was inevitable that they would run out of puff at some point. When we did we let in a couple of sloppy goals but not before we had scored four crackers. On the final Saturday before Christmas, an excuse for lower crowds in the days before Amazon, just under 7000 Hatters made the place rock and the Oak Road sang like the old days. For a while in the first half we were irrepressible, and at times there was clear blue water man for man between each Luton player and his Gateshead counterpart for a little while it was men against boys.
The side picked itself, with Joe Davis slotting in alongside McNulty. Lawless however played on the left, rather than the right, which was interesting. He set up one goal and scored two others and was in fine form.
The scoring was opened by the in form Paul Benson who led the line superbly all night. It came from a lovely cross from Lawless from the byline across the face of the goal to the far post.
The second was down to Alex Lawlesss persistence in front of goal. Having lost the ball a couple of yards out he tackled the defender span around and lashed the ball in the net with his left foot.
Persistence was the name of the game for the third goal. On the far right wing, but the dugouts Lawless closed down the dilatory Sirrell and the ball ran to his colleague who barely had time to control it before Ronnie Henry intercepted and his interception became a perfect through ball for Andre Gray. Gray took a couple of touches, ran with the ball a little way, didnt bother to try to create an angle and just blasted it past the goalie into the net. Nothing prevented the goalie from saving it, he wasnt obstructed or impeded he was on his line, but Gray just blasted it as hard as he could into the back of the net.
The fourth goal was a beauty too. It began at the back whereby McNulty and Henry tidied up a Gateshead loose ball, with them pressed up the pitch, Henry slotted the ball to Gray on the right who took the ball from his own half and played the ball into the path of Benson who rounded a player and then reversed a shot into the opposite corner. The keeper got his fingers to it, but could only parry the ball to Lawless who calmly slotted it in.
Steve McNulty was simply awesome all afternoon. His tackling, heading and positional play was outstanding. He even had a tete-a-tete with Hatch right at the end with the ex-Hatter (and fellow Mastermind contestant) goading our lovable scouse and picking up a booking in the process. He kept on and on and wouldnt let it lie (clearly debating that the atomic weight of xenon is indeed 131.293, not 131.294) but fantastically (in the hypocritical way that cricketers go and have a beer with the bloke whose mother they were slagging off a few minutes earlier at the end of the game) turned around and shook McNultys hand the second the whistle was blown. No hard feelings Macca. McNulty also lambasted Lawless for the first Gateshead goal. Nice to see the passion and annoyance about conceding one when four up. Glad it didnt develop into a Batty/Le Saux tiff.
Scott Griffiths has gone from strength to strength over the past few weeks, he pressed further forwards than usual and on two or three occasions took an active part in play in the box and even had a shot, a left-back special. His commitment on the touchline and interplay with Lawless was the key to the first goal: he played Alex in to cross for Bensons header. I think he did go a bit sleepy bo bos for the Heeds first goal but Ill forgive him that.
On the right Ronnie Henry roamed forward on occasion with great effect and brought a challenging extra element for Gateshead to contend with.
Davis was also tidy and competent. I recall one bone-cruncher of a tackle he did on the no 7 (Larkin?) the tackle had to be perfect, because something bad would have happened if he had been out by an inch either way.
The middle three comprised of PRM, Guttridge and Smudger Smith. Smith was quietly competent with some composed tackles he pressed their midfield effectively and never let them settle on the ball. He had an outstanding game. Guttridge was utterly dominant and pulling all the strings in the way he does, more so in the first half than second. PRM at times looked way too good for the conference, between you and me he looked a bit too good for Luton a couple of times. What a difference his presence is making. The original box to box man, driving forward, skipping around people, scattering Gateshead players as he went. As it happens today, he wasnt a key contributor, but didnt need to be. I recall possibly the miss of the season in the second half when he volleyed a Guttridge corner, its not many shots that run the risk of going over the roof at the Kenny End.
Gray was superb on the right and tormented Sirell like a cat playing with a dying mouse. Sirrell must have hacked at him, dragged him down, rugby tackled him and all sorts in his attempts to stop him, but without much success even at that. Gray is in top form at the moment, with 7 goals in his last 5 days. He is tormenting defenders with his pace. Long may he remain at LTFC.
I wont say anything about the defending for their second goal basically Turnbill put in a deep curling cross to the far post that evaded everyone but that cheeky-chappy Liam Hatch at the far post. Im sure JS would have gone potty at conceding that type of goal. Thank goodness it is a rarity these days.
I hope we can build on the performance today and eagerly look forward to the Barnet games and the Kiddy game next week. The Christmas period is key I must admit we could have had easier ties but weve got to play these sides sometime they will be fearing us more than us fearing them.
Todays game, the Gateshead goals aside was a superb performance for the Town. These are the performances and play which you want to bottle and keep forever. The pace, the touches, the vision, the confidence and self belief and the ethos were as good as they have been for a long, long time. It is a pleasure to watch them. How many times in recent years have we been able to say that? There are so many good things going on at the club from the youth team, through the ressies and the first team that I must take my hat off to the club and more importantly to JohnStill and his back room staff. Im a happy Hatter as at Christmas 2013. By the way, it seems that everyone in the football world is following our recent (but not future) habit of sacking the manager, theyve been falling like flies this week. Im pleased to see that weve extended JohnStills contract.
Happy Christmas to all of you out there who take the time out to read this blog. I wish you all the best and heres to a successful 2014 for everyone.