More of the same…

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A brilliant attacking burst at the start of the game ensured the result with still 75 minutes to play. The mighty Hatters carried on where they left off in the second half against Nuneaton with a magnificent team performance where there were no weak links.
 
Rudderless Wrexham weren’t too bad a side, defending apart. They made plenty of chances and half chances in the first half, could have had a penalty and if the sitters they missed had gone in, the scoreline and the outlook would have been very different, if not perhaps the result. We started with the same XI for the third game running – well, if you can’t stick with the same team when your previous results have been 5-0 and 7-0 when can you? Feel sorry for Mssrs Cullen, Ferdinand, Parry, Lacey and Meade who can’t even get a sniff.
 
What can I say? When the side switches it on and play high-tempo one touch football on the edge of the opponents box we are irrepressible and there is such control, confidence, skill and ability that even when the one twos don’t quite come off, there are still going to be chances, the ball still has to be dealt with and pressure still applied.
 
Ogleby missed a sitter in the opening seconds, his first of many. Our first goal was almost immediately after. It was our first attack of the game and scored after 131 seconds. Gutteridge stroking home from the edge of the box having been played in by that man Benson after excellent persistence by Howells. The second was down to Andre Gray’s persistence as he was presented with the ball a couple of times having seemingly lost it, but he motored on through and struck it home having originally been put through by Franks. The Wrexham defending was a bit like “after you…no, after you…have another go Andre, because we know you are the leading goalscorer in the division after all, we wouldn’t want you to go without”.
 
 
The third goal was a lovely move with a series of one touch passes starting with PRMs pass an culminating in Guttridge bagging his second and his 12th for the season. How Boothroyd must have kicked himself for letting him go. Probably refused to roll around the floor with half an hour to go with his team one up…
 
We had to wait a bit for the fourth, but ultimately Henry got a nose bleed and assist by crossing for Benson after a strangely slow motion move where Wrexham seemingly escorted us on.
 
Despite what JohnStill said afterwards, I thought whilst the second half was disciplined and we played some lovely football it was little more subdued, with the foot off the gas a fraction. We switched to 4-4-2 with Howells and Guttridge on the flanks, though to be fair the attacking movement is so fluid that many of the roles are interchangeable at times. I did think there were times when there was a hole in front of the Wrexham centre halves which would have been filled by a lively Guttridge buzzing around. Howells was felled for the penalty and got up and offered the ball to Guttridge, who, like the consummate professional declined it to allow Howells to pop it home. To be fair, if the ball had rolled slightly differently we could have had three more in the second half. Wrexham did play their part, not hacking us to death but still trying to pass it around, to their credit. Being the superstitious type – I don’t mind us missing a few half chances when we’re five up – I’d rather that then when we are scrabbling around for winner, get your misses out of the way when you are already five up!
 
Meanwhile Richard Money was doing his pieces for Cambridge as their season further implodes. He’s now worried about making the play offs – he’s not bothering about us. He’s thrown in the towel for the title race – as his players Matthew Barnes-Homer et al seem already to have done.
 
Again, our performance and finishing was confident, superb to watch and so gratifying after the seasons of dross we’ve had to endure.  This is, without doubt the best team we have had since we were in the championship. Full credit to JohnStill. He said it might take 20 months  when he started a year ago.  Well – on the anniversary of his appointment we are 14 points clear at the top, with 14 games to go. That means even if we only drew our away games and won all of our home games, Cambridge would have to win each of their remaining games to finish ahead of us. I’ll let you ponder as to the likelihood of that.  Anyway I suspect on current form Barnet will overtake Cambridge shortly. Without Davids they look much better. In any case, maths aside we need to keep the pressure on, play well again on Saturday and let the table take care of itself. Can’t wait until Saturday. My congratulations to the team and the club for extending this breathtaking run of form and results. I keep pinching myself but it really is happening…
 
No report after Saturday by the way as I’m going up to Scotland immediately after the game. They don’t have the internet up there. Last time I was in Glasgow I watched as they burnt a wicker effigy of Tim Berners-Lee. 
 
Come on you Hatters!
 
 
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OHMSS

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ITV put on my favourite Bond film this afternoon to help me rid myself of my post-Nuneaton hangover. I hit the pause button when making a cup of tea and then noticed the headline on the paper….poor Allan Brown – welcome Alec Stock!

Can anyone else think of any other inadvertant Hatters mentions in films?

By the way – top, top stuff yesterday, as PDW said in his match report I’m running out of superlatives to describe the team’s performances at the moment. Long may that continue – roll on Tuesday night.

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Some maths, February self indulgence – and taking nothing for granted….

What with Cambridge faltering a little – in an idle moment, and purely for fun, I’ve just been sitting here with my calculator.

The average points for 2nd place in the conference for the last 7 years has been 89*. The average number of defeats for teams in 2nd place is 9, incidentally, whilst the average number of defeats for teams in top spot has been just over 7.

89 points in 46 games equates to 1.93 pts/game. Cambridge have won 58 points in 30 games – an average of 1.93 points per game. Make of that what you will.

Even if Cambridge swap their current stuttering form for that of ours this year, 2.2 points per game, from here on in they will add 35 points giving them a total of 93. As it is, with the play off teams taking points of themselves I suspect Cambridge, or perhaps Grimsby with a late run, or perhaps even Alfreton will end up nearer the 89 than the 93 – if they are lucky. Slightly less if we are lucky. The lowest for 2nd was 81 points.

What does that mean – mathematically for us? We have 66 points at present and 93 points is 27 points away – 9 more wins. 89 points – with our goal difference is only 23 points away, fewer than 8 wins. So, mathematically even if from games 31 to 46 we only managed P16 W7 D1 L8 we could still win the league. Drunkenly stumbling across the line that would be.

I imagine that this sort of self-indulgent calculation would do JohnStill’s head in. He’s not looking to stumble across the line, he’s looking to extend the run, keep us playing well and focus on each game as it comes whilst building for the future. If we happen to win promotion by doing that then so be it. I think he is the last person on the planet to sit down with a calculator and plot the season here on in that way.

Football is a funny old game and has a way of biting you in the arse – but an 8 point lead with 16 games to go is a good lead to have and there is nothing about our form that gives us cause for concern. It is Cambridge fans who are looking downwards and not upwards and their management is talking about ensuring they make the play offs rather than challenging the Hatters. I can’t imagine it will but can only hope that their current run 13 points in the last 10 games continues. It is does then it is the likes of Alfreton and Grimsby who we should watch out for instead.

Let’s keep going – keep doing all we can to keep winning and the points and the positions will take care of themselves. We have been playing such good football recently and grinding out results even when the conditions or the opposition have made it difficult for us. The key is to focus on the next game and keeping the form and confidence as it has been.

The next five games are absolutely key. Nuneaton away, Wrexham home, Alfreton home, Salisbury away and then Cambridge away. The stiffest test is yet to come. Take nothing for granted and let’s see where we are on the night of March 11th.

Come on you Hatters!

*the season Chester’s record was expunged we finished 2nd with 88 points from 44 games – we were scoring points at 2 per game that year – so for the 7 season average I used a nominal 92 points for the 46 game calculation and average.

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Un-BULL-lievable

What an excellently enjoyable game of football. That is two outstanding wins in a week. The first in Macc. was a hard earned scrappy win, the sort of game we would have lost in the past, whereas this afternoon was a glorious second-half feast of a victory.

In a game where the referee chose to be lenient on Hereford, but harsh on the Hatters we still managed to romp home. Once we got out of first gear with Andre Gray’s first goal I didn’t think we ever looked like not winning, let alone conceding. And, much like the Nuneaton game two weeks ago, any rustiness or lack of cohesion in the first half was swept away with a tide of goals in the second.

And what goals they were.

The first goal came after nice move and a good interchange on the edge of the box. McGeehan curled in a low shot which the keeper failed to grasp, and in effect parried it to Gray who pounced like a cat on a bird and instinctively poked it in. Good – that was 1-0, pressure off, and playing into the wind. We had plenty more chances, but weren’t quite dominating in the way we can. It all changed when we played with the wind in the second half, but we didn’t succumb to any temptation to use the breeze by playing it long.

The second goal came from an inswinging Howells corner. McGeehan rose well and jumped competitively to win the ball, he hung like a spring salmon in the air, and took one for the team in the process, hurting his arm, and playing like a bird with a broken wing thereafter. Benson got on the end of McGeehan’s header and forced it home. It was probably going to go in anyway to be fair.

The third goal was smartly taken penalty by Jake Howells, however it was not the penalty but the build up to the award of the penalty which was impressive. It all started with a long cross field ball by Scott Griffiths to Howells, on the right. He played it back to Ronnie Henry who fired a fast ball forward to PRM who had lots of room to turn and drive into the box (just for a change!) and play a one-two with Luke Guttridge before being scythed down by the Gypsy-beast James.

The fourth goal was my favourite, and another move that would be more at home four divisions above, or at the Nou Camp. Think quick, sharp, high tempo passing – Luton football at its best. Guttridge played the ball back to McGeehan who played the ball inside to PRM who burst forward and injected more pace into the move on the edge of the box. He laid it inside for Guttridge who drifted to the left then slotted it inside to Benson standing on the penalty spot who touched it back for that man Ruddock who clip/chip/curled the ball perfectly into the top corner. He couldn’t have caught it more perfectly. A beautiful move matched by an exquisite finish. Little fast triangles, impossible to defend.

Three goals still to go, including a hat trick. McGeehan went off shortly afterwards, clutching his arm – he got a great reception as he gingerly made his way to the tunnel. A very lively Matt Robinson replaced him.

Benson started the fifth by muscling the ball back in the centre circle. It went back to Guttridge (there’s a theme here) who played a direct ball forward in front of Gray, which was, frankly a bit cruel. Fast striker vs knackered defender. Only one winner. Gray took the ball into the box and, carefully slotted the ball into the far corner giving the keeper no chance.

On came Jon Shaw, back from injury and on the bench, he replaced Benson, who had had a lovely game. Shaw’s first involvement was under-jumping for a ball, or rather being outjumped for the ball – and I thought ‘here we go again’ but fortunately this is the new version of Jon Shaw and that is the last time that happened.

Another lovely passing move resulted in Guttridge sending Lawless down the left wing stretching the play and getting to the byline. Another player you don’t really want to be facing when you are tired and five down. Lawless got to the byline, crossed it left footed and Gray darted it in for his hat trick of hat tricks this year. Who was the last Hatter to do that?

Last goal came from a free kick would you believe? Matt Robinson struck a right foot shot from 20 yards out, and the keeper made a fantastic save to touch it onto the bar, but the ball looped up and there was not one but two Luton players following it in from about a foot out – Shaw and Lawless, I think they both touched it, or rather the ball hit both of them, with possibly Lawless having the last touch. I don’t know, from where I was stood at the Kenny End I had a pretty good view. My instinct was that Shaw got the touch, but his body language suggested he might be a bit lucky to claim it. Anyway – doesn’t matter it was a goal – a seventh goal – and the drubbing was complete.

Who looked good, who looked bad? Difficult to find someone who struggled in any way. I suppose you could say that McNulty made a couple of uncharacteristic errors in the first half, that Guttridge took a while to get into the game and that Andre Gray shot rather than passing on two occasions once he had had this hat trick, but that was about that, the splitingest of split hairs. The second half saw a succession of confident flowing moves from a side top of the table who are playing like they are top of the table. This is the Luton side we always envisaged and hoped for (and arrogantly assumed) when we dropped down – a class above the rest and looking like a Ferrari in a garage full of Fiestas. 

Hereford, able to live with us for the first half but were simply blown away in the second half as our fitness levels made a difference and our class shone through.

Poor old Hereford. Another proper club fallen on proper hard times. Decent fans. I hope things turn around for them. Of course, it was only five seasons ago they were in league one rubbing shoulders with Leicester, Leeds and Brighton. Mind you, we know a thing or two about falling down the divisions.

We were quality. There wasn’t a weak link. I’m not sure there is a weak link. Players who were out of form when they came to the club (eg Ronnie Henry) and players who were out of form at the start of the year (Griffiths, Gray) have come good and are in top form. Players such as Cullen, Ferdinand and Meade can’t even get in the match day squad, everything is going well. Once again I must take my hat off to the players and the manager JohnStill for their performance and attitude this year, which has been spot on. They are taking it a game at a time, playing with confidence and at high tempo and not getting complacent. Still has filled the squad with willing talent, bursting to impose itself on games. And long may it continue.

Brilliant today, brilliant. It feels good to be a Hatter right now – everything comes to he who waits…

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Open Thread: the definitive list of ‘celebrity’ Luton fans…

Right, as we’ve got no matches and it is a ‘quiet’ Luton news period, and we’ve got nothing to do other than to watch that hailstorm again for the 100,000th time, I thought I might see if we can’t get the fullest list yet of well known fans of the mighty Hatters.

You might not recall, but back in the not-so-heady days of 2009 I published this article. It drew lots of comments and lots of people adding to the list.

So, in addition to the original ones below I’d like to add:

Alistair Cook – England cricket captain, ex-Bedford Modern and local lad.

Faye Carruthers – mad Hatter and Five Live, ex-talksport and Sky presenter.

Niky Wardley – Actress – been in lots of things, but you may recognise her most from Catherine Tate’s show

Jon Desborough – Sky Sports and ESPN man – I seem to recall he wrote a number of articles on the last page in the programme in the past

So – apart from these, Jon Hegley, Marty Feldman, Charles Bronson, Petey Staniforth, John Earls and the Barron Knights – have I missed anyone?

I suppose you could add Miranda Hart, in the loosest possible terms. Mind you she did say that doing that filming at the club coincided with the lowest point of her life. Luton has that effect on some. Eg Richard Money, Pavel Besta, Gary Brabin etc.

Right then – come on – let’s have some suggestions – the more tenuous the better….

Original list:

Eric Morecambe – yes I started with the obvious and best known one – the famous former director and fan. I believe Eric started coming to football at Luton when he moved to Harpenden and brought his family to matches. Let’s remember when I was a lad Morecambe and Wise were the most successful comedy partnership in the country. Often copied but never bettered. And the funny one of the two used to slip mentions of the Hatters in whenever he could. Great publicity for our club. It is so sad that he never got to see us to lift the Littlewoods Cup. By the way – can someone remind me why we can’t run out to Bring Me Sunshine at home games? I’m sure there must be a reason. We used to I’m sure.

Jamie Redknapp – mmm…strange I hear you say – but Jamie’s Luton pedigree began when a member of his family used to bring him as a nipper. He admitted on telly he was brought up on a diet of Ricky Hill and Brian Stein.

Rob Stringer – who? I hear you say, some of you will know who Rob is because of his former connections to the club, and others because of his connection to the music business (Head of Sony BMG in the US still I think), but I know him because I went to school with him, albeit not quite in the same year. You could have guessed his final career if you gauged the hours he spent in the record shops in town (Earth Records was it?), and at the Friar’s club. We had a mutual musical friend in Mr Pike, a chemistry teacher at the school, who used to let us in the stage door at the back of the club to see the artistes and get a few autographs. Rob was a director of the club for a while in the past (I can’t remember which incarnation of ownership he was connected with) but apparently preferred being a fan to a director and stuck to hiring one of the beach huts instead. Not sure if he still comes, America is a long way to travel from for a home game…

Monty Panesar – easy one this – everyone knows Monty was born and bred (and still lives) in the town and is a Hatter. I’m not sure if he was a season ticket holder or not, but he definitely used to come to games, was at Wembley in April, and famously quipped that he would “buy Luton” if he won the $1m in the Stanford Twenty20 farce. Actually his comment made me wince and rather made light of the ongoing efforts our 2020 were putting in at the time to put the club back on its feet.

Colin Salmon – Came on Soccer AM on 22nd Feb and gave it the big one for Luton, even used JohnStill’s phrase “controlling the controllables” and denied in the face of being provoked by the Cambridge fan hosting the show that we were Mr Moneybags.

Cerys Matthews – the latest addition to the list. Again, a bit tenuous because her boyfriend Steve is a Hatter, and she has been spotted at games. Good luck to her – once you get bitten by the bug…you can’t stop. Looks like a job for Gnakpa and Murray.

Nick Owen – another easy one. If you live in the midlands dear Nick has rarely been off your screens as he co-hosts the Midland Today, but his rise to fame was when he was on the TV-am sofa with Anne Diamond in the eighties and then again on BBC in the nineties. This was when the club, in the doldrums at the time made, a nice gesture of naming a lounge in the main stand after their highest profile fan at the time. Nick has been coming to Kenilworth Road for 50 years and is the definition of lifelong fan. Please note Mr Pinkney. I think Nick was a wonderful choice as Chairman of the club under 2020. High profile, magnificent with the media, passionate about the club and honest – what better choice could there be? I have met him a couple of times and he is a thoroughly pleasant man.

David Pleat Controversially I have added Pleaty. A whole generation of Luton fans will have grown up knowing him only as that bloke who is the summariser on ITV or on the radio, without necessarily making the connection between the voice and the guy who managed our club on two occasions. My first game at Luton coincided with David’s so I have a fondness for his time at the club, but more of that another day. David still lives in Luton and still comes and watches games. You can pick his car out in the club car park, I don’t think I am breaching any confidelity when I tell you the number plate is a subtle P1 EAT.

David James – England’s no1/2/3 keeper is a Hatter – despite blotting his copybook by playing for the allotments club. Apparently he used to wear Luton socks under his Watford ones. Best of luck to the guy. You can’t always choose your employers. Better to be that way around than the other (Rio – it’s not too late to see the light.)

Kevin Nicholls finally I have chosen Nico – another who having played for the club, realised that he had fallen in love with it. I apologise for paraphrasing an excellent comment he made shortly after rejoining us – he said something like: it made perfect sense to come back and play for a club which I will be supporting on the terraces once I hang my boots up.

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