Its funny how a freak occurrence can sometimes change a match. Matt Robinsons very deep cross rather liberated the Hatters this afternoon. Followed by good finishes from Gray and Benson it meant that we finished on a high after our mini blip.
We started with the same back five as usual. But there was a change in midfield out went McGeehan, for presumably a well-earned rest, Parry took his place and Lawless played alongside him with PRM who replaced Robinson in front. The top three were the same, Howells, Benson and Gray.
This was a very different game to the Woking one, but no less disjointed. For great chunks of the game we couldnt string two passes together or get the ball down much. Chester snapped at our heels, literally I counted five yellow cards in the first half. But instead of playing on the front foot like Woking did, they sat back and frustrated us with only one man up front. Thats not to say they didnt attack us they did, Rooney in particular (their Rooney that is, the brother of, not our new one) came closest and brought a good save out of Tyler before half time.
We came back more in the second half, but were still frustratingly not quite gelling, the little one-twos were not coming off and we were not getting the high tempo possession in their half we need in order to dominate. Benson, whilst leading the line well, wasnt able to find Gray or others with his touches, in the first half at least. At one point I counted eight successive touches by him which didnt find an orange shirt. A poor ratio for him, but that isnt meant as a criticism. Rather it is a symptom of the way we were playing rather than the cause.
PRM didnt have the best of games. Hes a little out of sorts at the moment – when on loan he was the best midfielder in the division by a long chalk. Today he showed glimpses of brilliance, one or two driving runs, a couple of lovely one twos, but the end product isnt quite as good as it was. Is he lacking form? Confidence? Or is he tired? Robinson did look likely when he came on possibly a little peeved at not starting, but he brought it down an added a degree of control that hadnt been there. His unintentional lob of the beanpole Chapman lightened the mood and brought a sigh of relief. After hard work by Lawless on the left the ball came back to Robinson who was on the touchline and he turned and crossed the ball in a nice curling, overhit cross which managed to lob Chapman. The sort of luck we dont often get.
By the time Gray scored his goal, we were getting back into the harness. Now, with Chester pushing forward a little more they were vulnerable to the break and the second goal was fairly typical for this season, Robinson quickly passing it to Cullen (who had come on for Howells, meaning a rejiggle of the team and formation) and Cullen directing it in front of Gray who muscled his way into the box and who finished with confidence and aplomb.
Howells has been a little bit out of form for a couple of games now, and perhaps another one who needs a rest to recharge his batteries. Perhaps thats why Rooooooney has been brought in?
Someone who had a fine game and who even rounded it off with a lovely left-backs shot was indeed Scott Griffiths who worked very hard, pushed forward at every opportunity and who had a good all round match.
Franks at the heart of defence was still a little wayward in his passing but sound in his defending. Parry looked a little off the pace, but thats hardly surprising as he hasnt started since November time.
And what of the new boy Mr Rooney? Must be the first player whos had his own (well, not his own really) chant before hes even kicked a ball for us. Certainly a good cameo and Im not going to be the first or last to say that he has a touch of the Kissocks about him. Presumably without the hissy fits and dodgy accent, but certainly with the dodgy hair. It was his control and run across the face of the goal and then pass to Henry which enabled the cross and thus the goal (ahem) by Mr Benson who may or may not have used his arm at some point in the move, but finished nicely in any case.
Footballs a funny old game they say, and indeed it is. On Monday, we couldnt have scored in open play, if wed played until Tuesday, but should have had a couple of penalties, which would have won us a game we lost. Today, we get a fluky first goal and a dodgy third goal, in a game we deserved to win. Swapping Saturdays fortune for Mondays misfortune and wed still have our unbeaten run in place. Its funny how Lady Luck asserts her authority in games. Mind you what did Gary Player say? The more I practise, the luckier I get. Which is a rather nice, trite axiom, which Ed Smith did his best to disprove in his book about luck.
The next three games, all away, and which will all have been played within the next 10 days. You could argue that these three are going to be amongst the toughest three of the season. With our current form, sans Guttridge youve got to think that we might have a good fight on our hands at each. Grimsby and Halifax are both excellent sides at home, and so it isnt going to be easy, whilst a resurgent Dartford will be hoping to get something from the game. Whilst we were in our purple patch youd have been thinking at least two wins and a draw. Not so sure now.
These three games, for us and Cambridge will really bring the end game of the league into focus. In the event that we win all three and Cambridge draw two of theirs and lose the other then we will be champions. Its that close now. Of course if we stutter and stumble and say only get a couple of draws and Cambridge win theirs then we will still have a 7 point lead with 6 to go. If both sides draw all three games, then we will still need just two wins and a further draw from the last 6 to clinch it.
JohnStill will of course be talking about winning all three and will set out his stall to do just that, though in my heart of hearts I cant help thinking that he might take three draws at the moment. We will see. Id like to pass my personal thanks to whoever put the fixtures together. Right now I cant think of two grimmer trips in a week than Cleethorpes and Halifax. Okay, okay perhaps Middlesbrough and Barrow in a week would be worse places to go to, but a very unlikely combination.
Right, its late, Im off now well done LTFC on the win, and if you wondered about the heading, Im quoting Matty Robinson quoting JohnStill when talking about his goal on youtube.
Come on you Hatters and #imgladorangewon
*picture credit goes to the official site.