A damp and cold December 0-0 to forget

I guess we could have predicted the outcome of the last two games: dominating – but ultimately losing to – a better team, and then struggling against a weaker team. It is the way of the Luton world. What didn’t help was that the strikers left their shooting boots on the coach.

I was one of not-very-many who turned up in the shivery December cold this afternoon, and my attendance afforded a queue-free opportunity to get a beer before the game and at half-time. Every cloud has a silver lining they say.

Richard Money had promised us changes aplenty, and changes aplenty is what we got. What we actually got was 11 footballers who looked as if they hadn’t played together before, which is in fact what they are.

What does it say about our performance that young Alex Lacey a centre-half making his first team debut was the sponsors man of the match? I had hoped that we would go about breaking some records this afternoon but we really failed to dazzle. Well, no, that’s unfair. At times in the second half at least we were back to the old ‘hot knife through butter’ scenario where we were attacking for fun against a weaker team. But could we finish? It was one of those days when we could have played for another 90 minutes and still not scored. I understand we fashioned 16 chances with only one or two of those being on target. Same old same old – lots of opportunities, no one to stick ‘em in.

Big changes from the Charlton XI:

Tyler in goal – who was made skipper for the day, being the obvious and most experienced option in Pilk’s absence. He had a handful of saves to make after a couple of harum-scarum defensive lapses granting opportunities for Welling in the game.

Ed A-A – at right back, good opportunity to shine today, but didn’t really. Perhaps it was the cold, perhaps it was the lack of games. Ed did get forward and support where possible, though some of his passes went astray down the line. He was sound enough at the back, and that is after all what he gets a paid to do.

Craig Hinton made his debut at centre half and had a tidy but unspectacular game at centre half.

Alex Lacey – had an excellent game and on this account at least looks a good prospect. Made some important and cruicial challenges and looked unflustered on occasions when you would have expected a young chap to be flustered. A cool head and good in the tackle are key attributes if he is going to make a living in the game which of course we all hope he does.

Jake Howells – who was my man of the match today. He did look like an England C player and stood out. His drive, determination, ambition and frankly, pace, looked at times like a man playing with boys (if you excuse the expression) which is ironic bearing in mind Jake’s age.

Dan Walker started on the right, swapped to the left and then went out to the right again. He came into his own more in the second half and made his excellent pace tell on a couple of occasions.

In the middle were the unconvincing partnership of Poku and Besta who sound to me a bit like a Norwegian children’s cartoon. ‘On fire’ Godfrey still has a bit of convincing to do as far as I’m concerned. Against Charlton I think his Blue Square South pedigree stood out like a sore thumb, the only player really to be outclassed by Charlton and again today, apart from a lot of huffing and puffing and chasing around his passing was generally poor. He improved in the second half when he seemed to push forward slightly more rather than wholly sitting in front of the defence. I wish him well and given time and opportunity, clearly he has something about him – but sometimes energy and the ability the run and run aren’t enough on their own.

Besta again failed to impress. He seems to chase the play around in the way that Keano doesn’t. He’s the sort of player I who I think could come in for the occasional game to cover for absences, but I don’t think, on the appearances I have seen so far this year that he can seriously challenge for a place.

On the left was Alex Lawless which was a bit surprising as a) he is pretty one footed and that foot being his right and b) Dan Walker has played more on the left and Lawless had played on the right previously. Perhaps RM wanted to see him in action on the left. In any case after about half an hour he swapped with Dan Walker and in the second half played in the middle when Besta went off. When he was on the left he had to cut back onto his right foot, and when he was in the middle we did improve, but he didn’t show me any of the class I know he was capable of at York. Early days.

Up front we started, and finished with, Atieno and Jason Walker. Atieno must have missed five or six chances, by far the most of anyone in the team. He was getting gradually closer nearer the end but by-Christ he had folk in the Kenny End diving for cover in the second half. The ball was banging around back there like a game of pinball – the empty blue seats being the flippers.

Jason Walker seemed to be involved in lots of interchanges and held the ball well on occasion – but how many chances actually fell his way? He had a header from a Dan Walker cross but he had nothing to pounce on which must have been very frustrating. If he’d just had half the attempts that Atieno had, Walker would have snatched a hat-trick.

Welling for their part came, saw and closed us down. Fair play to them a good effort from them, but they did strike me as an unspectatular team, other than their slightly ramshackle but effective keeper Gareth Stewart.

I can’t say too much about the first half because there wasn’t much to report on. Our first proper shot on target came on about 45 minutes.

I’ll list the chances – Atieno missed one which was easier to score when a Howells cross found him in space.

Lawless then shot after some hard work and a cross by Jason Walker after a good pass by Howells, but his shot was blocked.

Some hot chocolate and a tasteless hot dog later and Poku had a good chance running on to a short corner by Lawless but endangered nothing but the kids playing in Oak Road.

Ed got forward for the first time just towards injury time but his weak shot was easily held by Stewart. 0-0 then, and disappointing. Nothing too adventurous and clearly the players had been instructed to have a good run out, but nothing more than that.

But shortly after half time a brilliant diving header from a lovely cross from Lawless brought off a fine reaction save by Stewart. Alas, it was a full length defensive dive by Sambrook who presumably was just trying to head it behind rather than give his keeper a coronary. Smiles all round though as they saw the funny side. Would have gone into the top 5 all time own-goals though if it had gone in. It might have broken the net too. I think Lacey headed the ensuring corner over the bar.

A while later Dan Walker was played into space and showed his pace when he drove down the wing, cut inside and shot just wide of the far post.

Cue the sequence of Atieno howlers, probably the best chance came up first, presumably draining his confidence and our hope of seeing a goal from him today (or ever again?) Stewart’s kick went straight to him but alas the Kenyan saw fit only to whack the ball wide. Next chance a few minutes later – Atieno himself created the chance with some good skill on the edge of the box but put the ball the other side. Another confidence sapping effort was missed shortly after when a good cross from Jake Howells saw him glance it wide, when it might have been easier to score.

JJ O’Donnell had entered the fray by this point, replacing Besta. The last time I saw him my memories were of a player who liked to get a cross in and put the effort in but was knocked off the ball slightly too easily. Nothing really happened to change that impression this afternoon however he did have a couple of good efforts too – he popped up at the far post from a deep cross by Ed but had the crowd ducking rather than the keeper. The better effort was when he found himself in the middle just outside the ‘D’ and drove a shot which would have gone in had Stewart not made a full length stretch to palm it onto the post and out for a corner.

Other than another couple of Atieno half chances the only other incident was when Dan Walker had the ball in the net only for it somehow to have been offside. Howells had found him in room and he shaped up and thumped a shot to Stewart’s right. It would have been a good goal to win any game, but somehow by then it would almost have been wrong to break the deadlock, such was the very nature of this game.

Scores on the doors:
Tyler: 6
Ed AA: 5.5
Hinton: 6
Lacey: 8
Howells: 8.5

Dan Walker: 7
Poku: 5
Besta: 4
Lawless: 5.5

Jason Walker: 6
Atieno: 2

O’Donnell: 6

Uninspiring and a bit lacklustre, but with the occasional glimpse of brilliance, this was your archetypal 0-0. “Remember these games” I keep telling my son –“ when you are thirty my boy and the likes of Man Utd and Liverpool are coming to visit us in our new stadium, remember this awful 0-0 on a freezing cold December day against a bunch of part-timers from somewhere you can’t find on the map.”

When I am having discussions over a pint, one day in the future, about the worst striker to have played for us, and friends suggest to me the regulars of Peter Thomson and Tresor Kandol – I will say “yes, they were shite – but did they ever struggle to score on against the part-timers of Welling when we were in the FA Trophy?” It is only when you contextualise where we actually are now do you realise the true horror of a gallery of missed chances against a sixth tier team.
Oh well, such is life. York at home on Saturday lunchtime next.

All comments welcome – not just about my post but all things Luton Town.


Roper, you’ve let yourself go!

A splendidly entertaining game that could easily have delivered half a dozen more goals saw the Hatters progress to the next round against Charlton.

The game had everything. Shots, goals, sending offs, the Corby mascot pretending to be manager, someone’s Dad lumbering around in defence, and an opposition keeper who when not retrieving the ball from the net, or making excellent saves seemed to have a predilection for the half way line.

Where to start? There’s enough material to write a small book.

It was lovely to watch a game in the sarf again – having been to Wrexham and Altrincham last week (sorry no Alty report, too much work on). Actually if I had done an Altrincham report I would have said that travelling from Wrexham to Altrincham is a bit like only having influenza rather than pneumonia – obviously offending any northern readers in the process, so it is just as well I didn’t put that*.

Visiting Bury Park at this time of year you get to see the attractive Christmas lights on your way in – a cunning collection of bright neon blue and white twinkling lights giving you the impression you are surrounded by police cars. Of course, at certain times of the day in Bury Park, you are surrounded by police cars. Perhaps it is to lull the local residents into a false sense of security.

Only 3000ish fans appeared last night 400 of those being a noisy bunch from Corby whose singing chanting and that blessed drum kept on all night – fair play to them. Ironically of course they shut up once they scored their goals.

The fans who did turn up were treated to a very entertaining game, the result of which wasn’t truly in doubt at any point in the match.

I don’t think most of the Luton players really got out of second gear and for large spells of the game our wingers were just queuing up to get an unchallenged cross into the box. It was for the most part our attackers vs their defenders. Our great build up play meant that we created the opportunity for goodness knows how many shots – but our lack of clinical finishing meant that only 4 went in. I don’t think we’ll ever get a better chance to break the nation’s scoring records unless we are drawn at home to Stockbridge Park Steelmen in the Trophy next week. If we had had a half-fit hungover Steve Howard last night, he would have scored a dozen. But there you go – we won and that was the important thing.

We started with Mark Tyler in goal, the improving Dan Gleeson at right back (material improvement in the last two games) Pilks and Ed A-A at centre half and Freddie Murray at left back.

In midfield, Claude started on the right. Well, I say started, other than his well-taken goal I don’t think he did start really. An onfire Gnapka last night would have caused football carnage that would have been embarrassing to watch it would have been so one-sided. He picked up in the second half and never gave up, but some of his play in the first was lacklustre and unenthusiastic to say the least. But that’s what you get with Claude isn’t it? You roll a dice before kick off – if it comes up 6 you get an outstanding display – and if it comes up 1 you get the impression that he mind is somewhere in the Dordognes. This is why, with Jake and Drury fit– I’d always have Claude as your berserker to bring on at half time or as a shock troop for the last 20 mins.

In the middle, with Mr Lawless cup-tied, was the aforementioned Mr Howells and Keith Keane. On the left was Andy Drury who was in sublime form this evening. I truly think that when on form he is the best player in this division. I actually suspect he is the best player in the division above too. Shhh. Howells too had an excellent game winning the ball well and driving forward. When he moved to the wing he was crossing it for fun.

Up front were MBH and Atieno. Well done to the pair of them for getting three goals between them, but I think in their heart of hearts they know that they might have had so many more.

The game itself was played in its entirely in missly cold November rain – the players were regularly losing their footing, but it didn’t detract from the enjoyment at any point.

Onto the game – I’ll not describe all 31 chances or we will be here all week and to have written them all down I would have needed to bring a second notebook. Actually how do rate us when we were playing opposition who the youth team would have beaten? (Liam Toomey would have got a few I can tell you.)

MBH had a crisp shot on target in the first minute which was really a sign of things to come.
Drury’s turn next with a shot which whacked into one of their players and went behind for a corner. From the corner taken by Drury, it fell conveniently to the feet of MBH who brutally tucked it away, we got the early goal we needed to ensure that the remainder was really a matter of how many whilst not exerting too much effort.

Pilks passed it wide to Drury who intelligently passed to MBH but who managed to shoot at the keeper MacKenzie. MacKenzie is a funny chap – he looks about as sporty as a social worker, untidy shambling gait and uneven arms – you really wouldn’t think he had made a career as a sportsman. In fact I can only think of one player who looks less like a sportsman I can think of – but more about him in a minute.

Murray’s pass into the box was cleared by their centre half, it only went as far as Keane whose shot his Ateino bumped to MBH who popped it home, albeit from an offside position. Alledgedly.

By this stage Drury was really enjoying himself and was on a one man campaign of humiliation. He picked up a wonky back pass, spotted MacKenzie who, just for a change was a mile off his line, and tried to lob him. Fortunately for Corby the keeper managed to grab it.

MacKenzie saved from Drury shortly afterwards after a lovely pass by Howells when he could have shot himself.

But it was Drury who really almost could have played Corby on his own. A wayward pass by Hall, was hit straight to Drury. He looked up, and went for a lob over the keeper. McKenzie managed to back pedal and catch the ball.

Claude went down under pressure by Charlton, nothing doing. A great piece of football, but lacked the finish between Drury and Howells. Howells on the edge, unselfishly, passed to Drury, who couldn’t beat McKenzie rushing him out of goal quickly.

Another lovely move saw some fine passing and a dummy saw Murray cross with Atieno missing it but Charlton (I think) blooked MBH’s shot.

Other than a little ding-dong between Jarman and Drury in the first 5 mins the game was a fairly tame affair – and so Jarman’s sending off was a bit odd to say the least. The ball was kicked off by a Luton player and happened to roll into the dugout. It naturally got stuck between some feet, and if he had waited a fraction of a second longer the ball would have popped out. However Jarman charged in after the ball a bit too keenly and then reacted with a swipe when it wasn’t immediately forthcoming. In a split second this rapidly descended into pushes, pulls, grabbing and punches. You know – the usual handbags.

Now Jarman stuck me as not a terribly pleasant chap early on, but he must also be as thick as two short planks because, if he had thought about it, for even a fraction of a second, he would have realised that there is a rather big and a bit mental scouser sitting on the Luton bench. Chucking a fist or two around with him in there is the equivalent to hurling a match into a factory full of fireworks, as he was to find out momentarily when none other than G Brabin esq, grabbed him by the throat in full scally mode and but for the intervention of the rest of the bench and half the players and the ref it would have been Jarman’s last act.

When he was shown a straight red for violent conduct he looked more relieved than anything. He didn’t protest half as much as he should have done, it had probably dawned on him by them that he had just had a brush with death.

Brabin was sent off too and hopped into box #15. Oh the temptation to go and speak to him to tell him that the box costs £2k a year would he mind buggering off. I hope someone offered him a cup of tea.

Corby are managed by Graham Drury who I genuinely thought was a small ball boy for the first 15 minutes. He took the incident well I thought, getting up on a box to consult with the ref once Jarman had gone but accepting the decision like a professional.

MBH had another chance to score after being played in by Keano. At the other end Corby had a brief sojourn into our half when Charlton crossed it and one of their strikers went down under a challenge from Pilks. A penalty it was not. However the diminutive Graham Drury hopped up and down like an angry elf.

Just to rub salt into his wounds Atieno scored to double the lead shortly afterwards. Howells passed to MBH who got into position to shoot but his shot would have gone wide, only for Atieno to crash in and stick it in.

Gleeson had his first decent chance for a goal soon after that and Claude missed a couple too. Pilks had a chance from a corner and shortly before half time Drury changed the pace with an aggressive run, cutting inside and trying an elegant drive cum chip into the left hand corner of the goal. Only an excellent tip over by MacKenzie prevented the goal of the season.

We had more extra time in extra time when Charlton went off to be replaced by Liam Dolman. Now what memorable physical characteristic does Liam have? What can I say? Erm, it’s hard to put it, he has a touch of the – now Dave, be PC, be PC, he’s a….no. I must be sensitive to people’s feelings.

Imagine Jonny Vegas in a Newcastle shirt. That’s what Liam looked like*.

Okay, so I exaggerate, but a fatter bloke I’ve never seen on the pitch at the Kenny. He made Jan Molby, Ian Roper and David Owen look positively waiflike. What is extraordinary is that he got away with it. In days gone by a certain group of songs would have been dusted off and sang in his honour. I can only think that people were too surprised to sing them or too cold. Or that they genuinely thought he had a problem and so spared his feelings. He did get plenty of encouraging comments, my favourite of which I used as the headline. I did think that perhaps he was the chairman or a lifelong fan paying his way to get a game. But no – he’s a pro or rather presumably a part-timer. I can only speculate what he does when he’s not playing football – but I suspect he doesn’t list ‘marathon runner’ as his favourite pursuits and has never had a paper round in a block of flats.

As for his performance, well he marshalled the back four well enough, puffed a bit and cleared it when necessary, getting his foot to it to hoof it out on occasion. When Dan Walker came on I thought it was just cruel, it would have been like the tortoise and the hare, but rather than stick him in a position for Dolman to try and keep up he was on the wing as usual and therefore didn’t have to mark him.

In the second half it was more of the same indomitable Hatters pressure. For the second time we had the ball in the net – this time Murray was offside before he crossed it for Atieno to stick it in.
Atieno had another chance for his second when after a lovely cross by Dan Gleeson was touched onto the right hand post by MacKenzie.

Corby went close when Mackay slashed a shot wide. If only he’d looked up because his colleague Diggin (a half time sub) would have had a straightforward chance.

Gleeson had another chance – so did Drury – and then it was time for the third goal. Remember by this stage the Hatters had the full run of the midfield and Howells played a lovely ball down the wing to Drury who was in space and unchallenged. Drury put in another fantastic cross low across the face of the goal to Atieno who tangled with the keeper and then poked in the rebound from about 2 yards.

On came Godfrey ‘on fire’ Poku and Dan Walker for the ideal opportunity to get more first-team minutes under their belt. Poku replaced MBH and Claude went up front and Walker replaced the excellent Drury. Jake moved to the left and Dan went to the right. Poku has energy, grit and determination and a good eye for a through ball. Needs to work a bit more on his positional side of things because and we have an uncanny knack of conceding goals when he is on the field – a coincidence of course – but if others have to cover and close down opponents for him, it leaves gaps that would otherwise be filled. Anyway, that is exactly why he needs first team experience. Walker played well too – for such a big lad he has genuine pace and is a real livewire and threat in front of goal. I just hope that the signing of his namesake from Barrow won’t limit his chances further.
Poku had a shot, Walker should have shot – but passed to Atieno who will never have a better chance to get a hat trick but who fluffed it to the keeper. Walker got his chance a few seconds later zooting past the tiring, slow and overweight defence like he was on roller skates, but shot wide.

Claude had a go, Walker had another go. And now it was time for another sub – JJ O’Donnell making his debut, replacing Murray. He played left wing with Howells dropping behind him. O’Donnell played brightly – he did look a bit nervous initially but showed that he can cross and take corners (albeit one curled out before coming back in), My only comment about him initially, other than he looked a good prospect was that he seemed a bit easy to bundle off the ball – needs to build his strength up a tad.

Walker had another go, I think Poku did too and then Poku played Claude in with a lovely ball and Claude drove into the box and fired a powerful shot under the keeper for 4-0.
Then it all went a bit funny and panic-stations. For some reason. Their Walker got a goal after Ed’s clearance bounced back off him from no distance after Diggin had got into the box from a vacant left back hole left by naughty Jake.

A corner two minutes later gifted them another goal (what is it with us an corners?) 11 men in the box against the tiring man-short Corby and we still couldn’t get the corner clear. The big lad Dolman was unmarked headed it towards goal, it was cleared off the line but only so far as Hope who stuck it in.

With them fancying their chances, we had another couple of late chances with Claude managing to hit the post and fluff another shot. And then it was all over with a convincing win. 6-0 wouldn’t have been unfair and so 4-2 paints a strange picture. But we are through off to the Valley in a couple of Saturdays time. They’ll think we will be a push over – and we will play well because we always do against the better teams. Should be a cracker.

So all in all we had tons of chances, dominated the midfield, and should have scored more, but I’m not beating them up about it because it was a good game of football and an excellent spectacle.
As far as the scores on the doors goes it is difficult to judge the absolute score or performance because of the weakness of the opposition. But here goes:

Tyler: 6
Gleeson: 7
Pillks: 6.5
Ed AA: 6.5
Murray: 7.5
Gnapka: 6
Howells: 8.5
Keano: 8
Drury: 9
MBH: 7
Atieno: 7.5

Walker: 8
Poku: 7.5
O’Donnell: 7

So – onto our new signing Jason Walker. I always welcome new good players – and Jason has an excellent record at non-league level. It’s intruiging that yet again we are recruiting from non-league and not the league itself, but good young non-league players have gone on to do well at level, so it is not necessarily a bad thing. Would you want a Jason or a Dan Walker as you progress through the leagues or a team full of old lags who are steadily working their way down the leagues as their career declines?

The only other point is we are back to where we were last year. How many strikers have we got for goodness sake? Let’s list them (in no particular order, ahem)

Jason Walker, Danny Crow, AMS, Dan Walker (who Money plays on the wing), MBH, Atieno. Not to mention Gallen out on loan to Barnet – destined never to return.

Goodness knows who Money’s first choice will be. Crow and Jason Walker? MBH and Jason Walker? When AMS is fit again will he be back on the left? Will this push Drury to the right and Gnapka on the bench? With Lawless around now, does this mean Jake will be on the bench? So many players…so few spaces…

What it does reiterate is this club’s ambitions to get out of this division this season. We are recruiting all of the good players elsewhere in this division. Between us and Crawley we are trading blows over the best non-league players. The good news from our point of view is whilst they may be able to offer big wages or signing up fees we can offer big crowds, a proper history and a sustainable platform.

Things are hotting up. Now to put that ambition into practise by stuffing Histon again tomorrow.

Come on you Hatters!

* my apologies to northerners and overweight people. Hopefully you took my comments in good spirit. Anyone knowing me would know that I’d give Mr Dowman a run for his money in terms of waist measurement, though I reckon I’d beat him in a very slow race.

** sorry for the late post, last night instead of finishing this I went to a beer festival in a medium size town in Hertfordshire. It meant I also skived off my Question Time moderating duties on Biased BBC. Tut tut Mosque, must try harder.


Happy Birthday Luton Town

A competent and all too easy first half performance, a ‘workmanlike’ second half and a some unsavoury party food which was hard to swallow at the end.

I can’t post a long match report today as I have to be up first thing tomorrow to drive up to the north east to attend a funeral. So it is going to be very short and sweet.

7000 fans attended the birthday party a good number turning out in pink as suggested by the club, and the team turned out in their snazzy pink’n’blue outfits. The two halves of the match mirrored the years I’ve supported the club so well. Some cracking passing football in one half, and some midfield-laden stodgy stuff in the second.

The goals? A cracking bit of centre-forward opportunism by Danny Crow for the first, managing to temporarily crock their embarrassed keeper in the process. A great header by Pilks from a corner for the second, and a first goal for Atieno for the third, after an outstanding exchange of passes with Danny Crow.

The second half saw Bath (who were as poor as any team we’ve seen in the first 45) plump more men into midfield and to close us down from the front, forcing us to play long hopeful balls rather than getting the ball down and passing it. Which, when we did, we looked fully dangerous again. Full credit to Bath in the second half because they frustrated the team and the fans and spoilt the party a bit.

And what must they make of us? I’ve always thought that our cousins from the West Country always sound a bit simple because of their funny accents, even though they are not. They must think we are simple – winning 3-1 at home comfortably, six wins out of seven, four wins on the trot, at a canter, and we boo the manager for substituting the wrong player and chant ‘you don’t know what you are doing’ at him. With friends like this who needs enemies?

Gnapka and Amari Morgan-Smith didn’t start and weren’t on the bench and so when the team was seen (I won’t say announced because we can’t hear the PA in our bit of the Kenny End) we were missing these two players. Now that puts the fans noses out of joint a tiny bit I think, because there was no mention of their injuries in the press conference and so what are the fans to think? The flair player and the form player are dropped? You never quite know what to expect with RM – but obviously when the dust settled and we tried to work out the formation we realised that they must be crocked.

So Barnes-Homer started on the left, Atieno started in the middle and Crow on the right of a three. I think. Drury was playing but I think he was supposed to be on the right of a three in midfield along with Howells and Keane. Anyway, despite it being an offensive formation and us getting three in the first half, I don’t think it worked very well. Drury and Howells seemed to be spare parts and neither had outstanding games. As I said Bath bogged up the midfield in the second and so we were outnumbered. Barnes-Homer worked hard in the first half on the left without being outstanding as he isn’t a winger – though I hasten to add he did put a couple of excellent crosses in to go with his pinpoint one last week. In the second half Money changed things around, experimented a bit with the game tied up, and put Besta on in the middle, switched Jake into a role behind MBH up front on his own. Now, as I’ve said MBH wasn’t getting much service, because the ball was in the air for most of the half, and, running towards the Kenny End MBH’s naturally languid style doesn’t go down well all of the time and his apparently half-hearted attempts to get on the end of the umpteenth punt down the middle were getting people’s backs up – especially as Danny Crow was still running around with his tail up. We were sharing MBH’s frustration. Time to bring on a fresh pair of legs and change things around. And so on comes young Dan Walker to shake things up – but who comes off? The obvious choice is MBH – without a goal, looking a bit listless because of his frustration – but no. Off comes fan’s favourite Danny Crow. Now some people think that MBH must have compromising pictures of RM because he has been ever-present and seemingly can do no wrong. Whilst Crow, not allowed to start the season on the pitch, but once he did gets goals for fun and charges around all game. And this substitution, to those who subscribe to the ‘compromising pictures’ conspiracy, just confirmed their suspicions. My thinking was that Danny had got a card already and it was good practise to bring him off just in case, though it wasn’t a dirty game. Richard Money said afterwards that MBH had taken one for the team by playing out on the left wing in the first half and so deserved the chance to carry on. This thought process, of course, Money can’t communicate to the crowd. And so we witnessed one of the most cringeworthy responses to a substitution I can recall for many a year. I watched Money’s reactions throughout. He was livid initially with the booing and reacted, and then went into a mega-huff when the chanting started. He’s a sensitive type. And we all learnt at school how to wind up the sensitive kid.

Afterwards in his interview with Ian Pearce on 3CR he said that you could hear the chanting in Watford. He was still furious and seething. He explained his thinking behind the substitution and that the prerequisite he set before signing a new contract was to have everyone on board. He now defined that prerequisite as basically having the fans on his side. He wants to be loved. Or at least respected. And last year’s performances require some respect, and six wins out of seven this year and only being three points off the top club demands some respect too. And that is fair enough. Conversely, I suspect if we had gone up at the first attempt he would be hailed a hero – and indeed,
if this time next year we are top of League One he will be a hero.

But he has a strange and spiky relationship with the fans, and I suspect lots of people he meets. He puts people’s backs up a bit. And in turn he allows his back to be put up by others. He wants the fans to be understanding and appreciative of what he has achieved in the short time he has been here and he wants us all on board. But that’s probably not going to happen with a fan base bloodied and bruised and frustrated and desperate to get back into a league we were evicted from by the FA.

I think he has to understand that he is in a relationship with damaged goods: a fandom who have been through hell and back, and he is expecting everyone, even the dimwits who would boo their own players, to react to his decisions rationally. He’s expecting his relationship with the fans and more importantly our reaction to him to be that of a naive, joyous, misty-eyed, newly-wed bride; rather than that of a wily, thrice-married old slapper who has been round the block a few times and who has the scars to show it.

He wants to be appreciated and loved by all and somehow, until he notches up a promotion, he’s not going to get that acclaim. Like I said earlier he’s sensitive. Not everyone is the same. I’ve probably not got too many fans in my workplace – but then again I don’t work to be loved, I work to bring home the cash. No doubt he’ll get a cracking bonus if we get promoted. He should get his head down and worry about that more than wanting universal acclaim when he’s not going to get it.

Win the doubters over Richard. The only way you can do that is to carry on getting good results, playing good football and us going up. Rather than expecting everyone to be on board, focus on ensuring that you eliminate the remotest possibility of mass dissent. Make it impossible not to be loved.

In case I’ve not made it clear in the text, I’m fully on board with Money, despite his occasional oddities and I genuinely don’t believe anyone else (other than Pleaty) could do a better job. I condemn those who boo him, or the players or the performance. We should support the team not jeer. However, our supporters have been through more than any other set of fans so I can fully understand the frustration of some – which doesn’t mean I support it – just that I can understand that some might react in that way. It isn’t right, but any manager of Luton Town has to work that little bit harder than he would at any other club to get the disparate, dizzy, battered and bruised elements on side.

Where does this all leave Richard Money? His comments to the papers after the game were increasingly despondent and he is either attention-seeking, or nursing a bruised ego, or pissed off enough to piss off (if you excuse the language). Who knows with him? He’ll either calm down or call our bluff. But as my Dad would say: pride doesn’t pay the mortgage Richard. Get on with it.

Now, that said, when Dan Walker came on he was another breath of fresh air, even though he was tucked away on the left.

What would I have done differently in Money’s position at the start of the game with AMS and Gnapka injured? I would have stuck with 442 for a start and had Howells or Walker on the left and Drury on the right, with MBH and Crow up front. Keane with Poku and or Besta in the middle (though Besta did look rusty and still worryingly off the pace). Today’s formation I think was a dangerously Harford-esque buggers-muddle of trying to squeeze every one in and move everyone around to accommodate Atieno up front and in the middle. Further tinkering didn’t help and despite the win, I have a nagging feeling that today’s performance will have done more damage than good to our confidence levels. Confidence levels that were so high at the start as to nearly bring us a goal within 30 seconds and a corner before a minute was out. I just hope that we haven’t caught a crab or missed a step because of the enforced changes to team and formation. If you recall our great run last year came to an end when the team lost key players and more importantly the on-fire Gnapka was missing and we began to believe in our own mortality again. I just hope that the second half against Bath hasn’t knocked our self-belief (like the missed penalty did against Newport) and knocked us off the crest of our wave. Fortunately our opponents next week are Corby not Crawley. It is as simple as this: if our self-belief is re-acquired we will hammer them, but if the manager can’t get us back to where we were (and I’ve no reason to believe he can’t or won’t) then the tie would have the whiff of banana about it.

So in summary then, it was party time at Kenilworth Road, but the hangover came before the party was over, and the birthday boy fell out with some of the guests. Let’s hope that everyone has made up before too long. Pass the cake.

PS – wasn’t it good to see Basher, Baynham, Black et al at half time?

What was up with their injured player? Running up and down the touchline and then limping on to the pitch sitting down and being ignored by the physio. Only to carry on playing and then being stretched off. Bit bizarre if you ask me.

Also – balloons are nice and fun and put folk in a party mood – but yellow ones? Yellow ones?!? Why didn’t someone pop ’em? No respect for tradition some people.