Seize the Dai

Just a short note – I’m away this weekend and so can’t post too much.

What a result, it is as if all of those missed chances all season were put right in one stroke in a 35 minute burst. And yet there could have been more. Jake hit the bar, Kroca the post – and Maxwell, their keeper, was their man of the match. It was, in short, a drubbing. Wrexham made the fatal mistake of not closing us down whilst we closed them down in midfield and drove them to distraction.

We played 4-3-3 with our strongest available XI playing. This formation permitted our five most attacking, creative players to all play. Willmott, Jason Walker and Claude up top, Howells, Keano and Lawless in the middle and a back four of Ed, Pilks, Kroca and Gleeson. Player of the season Mark Tyler was in goal.

There is the perpetual debate as to whether to fit your players to your favourite formation or find a formation to accommodate your best players. Money did the former, clearly Brabin favours the latter. And we benefited from that decision big style: after early exchanges where we showed our attacking intent and desire to play the ball on the floor, on 15 minutes Lawless picked the ball up in his own half skipped over a leg breaking challenge, found himself in a hectare of space and ran on to drive the ball into the right hand corner from 25 yards out. A wonder goal, and well deserved.

12 minutes later Howells, picking the ball up on the left hand side of the pitch, found Claude with a right foot pass just inside the right hand side of the penalty area. Claude, under no pressure from the left back took a touch and then struck a ball of such perfect strength, accuracy and frankly beauty that gave Maxwell no chance as it flew into the top right hand corner. No goalie would have saved it. A Claude special. Vindicating Brabin’s appointment over Money in a thrice.

Within 27 minutes we were on the road to an important away win. What would provide the icing on the cake? A goal from a full back surely? Well – Dan Gleeson was almost that man – cutting inside finding himself in an unseemly amount of room in the opposition half he moved forwards with the ball, played a nice pass out to Claude on the right touchline, stayed forwards giving Claude someone to pass to, he took the ball forwards played an excellent one-two with Howells and carried on into the box and shot – only for the shot to be blocked and to go out for a corner. However, if one full back wasn’t to score, it was only fair that the other one did. Using the ‘training ground’ routine from a few weeks back where Freddie Murray was the intended target, on this occasion, fortunately Ed was there. Willmott playing a deep ball to the oncoming Asafe-Adjaye on the edge of the box, Ed’s first touch was muffed, but he had it under suffiencient control to recover and amazingly drive the ball at and angle through a crowd of players to the near post for the third. 3-0! 35 minutes. Game over.

Luton’s passing and movement, in the first half at least was good enough to grace the Championship let alone League Two. One side in this tie looked like a league team and the other looked a shambling bunch of non-league journeymen. The class and quality was, at last, evident. We done ’em up like kippers.

A word about dear Ed. Frozen out in the cold by Money, brought back as soon as he could by Brabin and given the chance at left back in Freddie’s absence. He did well enough to be played there again last Saturday and to stake his claim for a starting place in this fixture. His inclusion allowed Jake to play on the left hand side of the three midfielders, and Jake had a crucial hand in the build up for two of the three goals. Not bothered by being played out of position, and in no way made to look outclassed it looks as if Ed’s play has continued from the promising young right back we saw at the club a couple of years ago – in spite of the imposed career hibernation in between. Well done Ed.

We got the rub of the green with the ref’s decisions but then again they had two players in the middle of the pitch in Harris and Blackburn who seemed to me to be happy to kick our team off the park all evening. It showed cool heads not to be intimidated or to react to the continual provocation.

Unfortunately – that’s all I have time to write. Didn’t get to bed until the wee small hours and I’m off out shortly. More on Monday or Tuesday hopefully – at least I might set some sleep now on Monday night!

Well done to Gary Brabin and the team for finally showing your true colours. Two more games to go. We must ensure we don’t do anything to fluff it on Tuesday. And then as we sang last night “We’re going to Man Citeeeee”.


Six Appeal

That’s more like it. Today we witnessed the sort of result we should have had more of since we were evicted from the league. Furthermore it was a demonstration of being able to put a poor side to the sword without particularly playing outstandingly well. What a difference confidence, freedom, belief and enjoyment can make.

Hopefully the result will now give the team some much-needed confidence going into the Crawley game. They have to treat the Crawley game as a dry-run for the second leg of the play offs or even the play off final – ie a tough battle that must be won. It will be a good test to see how far Brabin’s team have come. I suspect we will have to play much better than we did today. But we are now on an upwards slope.

Murray returned at left back with Claude moving to the bench, otherwise, refreshingly there was no tinkering.

Ironically the first half saw us play much better than the second, well for all but the last 15 minutes of the second anyway, but as Southport got more tired and despondent we piled in four goals into the last 6 minutes, just as you should do against a tiring part-time team. If we had played for another ten minutes we would have had double figures. ‘Twas like a hot knife through butter at the end there.

We dominated from the start, Southport showing as much ambition as a third generation council tenant. They showed that they came to slow things down and waste time, but once they went a goal down truly showed that they in fact had very little passing ability at all. How we managed to lose two weeks ago against this lot beggars belief. That’s not to say they didn’t have chances, but I don’t think Tyler’s heart missed a beat all afternoon. Their only danger, Kissock, was snuffed out by Keane and Lawless.

I thought for a while that it was going to be the same old same old, especially when Kroca managed to miss a dolly chance only yards out. Seconds later Walkers cushioned and twisted header from a Lawless corner went inches wide “one of those days” I could hear myself thinking.

Then, at that dangerous place on the edge of the box, Barrett handballed it. Willmott was presented with another free kick opportunity – he took it and narrowly put it over – but what now? Hang on the ref’s said it had to be retaken – we’ll take this. For once, probably in my entire Luton watching career, we didn’t just try the same thing with the same outcome for the re-take. No this time Willmott didn’t line it up, but instead AMS had an opportunity to curl it in with his right foot round the wall. The angle from where I sit in the Kenny showed a big gap around the wall and AMS promptly curled around and in. 1-0.

That’s two goals direct from free kicks in successive weekends; I don’t know what’s up with them. Since Gallen left we’ve had no one in the side who might have a chance of hitting the target from free-kicks and haven’t scored from one, from what I recall, since Gallen’s thunderbolt 18 months ago.

I brought a friend from work today, who is an Arsenal fan and who goes to watch them occasionally – now Arsenal are a magnificent footballing team, and so not being technically as good as them is no shame(!!) – I prepared him for the delights of non-league in the pub before the game – however I did watch the game through his eyes today, and it is amazing to see how far standards have fallen. Simple mistakes, easy passes not finding their man. Heavy touches, poor control, ill-disciplined positional play – it is all apparent. I must admit I had got used to watching us at this level and the regular slips and gaffs go almost unnoticed. But when you are used to football of the highest quality the clumsy nature of our play becomes painfully obvious. That’s not having a pop at our players of course – we are where we are and we are improving anyway. There was also a huge gulf in quality between us and the part-time Scousers today. They were very poor indeed and not afraid of putting in a dirty tackle, the ref’s reluctance to get his cards out for poor tackles in the first half only encouraged them more.

The second goal was started by Howells winning the ball on the left and then driving forwards finally playing the ball to Lawless who dinked the ball through to Willmott who cleverly dinked the ball over the keeper. We played some really good football in the first half, which is why the second half was, initially at least, a bit of a disappointment. Southport closed us down better, but we also got a bit slack, a bit lazy and sat back.

After 55 minutes the first change was made – Claude Le Goal came on for Willmott. His 30 minute cameos are just the role I was anticipating for him at the start of the year. He attacked well put in a couple of good crosses and at last became a target for Tyler’s long kicks. One lovely cross enabled Lawless to put in Jason Walker who sliced his shot right over. Mrs Thatcher once described Michael Foot as “frit” – well the Southport left back was “frit” when Claude came on.
MBH replaced AMS with 18 minutes to go and while we were starting to get it together a bit more there was no hint of the carnage to come. The turning point seemed to come when the ref starting to realise what his yellow card was for – mind you Robbie Williams wasn’t entertaining us when his crude challenge on Howells actually deserved a red.

Freddie Murray broke his duck after 76 appearances after some good skill on the touchline after good inter play with Howells. Murray flicked the ball over the onrushing rightback and then in a split second it quickly dawned on him that a volley at goal rather than a cross might actually be on. He hit it quite well and whilst it would have gone in, took a mighty and fortuitous deflection off the centre half. Some could be cruel and say it was an own goal – but only if you were being uncharitable. Well done Freddie – well deserved for the most improved player of the season.

More was to come. Lawless, by this point having as much impact as the imperious Ricky Hill in his pomp, threaded a lovely ball for Walker to run onto only for the keeper to block, but showing some as yet unseen anticipation ran onto the loose ball closing in on goal, controlled it with his arm (ahem) and slotted it in.

Into injury time then, and it wasn’t all over yet, Keane with a free kick over on the far left hand side remembered a move used to use when Newell was in charge. He crossed the ball right over and past goal to beyond the far post almost on the touchline where an alert George Pilkington was waiting (a la Chris Coyne) Pilks nodded it back across goal perfectly for Kroca to make amends for his howler earlier on and register another goal albeit from an inch. Well worked lads. It was wonderful because, just like under Newell as the ball went seemingly ‘too far’ there was a faint groan from the fans before they realised that Pilks was waiting. 5-0 and we were taking the Mickey.

Next up ball was played through to Claude in the penalty area and the hapless and totally one-footed McMillan flattened Claude with a crudely timed leap. Claude doesn’t usually take too much flattening in the box, but on this occasion was impeded and the ref immediately pointed to the spot. Between you and me I think the ref was enjoying all of the goals going in too. Claude, amidst plenty of theatricals and farting about, tucked the ball nicely away for the sixth. He proceeded to celebrate as if he’d scored a forty yard screamer, treating us to a Freddie Flintoff style statuesque pose, a little mince and a bit of samba. God knows what would happen if he got another hat trick!

My only concern is that if you consider the concept that we only get a finite amount of luck per season, we may have used a chunk of it up today: deflected goal, un-spotted handball and penalty (yes, we do have to be ‘lucky’ to be awarded one). I’d rather keep some luck in the bag for the games that really count eg play offs. Conversely of course you might consider that we’ve had virtually none all year (or indeed for many years) we are due some. Keep calling by please, Lady Luck, you’re welcome to stay.

Righty ho – scores on the doors:

Tyler -7– actually had to make a keen couple of saves.

Newton – 6.5 – overlapped well, but went missing on a couple of occasions.

Pilkington – 7.5 – back to his best, perfect header at the far post set up the fifth

Kroca – 7 – sound defensively, made up for the howler with the goal.

Murray – 8 – not overworked defensively, but linked up really well, and had a good understanfing with Howells. Oh – and a goal.

Willmott – 8 – flashes of brilliance, including the goal, a little subdued for the start of the second half.

Lawless – 8.5 – sublime at times and given room to play in the second half of the second half.

Keane – 7 – working harder and harder but needs a rest. Needs to re-boot.

Howells – 8 – little narrow on occasion, but showed some excellent touches including the start of the second goal. Got the ball in the net in an excellent move, but was ruled offside.

AMS – 7.5 – not yet back to his best, but clearly back enjoying playing as a striker again. Two goals in two games playing up front. There’s a clue there somewhere.

Walker – 7.5 – worked hard, but as I overhead someone near me say – do we need another Talbot? Drew Talbot if you recall, worked hard and ran around like a mad thing but was like a toothless tiger up front. Jason Walker has shown that he can bag goals at this level and I’m so glad that he got his goal this afternoon, having missed the shots he did he needed some confidence going into the Crawley game and there is nothing better than a goal to put you back on track. Oh, and he has springs in his legs.

Subs: Claude – 7.5- on for long enough to make a difference. Perfect opportunity to do that today and looked nearly back to his old self – still didn’t track back. It’s not a crime Claude.

MBH – well – we scored 4 goals once he was introduced, but I don’t think he had a hand in any of them. He looked sharp and eager though. Super sub? Sported a natty Mohican too.

So, onto Crawley on Tuesday. Now that the handbrake is well and truly off (though I don’t think we’ve hit top speed yet) it will be fascinating to see how we get on against the club who have bought their success and have dominated. Like last year against Stevenage (when we won 1-0) it will be a barometer of our progress against a club which has set the pace and as of today won the league.

It’s just a shame that so few people in West Sussex are enthralled enough to turn up to cheer them on each week. Okay, we have no God-given right as the biggest club to be champions of this division and we are going to have to do it the hard way again, but it is galling that a club (with as much history as South Sudan and with only just a few more fans attending in 20 games at home all season than we took to Wembley for one game) can buy its way to the top of the league in non-league. But it is the way of the modern game alas. What we know for certain is how painful it can be when the money runs out, and one day they will trickle back from whence they came, their short term joy replaced by long term pain. Our model is to grow organically and to run the club sustainably, not unreasonably living beyond our means. Let’s see where both clubs are in five years time. Whatever happens, and whichever leagues we are in we will still be getting more fans each week, we will still have 125 years of drama and history and above all some (rather dented and bruised) pride. No breeding some of these upstarts you know.

So – 6-0 without hitting top gear. As I said in the opening paragraph, the sort of thing that we expected would be a regular occurrence when we dropped to the fifth tier. Let’s hope that the in last few games in this league we can show what could or should have been possible since August 2009.

By the way – the Arsenal fan was impressed, technical shortfalls aside, and asked “is it like this every week?”

If only he knew…


Unencumbered at Aggborough

I make no apologies for littering this post with cliches (no change there then – I hear you cry).

With Saturday’s game we saw the team further unfettered by the shackles of the recent past. I thought, and more than one fan leaving the ground said that we were more like the Old Hatters, attacking with gay abandon whilst leaving the defence vulnerable. Who amongst us would prefer a dreary 0-0 or some of the dross we have been up recently to a sporty 3-3 with goals being scored at will at the end?

It may be that the three goals we conceded are the most important ones we let in all year. Had we won that game – which I think we did more than enough to do – it would have perhaps led us into a false sense of security: everything would have been alright again. It is not of course and the team has much, much more work to do – but how encouraging is it that after only two games in charge Brabin’s Hatters score more than one goal away from home in the league for the first time since the 16th October (against the giants of Eastbourne). Early days to say this I know, but if Kettering, Southport, Eastbourne or Wrexham come to Luton unprepared or in poor form, on Saturday’s showing one of them is going to get a bloody hiding.

I like what Brabin says about the players – last week he described Dan Walker and Godfrey Poku as being in the development squad – aka the 2nd team. Nothing wrong with this. For the first time it gives them and us a sense of where they are. Under Money everyone was in a state of perpetual limbo, in a netherworld which is neither first team nor reserve. Only MBH, George Pilks and Krocha didn’t dwell there and they were lucky. Players like roles – some enjoy responsibility. Letting a player know where he stands gives him something to aim for or maintain, rather than not knowing if he is on the fringes of the team or no longer part of the manager’s plans.

Another cliche I’m afraid: having an unburdened Jason Walker on Saturday for the second half was like having a new player. Suddenly there is a chance that some of these diamonds we signed might actually sparkle, rather than being allowed to become dull. Imagine Walker and Crow reaching the form they were in when we signed them – or even MBH for that matter or AMS. I thought there were times in the match where we truly showed some of the potential and that, in reality, we are actually a class above all of the other teams in this league (Crawley notwithstanding). I’m not getting carried away – a 3-3 doesn’t an epoch make. But bearing in mind the quality of the players we knew we had on our books and the fact that we weren’t relegated on merit, and because we aren’t limited to a wage budget of £3k a week we should be demonstrating that difference, that class, more than we have been. Is now our chance?

On Saturday I think the team played as if a great weight had been lifted from its shoulders. Tomorrow we face Kettering and the portly Roper. Let’s hope that under the lights at the Kenny we can 1) improve on last year’s performance and 2) continue in the attacking vein – after all a win is only about scoring one more goal than the opposition surely?


More of the same, but early days…

Different manager, similar performance. I had hoped that the Luton players would, liberated from the shackles of their former tactical approach, suddenly burst into creative life. However we were more like baboons bred in captivity, taken to the Outback and let out of the cage for the first time. It’s as if we were blinking in the daylight, not knowing what to do with our new-found freedom. I am hoping that in the next few games we will start to run free again, unfettered by the recent past.

On the way back I thought we were a bit like the fledgling democracies in Tunisia and Egypt. The concept of freedom suddenly dawning on the people there and thinking “Shit, we’re in charge now, it’s down to us, what on earth do we do?”. Well at Luton suddenly the Wicked Witch is dead and the players were actually gradually realising that the future is in their hands, with the yoke removed from their shoulders. It is up to Brabin to show them how to use that freedom to make them enjoy playing attacking, creative football and scoring goals in non-league for fun. Brabin, has a blank canvas and an opportunity (albeit only over the next month and a bit) to allow the players to play his way with his methods.

But last night it was not to be. We came up against an in form Barrow team who knew how to close down and to pass along the floor. What Barrow lacked in ambition they more than made up for in energy and belief. You can tell that they were a side confident in their own company. Whereas on occasions we did look as if we had just met half an hour before kick off.

I’ll not do a match report as such, as other than a handful of chances there isn’t much to report. We came pretty close on a couple of occasions, and a bit of luck or a deflection would have given us the victory. It wasn’t to be. There were some spippets of great play and good touches – a couple of excellent overlaps from Murray and on one occasion he got to the byline and pulled the ball back after a lovely weighted ball inside from Howells. Not a typing error – a Luton player got to the byline.

The best bit about the game was at our first corner when, surprise beyond surprise, we actually left not one but two players up. Ironic mirth filled the stadium with relief. Those days are behind us. This tactic nearly bore fruit immediately. Crow and Wilmott were left up, but stayed wide apart and having made a quick save from the corner, Tyler whacked the ball down the middle of them and their markers allowing the strikers the opportunity to outpace their markers. On this occasion Crow was outpaced by Edwards (I think it was) who snuffed out the opportunity. What a good counter attack though – that’s when you are allowed to punt it upfield with impunity.

One man who I was surprised was missing from the starting line up, was Saturday’s super-sub Dan Walker (his namesake Jason couldn’t play against his old club). He was about the only breath of fresh air on Saturday and surely would warrant a starting place. Perhaps Brabin is going to give everyone a chance to show what they can do? Perhaps he was injured?

One player who did play was the pedestrian Carden who did manage a forward pass on a couple of occasions, but coupled with Keano in the heart of midfield means we had as much creativity as Darwin’s Origin of Species. Never has a returning player (Lawless) been more guaranteed of a place in the first team on Saturday. There was no spark in midfield. When Carden was clattered by Sheridan (I think) in the second half, it was the first time I’d heard a groan from the crowd when a Luton player got to his feet and resumed playing.

Claude came on after 70 minutes in what should have been a much more common role this season as a flair player to put tiring defenders to the sword for the last half an hour or so. For the first time in weeks he tackled back and indeed went back at one stage, but also got forward well and put in a couple of crosses – he looked a bit livelier and less shell-shocked.

My man of the match was Freddie Murray. But Pilks was given it by the sponsors, and he had a pretty solid game, despite a mix up with Tyler who passed him the ball when he was clearly having a little snooze. Fortunately – it came to nothing.

In the second half we played with much less width for some reason, Howells tucked in, as did Wilmott. Our build up was slow – by this I don’t mean we were knocking it around casually like Barcelona – just that our players are generally slow, laborious, and there isn’t really too much lightening pace, which is why Dan Walker looks so lively when he comes on.

So – I’ve run out of time, time to go back to work.

Scores on the doors –

Tyler – 7 – looked to roll it out a couple of times after realising that punting it towards MBH and Crow was not going to bear too much fruit. He also made a lovely save from a Curtis drive heading for the top corner.

Newton – 5.5 – played at right back. Didn’t set the game alight, and was a little slow to close down on occasion (was caught out of position too).

Pilks – 6.5 – soundish, a couple of passes went very astray.

Kroca – 6 – poorer game than usual, spent plenty of time up front, but managed to get penalised each time by the ref.

Murray – 8 – welcome back.

Wilmott – 6.5 – showed attacking intent in the first half but drifted out of the game in the second.

Keano – 6 – in dire need of a long rest poor bloke. Tried his heart out – also a lazy pass played in Curtis for that shot that Tyler made the good save to.

Carden – 4.5 – and that’s being kind.

Howells – 6.5 – sparkier in the first half – tucked in and less dangerous in the second.

MBH – 7 – worked hard with little result.

Crow – 7.5 – harried and parried, huffed and puffed and was knackered at the end, had a number of half chances which would have made all the difference.


Claude – 6.5 – hopefully on the upslope of the form curve now, having bottomed out recently.

Yesterday was pretty ropey – ‘something to build on’ as my teachers used to say if I was near the bottom of the class. Big improvement needed for Saturday, but a big test too: away to the buoyant Kidderminster. I’d be happy with a point there at this stage to be honest. Though if we play like we did yesterday Kidderminster will be kicking themselves if they don’t waltz to all three.

So, not too much to write home about. It’s early days in this accelerated honeymoon period that Brabin has. It’s a win – win for him surely though? Get us up and he’s a hero. Fail in the play offs and he can claim that he needs a whole season and that he hasn’t had long enough to turn the team around.

Over the next two games I’d like to see a spark, a suggestion that there is a chance that we can pick up some form, and that the liberated Hatters can stop licking their wounds and express themselves again.


You’ve got to be Kidding

I started to write my report this evening and then PDW posted his. I can’t improve on his words – so why bother. I think that Claude has switched off defensively. He only switches on when we are attacking but drifts out of the game when we are on the back foot. I actually thought it was a good game punctuated by random and wholly wrong decisions by a very strange ref.

MBH had a great game and deserved his goal. He worked hard and was everywhere on the pitch. Shame he wasn’t in the middle on a few more occasions in the second half, but he can’t be everywhere.

George Pilks is making more mistakes – Kroca looks as solid as a rock. Tyler went down in slow motion for the goal. Carden showed some good touches, but is quite slow. Keano had a good game. Jake showed moments of brilliance as did Freddie Murray. Owusu was fine but became more and more anonymous as the game went on, wheezing like a 40 a day man by the end.

Anyway – those are my thoughts – I agree with PDW, why water the pitch before the game? You had dried rolled sand and mud – why turn it in to a bog or quagmire by watering it? Wonders will truly never cease.

PDW’s report:

Four things sprang into my mind, as we were camped inside Kidderminster’s half after their equaliser, never remotely looked likely to regain to lead after a decent first half performance.

What more (or less) does Claude have to do to be dropped? The way he allowed Vaughan to wander past him just prior to the free kick which they scored from was quite majestic. If things are not working and need freshening up, why does Money just allow things to drift? Why is there no plan b and you are allow to make subs which aren’t like for like? Does Money not notice Owusu needs gas and air after an hour? ( All that diving must take it’s toil).

Not that any local hack would have the bottle to ask the manager. So, they are just idle thoughts really.

Our inability to take our chances and score more than our allocated one goal per game whilst playing modestly, was always likely to catch up us somewhere. In terms of creatively, we are largely reliant on Lawless, and if he is absent, for all the huff and puff, effort there is little to trouble teams even at this lowly level.

Whilst a draw against the form team (who but for their points deduction would be above us) in the league is hardly a disaster. Realistically that is our Championship chances gone, although like affordable petrol prices it has been that way for a while. Unless Crawley blow up dramatically or better still get blown up. Kidderminster are no mugs, a perfectly competent side. the form team in the league. Quite possible we may meet them in the shambles that is the dicgrace of the play offs. They would be a tough nut to crack in it. Function well as a team but without many highly skilled individuals

Pre-match, looking at the pitch, which had a vague semblance of grass, amongst the mud. Never thought, what it indeed was for some water on it. Hey presto, up pop the sprinklers. There were a good number of Scandinavian Hatters in the Beech Huts, which at one stage threaten to outnumber those travelling from Worcestershire. Fair play to them, all mentalists.

With Willmott out (thigh injury apparently, thank goodness his yellow booties are unhurt) becoming the latest casualty of the Press Conference curse. It’s amazing how players aren’t mentioned in it as injured but fail to pop on the Saturday. If Money doesn’t want to let the opposition know. Fair enough but that don’t bother disclosing any information.

There were the following changes to the team which beat Forest Green on Tuesday. Gleeson, looking far from fit replacing Graham, Howells switched to the left wing for Willmott, with Carden coming into the middle. While Carden is perfectly adequate at his job, he doesn’t do anything more spectacular than Godfrey would do. At the moment Carden is the better player with more know-how, but Poku has over a decade in hand and if you can’t blood players in this league, when can you? The games stacking up, a loan spell is not possible I appreciate, but hope for Poku’s sake, he isn’t left to stagnate in the way that Asafu-Adjaye has and all that early promise that EAA showed has gone.

Personally would prefer Howells in the middle to give us control on the ball, if Lawless is injured. Then fill in on the wing with Morgan-Smith. Granted he isn’t playing that well currently, but at least has pace. To be honest, whatever team we selected, who could pick holes in it, as too many players are below par currently

Talking of pace, the quickest in which Owusu made sure he tripped over Briscoe’s trailing leg was stuff of Olympic Gold. After Barnes-Homer had initially driven across from the left, jinking past three Kidderminster defenders, before flicking the ball in Owusu’s direction. That’s two games in a row he has tried to cheat. Same old Brentford. He has done well for us since january, but he can cut that out for a start. A doris tottering on eight inch high heels on sheer ice after a skinful would keep their feet better.

Generally the first half was a decent open end to end match between two well matched sides, the pitch isn’t easy to pass and move on, but few pitches have been recently, it’s the same for both sides and you have to adapt to it or moan as the manager does. We moved the ball around well at times, Murray, Howells and Barnes-Homer tended to be in the thick of our better moves. At times, it did almost get scrappy, start stop unaided by a shocking referee, even by Conference level, who missed at least a dozen obvious fouls, after booking Owusu for going down like a whore’s drawers, seem to lost his cards (and his marbles) by not booking everyone else but elected to chat players up. Not that it was a dirty game, but as always there are two or three tackles which are worthy of a caution.

Barnes-Homer had a barn storming performance against his former employers. A cracking goal from difficult angle, was motion personified for most of the afternoon. Maybe we should tell him he is playing against his old clubs every week. Doubt he is difficult to fool. Seriously if he could turn that kind of performance in more often, the team would benefit from it greatly.

To be fair, to Kidderminster, both their centre halves Briscoe and Albrighton were outstanding throughout, defending deep. They were hard to break through and impossible to get behind. They left only Canham up front, with McPhee, one of their more influential players off him. But they broke quickly down the flanks, Blair and Gittens looked tricky customers, quick and accurate. Kidderminster looked to pass it patiently, with the odd hoof down field, but they look a well drilled outfit. Pilkington struggled against the height of Canham, would it not have been an idea to swop Kroca over?

Barnes-Homer showing some fine determination and workrate (usually well hidden), by chasing down and blocked Briscoe’s attempted whack up the line, MBH kept his composure, rolling the ball across to Owusu, his stabbed attempt shoved around the post by Lewis.

As seems to be the case it at the moment, we take twenty minutes to get going. Up to now, all Kidderminster had to show was a wildly optimistic lob by Canham from miles out following a quick throw from the left, which Keane had needlessly conceded.

Pilkington was adjudged to have fouled Canham (the forward had backed in for ages long before Pilkington had even touched him). Generally we weren’t good enough at set pieces all afternoon, either attacking or defensive. Shaw’s free kick from their right was allowed to drift to Briscoe at the back post on his own, to nudge the ball across goal, the lino had somewhere found a red shirt offside.

Some super build up between Keane and Owusu just failed to find Glesson overlapping. Howells whipped in a corner, barnes-Homer taking a touch or two before hooking over off Williams.

Blair cutting past Murray, who remains vulernable against direct players , attempted to play Gittens in, Gleeson hoicked his clearance up and not away, but recovered sufficiently to calmly knock the pass away.

A strong tackle in midfield by Keane on Gittens, pass picked by Carden, sending MBH away with a great knock with the outside of his boot, Briscoe, turned the ball behind. We were starting to get some joy down our left, as their right back Sharpe didn’t get much help from his team mates.

Calude nailed the scoreboard but not the goal with a thumping header froma Howells centre. Then MBH and Howells, linked to feed Murray, popping in a low centre, Owusu had to rush his shot but scooped it wide with his left foot. He couldn’t let it rush across his body as would have been closed down.

Howells played a free kick, Kroca in space maybe should have gone for goal rather than laying it to Owusu who in turn shifted possession to MBH before striking goalwards only for Briggs to get a vital block in.

Daniel Lewis’s long boot ( not his left foot), caused Pilkington a problem, nodding sideways gifting the ball to Blair, was cross was perfect for Gittens, from point blank range could only head straight at Tyler. A yard either side and it would have been curtains, or should that be carpets. Pilkington is struggling with his direction with heading recently. Another popped off his head in the second half, but fortunately landed straight at Tyler.

Immediately we scored, a brilliant individual goal by MBH. Taking a pass played at awkward height from Gleeson, chested it, turning away, stepping past Briscoe and hitting across the ball at an angle, curling the ball in between the keeper and near post in before seemingly to veer back and onto the far post. It looked in from the Main Stand. The referee dawdled and it took the lino an age to flag for the goal. Fantastic piece of football from a player who still got booed when he was named MOM – it was probably ironic but with our crowd you never know.

We had another narrow escape shortly after our goal. McPhee’s right wing corner, Owusu mistimed his leap and header then to Albrighton, fine first touch, second to strike, Canham lifted the ball onto the bar.

Down the left Williams, Gittens swung in a cross for Canham who has over all Murray, before turning the ball towards the goal which Tyler helped over. Only then was the foul given. Good lord, if Canham had got any more closer or touchy feely, it would have been sexual assault. Another close shave, after a corner was cleared but came back straight away, McPhee stabbed wide and was caught by Pilkington. Corner given. How I don’t know.

We ended the half on the front foot, Howells prod towards Murray, graet cross cutting across the ball, Lewis the keeper in no mans land, Owusu should have done better than hammer his header away. Barnes-Homer went close, long ball by Murray, over Owusu, MBH beat Briggs before drilling over.

Second half was poor. We started sloppily, as we always tend to do. Conceding a daft free kick, Keane body check on Williams, nice of Claude to wave the left back through. Fine delivery by Gittens to the back post, Shaw’s header beat Tyler rather easily, Tyler seemed to get down too low and ended up pushing the ball into the net.

We never recovered. If Kidderminster had some more belief rather than back pedalling for their point, we may have lost. We had plenty of the ball, but run out of ideas, the lack of replacements didn’t help. Danny Crow maybe a worthy candidate for a modern day Mr Creosote, but changed the game at Guiseley and did OK at Forest Green, surely worth a go for the knackered Owusu. Teams have sussed us out now since Owusu arrived. We do severely lack a player who can pick the game by the scuff of the net and run at defences, commit challenges. Make something happen. Keane and Carden’s fine impression of crabs is all well and good, but it’s not going to break down a stubborn defence.

Claude’s one piece of good play, dancing past Briggs, wrong footing Albrighton before rolling in MBH to cross which was deflected behind. The corner, came out, played back it by Kroca off Williams, the ball span forward and very high before Lewis, running towards goal, had to help it over the bar.

Murray, probably our best attacker in the second half, shifted the ball centrally to Keane, flick forward nudged into Owusu’s path by Kroca but could only steer it wide.

A few tackles start flying in. Shaw’s wasn’t very sure footed as he went over the top on Gnakpa. After a romantic chit chat, only a free kick was a,llowed, no booking . Owusu deserved a caution for diving, but diving isn’t going to break people’s legs like that tackle could have done.

Excellent slide ball by Carden, Claude run at a timid looking, back pedalling Williams, he beat him once, then gain, but with people queuing up, decided to shot. Keane shinned over the top after some outstanding centre forward play by MBH chesting down Owusu’s flick, waiting for support and rolling Keane in. It needed changing, some new ideas, but none came until it was too late.

All possession in the world is worthless unless you are creatively or at least having a shot. Which Owusu did, seizing upon a poor Sharpe pass, he was thirty yards and the ball sailed wide, but at least he tried something.

A weak tackle by Keane, was easily ridden by Shaw, passing the ball forward, for a moment Blair looked like he may get there, but Murray blocked off his run, extremely well. With ten minutes to go AMS came on for Howells, who admittedly lost any influence on the game second half, but there were far more deserving cases to be hooked off.

The only opportunity AMS came was a one two with MBH and Briscoe, managed to turn behind.

So, it ended all square. For all the play and set pieces we had we didn’t creative much. Hopefully when Willmott and Lawless this should improve. But with our struggle it to beat the teams around us, yet to beat one of the teams currently in the top five. It doesn’t auger well for the play offs.

Mark Tyler 6.5, Dan Gleeson 6, Zdenek Kroca 7, George Pilkington 5.5, Freddie Murray 8 , Claude Gnakpa 3.5, Keith Keane 5, Paul Carden 6.5, Jake Howells 7( Amari Morgan-Smith), Matthew Barnes-Homer 8.5, Lloyd Owusu 6 .

Subs not used – Luke Graham, Danny Crow, Godfrey Poku and Kevin Pilkington. Booked – Owusu.

Kidderminster – Lewis, Sharpe, Briscoe, Albrighton, Williams, Blair, Shaw, Briggs (Morris ), Gittings, Canham (Matt ), McPhee