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, someones 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? Theres 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 didnt 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 wasnt truly in doubt at any point in the match.
I dont 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 dont think well ever get a better chance to break the nations 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 dont 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 thats what you get with Claude isnt 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 Id 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 didnt detract from the enjoyment at any point.
Onto the game Ill 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.
Drurys 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 wouldnt 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.
Murrays 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 MBHs 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 Jarmans 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 wasnt 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 Jarmans last act.
When he was shown a straight red for violent conduct he looked more relieved than anything. He didnt 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, its hard to put it, he has a touch of the now Dave, be PC, be PC, hes a….no. I must be sensitive to peoples feelings.
Imagine Jonny Vegas in a Newcastle shirt. Thats what Liam looked like*.
Okay, so I exaggerate, but a fatter bloke Ive 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 hes a pro or rather presumably a part-timer. I can only speculate what he does when hes not playing football but I suspect he doesnt 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 didnt 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 hed 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 wont 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 ODonnell making his debut, replacing Murray. He played left wing with Howells dropping behind him. ODonnell 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 Eds 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 couldnt 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 wouldnt 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. Theyll 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 Im 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:
Ed AA: 6.5
So onto our new signing Jason Walker. I always welcome new good players and Jason has an excellent record at non-league level. Its 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? Lets 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 clubs 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.