They came, they saw, they played out a draw. Wrexham and Lutons reserves – near the end at least – treated us to an entertaining enough 1-1.
Whilst we were tentative initially and didn’t create anything like enough chances, by the second half of the second half we were wholly dominant and playing some nice stuff. A draw was a fair result: Wrexham who played some nice football, and were happy to play most of it in their own half. Their goal was a good footballing goal, but certainly they were permitted to do so because at the start of the move they weren’t closed down, Poku the guilty party. It did also look rather offside to me too from where I was sat.
The ref awarding the penalty was a good case of evening things up. If the game had continued further for any length of time we would surely have won it as Wrexham were looking tired and rattled.
It was interesting to watch the penalty award. Dan Walker was running away from the goal Belgrano-like and stumbling towards the byline. Stephens (not our Basher, but could have been) put in a pointless and clumsy challenge which Walker could easily have skipped over, but fell over nevertheless. Correctly initially for a fraction of a second, the referee gave a goal kick, glanced towards his linesman, quite methodically who was flagging and the referee instantaneously pointed to the spot. The whole decision process taking less than a second.
Walker and MBH had a bit of a discussion about the taker, understandably, but it was nothing like the Handbags of Howie et al 10 years ago. Walkers argument won, in fact if MBH had won the argument would have been the first thing he had won all afternoon (boom boom) his feet being welded to the grass when going up for a header.
Back to the ref for a second. In the week that Mark Tyler said all the refs at this level were rubbish, I actually liked the one this afternoon. He clearly was keen to let play run wherever possible and where other refs would have been having apoplexy, he regularly allowed dodgy tackle after dodgy tackle and kept the game moving. Truly, the ref didnt want to be the star of the show. Which is a rarity and a relief. There cant have been too many fouls in the game itself which was much better for it. What was a little strange was that the Wrexham players seemed to be dropping like flies on some sort of coordinated conspiracy to break the game up. However when Moss (good name) fell over before a corner Saunders waved him up, even though he was clearly limping and was substituted shortly afterwards. Bizarre. Something else that was bizarre was their keeper Mayebi. He was worth the entrance fee alone. Insistent on rolling the ball out to his defenders so that they could put themselves under pressure from the off when he did kick it he demonstrated a very strong kick. And then the second time he showed why he likes to roll it out, by crashing it into touch, radar awry. Even when he made a save he dropped to his knees as if to go down injured, before getting back to his feet again. Eccentric. But good value.
Tyler who was awarded his Loyal Luton player of the season award before the match, a well deserved accolade, didnt have too much to do. I recall a point blank save from Williams, but apart from that he wasnt really troubled, apart from when Pilks slipped over on the newly watered pitch.
Luke Graham played at right back. I dont think he was really that troubled and overlapped on a couple of occasions and even had the balls to put a couple of crosses in. He was replaced by Alex Lacey who has impressed me each time Ive seen him. Lacey showed a turn of speed and the ability to cross too (and shoot!) I must admit, Id love to see some of these youngsters incorporated into the first team more and more. How are we ever going to know quite how good they are if we dont play them more regularly (I know, I know weve just GOT to get promoted and that is the most important thing). It strikes me as good practise to give the likes of Lacey (who I think has been injured for much of the campaign) and Watkins more opportunities. When Watkins came on he was a burst of energy that hadnt been there previously He looked keen, lively and dangerous and unleashed a very hard shot which was just tipped around the post he had another thunderbolt which was blocked unfortunately. He looks good. We dont need any more left wingers. Weve got cover for Jake now, thanks, next question.
In the middle were captain Pilks, and then when Pilks was substituted, captain Kroca, who sounds a bit like a Marvel comics character. Both were sound, Kroca sounder. Pilks sprayed a couple of passes, Kroca played one sublime dink-come-through-ball. He also had a decent chance with a header but put it over.
At left back was the rehabilitated and reintegrated Ed Asafu-Adjaye. I dont know what Richard Money had against Ed A-A but he briefed against him on a number of occasions and sent him out on loan as soon as he could. Ed was back, and playing again in an alien role did pretty well. Whether it is well enough to give GB the confidence he needs to keep him there and play Jake as a left winger, Im not sure. But in Murrays absence it gives him a genuine choice now. Ed got forward well, crossed well with both left and right feet, and defended when he needed to. He was given the man of the match and deservedly so I thought.
Willmott started on the right wing and Dan Walker kicked off on the left. Willmott was somewhat subsdued today, and didnt get as much of the ball as he would have liked. That didnt stop him from attacking aggressively on a couple of occasions, but the front two never seemed to be either in the box, or in the right place in the box or perhaps they were in the right place and the crosses were poor. You decide.
Dan Walker looked a little out of sorts on the left I thought. Our burst in the second half coincided with Watkins introduction on the left and Walker switching to the right where he looked much more at home. He didnt get the passes to test out his pace but did get plenty of chances to cross, when he was on both sides. On occasions his touch was too heavy and his control let him down too but surely this is the whole point of having a player so you can play him. So he learns at the highest level possible. Id love to see him get another game up front as part of a front two. It happened for AMS….
In the middle was the ever-bustling on-fire Godfrey Poku and Adam Newton. For a good chunk of the first half they did seem to be chasing shadows. An unusual partnership in the centre of the park, and I would wager that it will be the last time we ever do see that pairing. Adam Newton had more influence in the second half and Poku closed more people down, albeit at a distance on occasion. You cant fault his effort, it just his results which let him down on occasion.
Up front we had MBH who must have been confident going into the game. Strangely his confidence and touch on the park seemed to directly match that of the team like a human barometer. When we were flat MBH was flat, but as we picked up and started to hit our straps MBH looked lively too. He had his chance to make an impression on the game in the first half but didnt trouble the keeper and blasted over.
Lloyd Owusu was well, Lloyd. I think perhaps he is so muscular he cant jump as high as he should be able to . Hes a target man who doesnt seem to win his fair share of balls in the air. However some of his touches and passes were good, he made a nuisance of himself and if you watch him, he demonstrates some of that old pro nouse when ensuring he gets in the way of the keeper or cuts off he path back to the goalie from the centre half, some of the tricks of the trade. Its the goals thing and winning the headers thing that he is missing.
Jason Walker came on for Lloyd in the second half an immediately out jumped him, despite being a foot smaller. Walker looked lively and hungry when he came on and made a nuisance of himself and played his part in the improved performance at the end.
Ours wasnt a top drawer performance today, but the dead rubber game was entertaining enough in its own way. Such was the lack of importance of the game (apart from not handing Wrexham a double over us and the corresponding kudos and confidence) it was a little like watching a neutral fixture with no money on the outcome, but just wanting to see a good game and a good performance.
Oops, better do the scores on the doors before the final para:
Tyler 6.5, Graham 6, Pilks 6.5, Kroca 7, Ed 7.5, Willmott 6, Poku 4.5, Newton 6, Walker 6.5, MBH 6, Owusu 5.5. Subs Lacey 6, Watkins, 7, Walker J 7.
So the season has ended, but also started too. We are now where we realistically where we thought we would be after a couple of months of the season. So in a way, all that has gone before has been meaningless. You could have recorded the whole season on a virtual Sky plus and fast forwarded the season from August until April and we are still where we thought we would be. Which makes the next two, hopefully three games all the more important. We need three cup-final performances, three good games and the jail sentence and the nightmare are over and we can wave goodbye to non-league forever…