Miller Earns His Corn.

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The mighty orange machine marches on after another home win, putting us back top of the league.

A cracking goal by Ricky Miller (he’s on a roll now) was the difference between the two sides in terms of the scoreline at least. Whilst 1-0 suggests it was a close contest we dominated large chunks of the match. On a different day, with a few of the slick moves coming off we would have been two up at half time. Shots a couple of inches the other way would have been goals.

We started 3-5-2 again, with Fraser Franks returning as part of a back three instead of Alex Lacey. The three centre halves coped well with the front two of a largely-passing Tranmere side also playing the same formation. The industrious Mark Cullen up front with Paul Benson, who won more than his fair share in the air today despite being up against three tall goons at the back. Again, like the Northampton 1-0 win at home, much of the first half was gentle sparring each side sizing the other up and cancelling each other out.

Mark Tyler, as ever, when called upon brought off two excellent saves – the second one at point blank was Banks-esque. How many games and points has he saved us down the years? Tyler was as solid as the Tranmere keeper, Brezovan, was wobbly – if it wasn’t for his kicking, throwing, catching and saving he’d be an excellent keeper. Joking aside, he was called on to make a couple of good saves.

I thought the full home crowd was a bit subdued in parts this afternoon, not sure why. Perhaps folks just expected us to turn up and win and that Micky Adams’ team wouldn’t make a fist of it just because they are down the bottom (clumsy English) but we were made to work hard for it. At no point did I think we wouldn’t sneak a win – but it was a little while coming. Once again it was an inspired substitution by John Still which brought the change which brough the goal. Miller, given confidence by his goal last week following his indecent rush back from Dover had the confidence to strike one from the edge of the box and Brezovan got a hand to it but it looped into the net. Cue huge sigh of relief and plenty of noise. As you were, Kenilworth Road.

There was a bit of handbags in an otherwise mostly aggro and foul-free game. The man mountain Gnanduillet (award for best name of the year) deliberated tripped over the sliding Franks leg. Franks could have done nothing about it as he had slipped. It would otherwise have been a comedy moment but it led to a tete-a-tete (keeping the French theme) between the Frenchman and Wilkinson. Both fortunate I suppose to escape with a telling off. Poorer refs would have needed little excuse to get their cards out.

Smudger Smith got the man of the match today and it could equally have gone to McNulty, Harriman or Luke Wilkinson too. Smith is a player who goes from strength to strength and has the work ethic which typifies a John Still team. It was his pass which played in Miller I think.

So whilst it wasn’t a classic, it was another ground-out professional 1-0 win, the sort of win you think about when you say to your mates “I’d take a 1-0 this afternoon”. The sort of win we used to dream of before Mr Still and his team came along.

And with that I’m done. I think on Outlaws they call it a flounce, though I’m not sure that’s quite the right word. I’ve been doing this blog now since August 2009 and I’ve enjoyed doing it very much. When I started out I was the first Luton Town blogger, but now I’m pleased to say there are plenty of sites out there, all of whom do a much better job than me.  I did wonder if I should hold out until I reached the 1,000,000 page hits mark, but that would probably be another four years and millions more words. And after all there’s only so many ways you can say “Guttridge threaded a perfect ball for Howells”, “Tyler saved the day yet again” or “John Still is a footballing genius who has transformed the club on and off the field”.

This blog opened ‘writing’ doors for me which has meant that I’ve been invited to write for publications and magazines that are sold all over the world, I’ve been on Sky and the beeb, something that I could not have conceived of when I started out. Even when I don’t post anything the blog gets a couple of hundred readers a day from readers across the globe, and each post gets over a thousand readers, statistics which never cease to amaze me. However, I’ve noticed that the number of people commenting has just about dropped off to zero now. Comments are the only feedback I get – and now I’m not getting any – so I have concluded that I’m no longer hitting the spot as it were. It actually takes hours to write and check each post and it takes quite a chunk out of my Saturday/Tuesday nights/Sunday mornings. I think my family will be relieved: they will no longer have me tapping away all through Strictly, Dr Who and all of the other telly!

I’d Iike to thank two people for their help and support in the last five years. First of all erstwhile co-blogger and superb writer Rob Hadgraft who has been good enough to dignify my words by quoting me in a couple of his excellent books, something that has made me proud beyond words. Secondly Paul Wright, PDW, whose desert-dry humoured match reports have made him a Luton Legend and hopefully long may continue to do so. I just don’t know how he does it. To think, I nearly bumped into him in the summer in the pavilion at Lord’s of all places, both there watching our other mutual sporting team Northamptonshire.

I’d also like to thank: the excellent Hatters News who always put my blog up and were bold enough to put a direct link on their site years ago. The Luton Town America team who invited me to speak on their podcast, which I forgot to follow up.  The now defunct Luton Town Fans website (other than the forum) who invited me to post and gave me the log in details and I only intermittently posted but periodically wiped out the whole website, being the computer-klutz that I am. Also, all of the other websites which link and tweet my posts. And how could I forget all my Luton wonderful followers on twitter? Including some strange religious types who must follow me because of my silly pseudonym.

Favourite bits? I lenjoyed doing my “Newell years” post which took the best part of a day when I didn’t have much work to do. It was great doing the post amid the celebrations when we finally went up last April,  also I hope I’ve got the definitive “Famous Luton Fans” list. I loved it when Ronnie Irani ticked me off when I missed off dear Faye Carruthers. 

Regrets? Only one I suppose and it is entirely self-indulgent. It is that in five years I’ve never had the chance the write a piece for the match programme, not sure if that is because I’m no bloody good, or because I write under a pseudonym or because I put Gary Sweet’s nose out of joint a bit early on with a couple of revelations which would not otherwise have made it outside of the club, but which came directly from one of the players in the then first team squad, who is/was a local lad and who I know quite well. The truth hurt the club, but those revelations were ultimately a means to an end I guess. I don’t think I’ve ever been forgiven, though I felt a bit better when David Wilkinson followed me on twitter.

I’d like to thank everyone who has read the blog, even if you didn’t like it or agree with what I’ve said, and especially those who took the time to post a message and those who encouraged me with a few kind words. Even ‘Sheffield Hatter’ who only seemed to comment when I incorrectly used the word schizophrenic to describe a match of two halves.

It’s nice that we are now top of the league. When I decided to write this (and it took me a year before I got around to it, just think of the stuff I could have written when Pinkney was still in charge) we had been in free-fall for three seasons with the club previously being owned by crooks, thieves and idiots; we had been lurching from crisis to crisis the previous ten years. Five years on and we are in the most stable position we have been in for generations, with a really strong squad, top of the league and managed by a man for whom I have the utmost respect. But let us be in no doubt, without the investment and commitment of the 2020 board we wouldn’t have a club to support. I’m truly grateful to them for that and whatever happens in the future will always be grateful. It may have taken longer than we hoped but we are well on course now to reach the original objectives. Everything at the club is moving in the right direction from top to bottom, from the youth team to the first team. The ground is full at home games and all are pulling in the same direction. It is where I’d always hoped we would be, if not quite in the right division yet! Ours is the most special of clubs, with a unique topsy-turvy history, destined for great things once again in the future. But I think you all know that already.

As an aside, this week my eldest son played for his school for the first time in two years after a couple of years off due to injury – I’m a very, very proud Luton fan, but an even more proud father.

Thanks for reading.

Come on you Hatters!

David.

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FA Cup 1st Round – Newport (h)

A good win in a thumping FA Cup tie in the pouring rain. Just a short summary tonight as I have to be up early in the morning. At last I have the internet again, no thanks to BT whose shambolic performance in diagnosing and fixing the phone line was the technological equivalent to Newport’s defence this afternoon.

We started with the 3-5-2 system given outings earlier in the season, Howells and Harriman acting as the wing backs and playing well, though always vulnerable behind. Smith and Doyle patrolling the middle and Guttridge bossing things behind Benson and Cullen.

It seems that with the clocks going back the weather has changed, this was the first rainy and dark game for a long time. The football, or at least the goals were illuminating. I thought it was a good, old-fashioned cup tie with some physicality being permitted which added to the event.

Great to see Guttridge showing the form which set the season alight last year. Not sure how many other clubs would be as effective as we are with creative players such as Drury, Lawless and PRM out of the side. Quite amazing.

The first half was more sleepy, with the teams shadow boxing for the first 20 minutes, then we started to click with Guttridge and Benson going close. Then Newport had an effective spell including an overhead kick from Aaron O’Connor, which Tyler saved well. With about five minutes to go and against the run of play Doyle won the ball, fed in Gutts who had acres of space to run into in front of goal – and give this guy an inch he will take a mile and fired a fantastic left foot shot into the top left hand corner. If it was on match of the day, it would be in the goal of the month competition.

Nothing about the first half suggested that the second would have five more goals. But both sides attacked, neither seemingly fancying a replay. I should say fair play to Justin Edinburgh for doing that, but he hasn’t changed has he? Badgering the ref at half time and then bleating about him afterwards on the radio.

Klukowski’s equaliser was also a good goal, a deep cross headed out was fed back in and Klukowski knocked the ball up and volleyed it in. Not much we could have done about that other than getting the initial clearance further out.

Fortunately, Newport included the clodhopper Minshull in their ranks and it was thanks to him for the phase of play that led to our second goal. He headed poorly to Howells, who was excellent all afternoon and who shimmied turned and put a weakish right foot cross in, which fell poorly for Cullen, but he brought it down, put Guttridge in, who played it back to MC whose shot was parried by the keeper, looping up dangerously only for Paul Benson to bludgeon it across the line. It may have spun in without his intervention, but he made sure.

Newport’s second goal came from Obeng making a good run down the left skipped past Harriman who did his best to bring him down, the ref played advantage and he slipped a cross to O’Connor who stole in, in front of Tyler, played onside by Lacey. That is the casual danger of having wing backs of course, they are inherently vulnerable to a quick break down the wings and getting the ball behind them as they push up. Hey ho – so be it – it made for a six goal thriller though.

3-2 courtesy of a substitution Miller replaced the ever-hardworking Cullen. We won a corner Yakubu sticking the ball behind from a Wilkinson cross. Howells whipped in a low corner which fell to Miller who slotted it home for his first (official) goal for the Hatters. I hope it is one of very many. I like the look of him.

The icing on the cake was an individual goal from Jake Howells, excelling in his wing back role. Driving forward with the ball at his feet he picked up the ball just inside the half way line and ran and ran into the box and slotted it home level with the penalty spot a great individual goal and it just shows what he is capable of – he is a fine Luton player.

Bright pink ball today – eurgh. And because of the rain it appeared to me to bounce like the old leather things they had in my Dad’s day, or like a flat ball you find in the back of the shed.

Much has been spoken about O’Connor’s over the top celebration, I shan’t add anything here other than bigger men are able to shrug off a bit of what they call crowd ‘banter’ nowadays. I’d like to venture that one of the reasons he was let go was because he did let the then negative Luton crowd get to him. He played well enough today and it was a safe bet that he would get a goal. Silly boy, when we play them again just before Chrimbo he will get stick from thousands of fans, rather than a handful. The twit.

Let’s hope that we get a nice home draw in the second round – perhaps a game against one of the smaller clubs left in the competition such as MK Dongs – and then the chance for a third round draw against a top side, or failing that against that lot down the M1 who can show what a well-supported club they are by not selling out the away end again.

Nice that now the BBC have got the FA Cup back they go all out and show the highlights after match of the day in a special programme. What? They haven’t? They are only showing them online? Utter disgrace. They don’t deserve to have the coverage.

In other news, it looks as if we have signed that young lad from Sunderland Lewis Gibbons – John Still hopefully has sniffed out another gem. Let us hope that that is the only sniffing being done. I wish him well. Though I can’t help feeling a bit sorry for Alex Lacey and Fraser Franks, but if he was good enough to be at a premiership club before it will be interesting to see how good he is once he settles in and learns what we are about. It subscribes to the business plan – get good young players who will end up playing at a much higher level, improve them and reap the benefit of them for a couple of years before selling them on.

Finally, I loved the poppy shirts today – there’s not too many things more important than football but showing respect to those who gave their lives is indisputably one of them.

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