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…

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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.

Sub

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.

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Gales in Wales

In the rain, cold and strong wind the Hatters flattered to deceive and went home empty-handed for the second year on the trot from north Wales.

We played in last season’s kit, and whilst the result was better than last season’s the performance was just as uninspiring.

Lawless made his debut and started on the right, Drury was on the left, and Howells in the middle with Keane. Krocha came back from his mystery illness and partnered Pilks in the heart of defence. Up front was MBH but this week his partner was….Gnapka.

We played with the wind with us in the first half not that it made any difference. After 3 minutes we had a corner, but by 4 minutes we had done enough to mess up the game when Murray and Tyler managed to contrive to deceive each other and Murray managed to perfectly cushion a header from their keeper Maxwell’s long kick into the path of Mangan who will never score an easier goal. That was all that was needed to lose the game.

As the half went on Wrexham played deeper and deeper allowing us some room to play and come back into the game. In the second half they closed us down giving us no room to play and played on the counter attack, and that’s all they needed to do. However, had we had two players in the middle up front capable of sticking the ball in the old onion bag then we would have come back and won comfortably, such was the number of decent balls into the box from Messrs Drury, Lawless and Howells.

Corners? We had lots of them. When the wind was with us did we drift them across the face of the goal to the far post? No – they were all short apart from the first one. Though a different sport, Richie Benaud’s old adage of “always do what the opposition wants least” was rarely more true.

Apart from the miscommunicastion with Murray, Tyler played well though until he found his range his kicks only troubled their keeper bypassing our strikers.

Murray – our most improved player of the season was due a bad game and duly delivered. He actually got forward really well and overlapped a number of occasions but didn’t complete a single cross – very frustrating after good build up play from his team mates.

Lawless had a pretty good debut – bearing in mind I thought he was a central midfielder and was half way through a whinge when he put in his first decent cross from the right, he looked very dangerous as a winger. Lovely curling deep crosses into the 6 yard area – if only we’d had a Crow or an AMS to be on the end of it. I have no doubt that if one or other of those had been in the middle tonight we would have won – such was the quality of the crosses, especially in the first half. Lawless demonstrated that he had a good shot on him in extra time in the first half when the ball dropped to him when a corner broke down and only Ashton’s body got in the way causing him to stay down. So we had extra time in extra time.

In the second half Howells moved to the left wing, Drury to the right and Lawless was the further forward of two in the middle. However, strangely, we were worse off with this set up. Because Lawless was further forward Keane was more exposed and overburdened in the middle. Lawless was closed down to the extent that he had very little room at all in the second half.

Jake Howells was most effective in the middle, but also at his best on the left. What can you do? We need to clone him. It was most surprising therefore when Dan Walker replaced him. A few wags near me thought it would be good to remind Mr Money that he didn’t know what he was doing again but they soon shut up after their open mouths filled with rain. Howells had a good chance early in the second half when a nice turn gave him a chance on goal only to drive the ball into the near post side netting.

Apart from a single run, long and quick down the right, poor Dan didn’t get much chance to show what he can do. I’d like to think that if he’d started he would have made a better fist of it than those that did.

Drury showed glimpses of brilliance and some good crosses. If only we could get the ball to him on the floor more often he could transform games on his own.

Dear Claude and MBH looked as if they’d never started a game together, which was true. They certainly didn’t finish it together as Atieno was brought on at half time. The wind didn’t help but they were too far apart on occasions, seemingly playing different games. Atieno made little real difference when he came on – the fact that we were being closed down so readily meant that that more often than not he only had bits and pieces to feed off.

MBH had one gilt-edged chance after 30 minutes after a gorgeous cross from Drury – but did the hardest thing of all which was to head it straight to Maxwell. He had another chance with about a minute to go before half time with a one on one on the keeper but I’m afraid to say no one built their hopes up and no one was disappointed when the shot only troubled the Welsh steward behind the goal who was more surprised than we were to find the ball at his feet.

Keane was the beating heart of the midfield and never gave up the ghost, he played with gusto in the strong wind. He struck a beautiful shot from about 30 yards with about half an hour to go. But I always think that if the closest a side is getting is long-range shots then the opposition must be doing something right.

So it was cold and wet and windy and disappointing. I’d like to have seen a better performance but neither the conditions, or the opposition permitted it. It was galling as a win would have meant we went second, only 2 point behind Wimbledon and with the season back in harness.

Speaking of windy games I’ve been to a few down the years. This wasn’t the windiest by far – but is up there in the top 5 I think. The most recent windy one I can recall is when Nico got sent off in a game where dead ball kickers had to have a second player to hold the ball still at set pieces. Plymouth I think it was?? Most of the other games that day got blown off, if you excuse the expression – but ours remained on.

Score on the doors:

Tyler: 5

Murray: 4
Pilkington: 6
Krocha: 6.5
Gleeson: 5.5

Howells: 7
Lawless: 7
Keane: 8
Drury: 7.5

MBH: 5
Gnapka: 5

Atieno: 5
Walker – not on long enough.

Onto Altrincham for the second leg on Saturday. In my last report I suggested that the second half against Bath might dent our confidence and clip our heels and so it has been – a dodgy draw away to Corby and a damp defeat to Wrexham. What better way to get back into our stride and into the groove than against the bottom club. Let’s hope that RM can trouble himself to get off his arse and encourage the team on Saturday in the way he would expect us fans to.

If only we had a Crow to fly in to the rescue…

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Town 2 Gowns 2

I couldn’t believe it. Another farcical end to a game where we were in a comfortable lead. It’s becoming a habit.

Cambridge didn’t deserve a draw in this game, but our own self-inflicted indicipline brought them back into the game, and, just like against Rochdale in the 3-3, I suspect if the game had gone on for 5 more minutes we would have contrived to lose.

I was rather hoping, bearing in mind how we closed the game down at Rochdale, and how Walsall played under Richard Money that we had learnt our lessons. Oh no.

Nico was like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in this game. The net score without his involvement would have been a 1-0 win. It was his cross from a free kick which Gnapka forced home after an hour.

Tom Craddock made it two with a wonderful goal – he received pass in space from Newton and turned and blasted past their keeper, with me thinking he should have laid it off to the oncoming Gnakpa. It was a great goal and would have been a fitting cap to a good 2-0 victory.

Then, two minutes later it was time to send in the clowns. Nico decided that it would be sensible to pass to Murray accross the face of the goal, unfortunately it wasn’t Murray he passed to but Willmott I think whose shot was then saved by Pilks only to parry it to the sub, Danny Crow (who has hardly scored all season) and who couldn’t really miss. Righty ho, 2-1 – but only 9 minutes to go.

But, what now? More panic stations as Murray was then penalised for doing something naughty in the penalty area – but from the Kenny End, I’m blowed if I could tell you what it was. But, Kevin Pilks was too good for the penalty taker, he did the old trick of leaving two thirds of his goal exposed, having danced all the way across the line, tempting Holroyd to put it into the wider space, only for Holroyd to try to out think him (not easy for a footballer) and he drove it to Pilks. Marvellous – the runes were with us after all I thought.

Wrong again. On the stroke of normal time their keeper took yet another free kick which Murray opted to deal with and tried a defensive header away but it hit the top of his head and looped over Pilks and onto the post didn’t head very well and headed it backwards into the post it bobbled out from the post across the face of the goal and out to Cambridge’s right on about the edge of the 6 yard box. But who should come flying in to the rescue – none other than SuperNico who dived in and up-ended Crow who flew through the air with the greatest of ease. He grabbed hold of the ball and made no mistake with the penalty.

When you need cool heads to take control of the game, having hotheads like Nico means that our penalty area become panic central. Such a shame when we did all that work to get 2-0 up after a grafting first half.

So going through the team – there was a mild stir when Alan White wasn’t named in the XI or indeed the new boy Nwokeji. I understand Alan White had a head injury whilst Nwokeji was ill. Not sure about Asa Hall though, seems that perhaps he is a bit marginalised. Ironically of course Hall was in midfield for the Rochdale away game when we didn’t manage to throw a lead away. Actually, coming back to Nwokeji, he would have been perfect for this game – he would have sprung their offside trap with his pace and made their two lumbering centre halves look like zombies trying to catch a whippet.

Kevin Pilkington – apart from having two penalty saves to make and to parry Willmott’s shot, I can’t recall him having too much to do. He chose to throw the ball out on a number of occasions and whilst his kicking wasn’t terribly long it was pretty accurate without a gale.

Ed Asafu-Adjaye came in at right back, replacing George Pilkington who moved to centre half. Ed didn’t have a terribly outstanding game, he overlapped a coupleo of times and was felled for the free kick that led to the first goal. Pilks was very sound in defence – as usual and Shane Blackett who was impressive and dominated and was very tidy. Murray had linked up well with the forwards before his unfortunate loopy back header and the penalty he gave away.

Gnapka started well on the right and of course got the goal. Nico and Keane were in the middle and I think Money believed his own press conference too much. Orient Cambridge sat deep which meant that having two defensive midfielders ensured that too often there was a hole where a Hall could be linking up with the front too. On the left Adam Newton played well and was substitued towards the end for Jake Howells. We ended the match with 9 out of 11 players being defensive minded – two banks of four it should have been without captain chaos factored into the equation.

Up front we have mentioned Tommy Craddock who played well in between getting caught offside and Kevin Gallen who was instrumental to all of our attacks but who tired towards the end and who perhaps should have been subbed for Rio.

It shouldn’t be all doom and gloom, we dominated the first half without being very incisive but played some excellent football at times, and once we had scored the second goal started attacking really well, again playing some lovely footie.

The person who spoilt the game was the ref – who clearly still favoured a draw even though we were two up and did his level best to ensure it. I wonder if he is related to Trevor Kettle? He could be his twin.

The ref stopped what was not a dirty game for plenty of needless fouls – but didn’t award them evenly – Luton getting penalised for challenges that Cambridge were getting away with. He missed a pretty strong Luton shout for a penalty in the first half when Craddock was impeded but was happy to penalise Murray for something much less. He also can’t count to three as he failed to play the correct amount of injury time at the end.

On to Cambridge – they are managed by one of my least favourite managers Martin Ling. His teams are niggly, nasty little outfits, only too happy to play the offside trap and to go down if a Luton player appears anywhere near. It was easy to con such a poor ref. To his credit his team didn’t start timewasting from the off, but waited 15 minutes, which is something I suppose.

But it is one of those games where it is too easy to blame the ref or the opposition. Cambridge didn’t deserve to get anything out of the game, but we contrived to ensure that the last ten minutes were another farce.

7,458 fans watched the game, which would have been the second biggest attendance in the division above and 5th biggest in League One.

Where do the two dropped points leave us? We move down a postion to 6th with York, Stevenage and Oxford winning, Mansfield drawing and Kettering lost at home, commencing the start of their fall back down the table now that Cooper has gone to Peterborough.

For the record: P20 W10 D6 L4 F27 A20 Pts 36. In fact, since Mick left we have had only one defeat in ten games.

By the way I popped into the club shop before the game where the tills were ringing with joy now the new kit was in. I went up to one of the lads at the back who was minding the stock and said to him “Do you think people have noticed that the sleeves are black? Shall I tell ’em or will you?” He chuckled and said we have to get rid of this batch before we get the right ones in and they are hoping that no one will mind or think that it is a very dark blue indeed.

Mansfield away on Tuesday and what we would do for a repeat of the 4-1. I suspect that Richard Money is not too far off having a side that can string toghether a good number of wins. There’s never been a better time to start.

PS I was desperately trying to avoid the headline “Cambridge give Luton the blues”.

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We’ve only got 10 men!

Would you think a side 2-0 down and down to 10 men at half time would fight back to 4-3? What a remarkable game. Craddock was left on the bench, and Luton returned to a 4-4-2 with Hatch and Gallen up front and Jake ‘Mascot’ Howells on the left wing.

A bright start, but then our performance dropped and the goals started coming, Courtenay Pitt (remember him?) scored the firsrthe second from a dodgy penalty. Hatch got sent off for two needless bookable offences (arguing over the penalty and a silly foul) and heads were down at half time. Then something happened. Kevin Gallen became a man inspired. Scored shortly into the second half, then we scored from a corner and it was 2-2. Then Jake Howells tucked in a parried Gallen shot and we were 3-2. Then – we conceded a third when Holroyd hooked in from close range. But then we won a penalty when Saah fouled Alan White (who was ‘guilty’ for the penalty in the first half). Gallen duly took it and it was 4-3. Mark Tyler pulled off a brilliant save to keep us 4-3 up.

So what was the difference? Playing with 10 men? Gallen playing on his own up front? 4-4-2? A huge rocket up their behinds at half-time? Nico fighting with Cambridge fans? The ref being so woeful? Passion, vigour and goals – a rarity indeed.
Not sure what it was- but it was a welcome win and a brilliant second half to a game. Had we not won we would have ended up 11th. When did we last score 4 away?

Gallen man of the match by a mile. Inspired them in the second half. Murray had a good game too.

Gallen had to go off with a buised shoulder, and Howells seemed to injure himself in the goal celebrations – d’oh! So I guess there might be a question mark against him for the derby game against Stevenage on Tuesday.

P12 Pts 22 Pos 6th.

Let’s hope it is the turning point. Well done Mick and well done the players. We like it when the players match the fans passion.

My previous comments about the manager still stand. But lets enjoy the victory. I truly hope it is the inspiration the players, management and board were looking for to turn the performances around.

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