Thats 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 Brabins 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. Thats not to say they didnt have chances, but I dont think Tylers 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 refs said it had to be retaken well take this. For once, probably in my entire Luton watching career, we didnt just try the same thing with the same outcome for the re-take. No this time Willmott didnt 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.
Thats two goals direct from free kicks in successive weekends; I dont know whats up with them. Since Gallen left weve had no one in the side who might have a chance of hitting the target from free-kicks and havent scored from one, from what I recall, since Gallens 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. Thats 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 refs 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 Tylers 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 wasnt 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 wasnt 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 doesnt 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 hed 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). Id rather keep some luck in the bag for the games that really count eg play offs. Conversely of course you might consider that weve had virtually none all year (or indeed for many years) we are due some. Keep calling by please, Lady Luck, youre 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 Im 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 didnt track back. Its not a crime Claude.
MBH well we scored 4 goals once he was introduced, but I dont 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 dont think weve 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.
Its 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. Lets 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. Lets 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…