Well, it has been coming for a while. The eventual drubbing of one of these teams was only a matter of time, and yesterday we put Ebbsfleet to the sword.
Sod’s law of course – and perhaps there’s a hint here – I missed the game. Running the annual school quiz evening means that I have to forego one match a year, and alluring though a trip to this particularly grotty part of our Sceptered Isle might be I envisaged that this would be the best spring game to miss. D’oh.
Oh well, I’m delighted for the lads and also the excellent fans who made the way round the M25 to drizzly north Kent.
Wonderful for Claude that he got Luton’s first hat trick since November 2004. Can you believe it? Well done to Claude. Reading the reports, he had a shocking first half and then a brilliant second half. Like only Claude can. He’s a good bloke and a nice man and rather enjoys playing for our club in front of our fans – so I am chuffed for him.
Wonderful for Matthew Barnes-Homer to come on as sub and get a goal, after the horrible week he has had. I wonder who he dedicated his goal to? Poor lad, full credit to him. As I said in my last report, I suspect it might just be the turning point for him. He has, as it were, a fresh start and a clean slate.
Good for Kevin Gallen – up to 12 for the season now, and also another one in the bag for Craddock, taking him to 15 for the year. All other things being equal, if we are to continue on this run and continue with this success at this end of the season, I suspect he will add plenty more.
If you look at some of the bare statistics coming out of this season it suggests that things are moving in the right direction.
Doubling the club’s record for unbeaten games away from home. Setting the record for consecutive clean sheets away from home. Six wins on the trot. First hat trick for 5 1/2 years, first six goal victory since the Crewe game and first time we have scored six away from home since 1964. All of these ghosts have been dispelled. I’m sure there was another one I have missed.
I was trying to remember if I have ever seen a 6-1 – then of course I remembered by first ever game back in 1978, where we were also 1-0 down at half time. That season was the very beginning of what was to become a golden era. Let’s hope that the same is now true.
Now some of us will be thinking, ‘well it was just Ebbsfleet’, and indeed it was just Ebbsfleet and many will be thinking that we should be winning all of these games by that sort of margin. But as I said a couple of weeks ago our club has gone through severe trauma over the past few years and we are just about recovering. We have bottomed out. We are no longer going down, we have passed the nadir and are now on the way back up. How steep that ascent is depends on the quality of the playing staff we can retain and the desire of the board and the ability of the manager and coaching staff.
Another thing to mention of course is that this successful run has largely coincided with the absence of a certain K Nicholls in the midfield. As you know, I have said in the past about Nico’s character, determination and utter loyalty to our club and the cause. However, just like Big Mick, having LTFC written through the core of your soul doesn’t make up for a lack of ability. Which, regrettably poor Nico now demonstrates. I can imagine howls of protest from those fans who thinks the sun shines out of his behind. But it doesn’t, it really doesn’t, and Simon Heslop has demonstrated how effective we can be if we have two proper midfielders in the centre of the park.
Now, what next for Nico? He’s crocked at the moment and out until September. He’s on the transfer list, and I am sure Money will want to get shot of him in the summer, not least because allegedly he takes up a big proportion of the wage budget. Does Nico see out his remaining years in non-league? Does he change to centre-half? (which I think he would be much better at now he is too slow to chase people down) or does he prematurely go into a coaching role somewhere? It’s difficult for some people to swallow I know but we are a better side without him. Loyalty and passion alone doesn’t guarantee you a place in the team, otherwise I might as well go and get my boots on.
So – back to the fantastic victory – where does this leave us? Well, we are actually second now, but that’s because Oxford play today, and St Evenage were playing in the FA Trophy. It means that both sides have lots of games in hand on us, however, all we can do is create pressure and doubt in their camps by still winning. Oxford play Stevenage on the 30th March, the Tuesday before they play us on the Saturday. That week will be the key to their ambition. Should they lose both games, the league could well be wide open and a true three horse race for the title.
Unusually, we don’t have a game on Tuesday, which is a pity when a team is on such a good run: you want to and need to keep playing to keep the momentum. The next game is Hayes on Saturday followed by Salisbury on Tuesday. We really need to keep our form and focus for those two games to keep up the impetus and put us in the strongest possible position to take on Stevenage at their patch.
The league table this morning:
St Evenage…………P34…Pts 72…GD+41
Rubbish & Dustbins….P35…Pts 63…GD+32
York City………….P35…Pts 61…GD+16
One interesting development which could yet affect things are those 10 teams who are appealing the Chester City points removal. Richard Money described them as “messing their pants”. I expect the worse. We never seem to get much luck with these sorts of rulings, so as far as I am concerned we much assume that the appeal will be successful and that we don’t have those four points we gained on the others. More news on that this week, if there is any progress on the appeal.
So – well done Luton – a well-deserved thumping of Ebbsfleet. Let’s hope it is by no means the last one this season!