Miller Earns His Corn.


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!




The mighty Hatters swung back into action yesterday and comprehensively outplayed Oxford, despite half the squad being afflicted by the trots presumably in a show of support of the broken-legged right back.

Despite being down in numbers, the performance was professional from beginning to end, as ever our cause and our confidence being greatly aided by a good early goal from Luke Wilkinson.

And what a good game Wilkinson had. Even without his headed goal he was my man of the match. He was the archetypal rock at the back. Sure-footed and commanding he swept up Oxford’s attacks – when they did occasionally venture into our half – and won header after header. We can now see why John Still was so keen to sign him in close season. Four games without conceding a goal suggests that we are doing something right at the back. Today we defended in such a way that only on two occasions in the whole 90 minutes did Oxford get around the back of us. The first one caused the heart to flutter as McNulty, suffering from nappy syndrome (his mind addled no doubt by sleepless nights and the thought of nipple pads) let the ball go over his head rather than to head it clear. It was like he was pushed forward by an imaginary Micky Quinn. As it happens that moment served to galvanise the defence and they hardly put a foot wrong after that, forcing Oxford to shoot from miles out – they couldn’t get close.

I think Oxford had only two decent shots on target and Tyler had to make a couple of reflex saves, the first was very nearly world class and to be added to his long list of brilliant point blank saves too numerous to tally, where he touched a shot from Barnett round the post – I don’t know how he got down in time. The second was a near point-blank header from Barnett where he got down to save in exactly the right place. A bit like a baseball catcher who knows where the pitch is going. Without those saves the result would have been very different. Earlier in the season I indicated that MT was beginning to show signs that he was starting to show his age. His recent form has dispelled this, in fact you could assert that he has improved. Mark Tyler is a fine wine, improving with age.

Alex Lacey started at right back today and had a pretty tidy game, he was up against their only attacking threat down the left in O’Dowd.

Scott Griffiths battled excellently on the left and had Ruffel in his pocket. He played well all game and largely neutralised Oxford down the right.

Nathan Doyle made his debut, sitting in front of the back four. He had a physical presence about him and was tidy enough I think. Survived the attempt to rearrange his kneecaps by Tyrone Barnett. Bearing in mind many of John Still’s acquisitions often take time to bed in and get up to speed, I look forward to seeing what he is like after ten games…Drury replaced him later on when we changed to a 4-4-2.

In the middle too – but in a more advanced role than I seem to recall was Smudger Smith, who as ever ran and worked hard in the middle, charging people down with impunity.

More or less the most advanced midfielder of a three – but still back and forth in his ‘box to box’ role was PRM who had a slightly strange game compared to his Trojan performances recently. He certainly posed an attacking threat but seemed to have a gear in reserve. Perhaps he didn’t need his top gear such was the underwhelming threat of Oxford. We could have doubled the lead within a minute when Pelly was given a good chance after good play in the box from Cullen and Whalley but he popped it over the bar.

On the right of front three (or the right of a midfield 5 if you prefer) was Shaun Whalley, a slightly revitalised version of the walking shambles we saw at the start of last season. He was a direct threat, and tracked back well when needed. He does get bumped off the ball a bit easily. Didn’t perhaps cut through their lines in the way he would have like but at least was felled for the free kick which led to the goal. His replacement by Layafette re-injected vigour into our performance, so he played a part in that way I guess – he was the facilitator for the final push by being substituted. I wish Shaun well, hopefully by starting yesterday that will give him some of the confidence he was lacking.

On the left up was Jake Howells who had an outstanding game and his alertness was rewarded when he sprung to score from the rebound from his own penalty a la Cullen. He didn’t just whack it back though, but got it under control, dribbled a bit, did a shimmy, checked his emails, before slotting it home. The penalty itself was for handball by Mullins on the edge of the box. The sort of penalty decision you get when things are going your way as the Mr Magoos of the lower leagues invariably fail to spot that sort of thing. For example later on in the second half one of our team (I can’t recall who) played catch with himself and the ref missed that one. It was Howells’ inswinging freekick that gave Wilkinson such a perfect opportunity for the goal.

In the middle was the long suffering Mark Cullen, ploughing a lone furrow, until Lafayette came on. Too often though he was left isolated when, having received the ball, had no one to lay it off to. Such is the nature of the system I guess. Late on he went on a splendid run with a golden opportunity to make it three – but stumbled and shot rather than passing it. Great when they go in and you can’t blame a centre forward for having a go, especially when we were two up already. If it had been 0-0 then he might have been lynched for not passing it.

As I said earlier – the introduction of Lafayette gave us the momentum to finish the job, it levered away the slow momentum Oxford had gained as our high tempo approach was difficult to maintain. When he came on he posed an immediate threat and gave us the edge and gave Oxford something to think about. He might not be the most refined front man yet, but yesterday he brimmed with confidence. Oxford’s centre halves who had been barely coping with just Cullen, suddenly had  a big strong bloke to try to manage and they struggled and thereafter were on the back foot. It was a masterstroke, as was shoring up the right hand side by changing to 442 and bringing on Drury.

It was a good game and one which I thoroughly enjoyed. A good competent, professional win. We played at high tempo and pressed Oxford hard, they were toothless up front and mainly had to rely on long shots. We did a job on Oxford, and their only decent chances fell to Tyrone Barnett, who surely nine times out of ten would have been dismissed for the brutal lunge on Doyle. Hats off to John Still’s men for playing well and keeping them at bay. The only worrying note is that our goals are coming from set plays, but good to be still winning whilst that is the case.

Next week we renew our acquaintance with the strange Hertfordshire brand of anti-football when we play the cheats from Stevenage, I can’t wait. I’m interested to see if the Westley leopard has changed its spots, or mellowed over the years. Yesterday when Barnett went over the top on Doyle the whole team led by Macca were enraged and were ready to pile in. We all reacted and stood together a la Paul Colingwood for England against the Aussies in 2005. I suspect there might be more of that needed next week if Stevenage revert to type. Had we not got the early goal today, I suspect Mr Appleton’s team would have given us a dress-rehearsal for the tactics we can expect. Certainly the tackling and the constant whining to the ref were straight out of the Westley text-book.

Come on you Hatters.


Mark Tyler saves the day & welcome back Smudger

A welcome return to winning ways after a hard-fought 1-0 win. Whilst the performance was better and the battling was excellent, we have Mark Tyler to thank for some excellent saves that kept us in the game.

At the final whistle there was tangible pulse of relief from the crowd – a P-wave of appreciation and acknowledgement of the efforts undertaken.

The team lined up with four tactical changes. Interesting to say the least, especially as John Still had said how well the team performed in the last game. However, we matched Cheltenham’s formation like-for-like with a 3-5-2. Curtley Williams made his debut, whilst Ross Lafayette made his full debut. Smudger Smith returned for his first game since his leg-break horror on Boxing Day and Luke Wilkinson returned in the heart of the defence. Missing out were Drury, Rooney, Howells and Connolly.

Williams and Griffiths pushed up against their opposing wing-backs. Lacey, McNulty and Wilkinson formed a back three. Smudger Smith was the holding man in front of the back three and Pelly and Gutts were further forward. Lafayette and Cullen were up front.

So what of the game? Well we clung on by the skin of our teeth as Cheltenham pressed and pressed in the second half. We had plenty of chances to go two up though, to be fair. The goal came from a throw on the left. Griffiths took the throw to Layette who held the ball up under pressure and forced the ball back to Griffiths, who crossed a lovely ball for an excellent glancing header by Mark Cullen. One up after 7 mins and that was it for the goals, but not the action. If Cheltenham had been able to finish better the outcome would have been different, but I suppose you could say that of us too. Other than the sustained pressure, there was nothing about them that suggested they were worthy of their starting position. Shrewsbury they’re not.

I thought Curtley Williams slotted in well at right wing back. He is a tidy player, good on the ball and seemed to have a good understanding of what was required. He tired in the second half, and went off after about 75 mins looking a bit sore, I hope he is okay. We transferred to a 442 shortly after the start of the second half as Cheltenham had swapped around too. It also helped us to defend and keep men behind the ball. I think dear Curtley forgot he was no longer a wing back though as he was stuck forward out of position with the Robins looking to get the ball behind him. Perhaps it was just as well that he went off!

Lacey was the first substitution when we changed formation, the tactical sacrificial lamb again. I recall he had a free header at the far post from a corner which truthfully he should have hit the target with. This left Wilkinson and McNulty in the heart of defence. Both had good games, apart from one tiny cock up by Nults. He put himself in the line of the ball time and time again, and hurled himself to block shots. What does Sir Ian say in that film? “They shall not pass”? McNulty should have that tattooed somewhere special. In fact I think Wilkinson had his best game for us and made a vital clearance off the line. Boy, they needed to be at their most dogged, we were stretched and pushed and pulled for all our worth and needed to be at our best to hang on.

Scott Griffiths had a good game, though more than once or twice he was caught betwixt and between as he had two players coming at him down the right. This stopped once Howells came on – but in both of the last two games Scott has been badly exposed on occasion with too much to deal with on his own. Anyway – we kept them out and Scott played pretty well, including the ‘assist’. But the clean sheet was really down to Mark Tyler who had a fantastic game. I think I counted four decisive, crucial saves without which we would have conceded a goal. I can see how Cheltenham came from two down last week – they came at us hard – but the last time of defence, M Tyler esq., stood firm. His kicking was really accurate too, in the first half he sent ball after ball out to Williams on the wing and otherwise accurately sought out the heads of Lafayette and Cullen like a heat seeking missile. Early season wobbles behind him, this was Tyler’s latest tour de force.

Pelly Ruddock is in fine form, he had another good game today, and in the first half was a constant threat. With half an hour to go he slotted into right back and took to it like an eager puppy. It didn’t stop him marauding down the flank like a border reiver. He was kicked to death by Cheltenham and each time he was felled the miscreant was decorated with a yellow card – but no more. Somehow it seems a bit wrong to see a team from Cheltenham filled with bruising thugs. The gnarled bully-boys they had at centre half would be better suited to somewhere like Grays, Millwall or Barnsley not the pleasant spa town with the ladies college.


Switching away from football for a second – dear reader – I’ve got a little topical question for you. It’s a bit of a moral-maze type question. I’m not sure which I would do. I wonder if you can help me out…

If you are disturbed in the night and hear a noise in the bathroom do you:

a) turn over to see if the wife* has got up for a midnight pee

b) fart & go back to sleep

c) if you are really concerned, get up, put your legs on (if necessary) and walk over to the bathroom door and whisper “Is that you in there my love? Has that curry brought on a touch of the collywobbles? I told you not to have them prawns.”

Or d) immediately reach for the semi-automatic 9mm firearm in your bedside cabinet and loose off a few rounds through the bog door just in case?


Back to the football, Jonathan Smith played the full 90 minutes, which I was surprised at. And he played well, he was everywhere and faultless in his effort and spirit. He was tiring at the end, which meant that some of his passes went astray but he had a really good game – like he’d never been away. I wondered, what with the massed ranks of midfielders JS has recruited, if he’d get many games this year. If he carries on like he does today, Robinson will have a job in getting his place back.

Luke Guttridge was a constant thorn in their side, but not quite as much of a threat as last week – when we moved to 442 he moved out onto the left before Howells came on. He got a standing ovation, from my bit of the Kenny End at least. He came close to scoring on a couple of occasions, including a lovely 1-2, but also did a dodgy back pass too.

Lafayette, also tired towards the end but had a pretty good game I reckon, bearing in mind he’s new to us. It was his strength which enabled Griffiths to cross the ball for the goal. He made some good touches some poor ones. He’s learning and he’s keen- and furthermore, with Benson injured and Alex Wall in the maison du chien, he’s our main man.

Speaking of goals, what a lovely header it was by Mark Cullen. He knows how to sniff a goal, and it was great that he got the winner and only goal. I think that’s just desserts. There’s tons of pressure on him this year in the absence of Gray – and to give him credit I don’t think he’s had two games the same with either striking partners or formations. I hope he goes from strength to strength.

Jim Stevenson nearly got a goal with his first touch when he came on to replace Lacey. From a corner and a melee he twisted and turned and slotted home his fourth goal in a week. However, after thinking about it, lighting up a fag, settling down with a good book and sending a couple of texts, the lino decided to raise his flag, allowing poor Jim in a few seconds of ecstasy only for it to be dashed. I like the look of Stevenson – he seems to be growing with each game, with each touch almost. Not sure why the goal wasn’t given though.

Andy Drury let us have a couple of glimpses of him at his best when he came on to replace Williams. A close shot followed by a lovely dink through for Pelly.

In other news, it’s nice to see Mr D’Urso hasn’t much improved with age. I’m not going to say anything more.

Good to see their keeper Carson foolishly engaged in what I think the young-folk call ‘banter’ with the Kenny End, which basically means he was daft enough to react to the abuse/friendly career advice/fatherhood-news he was receiving from the front row. Which meant that he got it in spades back. Silly boy.

Another comedy moment was when their excellent wing back Braham-Barrett got a kick ‘amidships’ as Blowers would say on TMS. Jesus did he look in pain. He could barely walk let alone run, such was the state of his nether regions. He limped around on tiptoes. I liked the way that he was so concerned about his balls he wasn’t bothered about dropping his shorts in front of us all for the physio to check that everything was still there, and that nothing was hanging off. His pained face gave us an idea of what a Scottish taxpayer would look like post-Independence.

I’m pleased with the win – it was no footballing spectacle, especially in the second half when we were largely under the cosh, but a gritty win which – from the looks of what we’ve seen from this division so far – is what is needed for success whilst we acclimatise.

The next two games are against Cambridge and Blackbird Leys FC and I’m looking forward to locking horns with Richard Money again next week. They’ve had a slightly better start and are 6th – but only 3 points ahead. We let them have a bigger lead last season before we overhauled them…then, after Oxford come the footballing purists and fairplay specialists of Stevenage. Not.

Well done lads, a good win.

PS Just noticed that there are two Luton references in the MoTD title sequence. Sorry if everyone else spotted them first.

PPS I still think that Diego Costa looks like an evil Danny Crow, but without the love-handles.

*or hubby, partner, girlfriend, boyfriend, lover, neighbour, one night stand, window-cleaner, significant other etc etc delete as appropriate.


Still Adjusting

To lose to a side wearing Ebola-yellow was bad enough, but for the winner to be scored by an ex-Hornet was galling, especially when that ex-Hornet had earlier performed the very same tackle that Robinson was sent off for last week. He received a mild rebuke and a yellow card. Robbo got the book thrown at him. Refs. Don’t ya just love ‘em?

As it happens, I was thoroughly enjoying the game. I thought we outplayed Plymouth certainly in the first half, but the goal just wouldn’t come.

Once again it was a loss of concentration that cost us a goal – we switched off for the briefest of seconds, but it was enough to let them take their chance. Things weren’t helped terribly by Mr Magoo the ref who – when not slipping on his arse or getting in the way of the ball – was terribly good at not being terribly good. Countless pushes on Cullen were missed and Bray, their first substitute inflicted a leg-breaker on Lacey and got a yellow, where we have so often seen red. In a premiership game, Plymouth would have been playing with nine at the end.

After the surprising draw at Accrington and the disappointing performance against a resurgent Shrewsbury (who were a much better team) the game against Plymouth was a chance to right those wrongs and to pop the train back on the rails and inject some confidence and momentum into the team. No such joy. There is a difference between the conference and league two. The opposition are stronger, close you down quicker and break faster than in the conference; the managers are cannier and quicker to adjust their tactics. It is a big wake up call. But once we’ve made and completed the readjustment then we will be fine and able to push on. I think that is why sometimes we are too elaborate in front of goal: we’re not able to stretch their defences and penetrate in the way we did last year. The pace and pressure of dear Andre is being missed.

We started with a 4-5-1 formation. Guttridge sitting just behind Cullen who was on his own up top, with Howells on the left and Rooney on the right. Alex Lacey was at centre half partnering McNulty. Early on, Plymouth, having watched how a couple of our goals this year had been conceded, targeted our skipper. Their early intent being to play the ball over the top behind him to the pacier Reid. Fortunately, we adjusted to compensate for this and this tactic was largely snuffed out: we pushed up less – one man went on Reid whilst the other covered.  He was then toothless until the second half where he moved to the right to torment poor Scotty Griffiths instead.

Rooney is a funny player. At times he looks like a live-wire and our only direct threat, he can play quick balls which get us on the front foot, but occasionally he over-elaborates, takes too many touches and deflates, defuses and denudes our counter attacks. In one fell swoop this man can turn a snappy counter into a slow build up, whether he receives the ball in midfield or up front. He collapses our soufflé. He releases the pressure valve on the opposition. He lets our balloon down.

Pelly and Drury were in the middle. Pelly had an excellent game – driving from box to box – being first to the ball in defence and supporting up front. In little bursts Pelly oozes class.

Drury was certainly better than he had been but not playmaking as he was before he left. He’s still adjusting to how we play, and this division too. He has to do his fair share of breaking up play and chasing down, rather than having the luxury of standing in the centre circle and spraying it around.  He did, however, play some creative and intelligent balls. Guttridge was really effective on the edge of the box and played a number of juicy one-twos with Cullen and others, but it never quite clicked. Griffiths had a hard time of it at left back – he got better as the first half went on, but was caught out of position a number of times in the first half and given a good working over by Alessandro. In the second half, with the introduction of Bray he had Bray and Reid to contend with as Plymouth manager John Sheridan obviously targeted our left side as the chink in our defensive armour.

Mark Tyler didn’t have too much to do. But when called on was back to his best – getting down to shut down a couple of opportunities where Reid had stolen in. His kicking was very accurate to his great credit.

In patches we played really well. On a different day, we would have had the run of the ball and with a bit more confidence we would have slotted a few home, but it was not to be. What is good is that all of this will balance out at some point and we will get the rub of the green and start banging them in.

Plenty of chances came our way:

Guttridge’s direct free kick in the first minute or so which was parried over by McCormick. There was a corner from the right shortly after that, which the keeper had to beat clear.

After a nice build up Guttridge had another chance drawing a low save from McCormick. Good work from Jake on the left cut Rooney in to make a blistering half volley which was just over – on other days that would have been a net-buster.

In the 20th minute Cullen dragged a good chance wide from the edge of the box, having been played in with an incisive ball by Guttridge.

Five minutes later Guttridge again played in Jake, who will be kicking himself for missing a guilt edged chance which was pure Luton.

After half an hour again, good play from Gutts gave Cullen a good chance, but this time dragged with wide with his left foot.

With two minutes to go in the first half a lovely combination of passes between Howells, Cullen and Pelly saw Jake get another fine chance to open the scoring. It would have been a lovely goal – but it wasn’t to be.

The first chance of the second half was a good through ball from Drury to Cullen – but Cullen was just offside.

A couple of minutes later a deft interception from Jake on halfway let Gutts play a weighted ball in front of the on rushing Cullen. Alas the ball was a centimetre or two too long, otherwise he would have been played in perfectly. As it was McCormack snuffled it up for his umpteenth save.

After 10 minutes in the second half Paul Connolly mistimed his strike at the far post, after a good cross by Griffiths. From the following corner, Pelly picked up a loose ball at the far post and turned and struck it – but it didn’t find a way through and was blocked.

Lafayette, who was brought on to replace Cullen (I think many folk wanted Alex Wall) played a quick one two with Alex Lawless (who had replaced Howells) but Lafayette fluffed his golden opportunity and sliced it wide.

Lawless posed a further attacking threat when getting into the box he crossed it for the on-rushing Lafayette, but Nelson scrambled the ball away before the tall target man could make contact.

With a couple of minutes to go an unlikely chance came from an enormous kick by Tyler – deep into the box Nelson mistimed his header and nearly looped it over McCormack.

The final chance came when Rooney played a deep cross from the half way line towards Lafayette whose cushioned header played in Guttridge who, given a second longer would have got a shot away, as it happens the ball was cleverly taken off his toe and he was flattened in the process.

So, we had plenty of opportunities. Though things smacked a little of desperation towards the end, this wasn’t a hark back to the dark days under Mr Brabin where we’d only make a couple of chances in a match, this was good stuff – good attacking creative play, where we had done more than enough to win. But you have to stick it in the old onion bag, and, like the game against Wimbledon we could have played another 90 mins and I don’t think it would have happened. It was in effect another game from the season before last: dominating, missing chances, not scoring, and being caught on the hop.

Lawless added a spark of momentum and decent crosses. Good to see him back. Last year his return galvanised us. It wasn’t quite enough today. He pushed up as part of a front three when he was on and was an immediate thorn.

One thing to note is that I don’t recall seeing so many players slip over in the game. Is the pitch greasy? Did they all need longer studs? It was peculiar. More people slipped over in this match than the televised bog-farce at the start of the year.

There were two early pointers to the Plymouth goal. Firstly, after about an hour Plymouth were focusing all of their moves down our left with Richard Reid and the sub Bray taking it in turns to power their way through. On this occasion Reid forced his way through the right and put in a good cross for Blizzard to take a snapshot in the middle, just turning the ball wide of the post: alarm bells should have been ringing. Secondly, a minute later, yet another attack down the right saw Bray on the ball spearing down the wing only to go over on his ankle, unchallenged, and he went down as if a sniper hid in box 10 had taken him out (seeking revenge for the dirty studding of Lacey’s shins?) We had the stretcher on and it took a couple of minutes out of the game, but Bray eventually got up and was fine. A couple of minutes later and yet another attack down the right saw Bray run towards our box again. He got as far as the edge of the box and then collapsed again in agony unchallenged. We froze for a second, Reid picked up the ball on the edge of the box, played Cox in, who slipped the ball to Blizzard who skipped around Connolly, a lunging McNulty and a stationary Lacey and slotted in a well-taken goal all with Bray dead on the edge of the box. Had we not gone sleepy-bo-bos when Bray went down Reid would not have collected the ball.

So, Plymouth weren’t anything special at all. Hard working, brutal in the tackle and opportunistic but not a great side. We had plenty of chances to put the game beyond doubt in the first half alone, but didn’t and got caught napping.

Our fortunes will change at some point, we will get that rub of the green and that spark we need to get the season properly started. It might seem as if we’ve not yet settled on the right team, combination and formation but at least we know that John Still has the know-how, experience and common-sense to get us to where we need to be. He’s no liar or bullshitter, if there were problems then he would say. He is finding out about his players and his squad and what they can do in a match situation. I’m not disheartened, just downcast about the latest defeat. A good chance to put things right next week against Cheltenham and I can start looking at the league table again.

By the way – I think I was a bit harsh about Rooney – do you agree?



Another non-league classic to tell the grandkids about. Great stuff it you enjoy watching one goalie and then the other lump it down the middle. It was 90 minutes of high tempo-full-of-good-intentions football, with little in true quality to show for it, save for the goalkeeping and sound defending.

How apt that Mark Tyler got man of the match – his three classy and brave saves in the first half kept us in the game.

Whilst Cambridge had the clear better of us in the first half I think we shaded the second, without really creating a clear-cut chance. How frustrating all round. Poor Jon Shaw, used as a target man and the focal point for all of the kicks is still suffering from his hernia and is trying his best. He lasted a half before being substituted. It was a blessing in disguise, as once he had gone off we at least had a bit more nous and guile and built the ball up from the back a few times rather than just pinging it towards Shaw. A bit more – not a lot.

Mark Cullen too was struggling, and only managed half an hour before being taken off JohnStill said it was partially tactical partially because he was struggling for fitness and couldn’t make an impact sufficiently to feed off the occasional scrap won by Shaw, or on the wing when swapped with Andre Gray, who had started on the right.

Andre Gray looked keen and up for the battle. He grew increasingly frustrated and angry at the poor service he was receiving from the midfielders and wingers – but he himself played pretty well. Increasingly in the last twenty minutes he would find himself with space in front of the back two defenders and he would selflessly sweep the ball right for Shaun Whalley to do something – or as it transpires nothing much – with.

Ah, Shaun Whalley, a fearsome pain for premiership and non-conference left backs, but in our division has had a weak start. Whilst he is always in a position to pick up the ball, I think his confidence must be low and it is affecting his play. His crossing, touch and passing were short of the required standard today and once again he was bottled up. He started on the left (with Gray on the right) but, when the pack was shuffled after Cullen’s departure moved out to the right, up against former Hatter Greg Taylor as it transpired. Brought in as an impact player, a snazzy quick winger, he’s turning into a toothless tiger. On the way back, I listened hard to Luton Legend John Moore, who explained it thus –whilst Whalley is hard to play against if you’ve never come up against him before, clubs in the conference know exactly what he is about and what he is capable of and set the teams up accordingly. Moore said that Whalley must progress his game further and adapt if he is going to be the player JohnStill wants and needs.

At the back, once again we coped reasonably well. Playing too deep initially we were seemingly allowing Cambridge too much time and space in our half hence the two early opportunities for them. Once we sorted that out, howler from Lacey aside, we looked in control at the back I thought. Good to see Scott Griffiths improving after the ‘mare he had last week – one or two of his passes did go astray, but defensively wasn’t given the run around he had had against Macclesfield and was less vulnerable still once Jake was brought on in front of him on the left. He improved more as the match wore on.

We did fashion a number of half chances. Once the ball was on the deck a little more, having Jake on the left made a difference. Looking at the match statistics apparently we had five shots on goal – I don’t think I can remember them. I remember McNulty going close with a header at a corner and Jake having to shoot with his right foot and not his left. Not sure about the others – help please?!?

Richard Money’s team were tidy, but without many frills – tactically it was the same as when he left us. Long ball up to Cunnington. We did well against him in the air, which was good – but it was Cambridge who were better at feasting off the bits and pieces afterwards.
With Cullen and Shaw both off, and no striker on the bench, the formation ended up with Whalley on the right Jake on the left and Dave Martin (introduced for Jon Shaw) just behind Gray, who, as I’ve said was increasingly isolated and frustrated.

Our midfield today of Guttridge and Smith had teeth but were not afforded enough room to be creative. Guttridge made one fantastic last ditch save off the line to bail out the Lacey howler I referred to above. I suppose we might be asking too much – they are two similar-ish players. We miss Lawless something terrible. Someone to put their foot on the ball and look to do something with it. Too often the midfielders, starved of room just lobbed it forward hopefully. Barca it wasn’t.

But that said – the tempo of the game, if not the outcome, made it a not unpleasant watch. It did strike me as having 0-0 written all over it, but there have been worse 0-0s at the Kenny. There was a lack of quality in the final third something JohnStill was only too happy to concede (well it was pretty damn obvious). Once again we played soundly at the back without doing much up front. We’re playing uninspiringly but still picking up points and scraping along. Once we go through the gears, which I have no doubt we will, then things will improve. We’re not playing particularly well but still getting points against the stronger teams. Furthermore, we are getting some of the trickier fixtures out of the way early – once we have got Kiddy Grimbsby and Wrexham out of the way, slightly easier fixtures are coming up after mid-September. I’m hoping that we will have a little more of a cutting edge by then…

Scores on the doors: Tyler 8.5, Henry 7, McNulty 7.5, Lacey 7.5, Griffiths 6.5, Guttridge 6.5, Smith 6.5, Whalley 4, Gray 6.5, Shaw 5.5, Cullen 5.5, Howells 7, Martin 6.5


The Calm before The Storm


As I type this we are in the quiet, nervous period between the two games. The eye of the storm if you will, where all that happens is that the respective managers give out positive messages, whilst concentrating 100% on the task in hand.

Whatever happens tomorrow (and I was one of the ones who were too slow off the mark to get a ticket) in this past month, since the last Bank Holiday Monday we have seen an unprecedented about-turn in our performances and fortunes.

A month ago if you had told me that the team that we were all happy to slag off, who were underperforming and limping along without a win in eight games would then go unbeaten in the next seven, with six clean sheets on the trot I wouldn’t have believed you – I don’t think anyone thought that the change around would be so comprehensive and effective.  It is fairy-tale Roy of the Rovers stuff – and is down to the discipline, determination and drive of Paul Buckle.

I can’t think of such a turnaround in a season before. To go from zeros to heroes in such a short space of time (Buckle had 24 hours) is utterly, utterly remarkable. Pinch yourself.

It isn’t just the results that are different. It is the fact that in the past few games we have been resilient at the back, we have always been first to the loose ball, we have closed down from the front,  got stuck in and winning challenges, and delightfully attacking at pace on the break. A little bit of the early 1980s Hatters have rubbed off on non-league Luton. Furthermore, if you could have devised a playing style and an attitude to get the Luton faithful on your side – this would be it. This would truly be it. For me, this is what I’ve been waiting for all these years.

It was so wonderful to be in a very nearly full Kenilworth Road once again. The atmosphere spurred the players on the way that the boos dispirited them previously. And what a buzz for Andre Gray. Playing in front of a few hundred a few weeks ago and now a near full Kenilworth Road – no wonder he is responding. Fleetwood too was on fire (in a Poku way) his determination for the first goal and his left-foot finish for the second raised the roof at the Kenny End once again. Good to see AMS back and playing again – and big Macca did his job well too when he came on.

Having gone all of the season without a performance or result against the teams in the top 5, to go and whoomp Fleetwood and whack Wrexham was very special and out of the blue. It would have fascinating to see what would have happened if we had been like this from the start of the season. This is most certainly the method that we should have been applying since that first game away to Wimbledon in August 2009.

My only worry is that having had all those chances to make it three, or four or even five against Wrexham, that fate turns around and slaps us in the face and punishes us for the profligacy once again. Perhaps, however, the fact that Wrexham have to get two goals, may enable us to counter attack for a third one in the tie?We can but hope.

But if we have a modicum of luck and play as well again as we have in the past two games, we shouldn’t give Wrexham a sniff, should we???

As the clock ticks around to 4 30pm tomorrow, I’m going to be getting more and more nervous – just one more sound performance and we are at our home-from-home again. …

All the best to those lucky ones of you going up to Wrexham in the morning – well done & sing your hearts out for the lads, I’ll be watching from behind the sofa…

Come on you Hatters.



A wise enemy is better than a foolish friend

Town 1-0 Kidderminster


We needed to win and we did win. Most unlike LTFC not to try to do it the even harder way, by not winning when we needed to.

Robbie Willmott’s goal on 67 minutes was the only thing that separated the teams, though I thought the gulf in quality was much wider. Bearing in mind Kidderminster had won their previous five games there really wasn’t much to them at all. Lots of huff and puff and long ball, but charmless and talentless , and fortunate for us, luckless. Had they really been 5th? Just goes to show how bad we have been this season to let teams like this get above us.  Anyway we’re 5th now, and just need to win at Gateshead to get in to the play offs. Exciting isn’t it? I rather like this nail-biting stuff.

Of course there would be no crowing now if Jakey Howells hadn’t cleared the ball off the line after it ricocheted of the post, or had Tyler not made an outstanding  save earlier on. Apart from a couple of short spells where we were retreating rather than pressing we were in control and looking good. It was ironic that Willmott got the winner – I thought once again he had an okay, but not outstanding game other than the goal. For me he doesn’t push up high enough, he doesn’t test out the full back by hugging the touchlines and giving Jake an option to play the ball down the line over the top. He doesn’t quite get stuck in enough – but hey he does get winning goals in crucial games. I guess I’ll take that! It was a well taken winner befitting any game. Perhaps sometimes I forget that he is only 21. Their hapless goalie didn’t know whether to stick or twist as the fantastic sweeper type wellie from Tyler put Willmott in down the left, with Kiddy protesting about something at the other end. It was certainly a roof-raising moment a la Brko vs Hull, and we don’t get too many of them these days. All the more important it is exactly the sort of ball that he wouldn’t have been chased down a few weeks ago.

Lovely to see so many at the Kenny today  a splendid atmosphere and good to see that the players reacted accordingly. Buckle must wonder what the fuss is all about – he certainly knows how to make the players play the sort of football that gets the fans on board. Some of those players today might never have played in front of 8000 before and none of the players were left in any doubt as to the noise that can be generated at the Kenny if you get the fans going.  Good too to see a decent away following for a change, shame they didn’t stick around at the end to enjoy our lap of honour.

The game itself was entertaining without being a classic. Still plenty to work on, but the general ethos is so much better, as is the defending. Three clean sheets now. Osano seems to be playing much better under Buckle than he ever did under Brabin, though that’s not saying much. But he is better. Pilks had an outstanding game and was back to his best. Crowd-rouser Kovacs was immense again. Jake had his best game at left back for a while.

We started with a 4-4-2 again, but just like the preceding two home games the formation quickly changed to match what Kiddy were doing. Towards the end, as we got more and more defensively minded as we battened down the hatches it was handy having a quick player to release in the form of Andre Gray who ran and ran and ran, as did Stuart Fleetwood.

Lawless started on the right – but as against Hayes, pushed up onto their central midfielder. Watkins played deeper than him and you’d think they’d have been better swapping. Watkins worked hard without having the steel of Poku. Adam lights up when he gets in the vicinity of the goal – which wasn’t so frequent today. Keane was fantastic in the middle – all tackles and snarl. He ran and ran and tackled and tackled and broke up their play very effectively. Another player who was drifting into somnolence under Brabin, but who has been switched back on by Buckle.

The first half saw us dominate play, but the frustrating theme of the last twenty minutes was the Brabin-esque lack of bodies in the box. Seemingly opportunity after opportunity was squandered as promising crosses found their way into the box, but all of them seemed to breeze across the face of the goal with no striker on the end to stick it in. Certainly something to work on.

As I said in the second half we were treated to a nail biting last 12 minutes, we retreated too deeply for a while, forgetting how we got into this league position in the first place. Fortunately, a little bit of luck plus Jake’s boot, mirrored the change in fortunes since PB has taken over.

So, farewell Kidderminster and their comedy keeper – three games three wins this year. A rarity indeed – rarer than a straight kick from the boot of the Breeden, poor love.

Three points needed  on Tuesday, in the boggy mud of Gateshead-by-the-Tyne’s athletic pitch, where we will attempt to play decent football amongst the shot-putt divots. Of course, two draws now in the last week of the season would see us through to the play offs. No thanks! Having worked so hard to get and keep the win today, it would of course be most unlike us to do the simple thing and win on Tuesday, weather permitting. Gateshead, by losing to Bath today did us a favour as they now having nothing to play for – their slim chances of the play offs have gone. Lovely to be back in the play off zone, but the job isn’t done yet.

If/when we win at Gateshead, I don’t want that to be the be all and end all, as if getting to the play offs is an achievement in itself, and for us to take our metaphorical eyes off the ball because we have done what PB initially set out to do. I am sure he won’t let them do that, but getting to the play offs isn’t an end in itself, it is just means to the end of getting promoted. What I am trying to say is, I don’t want the players to be so pumped by realising their goal of finishing in the top 5, that the event of actually playing in the play offs is a come down in comparison. It does happen. You see teams so focussed on qualifying that they forget what to do when they reach the event itself.

We will see – we have got to get there first.

Of course the previous game was cancelled due to a waterlogged pitch, on an evening where it was due to snow too. Now we haven’t got snow due this time, but it is due to rain pretty much constantly between now and then. I do hope the match stays on – I’m not sure when else we will get to play it.

So – overall I was well pleased with the win – we scrapped hard, could have had more,  but fought hard to keep a clean sheet.

I think the match said much about us as fans. When things are going well we make a bloody noise. We are quick to moan, but when something praiseworthy is presented in front of us we are as loud, man for man, as anyone.  Slow to cheer when things are going badly, give us something to sing about and you know about it.

I think us Hatters  – as fans – are terrible enemies, but brilliant friends. Someone once said “a wise enemy is better than a foolish friend” – I think the players have discovered this in the past month.



One point in nine…

…is not good enough. I’m beginning to lose the faith. I’m still going to games, but my belief is dwindling. The flesh is willing, but the spirit is weak.

We were out-thought and outplayed for the second game running. Cambridge who came with little ambition were the better side. We weren’t without chances or intent. But Cambridge knew how we were going to play and did a job on us, tactically. It was eminently reminiscent of the Stevenage defeat on the corresponding Tuesday exactly two years ago, but without the blatant cheating.

As an aside, strangely, our record two years ago was P12 W6 D3 L3 F17 A12 Pts 21 – now it is P12 W5 D5 L2 F19 A12 Pts 20. To think poor Mick lost his job – puts it in context doesn’t it? But big Mick was playing uninspiring football and was being tactically outdone when he had a superior team (rings a bell!). To be fair his team had recently battled bravely to win by one goal when down to ten men (sound familiar?). Though he had just lost 3-0 away from home a week before (This is getting spooky. I’d better move on).

Fair play to Cambridge, they weren’t a dirty team, didn’t come to cheat, didn’t stay down, didn’t break up the play, and time wasted no more than we would in their situation. Fair play to their fans who brought more I suspect that all of the other teams visiting this year so far put together. Whilst we had more room in the first half, and created some half decent chances, starting very brightly, in the second half they closed us down completely with all but one man (and usually him too) behind the ball and the only place to go was long, ranging balls into space on the wings, which invariably either were too long, or resulted in the play going backwards because there was little or no space to play the ball into.

I was surprised by the starting XI – it struck me that Brabin was trying to play his favoured XI rather than the best XI in the formation he wanted to play in.

If a team is struggling with a bit of confidence, and you have lost your creative player in the middle of midfield (eg Alex Lawless aka ‘the plasterers friend’) then is the best tactic to play two similar players in midfield eg Keano and Hand? A sparkle of Watkins or Kissock would have undoubtedly have been better in my opinion, with Keane at RB and James Dance missing out initially, or even Dance on the wing AMS on the left and Willmott missing out. Or even Willmott and Dance on the wings and Big Hips Danny Crow missing out with AMS in the middle. The possibilities were endless – but when you need creativity and goals to keep Kissock on the bench until 13 minutes to go strikes me as a little strange.

Of our players tonight, I thought that Kovacs had the best game. He looked solid and confident, whilst Antwi certainly wobbled at times, mostly when passing out from defence- his defensive work, other than an obvious error in the first half was sound.

The ref this evening was a pleasant change from the clowns we have seen at the Kenny thus far this year. Unusually for a non-league ref, he didn’t want to be the centre of attention and bizarrely thought that we had come to watch the footie and not him. He won’t be long for this division I can tell you. He did make one howler when Keano was impeded/clobbered and awarded the decision to the Cambridge player, but none of us are perfect.

There was a rather peculiar couple of incidents in the first half – firstly I think AMS went down under a challenge in their box at the far end. Suddenly a yellow bibbed member of staff dashed from the sidelines to attend to him, but it wasn’t the physio, but a steward. Peculiar as it had nothing to do with the steward, and he was on the pitch in any case. And by the time he got there AMS was back up again. Seconds later Stuart Fleetwood decided to launch himself over the hoardings behind to goal and into the crowd; presumably to garner a similar level of attention from the luminously clad official.

One of the players in the heart of the Cambridge defence sported a red headband, and looked like a crap Dennis Lillee. He wasn’t the tallest of centre halves, but didn’t need to be as he only had Fleetwood and Crow to keep an eye on. Fortunately, Tyler, as ever, chose to throw more than he kicked, but he did put in his usual one-a-game ‘enclosure exocet’ to keep those brave souls at the front of the main stand on their toes. He did make one fantastic save from Shaw in the first half tipping it over with his left hand, whilst diving full stretch to his right.

Their keeper our old friend Naisbitt should have been put under more pressure. I can’t recall him having to make a proper save after the opening quarter of an hour. However had he been put under more pressure I suspect he might have given us something. Whilst his confidence grew during the game, in the first half his decision making, kicking and positioning were all over the shop. Whilst we could have played another 90 minutes and still not got a goal, if we had been ruthless in the first half of the first half it would have been game over.

I think it would sum up the previous week well if you think of the Lincoln, Bath and York results as being the good, the bad and the ugly. I thought tonight’s game was going to pop us back onto the rails. We needed to win, and win well to restore our confidence. But it wasn’t to be. We now have to look to the Barrow game to restore our faith. I think I feel like a young bride who has caught her hubby playing away. The faith has been broken. It’s going to take more than a win against Barrow for me to forget about the last three results. It is always going to be in the back of my mind until sufficient time passes, and results significantly improve before the current trend becomes a temporary blip. In my mind LTFC are currently on probation and I am taking it one game at a time. My tired old heart is nearly spent. There’s only so much unconditional love I can give. Surveys –


Seize the Dai

Just a short note – I’m away this weekend and so can’t post too much.

What a result, it is as if all of those missed chances all season were put right in one stroke in a 35 minute burst. And yet there could have been more. Jake hit the bar, Kroca the post – and Maxwell, their keeper, was their man of the match. It was, in short, a drubbing. Wrexham made the fatal mistake of not closing us down whilst we closed them down in midfield and drove them to distraction.

We played 4-3-3 with our strongest available XI playing. This formation permitted our five most attacking, creative players to all play. Willmott, Jason Walker and Claude up top, Howells, Keano and Lawless in the middle and a back four of Ed, Pilks, Kroca and Gleeson. Player of the season Mark Tyler was in goal.

There is the perpetual debate as to whether to fit your players to your favourite formation or find a formation to accommodate your best players. Money did the former, clearly Brabin favours the latter. And we benefited from that decision big style: after early exchanges where we showed our attacking intent and desire to play the ball on the floor, on 15 minutes Lawless picked the ball up in his own half skipped over a leg breaking challenge, found himself in a hectare of space and ran on to drive the ball into the right hand corner from 25 yards out. A wonder goal, and well deserved.

12 minutes later Howells, picking the ball up on the left hand side of the pitch, found Claude with a right foot pass just inside the right hand side of the penalty area. Claude, under no pressure from the left back took a touch and then struck a ball of such perfect strength, accuracy and frankly beauty that gave Maxwell no chance as it flew into the top right hand corner. No goalie would have saved it. A Claude special. Vindicating Brabin’s appointment over Money in a thrice.

Within 27 minutes we were on the road to an important away win. What would provide the icing on the cake? A goal from a full back surely? Well – Dan Gleeson was almost that man – cutting inside finding himself in an unseemly amount of room in the opposition half he moved forwards with the ball, played a nice pass out to Claude on the right touchline, stayed forwards giving Claude someone to pass to, he took the ball forwards played an excellent one-two with Howells and carried on into the box and shot – only for the shot to be blocked and to go out for a corner. However, if one full back wasn’t to score, it was only fair that the other one did. Using the ‘training ground’ routine from a few weeks back where Freddie Murray was the intended target, on this occasion, fortunately Ed was there. Willmott playing a deep ball to the oncoming Asafe-Adjaye on the edge of the box, Ed’s first touch was muffed, but he had it under suffiencient control to recover and amazingly drive the ball at and angle through a crowd of players to the near post for the third. 3-0! 35 minutes. Game over.

Luton’s passing and movement, in the first half at least was good enough to grace the Championship let alone League Two. One side in this tie looked like a league team and the other looked a shambling bunch of non-league journeymen. The class and quality was, at last, evident. We done ’em up like kippers.

A word about dear Ed. Frozen out in the cold by Money, brought back as soon as he could by Brabin and given the chance at left back in Freddie’s absence. He did well enough to be played there again last Saturday and to stake his claim for a starting place in this fixture. His inclusion allowed Jake to play on the left hand side of the three midfielders, and Jake had a crucial hand in the build up for two of the three goals. Not bothered by being played out of position, and in no way made to look outclassed it looks as if Ed’s play has continued from the promising young right back we saw at the club a couple of years ago – in spite of the imposed career hibernation in between. Well done Ed.

We got the rub of the green with the ref’s decisions but then again they had two players in the middle of the pitch in Harris and Blackburn who seemed to me to be happy to kick our team off the park all evening. It showed cool heads not to be intimidated or to react to the continual provocation.

Unfortunately – that’s all I have time to write. Didn’t get to bed until the wee small hours and I’m off out shortly. More on Monday or Tuesday hopefully – at least I might set some sleep now on Monday night!

Well done to Gary Brabin and the team for finally showing your true colours. Two more games to go. We must ensure we don’t do anything to fluff it on Tuesday. And then as we sang last night “We’re going to Man Citeeeee”.


Wrexham #1

They came, they saw, they played out a draw. Wrexham and Luton’s 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. Walker’s 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 didn’t want to be the star of the show. Which is a rarity and a relief. There can’t 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, didn’t have too much to do. I recall a point blank save from Williams, but apart from that he wasn’t really troubled, apart from when Pilks slipped over on the newly watered pitch.

Luke Graham played at right back. I don’t 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 I’ve seen him. Lacey showed a turn of speed and the ability to cross too (and shoot!) I must admit, I’d 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 don’t play them more regularly (I know, I know we’ve 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 hadn’t 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 don’t need any more left wingers. We’ve 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 don’t 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, I’m not sure. But in Murray’s 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 didn’t get as much of the ball as he would have liked. That didn’t 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 didn’t 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. I’d 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 can’t 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 didn’t trouble the keeper and blasted over.

Lloyd Owusu was well, Lloyd. I think perhaps he is so muscular he can’t jump as high as he should be able to . He’s a target man who doesn’t 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. It’s 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 wasn’t 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…