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  • Miller Earns His Corn.

    MOSS_David_19821023_GH_L

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thanks for reading.

    Come on you Hatters!

    David.

  • FA Cup 1st Round - Newport (h)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • No match reports...no internet :-( thanks BT

    We're missing Northampton & Exeter - I'm so sorry, but the nitwits at BT have deprived me of a phone line for the past week and a bit. Apparently the cable has corroded and they need to dig the street up.

    They are the telecom equivalent of Staines Town.

    Normal service to be resumed as soon as possible.....

  • Bruising Encounter (for Pelly's shins)

    lawless

    A hard-fought and determined performance from the Hatters saw a well-deserved victory over the whelk-munching spoilers from Southend.

    I’ve given myself an hour and two beers to write this so that I can avoid watching Downton Abbey, so let’s see how far I get.

    I loved this game. It wasn’t a footballing classic by any means, in fact, brief glimpses of brilliance aside; there wasn’t enough play between the ref blowing his whistle for the game to really get going. It was a stop-start affair. Mainly stop.

    How Southend got to fourth before the game God only knows, their shooting was woeful, and their defence alternated between comedy and criminal.  

    But we won, and won well. For the first goal, Griffiths played a ball down the channel outside the narrow midfield and full back into space for Lawless to run onto, he took a touch, turned, put it on his right foot and a put in a sublime curling shot into the top corner.  Does Alex Lawless do simple tap ins? He has had more than his fair share of brilliant goals. You can see why John Still was so keen to get him back into the team. He is a constant, intelligent, creative thorn in any opponents side. And long may he remain in our side. 

    The second goal was straight out of the Keystone Kops handbook. A big hoof by Macca I think went all the way down to the keeper and there was a sigh of disappointment at giving possession away so easily. But hold your exasperation Hatters, because comedy keeper Bentley passed the ball to the shell-shocked and bandaged Bolger who in his infinite wisdom slipped it neatly to Drury, who despite slipping himself slid it neatly to Cullen who slotted it past the hapless Bentley. Like any goals against a ‘fancied’ team these felt extra special as we have to work much harder for the opportunities.  

    Unlike the bad old days, we are efficiently taking the few chances we get, rather than in the dark years when we seemed to need ten clear cut chances to be able to eek out a goal.

    In the second half Southend made two substitutions, played 3 up front and came out all guns blazing, until we snuffed their fire out, and then they had nothing left at all. After that point we merely soaked up their pressure, forced them to shoot (badly) from outside the box and play on the counter attack with the ball going forward to the pace of Pelly and the persistence of Mark Cullen. Each time the ball went to Pelly he was hacked down. Only a ref of such spectacular incompetence could allow such a team of one-dimensional thugs to get away with it for so long.

    That Dave Penney (Southend’s assistant coach and JS’s pal) was the only one to go was remarkable. Presumably and official with a pair of kahunas would have stamped out the rather clogging Southend tactics early on, but by turning a blind-eye he only sought to indulge them further. He was good at blowing his whistle. Very good at that. Very good at stopping play. But enforcing discipline isn’t his strong point, against us anyway. He did get four cards out for Southend, but he spared them so many more. But a bit of googling reminded me that Mr Kavanagh was the appalling ref for the Woking game back in March (link here) and also the kindly soul who did manage to find a red card for Macca up at Southport at the start of last season. How he managed to get promoted to the football league I’ll never know. Chances are that we’ll only see him once more this season though. 

    It really isn’t how football should be played. For the second week running we were playing against a team of spoilers, who prefer to clog and hoof than pass and move. Southend were like Braintree under Devonshire, or Leyton Orient under Ling. A nasty little outfit. There must be something in the water east of Greenwich. Let’s hope that the next visitors at home are the exception to the rule.

    But as the match disintegrated into a bad tempered affair it only served to tweak the volume on the Hatters fans dial and maintain the players’ resolve to keep their defensive and personal discipline.  The only slip really, hardly surprising bearing in mind the provocation, was the altercation with Pelly and the aforementioned Penney on the touchline, after the ball went out. After all that, the ref was happy to send someone off, but just not anyone on the field of play.

    Alas I didn’t see the much discussed ‘ball-boy’ incident. Cheeky lad.

    Michael Harriman from QPR (but don’t hold that against him) slotted in at right back as if he has been playing with the team all season. He had a sound game. Our back four does look good at the moment, and with the effervescent Smith and the strong “you should see him when he’s fit” Doyle playing in front of them it is beginning to look like a very effective unit.

    Pelly Ruddock got the official man of the match award, presumably as consolation for having chunks hacked out of his shins all afternoon. Though in fairness, it could have gone to Lawless for his performance, Cullen for his effort (not least at being offside all the time), Wilko and Macca, Doyle and Smith and ahem, a certain Mr Andy Drury might have won it on other days. Drury played just off Cullen, his old role, and was back to his best, having previously been on both wings and in central midfield.  Has to be a good player to keep Guttridge out of the starting XI – if you recall Guttridge was our beating heart last year. And just like last year JS is slowly identifying the best formation and the best players in that formation, whilst all the while experimenting and pushing and testing and bringing back players who were injured. Difficult to have a truly settled team I guess, when we have so many good players whose performances demand selection.

    Well time’s nearly up – where did an hour go? Off to Hartlepool next week. Or not as the case may be as I will be consuming beer, sausage und sauerkraut in Germany. Some guys hef all ze luck.

    Really enjoyed the game and the spirited performance, the sort of resilient display that gets John Still purring like a Queen. 

  • The writing's on The Wall

    Another triumphant chapter in the long history of games against teams from Hertfordshire. Good to see that once again truth and justice defeated whinge and hack.

    I do enjoy a local derby. Who doesn’t? Whilst this isn’t THE local derby, it is indeed a local derby as St Evenage with all its grace and charm lies nearer to us than the other comedy Hertfordshire outfit. It is games like these where the atmosphere and added spice can transcend league positions and form. The greater the intensity of the crowd the more it can become 11 men battling against another 11 men with quality and form meaning nothing. As it happens of course, the form team and better side won out over the cloggers from down the road, which was only fair.

    Hopping into the car on the way back and shushing the kids it was fascinating to listen to 1CRs Simon Oxley describing Stevenage as a side that would be ‘up there’ at the end of the season, his strange assertions seemingly backed up by a random (and somewhat confused) caller from Hertfordshire claiming that Stevenage would not only finish above Luton but be in the automatic promotion positions. Other than the usual huff, puff and bluster I saw nothing about Stevenage to suggest they would be challenging for anything this year, other than perhaps the trophy for the most yellow cards. I suppose I can credit Westley and his team for something – they are the equivalent of the Wimbledon (the originals) of the 1980s, small budget, not much talent but they compete on their own terms by playing a brand of football with an aggressive ‘in your face’ style which enables them to compete on the same terms as everyone else. At the end of the day, it is still long-ball, dirty little kicks and shoves and constant bleating to the officials. There’s clearly something in the water in Hertfordshire because it’s a footballing theme.

    One of the enjoyable asides during such an away trip is to spot the inevitable Luton fans in the away bit of the main stand, and there were quite a few, including somewhat incongruous Bruno Stein. Not sure what he was doing and for whom, but good to spot him. There were the usual exchanges, expulsions and dust ups which only serve to enhance the atmosphere adding an edge, a frisson to the argy bargy also going on, on the field. Not sure what to make of the stewarding – it was the usual mix of friendly banter and over-exuberant heavy handedness. But as we are not waking up to headlines of 40 fans arrested and tear-gas I suppose they must have done something right. Mind you, it never ceases to amaze me the broad spectrum of support our wonderful club attracts. I’m a broad-minded guy, I’ve been around the block a few times but even I overheard a few new terms of abuse yesterday that I had not heard before.

    I’m glad we beat them to continue our excellent run. We played well enough in the opening spell to have finished the game off before the first Westley Time Out©. As it happens, by the time the normal Westley Time Out© occurs they were gradually clawing their way back into the game and presumably it was surplus to requirements. We did get one in the second half though right on cue, just enough to take the wind out of our sails and to break up the momentum. The cheats.
    Pelly Ruddock was a revelation on the right. He gave them a real headache and they never came to terms with him at any point, for it was his turn and pass to Alex Wall which provided the winner. He was still terrorising and tormenting poor Charles and the Stevenage team at the end. He’s a brave lad, and just as well that he is quick and agile because their sights were trained on his shins.

    But for Chris Day (good shot stopper, poor kicker) we would have been three up in 15 mins. One of his saves was as good at Tyler’s last week. He could do nothing about our first goal, another towering header from Luke Wilkinson, from another free kick served up perfectly by Drury, as simple as you like (the pass, not Drury - though as an aside AD is looking increasingly like mad-Alan White – see below) Drury played out on the left in a 442, and was effective in attack, mainly in the first half, but is less effective at tracking back, leaving Griff a little exposed on occasions. Griff got forward nicely yesterday, though won’t be happy with a couple of his crosses – another good couple of opportunities which on another day should have found a Luton player. Perhaps he reserves his best for the home games where he inevitably wins the man of the match award. 

    Andry Drury or is it Alan White?

    Cullen was replaced by Charlie Walker, and strange pink boots aside he looked slightly quicker and certainly keen to make an impression. Was his header over the line? Well, I thought it was. Charlie thought it was, John Still thought it was, and more importantly some of the Stevenage players thought it was. Shame that the combination of a dopey linesman and ref missed it. Look forward to seeing a bit more of Mr Walker quite possibly on Tuesday night. Perhaps not the boots though!
    Speaking of dopey linesmen, was their goal offside? Well, at the time I thought it was. Certainly when the player picked the ball up on the right he was goal-side of the defence, but looking at it on MoTD last night and using the technology afforded me by Sky+ (believe in better) as the ball was kicked I think dear Macca just played him on. Perhaps knowing this, it was Macca who stuck his hand in the air to appeal for offside and was keenest to berate the lino after the goal.

    Still on the theme of dopey linesmen, just how many foul throws did they do? How do they get away with that? Perhaps the officials are so numbed by the constant bleating and whinging by Westley that they ignore the little things. Anything for a quiet life….

    So, 1-1 ten minutes to go in a local derby, a game we should be winning and what do we need? We need the Blunt Instrument that is Alex Wall. When you see him up close (as I did when the goal went in, a bit too close) flippin’ ‘eck he’s a big strong lad. A man whose pint you wouldn’t spill. In fact a man for whom I would buy a spare pint, just in case I did spill it. Pelly Ruddock picked the ball up from a poor throw by Stevenage and slotted the ball inside to Mr Wall who took a touch then struck a curling ball into the back of the net. Cue celebrations. I’m chuffed for him. Still not entirely convinced that he understands why he got a dressing down from JS a few weeks ago after the sending off in the 5-0 reserves win – but there you go. He redoubled his efforts on the training pitch, when it wasn’t his training and commitment which were in doubt. What he does give you is the occasional spark of match-winning magic and a battering ram up front. We’ve had a few of those down the years and long may it be the case. Good competition up front for the target man position. The experience and wiry strength of Benson, the energy and willingness of Lafayette and the sheer presence, strength and determination of The Wall.

    Final words for our hardworking two starters in midfield Nathan Doyle and Smudger Smith. The two of them had to cope with three from Stevenage and outplayed them and out passed them. Bearing in mind Doyle isn’t supposed to be fit yet, he’s doing a very good job of sitting in front of the back four and stating that “they shall not pass”. Smudger was replaced with 25 mins to go by Jim Stevenson who upped the tempo and allowed us a degree of extra control.

    So an excellent win and an enjoyable match and experience. A sound win against a difficult opposition which I’m sure absolutely delights John Still. A few years ago we might have buckled under the pressure and oppression, but not now.
    On Tuesday we continue our defence of the JPT against another side whom we haven’t played since we met in non-league. I will be there, though I’m not sure who else will be. Currently playing for Crawley is a certain Mr Keet’ Keane. Whether or not he will play on Tuesday is anyone’s guess. I guess progress depends upon how seriously we or they are going to take it, though it is always nice to play in cup finals at Wembley.

    Next Saturday we play Phil Brown’s Sarfend who despite losing yesterday are challenging at the top end of this division again. This is will our first game at home in the league against them since 2007 and the dark days of Jackson, Goodall, McVeigh and Currie who never seemed like Luton players at the time and I suppose never will. In 2007 we were on our way down, seven years later and our club, manager and players are on our way back.
     

     

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