A home game so long after the last one that it was like having another close season. I swear we’ve had shorter summers. When I was last at the Kenny it was the last knockings of a long summer, today was an early blast of winter.
Fortunately a couple of pints in the Nick Owen lounge insulated me from the biting coldness that the Kenny end normally has to offer pre-match.
Only a limited time to write the report this evening due to strictly fun, Dr Who and I’m a Celeb. You’ve got to get your priorities right after all.
An enjoyable game and a good win against a team from the Planet of Giants, apart that is, from the pint sized right back/mascot.
Andre Gray scored both goals, one a lovely finish after a knock on from Benson the other a fine poacher’s effort after good cross from the left channel by Lawless which either Benson or Gray could have stuck in.
Gray was keen, direct, determined and a pain in the neck throughout – but I thought for the most part he clumped around as if he had a big shoe. Every direct ball played to him he failed to control. It was quite funny by the end, and of course, because it wasn’t crucial we could have a laugh. But I swear JohnStill has given him an orthopaedic brogue as a boot. To be fair to him, there were three occasions in the game when his close control were spot on, one of them was for the first goal and at the end of the day that is when it matters. He did show a lovely touch on the right at one point when Tyler set him free on a break. Close control on occasion aside – we are lucky to have him, he has 9 goals now.
Up front Benson was a constant threat in both halves. He got very little support from the ref, who seemed to think the laws allowed their centre halves to use him as a climbing frame all afternoon. Must check that... He held the ball up well and linked incredibly well with Gray. His football intelligence shone out. Little touches here and there – he often sees things that are on which most of the cloggers in this division couldn’t even begin to envisage. His partnership with Gray is the best one we’ve had up front since Howard and Vine, in my very humble opinion. Having watched a couple of howlers in the Scouse Derby, PB served up one of his own this afternoon. One of the ones which are harder to miss than to score. He was set on a wonderful through ball by Parry I think and needed only to slot it in to score. Instead he slotted it wide. If he gets ten more of those this season he will score nine of them.
At the back Mark Tyler often chose to kick when some of us would have preferred to retain possession and build from the back. But to be fair to Tyler his kicking was accurate and regularly picked out Benson, rather than just conceding possession by placing it onto the forehead of the opposing centre half. Tyler made a couple of cracking saves too – which ultimately were crucial.
On the right Ronnie Henry struggled a little on occasion, but was sound and tight for most of the time and for some reason took it upon himself to fell Lafayette as he ran past him, in the season’s most obvious penalty. This was a wake-up call at the start of the second half to ensure you took your seats quickly. Lafayette took the penalty – which Tyler saved but unfortunately we were all sleepy-bo bo on the edge of the box and he followed up and scored. Henry was pushed over just before half time and was lying prone in the box and play carried on. And in a comedy way after Welling pulled level got warned for time wasting by the ref. Where do we get them from?
More troubled on the left, but not really in trouble was Scott Griffiths who is in zingingly good form at the moment. He was marking the lofty no 9 of Guthrie who had the dangerous combination of height and pace. Apart from one move where he got the ball to feet and cleverly deceived the Luton defence, his bark was worse than his bite. It was Griffiths’ pass to Benson which set up the first goal and he made further progress down the left when possible and put in a good cross to Gray who headed just wide.
In the middle was Steve McNulty ultimately doing his best Fozzie impression with a bandage after an elbow in the head from Lafayette- he’s got your card marked now son. Bless him, he looked like a broken Weeble found on a stall in a car boot sale. In the first half he made crucial interception after crucial interception. When we were under the most pressure it was McNulty who got the important clearance just when it was needed. He treated us to a bit of Brazilian flair by attempting to pass the ball with the outside of his foot in the second half. Needless to say the pass flew straight to the opposition and I can only imagine the amount of ribbing he will get all week from his colleagues.
Alex Lacey alongside – he grows in strength and ability with each game. Who would have thought that he would have maintained his form and position this far into the year. Often young players have a bounce when they first get into the side playing with the form and confidence of youth – but often after 5 or 6 games their lack of experience starts to show and they run out of puff as the initial bubble bursts. Then they are dropped and they must build the form again to challenge. Remember the likes of Stephen O’Leary and Michael Leary when they broke into Newell’s side? They were stop gaps because we were down on our uppers at the time. But they punched above their weight initially before ultimately skill and experience caught up with them. There are some young players, like Keet’ Keane or Kevin Foley who take to first team football like a duck to water and grow and grow in the role never looking back. I’m delighted to say that Alex Lacey appears to have slipped effortlessly into the latter group rather than the former examples. Long may it continue.
In Jonathan Smith’s absence in stepped Jim Stevenson. He buzzed around in midfield without imposing himself. Much of the play eluded him. Another young player who might benefit from a run in the side. I was surprised he started ahead of Matt Robinson – but I’m not the manager. However Robinson made a real difference when he was brought on and looked hungry for the place. I was sitting there thinking what is the difference with Robinson – he appeared to have a shock of fluffy hair all of a sudden – then it dawned on me he’d left his Alice band at home.
Shaun Whalley mark two started on the left, ahead of Jakey Howells. Whilst he had a few good runs and interchanged well and created a threat he didn’t really make that much of an impact – or at least as much as he would have liked. He was replaced by Luke Guttridge, who slotted in playing just behind a front three of Lawless, Gray and Benson. Guttridge made a huge difference to the second half. Pulling the strings. He pressed so far forward he was almost part of a front four. A constant threat which frankly Welling were struggling to deal with. This was the fundamental difference, suddenly we were controlling the midfield and thus the match. It was Guttridge’s through ball to Lawless which set up the winner.
Alex Lawless started on the right of a four and ended up the right of a three. He wasn’t in the game too much in the first half but increasingly had influence as the game went on. It was his cross from a Guttridge pass which ran across the face of the goal for Gray to stick in.
Andrew Parry has become a fixture in the side – I like him. He showed a couple of very good touches today, but was outnumbered and couldn’t impose himself on the game in the way he would have wanted. He put in one excellent cross to his partner Stevenson. But also one nightmare pass to Griffiths, which fortunately he tidied up himself with an excellent tackle. I think he was a bit swamped with an inexperienced partner alongside – but hey – we won didn’t we? One thing that we learned from the game was that a central midfield partnership of Parry and Stevenson has less influence on a game than an three of Parry, Guttridge and Robinson.
So no home games for six weeks and then two come at once. We can look forward to seeing the Oak Road end full of Hatters again on Tuesday against Southport. Crikey – if we were confident they wouldn’t send many on a Saturday – how few are they going to send on a cold Tuesday night? Are we going to set aside 8 seats in a box for them? Mind you I say that, but Bedfordshire in November probably feels like the Med compared to the windy charms of the Irish sea coastline in Lancashire.
Then next Saturday an opportunity for the reserves to enjoy themselves against the Staines massive in the comedy cup. What could be more fun?
Oh, I'd better do some scores, for what it's worth: