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!