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Town at Luton - They Predict a Riot
By: Paul Ketchley
SO - after a year away we go back to the cauldron that was Kenilworth Road. Last time it was the night that Newell sacked the "three amigos" and we got battered but survived for another year.
Not much has changed at Luton. There was the ritual searching as you went through the entrance between the terraced houses and nobody was selling programmes. Inside there was a heavy Police presence and the stewards glared menacingly at anyone who moved. The Band was clearly a high risk and a bunch of day-glo coated stewards stood in their faces all night. A soft rain fell on what might laughingly be called the pitch and the water cascaded from a blocked gutter behind the goal.
Oh, how we yearned for Histon and Hayes & Yeading. No Police in sight to mention and a friendly steward who was glad to see a couple of hundred away supporters. Small towns they may be but at least they can produce a decent playing surface. The food was a lot better too, but more of that later.
Or maybe it was all for our protection? If so, presumably the urinals were cellophaned over with a sticker saying "for your protection". They weren't?? Well, why is that not a surprise!
At least Luton had the decency to play in their orange strip so we could play in stripes. Town started out playing away from the away end so our view was of a 4-4-1-1 formation, which Woods seems to like at away games of:
OK so we're shorn of Ridley the free kick expert; Coulson, the engine room; Sinclair; the playmaker; Hudson and the injury specialist Ademeno. You can imagine what a midfield central pairing of Leary and Cummins did for the Town faithful and I don't expect it struck fear into the near 5000 Luton fans either. Sinclair was on the bench though along with Corner, Croudson, Garner and Hudson.
So away we went hoping for some sunshine after the rain. The pitch was in really bad shape, but it was made for the Luton players who were all big blokes. Lloyd Owusu provides what they call a "presence" up front. Leary and Cummins probably didn't strike fear into the Luton midfield either as they were all big powerful blokes too. In fact the smallest player in the Luton team was Tyler, their goalkeeper.
Well - the first half was all Luton. They zipped the ball around on the pitch and ran powerfully through the brown clog where grass should be - there was a strip running across the town half that looked like it had been rotavated in the afternoon and if the ball landed there it just died.
Makofo was a lonely figure up front waiting for service which never came. He looked like another Ademeno like in green boots and was well shepherded by an enormous centre back who cleared away any high balls and leaned on Serge if the ball was below shoulder height. The referee took no notice.
At the back Atkinson and Kempson looked solid and Bradley Wood snapped and crunched into tackles on the left and he and Rob Eagle worked the left flank energetically but without much to show for it.
Luton had a period where they crossed the ball backwards and forwards across the Town area and in front of goal until eventually Arthur got his hands on it. As he cleared the ball away Kenny slipped and fell on his backside on the left of the penalty area.
Shortly afterwards Town got a corner which got nowhere but Luton broke away down their left and the wide man rolled the ball across in front of the goal where Gnakpa crunched into Arthur and pushed the ball goalwards. Bradley Wood flung himself across the goal and kicked the ball away but the linesman judged it had crossed the goal line.
Arthur was left in a heap in the goal area and Wood kicked the goalpost in disgust at the goal being given.
Town played some neat passing football but to little effect. Too often three or four passes to feet was followed by a hump towards the box and possession was given away. To be honest we didn't really test the goalkeeper in the first half and then Kempson was booked just before half time. One - nil down was probably not unfair on the balance of play
Stu’s half time toilet talk
Tyler came out early on his own before the half time break was over and did some practice saves, presumably he’s not had much to do in the first half and then the Luton players came out and did some kind of warm up in the corner, or maybe it was their version of the haka.
The café at the back of the stand ran out of food at half time unlike at Histon and Hayes where the burger bars worked overtime to keep up with demand. Maybe they expected a food riot and that was why they needed so many Police and stewards.
If the first half had been all Luton the second was more Town’s and they made the better chances.
Eagle and Wood continued to work hard down the Town left and first Sinclair and then Hudson replaced Leary and Cummins. Gradually Town got on terms and then Makofo showed glimpses of what Woods presumably sees in him as he wriggled past defenders, but probably took one touch too many before taking a shot which was put round for a corner.
Garner had also replaced Watt and as the game drew to a close Town were increasingly on terms with Luton and whilst there were chances at both ends could easily have got an equaliser. Tyler had to work a lot harder in the second half and he managed to go down on his backside when making a clearance in exactly the same place as Arthur had.
Connell had a shot clip the top of the cross bar and Eagle had tested the keeper before probably seeing our best chance - a shot by Eagle which was heading for the left corner, pushed round the post by Tyler at the last moment as the match drew to an end.
So we realised that this wasn't going to be our evening and the game petered out with Town pressure on the Luton goal but not actually getting anywhere.
You have to take the positives out of games like this. Town were not out-classed and you would see them as being on a par with Luton when playing on a pitch that favoured neat passing football. It’s no surprise that Luton have been so dominant at home if their pitch has been like that all season. They'd better win the league too because you wouldn't think they would do so well at Eastlands in a play-off final where you might expect Town to pass the ball through them.
They were also helped by the referee who seemed to be disinterested in handball claims, or maybe that was a rule he didn't know about too well. Whatever would they say about him on Sky Sports?
Man of the Match
Bradley Wood gets the vote for all round competitiveness, effort and desire. He made some crunching tackles against some big opponents and even though it’s not his real position he showed courage, determination, effort and never stopped running all evening. He and Rob Eagle sewed up the left hand side of the pitch.
Where did referee Johnson come from? He seemed to be a lost traveller from American football who could only award for "holding" against Luton and "un-necessary roughness" against Town. Handballs didn't seem to figure in his understanding of the game and some of his decisions of possession of the football at throw-ins defied logic. Do we have to give him points?
The linesman on the left hand side would get a poor judgement from Andy Gray too.
Thinking of others less fortunate
Whilst some of us will be at Eastbourne on Saturday a group of intrepid fund-raisers will be taking part in a sleepover on the terraces at Blundell Park this weekend. they've already raised over £pound;6000 for the Grimsby and Cleethorpes YMCA from their collections at the Crawley and Mansfield matches.
Paul Cornell who runs the YMCA has set up a giving page - so if you've not lobbed in a couple of quid get yourself along there and make a donation
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