Date:Sunday August 15 2010
A cracking goal from Matthew Barnes-Homer two minutes from time sealed a hard fought win over Altrincham Town at Kenilworth Road in the opening fixture of the new season.
Luton had taken the game to their visitors and could easily have scored a hatful if all strikers were a bit sharper, but the link up play was just like the old days and this squad looks far too good for League 2 let alone the Conference. However, wasteful finishing and dogged defending by Alty left the Hatters only 1 goal to the good by the hour, a 23rd minute opener from Kroca, and despite the away side's reluctance to enter the Town half, the longer it went on without putting the game to bed, the more the danger of a freak goal against the run of play loomed, and so it proved on 70 minutes.
Luton continued to attack and Matthew Barnes-Homer sealed an excellent performance with the winner on 88 minutes.
Luton looked classy from the off and, wearing the anniversary kit of pink and blue halves, they attacked almost at will.
Manager Richard Money had just about a full squad to pick from; only Kevin Nicholls not yet recovered fully from his op, and the suspended Adam Newton were unavailable.
With a squad which could literally field two teams of quality, it was always going to be interesting which players would start.
Tyler is the no 1 keeper and so he was in. As the pre-season developed it seemed that a back four of Gleeson, Pilks, Kroca and Murray was the preferred line-up, and despite the late signing of Besta, most fans would have expected to see Drury, Adam Murray, Keane and Howells in midfield which proved correct. The big decision was which players would start up front in a 4-4-2 formation.
Money opted for Kevin Gallen for experience, (as Money explained after the game) and Barnes-Homer, who had had a good pre-season. That said, Crow must consider himself very unlucky to have been only on the bench; and what a bench! Money has real luxury to have five on the bench who would no doubt walk into any other team in the league. Kevin Pilks was substitute keeper alongside, Blackett, Crow, Gnakpa and Craddock.
Throughout the first half Luton were dangerous with attacks down both flanks and some excellent crosses going in, just eluding the onrushing strikers on numerous occasions. Several times defenders were forced to head over or wide of their own goal as Luton racked up their corner count.
Adam Murray was calm, assured and creative, the perfect foil for Keane, who was also very creative with the burden of central midfield shared at last.
The front two linked well to release Drury on 19 minutes, who got a shot away but straight at keeper Coburn. Either side of him would have been very interesting.
A similar move a few minutes later saw a corner to Luton. Keano sent the kick to the far post where George Pilkington headed it across goal for giant defender Kroca to head home for a deserved lead to the Hatters. Altrincham had come on a similar mission to last season - damage limitation and hope to catch something on the break or shut out for a 0-0. The second option at least was removed by the Czech's opener.
On 29 minutes, Howells mishit his shot when well placed as Luton posed a threat with every attack.
Another defensive header over his own bar from Densmore prevented an easy goal for any of MBH, Gallen or Howells who were queueing at the far post for another juicy Drury cross five minutes before the break.
Almost on the half time whistle, Robbie Williams, (I thought he supported Port Vale?) scrambled away another teasing cross by Drury.
The crowd were loving what they were seeing but nervous that we hadn't extended our lead by half time. They had seen enough effort and skill to give the lads a standing ovation at half time though.
No changes at half time, either in personnel or attitude. They came out playing exactly the same flowing attacking football looking for the killer goal. It should have come several times but was destined not to. Gallen headed wide when it was easier to score and MBH clipped one over the bar before sending Coburn full stretch to save a decent shot just after the hour. The keeper couldn't hold it and it went straight back to Matthew whose weak header plopped it back into the arms of the keeper.
Up to now Mark Tyler was virtually a spectator, but Alty manager Heathcote's game plan B was still on target. He threw on his three subs all bigger than the players they replaced, and at last they began to attempt to get forward, but Pilks and Kroca snuffed out anything they could offer.
On 70 minutes they even won a corner! Surely they didn't deserve a goal from their one and only shot on target? It couldn't happen in a game like this where the Town were so much on top? Of course it could and did.
There was even an element of luck about the way it was scored. Ryan Brown took the corner and Welch's attempt to glance in a header merely diverted it wide at the back post but Damien Reeves was lively enough to steal in and head it powerfully at goal. Tyler got a glove to it but it nestled in the top corner. Undeserved and somewhat fortunate, but at the end of the day it's not how, but how many, and they had 1 which was as many as we did!
Having been negative all afternoon, now they frustrated the crowd with spoiling, time wasting tactics. Every throw in they won was a bonus for them to hold it for longer than necessary to waste a bit more time. The referee told them to get on with it, but they largely ignored him and he was never going to make an issue of it.
Danny Crow and Claude Gnakpa came on for Gallen and Howells, shortly after the equaliser, but it was still Luton going forward and even raising the pace. Crow especially showed a change of pace which left a couple of defenders in his wake and when he stole in to get in front of his marker in the box, when he was always second favourite to get to it, his diving header went agonisingly over the bar. The clock was beginning to look as though it would beat the Hatters, and that miss seemed to be the end of our hopes for the three point start we wanted.
With two minutes left, a clearance from keeper Coburn fell to MBH and he controlled it 20 yards out made himself half a yard on the edge of the box on the Town left. Densmore was well placed to block any shot, but the half yard was all Barnes-Homer needed and he arrowed a shot past the shocked keeper for 2-1 to the Town. It was the icing on a very good performance by Matthew, and in injury time a clever piece of man management by Richard Money saw Craddock come on to replace him, allowing him to leave the field to a standing ovation and his own name ringing in his ears. The whole day should give him confidence. He had his best game since he arrived, and capped it with the winning goal and the crowd's adoration.
2-1 may look like a close game, but if any opponents read that into it without knowing that this was an excellent performance, with no one playing below par, then they do so at thei peril. This was a great start.
Over to Kettering on Tuesday, which will be a sterner test, but perhaps if they come out of their own half we might catch them on the break for a goal or two!
Date:Sunday August 15 2010
Hatters Sign Tigers Striker (Sunday May 19 2013)
Luton to Entertain Aston Villa (Friday May 17 2013)
Tyler`s Staying (Friday May 17 2013)
I Wish It Was Us! (Wednesday May 15 2013)
Favourites (Again)! (Monday May 13 2013)
Keeper Ranks Bolstered (Monday May 13 2013)
Nielson Finds New Club (Monday May 13 2013)
Welcome to the Mad World! (Monday May 13 2013)
I Felt Physically Sick! (Monday May 13 2013)
What a Difference a Year Makes (Friday May 10 2013)
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