Tag Archives: Luton Town FC

Days Of Yesteryear #1 – Eastlands 2011

Continuing the theme of kicking off a summer historical feature with events that have just happened, and acknowledging I never actually managed to knock out a report at the time, the Anonymous Don reminisces about the good old days of, erm, last month… in fact the Dons last competitive game…

Once all the bitterness relating to the choice of venue (with which I never had too much of a problem with) and ticket pricing policy (which I most certainly did) had passed, I actually found the build up to the Conference playoff final at Eastlands pretty comfortable. Well, actually it was completely uncomfortable, but the point is it could have been a lot worse. Remembering the old military adage of the five P’s, or seven P’s… however many P’s, I had prepared long in advance. But I didn’t want to jinx anything either, so I decided a trip to visit my family, relocated years ago to the Doncaster area, could solve my problems… and then, if anything happened to be going on in Manchester on the Saturday, we could just drive over…

A brilliant strategy, one only partially wrecked by the subsequent announcement of ticket costs meaning it would just be my dad and I travelling. I had kind of imagined such an event would see the seats around me filled with family and friends, the decision to play the game at Eastlands kind of killed the latter (with the exception of those who follow the Dons, naturally), but the costs involved in bringing the folks meant it became a no-no for everyone except the old man (he had to come, he was driving…). Plus a well-intentioned gesture at his own expense saw my dad purchase tickets in the upper tier – a great view but this would mean separation from those on the lower tier, including those I most regularly travel with. Still, there’s always scope for a few beers before the game…

The week, or rather more accurately the four days I actually went in before travelling on the Friday, was probably the easiest working week I can remember, largely because I didn’t really give a crap, my mind being prematurely two hundred miles north. Still, this wasn’t a carefree ‘Office Space’ style attitude, I was thinking about the game, thinking about it some more, then realising I had over thought it, scrapped all my previous thinking and started again. Occasionally I would snap out of it momentarily and realise I’d spent the best part of five minutes staring at a pencil, or completing a task I’d already completed. My colleagues must have had a great deal of fun over the following days clearing up the mistakes I must have made. This was an occasion I had no point of reference for, the only game that even came close was 1988 (which will be getting the Yesteryear treatment itself pretty soon); the difference being the prize on offer… our return to the Football League. Was it a bigger game than ’88? It felt like it, certainly, although its difficult to weigh up the relative importance of league and cup games, never mind those in different eras.

The journey across the M62 brought reminders this was the only game of any note taking place in England, although supporters coaches ferrying fans back and forth along the M62 were a familiar sight, albeit carrying Rugby League fans… arriving at Manchester early, we found our way to the ‘fan zone’ style bars of City Square. While we have been away, the average Premier League fan has found themselves spoil beyond what we could ever have imagined on our journeys to place like The Dell and The County Ground in our experiences of the early years of the competition. Such facilities don’t replace pubs entirely (they don’t have the capacity for a start, as I was soon to find out…), but Premier League fans pay through the nose for it, and I wonder just how active a fan I would be if the Dons had somehow survived that final day in 2000 and gone on to entrench themselves in the top flight, I might not have been priced out of home games, but trips to stadiums such as this would be the exception rather than the norm.

It was at this stage we decided to take a quick walk across City Square to the food outlets, somehow the fact the food had the Marco Pierre White seal of approval made that £4.00 sausage in baguette seem a little easier to swallow. I mean it wasn’t worth the money, but was definitely worth a pound more than similar fare served in the outlets at KM… perhaps we could get our own deal with Ainsley Harriott? The problem was this twenty-minute trip across the square cost us, our vision blocked by the City Megastore or whatever it is, the bar had filled thanks to the arrival of the first dozen or so supporter coaches. Thinking back I’m certain my dad might have engineered this, although he is supportive of the Dons on the whole, he seems to have it in for Dons fans in general thanks to an incident at an FA Cup replay at Goodison Park (away capacity 5,000) where a Dons fan (one of approximately 80 there on the night) managed to tread on his foot…

A short abortive conversation over the barrier with those now in the bar later, nerves had got the better of me, and it was time to head into the stadium. Empty, Eastlands doesn’t disappoint (although to be fair it didn’t exactly fill up…). The view from block 230 was worth the extra fiver, becoming aware I could see the opposite corner flag a bonus considering some of the grounds we have played at over the last nine years. The organisers had tried their best to entertain, although the opera guy might have checked whether either side had any chants that went with his selection before urging everyone to sing along, and its fair to say even those in the ground early of an 18,000 crowd would be by far the largest audience the winner of Mecca’s Got Talent (seriously) has ever performed in front of.

The arrival of the players saw flames leap thirty or forty feet in the air from what I had previously presumed were speakers, finally it was game time. I had set myself up to expect Wimbledon to concede a couple of early goals, so seeing Mohamed Kaid’s shot parried into the path of Danny Kedwell for the captain to fire home seemed too good to be true. Sorry, it WAS too good to be true, a linesman’s flag cutting the celebrations short as Keds had strayed offside. My memory of ’88 was restricted to the big moments, I had presumed this was because it was so long ago and I was quite young, but writing this just over two weeks later I can’t visualise the details… I remember the Dons looking good, vaguely threatening throughout, but Luton having chances too. The guy sitting next to me identified a nervous Sam Hatton as our weak link, obviously not a regular I told him he was our Player of the Year…

I don’ really remember much more about the second half either. Luton came into it more, but Wimbledon were getting the counter attacking side of their game together and it looked like a pacy break might be enough, but final balls were lacking and shot blocked. Unfortunately a few Dons forwards started to cramp up… Kedwell wasn’t dropping as deep to collect the ball anymore, for example, and all of a sudden the pitch was looking larger by the minute. For those out there on the pitch standing on the edge of their own box, the opposite goal must have seemed miles away.

Then a heart in mouth moment, a huge ‘what if?’ if ever I saw one (in fact that’s an idea for a future feature…). A cross into the Dons box, Luton’s Walker gets his head on the ball, it hits the post… as far as I can see it’s in, its rolled back into the goal… Seb Brown has clutched the ball but surely it went over the line… from a hundred yards away I couldn’t understand why the Luton players weren’t celebrating. But play continued… somehow the ball didn’t go in. A huge escape.

Then of course there was the penalty incident, or as I saw it at the time the ‘ cleared off the line’ incident. I’ve since seen it on YouTube, and from that high angle that followed the player I’ve seen them given. The bigger picture being the forward managed to get his cross/shot away as Brown came out to spread himself there was an inevitable collision. Fortunately that’s how the referee saw it, and the Dons were able to scramble the ball away from danger.

Full time, and far from celebrating or leaving, we prepared for an extra half an hour. It wasn’t just Kedwell struggling now, Mohamed went down early in the period, all over the field players were struggling. Looking back it seems miraculous there wasn’t a goal. There so nearly was. Luke Moore somehow failed to turn in a low ball into the box… a similar move sees Mohamed side foot past Tyler, we’re already on our feet celebrating, but the ball bounces away off the outside of the post. The agony continues… one final chance, a deep ball into the Luton box with Kedwell and Yakubu unmarked an queuing up at the far post with Tyler stranded. Yakubu took responsibility, but his header nestled in the side netting rather than the back of the net – and before we knew it, after nine months, forty-six games, a two leg semi-final and 120 minutes, it was going to take ten penalty kicks to separate the two sides.

There are undoubtedly fairer ways to decide a football match. In the good old days both sides would have replayed a few days later (well, being pedantic the Dons would have gone up as runners-up without all this nonsense…). And yet I’ve always thought if you’re going to settle a game on the day, penalties are probably the best way of doing it. They aren’t the lottery they are sometimes made out to be. I’ve seen the Dons lose shootouts before, and it hasn’t changed my opinion, whether I’d be cursing them now if we had lost I’m not sure. Victory in a shootout depends on a number of things, keeping your nerve, accurate finishing, and perhaps most importantly, a goalkeeper with excellent reactions… and whose research is up to scratch…

Much has been made of Seb’s scrap of paper, I certainly didn’t notice it at the time, and wonder how many of the Luton players did. Even if there was any writing on it, you would have hoped Seb and the management tem had found every video clip, every match report, everywhere a description of a potential Luton penalty takers technique might have been, I’m sure they would have looked. But at the time, none of these thoughts crossed my mind. I was convinced we had blown our best chance in extra time, and spent the ten minutes or so while the shootout was organised attempting to mentally prepare for defeat.

You will have all relived the penalties by now, and will at least be familiar enough not to require a blow-by-blow account. Suffice to say from my point of view Seb saving the first penalty was bad news, as shootouts have a habit of swinging, Mohamed’s miss was a sign the shootout had indeed swung in Luton’s favour, and Browns second save was little more than miraculous as far as I was concerned. Still, I only really believed when Yakubu stuck away his penalty, knowing who was coming last, we were as good as in the Football League… which didn’t stop me needing to bend double just to get some air in, convinced I would faint at any moment…

Once the penalty went in, everything was a blur. I screamed until my throat hurt (which didn’t take very long…). I literally floated out of the stadium, saw and old school friend through the crowd and ran like a kid to shake his hand. Getting the car out of the car park saw me hanging out of the car window shouting to those waiting for coaches, singing with passers-by… and then before I knew it the stadium was long behind me. Then, a surreal moment, we got lost trying to find the motorway…

The thing is, the week before I told myself no matter how hard it was, if we won, if we went back to the Football League, I’d feel like I was floating on air. And I was… at least, I though I was. It turned out I had the flu, and celebrating returning to the Football League mainly involved a week in bed watching media clips over and over and over again. Still, I’m sure I’ll get a chance to do a big game properly when we reach the JPT final in 2019…

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The game in short – neither side really dominated overall in a hard-fought game, the Dons seemed to have the better of the first half and Luton much more so the second, with the visitors shading the game and having the better of the few chances that were created. For the home team, Seb Brown once again showed his class, and attempts to counter in the second half could have been more fruitful had we shown a little more composure on the ball. While both sides picked up a point, then real winners tonight were Crawley Town…

Now that’s out of the way, lets add a little more flesh to those bones of a story. Did the Dons deserve their point? Of course as a Dons fan looking for positives I’m going to say ‘yes’, we certainly looked far more solid at the back than we did at Kenilworth Road back in September. The introduction of Jamie Stuart has played a big part in that, he looked the second best player in a Dons shirt last night and has now partnered first Franks, now Yakubu, and given the impression he has been part of the squad for years rather than just a few days.

Fraser Franks had a difficult evening playing left back, and under the circumstances he did well, but it must have been reassuring having a vastly experienced player just inside to talk him through what was one of the biggest games of his short career. Played out of position, I thought Franks had as good a game as can be expected, although its great to see TB was immediately able to end the uncertainty surrounding the position by signing Gareth Gwillim.

Naturally the earlier comment on Stuart being the best player on the pitch was in now way intended as a slight on him, but more an indication of the performance of Sebb Brown. When your goalkeeper is voted man of the match, and the opposition have also managed to hit the woodwork a couple of times, regardless of what we thought we deserved I get the impression our opponents went away wondering how they didn’t claim the points. 

Regardless, the Dons kept another clean sheet, the only problem being we were blanked at the other end for the second game running. Going forward we showed our inexperience at times, we shouldn’t forget this was a very slightly different game to what the majority of the squad were used to. Having the confidence to get the ball down and take it round a player is one thing, but on several occasions Dons players rode a challenge, but in the process knocked the ball slightly too far, having to win a fifty/fifty, and so on.

I put this down to the game being slightly faster than the average Conference fixture, that Luton were pressing us and getting in our faces that split second quicker, but it could equally be put down to that extra bit of adrenaline giving them a heavier than normal touch. Either way, it didn’t seem to affect the more experienced Luton players. Having said that, the visitors did leave some inviting gaps at the back during the last fifteen minutes or so in their desire to pick up maximum points, and a little bit of composure could have paid dividends.

In terms of title contenders, I hate to ever admit that Steve Evans is right about anything and really hope our squad can go on and prove him wrong, but on last nights showing it looked as if Luton might well be the only team able to stand in the way of the monied chumps. A victory for Luton in their game in hand will as it stands take them above us, and even if Crawley slip up on Saturday against Kettering, with their games in hand it surely won’t be long before they pass us too. 

Accepting third place is showing no lack of ambition on our part either, it would actually be a massive achievement, especially if we have the opportunity for a run in the Trophy. Should we miss out on promotion this year, lets not forget that’s definitely no failure. Missing out on the playoffs would be disappointing, especially in the position we find ourselves now, but the chances are with our daunting looking next half-dozen games that we could find ourselves ending the month closer points-wise to the sixth place team than the leaders….

So much to write about in what was an eventful game for a goalless draw, and so little time to write about it, darn employment… I never go the chance to write about Yakubu’s impromptu freestyle breakdance juggling in his own penalty area that almost set up Barnes-Homer. Nor the fact that the only referee deemed neutral enough to take charge of such a fixture appeared to be a very close relative of Richard Brodie. This match report is going to spill into the Woking preview (otherwise there won’t be one), so I’ll probably touch on a few of the topics I missed out…



Is anybody else thinking the last thing we really need right now, as players and supporters lick their wounds after a demoralising defeat, is the visit of bona fide title challengers Luton? Who themselves had a bit of a result at the weekend, holding Charlton away from home. Confidence must be high in their camp, I would imagine Luton fans right now would find it difficult to believe they won’t go on and win the title, regardless of what ourselves or Crawley get up to. Add to this a minor defensive problem, and things aren’t looking too good for the Dons.

There is a flip side to the coin, that now might be the best time to face Luton, our boys could rebound and take an unlikely victory… it’s a bit unlikely, but it seems to be the thought process Terry Brown is taking. Quite right too, although the biggest impact that doubt might have on the game is whether it actually goes ahead. I have to say as I’m sitting here writing this, with the knowledge the forecasted temperature isn’t going to rise above freezing before kick off swirling around my head, I really can’t see myself at Kingsmeadow tomorrow night. Or any of us for that matter. Especially as I’ve not long got in from outside.

Should there be some kind of miracle, such as the Cambridge Estate going up in flames again and the resulting heat wafting across the pitch and raising the temperature just enough to keep the pitch thawed, then you don’t have to necessarily fall into the pessimists camp to realise taking anything from the game is going to be a big ask. Brown is playing cagey with his pre-match comments, to the point you wonder (or hope…) that he feels confident as he has a plan up his sleeve…

TAD’s predicted Dons line up;

Brown; Hatton, Bush, Franks, Yakubu; Yussuff, Moore S, Wellard; Moore L, Kedwell, Jackson

A rare prediction – The Dons will take the game 2-0 (when it eventually gets played some time in March…)

ALMOST IMMEDIATE UPDATE – Just as I posted this, the news came through that a 7PM pitch inspection resulted in the game being postponed. There you go, Terrys plan worked a treat…

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Second Thoughts… Luton Town 8.8.09

It was a tale of two penalties at Kingsmeadow on Saturday, and having seen the various penalty decisions from various angles I have changed my mind on both of them several times over. It really depends on what angle you see them from. First off, for those of you who haven’t yet seen this, the match highlights courtesy of AFC Wimbledon TV

http://www.afcwimbledon.tv/video/highlights/afc-wimbledon-v-luton-town/ (Sorry was hoping to inbed this but it seems I can’t do that… Oh, well, remember to come back!)

I have a habit of watching whats going on in the box and using the corner of my eye to track the ball, rather than the other way round. But even I couldn’t see what had happened at full speed. The best angle to watch from was the Sky Sports News pitchside camera (about 1.00 in below).

It was an obvious foul, however slight. Paul Lorraine lost his man, in panic reached back and grabbed a bit of shirt and the guy has gone down. Fair play to the ref, he had the confidence to give what he saw. You will hear a lot of pundits going on and on about how if every incident like this resulted in a penalty, there would be a dozen given in each game.

But the ref can only gives what he sees, and it’s really not down to him to judge the severity of the offence in the first instance, just that an offence has taken place. Perhaps if Blackett had a handful of Lorraine as well the official might have ignored it, or given the decision in favour of the defending team.

Of course no-one really minds too much if a ref goes giving tame penalties like this one, as long as there is some consistency. And Mick Harford knew that not many referees would be observant enough to have given his side their penalty when he said ‘We were worried the referee might want to even things up for the first one’…(or something along those lines…).

But judging by the damning evidence shown in both videos, I think it’s a bit rich for Mick to be moaning about that. Firstly, one absolute fact shown by both videos, which backs up what Mick and some Luton fans have said over the past couple of days, and that is there is no doubt that Blackett got a touch on the ball. The problem was, he had to go through Main to get there. Perhaps Mick still thinks its the eighties, as ‘getting a touch’ hasn’t been an excuse for hacking someone down because they got in the way of the ball since he was a trainee…

The problem is, Mick is already a manager under pressure, and following a game his side should have won, he was always going to take any excuse going for their failure to close the game out. I have no doubt it will be a very different story if some of our players don’t get up to speed before our visit later in the season, however whether Mick is still manager by then relies on Luton using their obvious advantage in terms of the quality they can field to put annoying, hard-working sides like ourselves to bed.

In fact it could be said the respective managers won and lost points for their teams. Terry Brown resisted what must have been a huge temptation at half time to haul off either Godfrey or Hatton, waiting until over the hour to do so. It’s fair to say the two of them had bad games, yetthey ran themselves into the floor making sure Luton had bodies in the way of themselves and our goal. However I think I am justified in saying neither was quick enough while in possession of the ball, yet both players are talented enough to release the ball quicker as soon as their brains catch up with them. As far as Main is concerned, he was the right player at the right time, and a huge victory for the patience shown by Terry Brown.

While we are on the subject of poor performances by midfielders, why did the moronic minority in the JSS target Hatton and not Godfrey, or even Hussey? I’m glad they didn’t because no-one deserved having ‘Off! Off! Off!’ chanted at them by their own fans… Now this really pissed me off as I only mentioned it the other day as an example of some horrific abuse given by our own fans.

Now I’m not going to go on and on about it (well I might…). It has been mentioned that this is becoming a personal crusade of mine, and I can assure you all that wasn’t my intention, but I feel I have received enough positive correspondence on the subject to justify the original article. Seriously, I can turn a blind eye to the odd muffled shout of frustration, anyone can. Rob Dunford mentioned on SW19 that he thought the idea may have been a bit naive, and in terms of attempting to create some kind of football utopia he is bang on the money, but once again that was never my aim.

All I am asking for is for certain individuals to think about the bigger picture. Once these people join together in the form of negative chanting it has gone too far. I’m not saying Wimbledon fans have always been so enlightened. I remember when Laurie Sanchez was the scapegoat for everything that went wrong on the pitch (including a few occasions when he actually wasn’t). I remember chanting for the head of Peter Withe, and screaming ‘You ruined everything!’ at Egil Olsen as he trudged off after that defeat against Sheffield Wednesday.

The difference was, on those occasions the discontent had reached a critical mass where the vast majority of supporters understood our only method of intervention was vocal, despite the obvious damage it could have caused. Today, I’m not sure any serious criticism of players or management is justified. When mistakes have been made, the time and the place to discuss them is in the bar, back at the pub, on the guestbook, or maybe as a response to one of my posts.

While we are on the subject of criticism, its now time for my AFC Wimbledon match ratings…

Pullen    7

Garrard    5

Hussey    5

Lorraine    6

Johnson    6

Gregory    6

Duncan    6

Taylor    6

Hatton    4

Godfrey    4

Kedwell    6


Wellard    5

Main    7

Moore    6

By the way for those of you who are wondering, the marking goes something like this;

Sack him    1/2

Drop him    3

Unacceptable    4

Poor    5

Average (Acceptable)    6

Above Average    7

Good    8

Brilliant    9

God-like    10 (doubt if we will see one of these performances in our lifetime!)

I’ll probably have to reproduce that guide every week now, but so be it… 

So where does this performance leave us heading into the Eastbourne game? Well, that’s a story for another article…

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AFC Wimbledon 1 Luton Town 1 – A Match Report

I woke up on Saturday morning in a pessimistic state of mind. I really had the impression that we would suffer in the manner Norwich eventually did, with season-ticket assaults on Terry Brown and everything… (while I’m on the subject, I bet those Norwich fans who ran on the pitch regretted it five seconds after they had done it, especially when they found that not only were they not getting their season tickets back, they wouldn’t be watching football for three years minimum…).

We have history of blowing big games. Remember Wycombe last year? Torquay? Even going back to St Albans in the Trophy and Thurrock in the FA Cup, whenever we had come across a side that represented a huge step up in quality we had fluffed our lines. The difference was, those games had been cup ties… however as this game was our first in the Conference and we had nothing to measure it against, it did have more of the one-off feeling of a cup game.

Fortunately I wasn’t the only one suffering from a case of the pre-game jitters. After taking my non-attending wife for lunch at the Slug and Lettuce in Kingston to make up for not getting her a ticket, I bumped into an agreeable bunch of Luton fans who weren’t entirely sure of my gut feeling we would be annihilated. This led to me delivering them to the Peel via the 131, obtaining other Luton fans on the way – I felt like the Pied Piper, perhaps I should have led them into the river?!

Kingsmeadow was at its glorious sweaty best as I arrived, coincidentally at the same time as Sam Hatton, who almost became the first person to fatally mow down a blogger in Jack Goodchild Way. I bought a WUP, amazed to find an article I wrote at the end of last season had been included… in fact I had forgotten I had submitted it, which meant there was at least one decent article for me to read in there! The ground looked in great condition. There were even a few new advertising hoardings this year dotted around. Oh, and of course, this – http://fleydon-flags.blogspot.com/2009/08/these-boots.html

Once again I’m in the John Smiths again this year although with no access to the KRE (at least this week) it was entirely forced on me… on Saturday I found myself behind the home dugout. However I must say the vast majority the support was superb, barring one or two who felt the need to slag of a certain midfielder of ours. I’ve gone on and on about it elsewhere, and its something that annoys me, I’m glad it seems to annoy the majority of Dons fans as well. But if the elimination of this kind of negativity is perhaps a step too far for us at the moment, the majority did a fantastic job of drowning them out. Even the John Smiths, which seems to be a better place to stand thanks to the addition of some singers who presumably found themselves edged out of the Tempest this year.

The lineup was pretty similar to as I expected, with a couple of exceptions. Firstly, we went 4-5-1, no Jon Main as I exclusively revealed on this very blog. But no Luke Moore either, the extra place in midfield going to crowd favourite Sam Hatton. Finally, Luke Garrard got the nod at right back over Jay Conroy, presumably it came down to Luke’s experience.

There were a lot of nerves kicking around, and that seemed to transfer itself to the pitch. The opening few minutes were low key, the referee setting his stall out by awarding a couple of baffling freekicks. Wimbledon’s first chance came during this period, a corner on the left found its way over to Lorraine, who guided his effort up and over, finding himself called for pushing at the same time.

Lets get this straight, Luton looked faster, more composed and basically in control in every department, but they hadn’t managed to fashion a chance of any sort. While Wimbledon were giving away possession left, right and centre, caught by the speed in which they were closed down by Luton men, it hadn’t led to any problems. This was until the thirteenth minute, when a Luton corner delivered in at pace amid a lot of pushing and shoving in the box. Lorraine and Shane Blackett crashed to the floor, with the referee electing to make a decision against the Dons man.

Luton’s impressive forward Tom Craddock slotted home from the spot powerfully striking into the right corner, despite Jamie Pullen reading his intentions the penalty was just too good for him to get anywhere near. The visitors almost doubled their lead only minutes later, the impressive Adam Newton racing clear down the right, picking out Craddock (one of two Luton players completely free at the far post) whose firm header was brilliantly saved by James Pullen. The ball bobbled about in the six-yard box for a moment before being cleared to safety by Paul Lorraine.

Now Luton had the lead, Wimbledon’s five man midfield worked in their favour. Godfrey and Hatton were working overtime in the midfield, but were well off the pace. Neither were helped by some poor balls into them requiring them to release the ball a lot quicker than either of them had experienced before. This was a real baptism of fire for certain Dons players, with the two midfielders and Chris Hussey desperately trying to keep their heads above water.

I mentioned in pre-season how Husseys decision making seems to let him down in defensive situations. On many occasions Hussey had the chance to knock a 60/40 challenge in his favour to safety before the ball had even got to Newton, but his cautiousness in keeping his feet let the tricky winger beat him time and again simply but knocking the ball past him and beating him in a leg race.

However he persisted, going on to enjoy a much better second half which led to Newton being removed from the game, and while Hatton and Godfrey were substituted in the second as well, they at least left the field having worked so hard to keep Wimbledon within touching distance of our illustrious visitors. Even before the safety of half time, the Dons had to defend for their lives on a couple of occasions.

On twenty minutes, another cross from the right was flicked on dangerously, Wimbledon perhaps fortunate that it was too far from a dozing Kevin Gallen. Portly ex-franchise hitman Gallen looked out of place among this talented Luton team, employed seemingly only to shout at the referee and fall over when appropriate. He picked up a yellow card during the first half, perhaps he receives a bonus for this as any reliance on a goal bonus this season could see the mercenary forward well out of pocket come April.

The Hatters were confounded again on twenty five minutes, the visitors breaking quickly to create a two on two led by Newton. While the nippy winger seemed too good for Wimbledon down the right, when approaching goal through the centre he seemed overwhelmed by the options available to him. Eventually he decided to ignore his teammate and go it alone, being brilliantly held up by Luke Garrard before Chris Hussey finished the job, clearing to safety.

Garrard had an interesting afternoon. While looking comfortable on the right side of defense he had an annoying habit of playing colleagues into danger. While Luke needs time to adapt to the speed of the game, both in terms of overcoming rustiness following his injury and getting used to the pace of a higher level once more, he was inconsistant rather than poor.

While Wimbledon were losing the ball in midfield on a regular basis,the sheer number of players on hand mean the opposition themselves suffer the same problems. While Luton looked comfortable, they weren’t creating as much as the would have wished, and did not dominate as much as their manager suggested after the game. While it would serve a purpose for him to suggest they were unlucky on this occasion, they are going to face teams who flood the midfield week in, week out. Most probably won’t be able to work as hard as we did, in fact we must be the fittest ‘part time’ club in the country, but those that do will frustrate Luton, especially away from home.

Danny Kedwell cut a lonely figure all alone up front. When the ball found its way to him and he managed to win it, he either flicked the ball on to no-one or got it under control and fed a midfielder to knock it long into space or find themselves closed down before they even got a chance to do that. Consequently Wimbledon created nothing until just before half time.

Sammy Hatton found himself in an advanced position to flick on to Kedwell. However Danny was still far from goal with defenders in his way. He improvised well, juggling the ball around a defender which sadly left him off balance, his stabbed volley rolling harmlessly wide. With Wimbledon on the front foot, Lewis Taylor and Derek Duncan managed to get forward, the former almost providing an assist or the latter with a superb drilled ball that Duncan stabbed just wide.

Just a quick word about the Luton fans in the first half. As I said before the majority were a decent bunch, although they did seem to have a minority of braindead scum, one of which who made a name for himself by breaking through the segregation and removing Haydons head, before throwing it on the pitch. Now this incident has been covered extensively elsewhere, but you have to wonder what was going on with the security. Now I’m not one of those willing to slag off the stewards, they are just volunteers and they do a great job. Wherever possible they should be able to watch the game, thats a given – it’s not as if they earn money or anything.

And they shouldn’t be expected to put their own personal safety on the line when someone misbehaves in a violent manner. In that particular corner there was a group of half a dozen police officers. These gentlemen certainly were being paid for their afternoon at the game, primarily to prevent what happened from happening. It seems it’s not only the team who need to sharpen up to Conference Premier standard…

The second half started late (somehow that Tempest End goal became unfastened again…) yet this time Wimbledon were starting to give as good as they got. A strong run by Lewis Taylor down the right, powerfully holding off a Luton man before feeding Luke Garrard, whose delicate chip found Kedwell who found no pace on the ball, his header dropping into keeper Tyler’s arms. Still, it was promising. Duncan and Taylor were more advanced however that inevitably gave Luton more space to build for themselves. Pullen had to save smartly from Cradock, before the same player again found space in the left side of the penalty area, hitting across goal agonisingly wide of the right post.

Wimbledon were still having trouble creating chances, and it took until the hour mark for them to produce their best moment of the match so far. Great play down the left between Duncan and Hussey saw a deep cross evade everybody apart from Lewis Taylor at the far post. It took him some time to get it under control, but when he did he had a couple of lashes at it- the second of these excellently parried wide by Tyler.

At last the Luton keeper merits a mention in this report, and this was good enough to persuade Terry Brown it was time to unleash our not-so-secret weapon. Jon Main and Luke Moore replaced the exhausted Derek Duncan and Sam Hatton, with Godfrey following shortly after for Ricky Wellard. This shot in the arm was enough for Wimbledon to take the front foot. Main’s pace scared the life out of the Luton defense, resulting in the penalty award with just ten minutes to go.

Last night in the Score! update I mentioned the to penalties were ‘dubious’ after I saw it described as such elsewhere. However – after seeing a shaky video of it, I’m now prepared to believe what my own eyes saw at the time, that while Blackettgot the ball he did so by scything down Main as he was about to shoot. Blackett had to go for that, and the penalty itself was despatched by Main, sending Tyler the wrong way rolling the ball into the right corner.

From here on in, it looked as though it was only going to be Wimbledon who would win. Another dangerous ball into the box fell to Taylor who struck firmly at goal from eight yards only to see it deflected wide for a corner. Luton weren’t helping themselves, or to be more accurate their manager wasn’t anyway, bringing on Basham and a midfielder in exchange for their best players on the day, Adam Newton and Tom Craddock… which meant while the Hatters now had two big men up front they had no-one to service them.

Of course, Wimbledon were on hand to provide that last chance. Garrard collided with Johnson to gift posession to Luton by way of a freekick given when Garrards attempt to recover the situation only led to him chopping down a Luton man who appeared from nowhere. Fortunately, the freekick was delivered straight at the wall (ironically enough charged down by Chris Hussey…).

It was down to Hussey to deliver a great, great chance for Paul Lorraine, unmarked coming round the back from a corner, to head into the ground and wide, the Dons improbable chance to win the game having gone begging. Despite this Wimbledon fans celebrated at the final whistle, a point gained following a tough first half. 

Perhaps we could have faced easier opposition on the first day of the season, but Luton have lifted the bar high enough for us to prepare ourselves for lesser opposition as well as the likes of Oxford and Wrexham looming on the horizon. Make no mistake, watching Wimbledon defend for their lives in the first half was no fun, but had we started with an orthodox 4-4-2 we would have been taken apart by a much better side than we are. Had we player the diamond we would vitually have sacrificed the midfield, again leading to us losing the match before we had even got into our stride.

The formations we played in pre-season will come in handy later in the year, but the fact we had to start with a containing tactic, and at home as well, should give everyone an idea of how tough it’s going to be to eventually win this league. It worked for us today, on the hour we were still in the game, and that was good enough for us to go for broke and swap things around a bit. Some young players learned some harsh lessons out there, yet we survived, we took something from the game, we almost snatched an amazing win. I guarantee when we look back at this game at the end of the season we will see it as a point gained.

Now on to Eastbourne for a more ‘usual’ Conference game… and whisper it, but a great chance for our first three points?

NOTE – Unfortunately I was unable to take any pictures this week. Apologies to those of you who look forward to them, normal service will hopefully be resumed on Tuesday, although I took a couple on my mobile, so a couple may appear on the report later…

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AFC Wimbledon v Luton Town – A Match Preview

ltfcThe eve of the season is upon us… as you all know as I’ve spent pretty much all week telling you about it, which at very least inspired my wife to praise me (Well what she actually said was ‘I’m not saying your a bad writer, I’m saying your a bad husband…’ Bah, she’s just jealous because she doesn’t get to come to Eastbourne on Tuesday…).

We have had the privilage of watching those patronising local news reports (‘Most people haven’t even heardof the Blue Square Premier…’), and of course the written media are doing us proud once more. Having said that, the standout preview was by English football’s premier independent blog 200percent (http://www.twohundredpercent.net/?p=1714).

Because if I listed all the other links right here I’d never see you again, I have reproduced them at the bottom of this article. Suffice to say the reality of our task tomorrow is sinking in. Couldn’t we have just played Tamworth at home? We would still have got the same amount of press, just we wouldn’t have had to share it this time round.

As some of you may have already noticed, this years Match Previews aren’t in sections, so you aren’t going to get stuff like ‘I went on to the Luton message board and they seem really excited about the game’… Really? Duh! Instead it’ll just be me, rambling on about the match, hopefully with enough interesting material to avoid you skipping down to find the match odds.

Talking of the match odds (seamless as ever…), I noticed there has been a link from the sponsors on The Guestbook for the whole summer. I have received no such offer (and to be honest I would have taken an extra tenner added to my account…). This after all the free (and exclusive) advertising I gave them last year, despite their best efforts to rinse every penny they could from Dons fans with odds that didn’t quite represent value (for all you newcomers, italics refer to sarcasm. Or irony. Or possibly neither.)

Anyway, match odds. This week we go with William Hill, who like most bookies on opening day haven’t a clue which way its going to go. Luton are slight favourites at 7/5, Dons are 8/5, with the draw at 21/10. Bit disappointing from a Dons perspective, all the bookies seem to be playing it safe, after the appalling prices we got last year when AFCW were the market.

If your looking for best prices, for Luton, at the moment Boylesports and ‘another company’ are offering 3/2 whereas Bet365 seem to be backing the Hatters on this one with best prices of 19/10 for a Dons win and 12/5 on the draw will ensure they see some of my money this weekend (albeit hopefully temporarily…).

Other news. There still appeared to be some tickets selling tonight, the returns from Tempest and Strank Stand season ticket holders. Which means while the game would have sold out easily on the open market, the restrictions the club introduced to make sure no dastardly Luton fans got in our areas of the ground have put up enough obstacles for a few people to say ‘Woah… I want to go to the game, but I don’t want to have to produce photo i.d. and a utilities bill and actually turn up at Kingsmeadow during the day…’. Which means in true Dons style, everyone who really wanted a ticket has got one.

So… team news. First up Luton. I don’t really want to talk about them, because they are absolutely full of quality to the point it’s frightening. Almost as some kind of pisstake, they signed Steve Basham this week. The only thing I want to say about this is Basham was quite complementary about the way we play football on the Luton website. To add a Dons connection to the squad they signed everyones favourite fat Danny Dyer lookalike, Shane ‘Shipped Six At Grimsby’ Gore. An ex-Don with great experience of picking the ball out of the net when facing us last year, perhaps our best chance relies on something happening to first choice Mark Tyler…

As for your Dons, apparently Adjei has a knock, but as I predicted yesterday he wouldn’t have even made the bench for this one. Sebb Brow has signed and is in the squad, but will he be on the bench? See my earlier post for my own backtracking on the Sebb Brown situation. Everything else is up for grabs…

Media review now, and I open with a piece of writing ALL Dons fans should read… http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/606/A55429068 … well done Trebor, and ignore that one irritant, he seems to be winding up other Luton fans as much as us!

The Telegraph – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/news/5989930/AFC-Wimbledon-face-Luton-Town-in-Blue-Square-Premier-after-four-promotions.html

BBC Sport – http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/low/football/eng_conf/8183896.stm

Luton Today – http://www.lutontoday.co.uk/lut/Hatters-comfortable-with-favourites-tag.5535051.jp

Wimbledon Guardian – http://www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk/sport/football/afcwimbledon/4530730.Luton_boss_Harford_wary_of_Dons_threat/

Wimbledon Guardian – http://www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk/sport/football/afcwimbledon/4535271.Brown_reveals_Dons_selection_delight_for_Luton_test/

London Informer – http://www.londoninformer.co.uk/london-sport/london-football/afcwimbledon/2009/08/04/promotions-the-aim-of-afc-wimbledon-s-great-adventure-113489-24314602/

And thats it. If you can’t make it to the game remember to check out the Matchday Stadium or tune in to Radio WDON, links as usual can be found to the right.

And if you have a ticket, remember to keep it positive, give the new guys a good impression of the fans they are going to be playing in front of, and remember, if the guy next to you starts hurling abuse at some poor unfortunate player, you make sure you yell some encoragement to our player twice as loud, and I guarantee people around you will join in. We aren’t just pulling out the stops for tomorrow, we are back in a national division so sitting back and quietly watching the game is no longer an option. We are just setting the bar tomorrow, lets make sure we keep up the noise for the other 22 games as well.

Until tomorrow….

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A Cursory Glance At Luton Town FC

The idea for the Conference Files was a good one, in theory. I had loads of spare time over the summer, there wasn’t much happening and I wanted to stay in the habit of writing stuff for the blog. To start off with it went pretty well. It kept the number of people viewing the blog at a respectable level, and it won me a lot of new friends in places like Altrincham and Barrow.

Unfortunately, unexpected press speculation (i.e. Plough Lane/Greyhound Stadium) kept me busy in other areas, and then we started getting involved in long running transfer sagas and the like, so before I knew it pre-season had started and I’d only got as far as ‘E’. My only option was to shelve it and hope no-one noticed…

Of course, we now enter the week of the big kick-off and I have barely mentioned our opponents. That’s the way it should be as far as I’m concerned, after all when I first started writing this blog I don’t remember creaming myself with excitement at the prospect of writing extensively about the likes of Eastleigh or Dorchester (no offense intended… to one of those clubs). Plus if you really want to know about Luton Town, you couldn’t do any better than go to the BBC Football Non-League page, which should really be named the BBC Football Luton and Oxford Plus Some Other Clubs page. Not that it’s really the clubs fault, or even BBC Sport, most stories seem to originate from their relevant county affiliates.

And while we are on the subject, when was the last time BBC London knocked out a story about us? No, they’re too busy trying to court the supporters of everyone else’s clubs with their admittedly valuable Non-League Football Show. Sorry, I’ll get back to the point for fear you may think this is going to end up as another 3000 word epic largely spent insulting the opposition (although this time I suppose its the point of the article…).

Anyway… Luton Town, eh? Didn’t we play them back in that there Premier League? Well, no actually. Luton had the dubious pleasure of politely declining the first year of the EPL, but we did play them the season before at Selhurst Park, which turned out to be the lowest crowd ever in the top flight. Not really surprising as both sets of fans had to travel to Croydon. Sadly the record was beaten a year later in the sixth out of fourteen meetings between Everton and Wimbledon that season. Of course, if the amount of people who actually claimed to have been at that game had turned up on the night, the game would have been a sellout…

Around that time Luton were getting over a five year period that involved them seemingly hell bent on pissing everyone in football right off. They angered opposition fans by banning them, the players by laying a plastic pitch, and their own fans by turning a stand into a pitch-length row of private boxes (and a giant washing machine). I have now mentioned all three contractually obliged subjects you must include when writing about Luton Town FC.

Now I can move onto a subject I had originally intended the article to be about (and to some extent I’m playing devils advocate here…). That is ‘Luton Town Will Walk This Division. Discuss’. Now to be honest, there are a number of other big clubs in this division. Oxford have been pissing around for years now, but supported by their huge, almost Wimbledonesque attendances (well you have to remember we have been constrained by the size of our ground…), and having hired what looks like the right man for the job, in my opinion it’s theirs to lose.

Having said that, when they do eventually finish their traditional awful start to the season Luton, and perhaps half a dozen clubs will be so far ahead Oxford can probably look forward to 7th place again (and now I’ve tipped them they have no chance…). What about Cambridge? Don’t make me laugh; they can’t even keep hold of the right manager for much longer than a week, although at one point last Sunday they had three of them…

Wrexham? They’re good for the playoffs I suppose, as are Stevenage who are probably well due a season where they run out of elaborate plans to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Let’s not forget, we also have a title winning squad down at Kingsmeadow this season (sadly they probably won’t be the title winning team until 2013…).

I do think the Luton hype has gone a bit OTT though. No club has successfully returned to the League since… well, since ever? Colchester had a couple of years here, and I think Lincoln did too. Did Darlington bounce straight back? I can’t remember. And if I did remember it would ruin my point entirely, so I’ll quickly change the subject.

The other point I want to make is… if Luton hadn’t lost thirty points last season, where would they have finished? 16th, if for fairness sake we remove Bournemouth’s 17 point deduction too. Now I know Luton have strengthened over the summer, but I felt last season that there is a lot of deadwood at the bottom of League 2, clubs like Accrington, Macclesfield and Barnet, that only survive thanks to the unnatural 2-up, 2-down system between the Conference and L2.

Those clubs would have had real difficulty staying up had 4-up, 4-down been in place. Can you imagine how much stronger L2 would be if clubs could find their level a little easier? Surely it would be a stronger division if the likes of Cambridge and (lets just say by winning the playoffs) Oxford had gone up as well? Plus how many teams are promoted from League 2? And how many relegated from the Conference? Exactly… Although the Conference will lose a bit of its mysticism with eight new clubs entering each year, and the barrier between League and Non-League will be more blurred than ever before.

But back to Luton. I’ve been looking for reasons to dislike them for weeks now until the fixtures were released, it’s far more important to whip ourselves into a frenzy this year as we start the season at home. No five hour coach trips this time round – we have the luxury of getting up normal time, practicing our usual matchday routines, and standing in our regular positions. The temptation to sit back and soak it all up will be tempting, but as with the Wycombe game (in fact more so – Luton have the entire KRE) we will need to be at our noisiest… and I’ll write more about this in a separate article in the next day or so. Back to why we should dislike Luton… 

Firstly I thought, why not drag all that racism stuff up when (lets get the wording right here) some people in Luton polo shirts turned up at a right wing march in the town. Of course, that’s far too passé for someone like myself to bring up now, and without trying to sound like a Nazi sympathizer what about the thousands of Luton fans who didn’t turn up on that march? Eh? Plus I can absolutely guarantee that if the same march took place in, say Mansfield, more than half the clubs regular support would turn up. Don’t worry about that offending the Mansfield fans – they probably take it as a complement…

It’s actually really difficult to come up with reasons to dislike Luton, they’re just too nice (the club I mean – for a reason to dislike the town search ‘Luton’ on the Urban Dictionary…). I don’t know what it is; perhaps it’s their perennial underdog tag, which is what first attracted me to support my local team, which gives me such a soft spot for them. Even their attempts to get hold of tickets in the Wimbledon areas of the ground for Saturdays game just makes you think ‘Aww, bless. They only wanna go and watch their team…’. And… They have Mick Harford as their boss.

Actually we should have some self righteous indignation about the Luton fans efforts to infiltrate the John Smiths. After all, I’m sure we all know someone who wants a ticket for the game but hasn’t been able to get one (although in my case it’s my wife, and she doesn’t deserve a ticket above another Dons fan!). There’s bound to be a couple who squirm past undetected, so keep your eyes open people… perhaps the club could organize a waiting list for the last dozen who applied to wait for the inevitable, and take the tickets of those Luton fans (or very, very unfortunate neutrals) as they are hooked.

Before anyone says it, yes I do feel there was some hypocrisy in the paragraph above. But to clarify – Wallingford, Bromley, Staines Town, Hampton and all those I forgot had no chance of selling their own generous allocation. On Saturday, anyone who considers themselves a Dons fan is going to want to be there, and I hope all of you who deserve tickets the most will get them.

If any Luton fans are in the John Smith, just keep schtum, watch the game, and you’ll be ok. Any noise or bravado will see you go by a largely self-policing Dons fan base – the best case scenario will be you get turfed out…

While there are plenty of spurious reasons to dislike Luton, perhaps the best one is the very same reason Luton fans will be disliked at most Conference grounds this season – downright jealousy! Yes I know we are above all that, but think about it… they are still miles ahead of us as a club despite their recent problems and our dramatic rise in recent years. Plus after this season we probably won’t get a chance to play them for a good few years yet. Let it take you, Wombles! In the words of Alex Ferguson – ‘Let’s knock them off their fucking perch!’. Or in the words of the Anonymous Don – ‘Let’s knock these Billy Big Bollocks bastards down a peg or two…

Oh yeah. Good luck to Luton for the season. With the exception of our two games against you of course.

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