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Hat’s magic

Blimey, that was a bit of a turn up for the books after last week’s gloom.

There was something quite gratifying about beating Luton, especially on their big day back in the Football League at home. Getting termed “party poopers”,  with a a Wimbledon-esque goal brought us back to the days when we faced the likes of Steve Foster and the Stein family.

Secret Agent was there, and his words are below the line…

So, after leaking five in the first couple of games it may have been a surprise, albeit a pleasant one, that the game ended Hatters 0 Top Hat 1. A seemingly tricky game against a side on the up in their first home League game for five years and a few months.

We started brightly enough but after five minutes it was pretty much one way traffic towards our goal. The back line held firm and frustrated the Luton team at almost every turn, with many hoofed clearances and the occasional dribble away from Sean Rigg.

Just as it looked like we might hold on until halftime, a long kick from Shea, a flick on from Bayo and there was Tubbs, making a diagonal run across the defender to pick up the ball and smash it into the far side of the goal across Tyler’s attempt to save.

Cue an increase in noise from the travelling faithful – not that we had been dumb prior to the goal.

Second half was more open and we fashioned a few openings that had Tyler making a save or two. Still, we looked fairly comfortable at the back despite their pressure, but they couldn’t provide the final pass or cross and when they did, their shooting was a bit like ours in the pre-game warm up!

And so, to…

Plus Points: a win, away, three points with only 35% possession. Clean sheet, defending. Bayo, Rigg, Benno and Barratt

Minus points: Harry Pell. Came on a a sub, got booked, looked well off the pace.

Them: in person, a good bunch and clearly pleased to be back amongst the 91. Not too vocal though and seemed to sing more after the game.

Three’s a crowd: over 9,000 there, but only 690 away fans. Maybe some are still on holiday, maybe the fact that even the shortest of folk struggle to sit in the seats as they are so close together? Maybe because it was all-ticket and yet they were taking cash on the gate?

The referee’s a… only really noticed him when he kept refusing to give them a penalty for handball in the first half.

Point to ponder: it’s still clear that we are getting to know how we play together, the process known as “gelling”. It was clear that Bayo and Tubbs are getting there. During pre-season, Bayo was knocking the ball down/on to Tubbs who was moving in the opposite direction more often than not. Yesterday, Bayo couldn’t have done it better (nor could Tubbs really).

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) The irresistible force meets the immovable object. Bayo Akinfenwa against Steve McNulty, the fat bloke who played in that playoff game at KM which allowed us to make the final against – Luton! Seriously, this was a clash of two big men and Bayo won the battle hands down. 2) EasyJet sponsoring the chants around the edges of the pitch. As if the fans don’t know the words. Strange.

So was it worth it?  Seriously?

In a nutshell: bring on the Sarfend!

For those who want to see the goal in all its glory, here it is. Majestic, eh? And such was its traditional approach, Luton might as well have been playing in white with “Bedford” on it.

I’m not sure if it was so much smash-and-grab or more like what we’ve had done to us so many times in the FL. “Controlling the game” but having zero points to show for it.

Initial impressions are good though, and perhaps the most important thing from Saturday was how we responded to the post-Tuesday grief-fest. The mood could have been a lot, lot different this Monday morning had we lost.

But I suppose the players themselves knew they did themselves no justice six days ago, and were keen to make amends quickly.

It sounds like Shea finally started growing into the goalkeeping role, and if Luton fans moaning is anything to go by, he’s already perfected the art of gamesmanship 😉

But it sounds as though the bulk of players had a good game. I say “bulk” because there’s still some question marks over Azeez, and as SA said – Pell seems to be getting worse from pre-season.

The trouble is, he needs games but when he does play he sounds ever more a liability. Perhaps we might see the first loan out of the club when that particular window opens?

A change of scenery, perhaps at Barnet or Aldershot, may do him good, and us as well. Not to throw him on the scrapheap when he goes on loan, which tends to happen when we do that, but get him right in the head again.

Or if we’re going old skool this weekend – we’ve had the old skool fixture with the type of goal to match – then one has to hark back to Paul Miller going on loan then returning to score past Peter “Malvinas” Shilton*.

* – with another old skool reference to Yidaho as a bonus.

A few other things. The away turnout seemed disappointing, but Luton have reduced their away allocation anyway. Even so, the club seemed to carry on their total lockdown of the Franchise game beyond last Tuesday.

I assume people finally got their tickets through the post, although not advertising a cash turnstile before the day might have put some waverers off. That all said, there were still plenty of us, and apparently we gave it the full song sheet.

Guess it wasn’t just the players who needed a post-Franchise cleansing.

Anyway, it’s Roots Hall tomorrow, and we can go there with a fair bit of confidence. Whether we will need to indulge in a bit of squad rotation, especially up front, remains to be seen.

But I would like to see us keep AA and Tubbs together for as long as possible this next two games. If we’re 3-0 up and about 20/30 minutes to go, then by all means change it.

But this is still August, not March (even if the weather right now is saying October), and after Hartlepool they’ll have the weeks rest. I would like to think by the time we play Jeff Stelling’s lot, we can remain unbeaten.

Which wouldn’t be a bad return for the first four games of the campaign. Even if we do lose 4-0 tomorrow, we’ve already proved that we can dust ourselves down – something I don’t think was entirely evident last season.

That might be the major difference now, at least we hope that this isn’t just the usual early season optimism that fizzles out by November.

So all at the moment seems OK. Work to do, things to improve on, that kind of thing, but a win like Luton proves we have a bit of mental strength for now. Let’s keep it up.

Oh, and if you still can’t get enough of Phil Brown’s tan, we’re playing them in the JPT at KM. At last, home fans can now get to see us crash out of a cup competition with a whimper at the earliest possible stage…