Saturday, 25 February 2012

Luton Town 2 v Gateshead 0 - FA Trophy Quarter Final

At 2.45pm I found one of the few seats in the 'ever so slightly'
restricted view main stand you can see both goals from

Saturday 25th February 2012, at Kenilworth Road
FA Trophy, Quarter Final
Luton Town (1) 2
John Paul Kissock 8, Keith Keane 59
Gateshead (0) 0
Admission £10, Programme £2.50, Attendance 2,499
Luton Town:
Tyler, Taylor, Blackett, Pilkington, Asafu-Adjaye, Keane, Lawless, Kissock, Willmott, Howells, Crow
Subs: Fleetwood, O'Connor, Henry, Watkins, Kidd
Deasy, Rent, Gate, Curtis, Clark, Turnbull, Shaw, Odubade, Cummins, Baxter, O'Brien
Subs: Farman, Gillies, Marwood, Magnay, Chandler
John Paul Kissock (grounded) scores Luton's opening goal

There are probably worse places in the world you could be, than circumnavigating the gridlocked traffic around Bury Park Road and Crawley Road at 2.25 on a Saturday afternoon, since they closed down Dunstable Road for vital road improvement works and funnelled every single motor conveyance in Luton down the same narrow 'scenic route', in both directions ... but I doubt it.
Thankfully, my tenuous grasp of what 'no entry' and 'one way traffic only' signs are there for, meant I only had to mount the kerb a few times, cut up several angry, fist shaking locals and throw three 'POLICE - NO PARKING' traffic cones into a nearby skip, to find a 'convenient' spot to leave my car, in the labyrinth like residential estate that Kenilworth Road Stadium sits tightly packed into, in a compact and bijou way.
Of course, the last minute detour and stock car racing episode could've been avoided, if my passengers would've been ready to set off at the time we'd originally arranged, instead of dawdling about and holding me up before we eventually set off.
You know where the railway station is next time ... tw@ts!
Southbound A1 travellers beware; before you reach the turn off towards Bedfordshire, there are severe hold ups caused by the A14 towards Cambridge being closed, with all of its traffic being diverted onto the route you usually use.
Which is why we were meant to be setting off earlier than usual ... but didn't!
Upon reaching the ground, I ventured up into the main stand, through the entrance just round the corner from the away end on Oak Road.
I reached the upstairs seating via a maze of narrow tunnels with 'Please Mind Your Head' signs marking out a succession of low wooden beams.
The rickety old stairways had seen better days.
And the pillars supporting the roof, were plentiful.
I'm all for the roof staying up where it should be, but the view of the pitch is somewhat obscured.
The refreshment kiosk was shut and a steward showed me how to reach one at the far end of the ground. It was akin to having Richard O'Brien say 'follow me this way' on the Crystal Maze, before setting off at speed on a challenging and circuitous hike.
Luton came out of the blocks flying and had Gateshead on the retreat from the outset.
They looked fired up and were obviously taking the competition seriously again this season, having been eliminated at the Semi Final stage by Mansfield Town last season.
After several early attacks, the Hatters inevitably went ahead on eight minutes, when John Paul Kissock netted with a scissor kick.
I think even the most staunch Gateshead supporter in the ground would've had to concede, that today, even though the visitors had a few moments where they took the game to Luton, the home side were more up for it and seemed to want it more.
Previously, I've been impressed when I've seen Gateshead play, but today they looked quite ordinary and were second best by some way.
Micky Cummins got a shot on target from ten yards out, but the Luton keeper Mark Tyler saved well.
After Luton had gone ahead, the game was fairly end to end for a while, but as Gary Brabin's side rose in stature, Gateshead seemed to fade away. Which is a shame, because from my perspective as a neutral, I was hoping for a bit more from them today.
There were other games in the area I could've gone to while I was here due to family commitments, but this one between two of the better sides in the BSBP looked like the best option.
Yemi Odubade out on the right wing, put in a great shift for the visitors this afternoon, but they were just lacking a bit of something in the last third, while Luton were always looking to take the initiative and attack.
Luton's second goal, on 59 minutes, came from a 30 yard direct free kick out on the left flank from Keith Keane.
Though Luton were the better team and deserved the win, it had taken two real quality strikes to undo Gateshead at the back.
Once the home side had doubled their lead, they shut up shop and kept possession while knocking the ball around at will, entertaining their fans, who now had the scent of Wembley in their nostrils ... after all they won't have to overcome the mighty Stags in the semi finals this year.
The Gateshead fans sang "I wanna go home!"
They must've anticipated a more open and attacking display from their team than the one they got today, especially in the second half, where I could count the times they looked almost threatening on my thumbs.
John Paul Kissock came closest to increasing the Hatters lead, when he bustled into the box in a 'Keegan-esque' fashion, only to fire inches wide of the left hand upright.
He left the pitch to well earned generous applause on 80 minutes, making way for Charlie Henry. Gateshead won't have been too disheartened to see the back of him.
In the last minute, Alan O'Brien curled a free kick over the Luton cross bar, the moment kind of encapsulated Gateshead's afternoon.
A group of local youths stood around trying to make it awkward to manoeuvre my car from the parking space it was tightly squeezed into, but they soon scattered when they realised that I was better at playing chicken than them.
I assume they were clarifying this afternoon's scoreline with the two fingered hand gestures I saw them making in my rear view mirror.
Hmm, maybe next time I'm round these parts I'll park elsewhere ;-)

Match footage I found on You Tube
Note - I didn't record, or post this video on You Tube