Saturday, 21 April 2012

Luton Town 1 v Kidderminster Harriers 0 - BSBP

Saturday 21st April 2012, at Kenilworth Road
Blue Square Bet Premier
Luton Town (0) 1
Robbie Willmott 67
Kidderminster Harriers (0) 0
Admission £18 Programme £3
Attendance 8,415 (751 away fans)
Luton Town:
Mark Tyler, Keith Keane, George Pilkington (C), Alex Lawless, Robbie Willmott (Shane Blackett 85mins), Stuart Fleetwood (Craig McAllister 83mins), Jake Howells, Curtis Osano, Andre Gray, Adam Watkins (Godfrey Poku 79mins),
Unused Subs - Dan Gleeson, Greg Taylor.
Kidderminster Harriers:
Tony Breeden, Lee Vaughan, Mike Williams (C), Luke Jones, Tom Marshall, Dave Hankin (Steve Guinan 88mins), James Vincent, Nick Wright (Ryan Rowe 64mins), Kyle Storer (Daniel Bradley 81mins), Anthony Malbon, Marvin Johnson
Unused Subs - Dane Lyness, Mickey Demetriou.
I've spent so much time in Bedfordshire over these last 7 months, Luton Town almost qualify as my 'other' local side.
What a horrible thought!
My son was going back to University this weekend, following a long Easter break. He's based in Luton for the 3 year duration of his degree (he'd probably have got less for murder), so I offered to give him a lift back, which gave me the opportunity to watch a game in the area.
With Mansfield Town (and Wrexham) already having cemented their place in the BSBP play offs, I decided to check out two of the other contenders.
Hence I wasn't at Bedford Town, Dunstable AFC or St. Neots Town today instead.
A phenomenal 8,415 people packed in to Kenilworth Road this afternoon ... for a game of non league football! So it wasn't just me who was intrigued to see which of these teams would finish the day victorious.
Remember, a win for the visitors would all of but condemned Luton to another season in the Blue Square Bet Alliance Conference Premier League thing.
My hair is just like that if I don't keep top side of it

This was a massive result for the Hatters, who can now clinch the last play off spot and push Kidderminster out of the equation altogether, if they win their game in hand at Gateshead on Tuesday night.
Of course, Luton could also draw both of their remaining two away fixtures, including the final scheduled game of the season at Fleetwood next Saturday, to make things really interesting for the Harriers, who would then have to beat Mansfield Town by a margin of 13 goals in a weeks time.
York City's win at Braintree Town means they've qualified for the end of season lottery and now the last play off berth will belong to one or the other of today's two sides.
Of course, going into the play offs, Mansfield Town are the form team (I was bound to mention that, eh!?), but Luton are resurgent under new manager Paul Buckle and look like serious contenders too.
Wrexham are wobbling a bit, but they're six points clear in second place and are probably still the bookie's favourites.
York City, will be enjoying the fact that nobody seems to be talking up their chances. And without the burden of pressure that expectation brings, they could surprise a few people.
However, it's still all to play for and who's to say Kidderminster won't sneak back into the mix in a photo finish?
Football, it's a tapestry of ifs and buts at the moment ... and what a fecking brilliant game it really is for all of that hullabaloo!
When you look at the strength in depth of the BSBP these days and consider the calibre of clubs teetering on the brink of dropping out of the npower League 2 (Division 4), then just maybe the 'Conference' ain't such a bad place to be and as the top of the non league game goes from strength to strength, the Football League isn't actually the Holy Grail it's cracked up to be.
Yes, that's me throwing down my marker, just in case ;-)
BTW, who am I kidding!? "We gotta get out of this place, if it's the last thing we ever do!"
Both sets of supporters cranked up the volume this afternoon and the sun shone brightly as the teams took to the field in this make or break game.
Every time Luton tried to push forward during the first half, the visitors packed out the midfield and stifled the home side's rhythm through the centre of the park, but the Hatters were far more effective when they added some width to their game, with both full backs joining in the attack, offering extra options on the overlap.
It was fairly cagey and nip and tuck for long spells, but it was obvious that Paul Buckle's team would find a breakthrough eventually and the home crowd stayed patient and got behind them.
It looked as though 'Kiddy' might go down to ten men, when Kyle Storer jumped to his feet gave Stuart Fleetwood a shove that sent him crashing to the floor after the Luton number 13 had caught him with a late challenge, but the referee only produced a yellow card.
Both teams had opportunities to break the deadlock, but the game was still goalless at half time and it was fairly obvious that there wasn't going to be much in it, despite the enthusiastic OAP sat behind me declaring, "If we get an early one in the second half, we'll get ten!"
The nearest either side had come to scoring in the first half, was when Janos Kovacs's header from a Robbie Willmott corner was cleared off the line by Harriers right back Lee Vaughan, around the half hour mark.
Despite the majority of forward play coming from patient build ups and passes through the channels in a bid to unlock two determined defences, when the only goal of the game did eventually arrive it was from a move as direct as they come.
Well, not quite as direct as Alan Marriott last night, but you get my drift.
Luton's keeper Mark Tyler came charging of of his box to clear the ball deep into the Harriers half, but he got into a bit of a mix up with his captain George Pilkington and had to whack the ball forward at the second attempt instead.
Fortunately, for Luton anyway, Robbie Willmott had already sprinted off down the pitch in anticipation of the first attempted clearance. He managed to keep the ball in on the line, turned, saw off two challenges and fired home past Tony Breedon from an angle.
The noise from the Luton fans sat around me, a combination of joyous celebration and relief, was deafening.
Good technique, but you're no Alan Marriott!

The home side were in the ascendency now and should have added to their lead when Alex Lawless had a great chance to score from the edge of the box, but he fired over.
Kidderminster too, sensing what fate was on the cards for them if they didn't get a goal back, stepped up their game too.
It had become a really absorbing contest now.
George Pilkington, except for the one shaky moment that inadvertently led to the goal, was a tower of strength at the back for Luton, I don't recall seeing him miss a header or mistime a tackle all afternoon.
Alex Lawless fires over the Harriers crossbar

Right at the death, with their 751 fans urging them on, 'Kiddy' nearly equalised, in the final minute, Luke Jones came agonisingly close when he headed against the post and then Steve Guinan looked to have put the ball home from the rebound, but Jake Howells managed to clear it off the line.
In the grand scheme of things, if Luton Town do make it into the play offs now, Howells' interception will have been just as important as Robbie Willmott's goal.
When the final whistle sounded, I left the locals to their celebrations and headed off through town to enjoy a visit to the London Hatter, a fine establishment that I use so often nowadays, I'll soon have my own table.
Thankfully, by the time I hit the northbound A6/A421/A1 route, most sensible people had already gone home, so it didn't take anything like the time that Google maps suggest it should to get back to my humble abode .
With the clock ticking down towards full time, Tango man hides
behind some stewards, waiting to ambush Jake Howells
No, it isn't me!
Next up:
The destination of my next game will be dictated by the April showers/monsoon season* climate.
I foresee many waterlogged pitches ruining the best laid plans of mice and men (and bloggerists) over this coming week.