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ProudHattersince74 last won the day on March 23

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  1. One other thing about the second half that confirms to me where we are going wrong: we looked so much more dangerous when Cuthbert went up front. His physical presence meant we had TWO targets and we started to find them quite regularly and it resulted in US, yes Luton Town, picking up seconds as the Colchester defence wasn't given such an easy time to clear their lines. I am not advocating for one moment that Cuthbert should be converted to a centre forward for the rest of the season! I am merely indicating the fact that the extra height and ability to compete with man-mountain CBs was noticeable. Carlisle have hardly scored since they sold their big CF to Bradford and we looked impotent without Hylton ... losing such a physical presence up front hurts when the players in question are as important as those two are to their respective clubs. This is League 2 FFS and we know that most teams here have to play a simple game with big fellas at both ends and fighters in midfield. Thinking back, those teams promoted to L1 since we rejoined the FL have all had physicality (especially in defence), good mobility but, most importantly, strong midfields that were also pacy. Admittedly, the one possible exception to this is Doncaster who are possibly a wee bit shorter than us but better organised in the middle of the park.
  2. Wimbo compares the first half to Bristol Rovers last season - I would compare it more to our visits to Braintree when we were in the Conference ... maybe it's something in the Essex air that we are allergic to! The first half has to be one of the most unacceptable, spineless, inept, gutless displays by a Luton Town fist team that I've had the misfortune to witness. I've all too often felt this season that we haven't been too far away from that type of performance and have been secretly dreading us getting a real tonking in a televised PO game - fortunately or unfortunately that fear is receding faster and further by the game as we begin to look no better than mid-table (again!) Personally, I apportion the blame for the poor results between the manager and the players. NJ cops his share for persisting with a diamond formation that he has almost single-handedly proven beyond all reasonable doubt that it doesn't sodding well work at this level and, even if it did, that it doesn't work with our particular squad no matter which combination is tried. That noted, I also believe the players must share the blame for their (collective) lack of effort when the manager, owners and fans expected them to look at the league table and push themselves that much further in the run-in. Instead they have shrunk back into a shell and, with the possible exceptions of Hylton, Vassell, Pelly and Gambin, the ball and any responsibilities are passed on as soon as is physically possible so that it becomes someone else's problem. Annoyingly, some of our players identified potential/imminent dangers vs Colchester and even pointed at them ... but then expected a team-mate to sort them out rather than doing anything about them themselves! One gripe I do have with Macey and his GK coaches - Luke Wilkinson scored from the first cross into our box vs Stevenage; Porter scored from the first cross into our box by Colchester. Both crosses were accurately delivered and both came from the flank where the blinding sun was in the Macey's eyes ... but can someone answer why the hell Macey wasn't given a cap* immediately after Wilko's goal? Two or three minutes later he faced another Stevenage corner from our right and had to shield the sun with his right hand. Roll forward two weeks and four games and the act was repeated for the entire first half. Utterly ridiculous and utterly avoidable. The fact that Luton fans got a small ballboy to take a one of their own caps to the goal showed that many people watching were a lot more switched on to Macey's problem than were playing and/or coaching ... not that the loaned cap was ever used! * a sun-visor type, not an international cap in case you could see justification for the latter.
  3. NJ made a point at Meet the Manager of including Banton's name in a list of young players who could be at Luton for a long time - the others mentioned (who could be considered to be on the periphery) included Senior, Justin, Famewo and Musonda ... plus others who are still relatively young but already more established in the first team. I, too, watched Banton in the WBA game and thought he deserved consideration for the first team squad, even if it was bench-warming. Only for Banton not to even be selected for the next Checkatrade game. I've liked what I've seen of Banton but something happened just before the Northampton game last season when he was dropped from the squad - it seems to have excluded him from NJ's thoughts ever since. Good luck to the lad for when he eventually reaches Dagenham & Redbridge.
  4. Well that's that sorted, then.
  5. Wimbo, Fully feel where you are coming from with your comments and appreciate that you also have the added issue of much greater travel to home games than most. My biggest disappointment and annoyance is how long is takes for NJ, as a rookie manager, to see, appreciate and address what appear to be fairly clear issues with either the system (mainly), personnel or both. Yes, NJ as a manager is a work in progress but my heart sometimes falls when I hear the teams being read out as he persists with players who have continually under-performed, under-achieved and let him, the team and the fans down. If nothing else, the January window should have addressed some of the patent weaknesses in the squad that the previous four months had highlighted - non-combative midfield, poor movement both with and without the ball, relatively short centre halves (compared to virtually every other team in the league) leading to set piece concessions. Gambin was a decent bit of business in the January window IMO and his movement, pace and willingness to get stuck in was great to see intially ... only for him to be given the bench treatment for a rest. Why? Especially when you cannot predict just how invisible Cook will be from one game to the next! Yes, he scored at Doncaster but if you analyse the rest of his performance that day then he simply didn't contribute much at all against a team with a very strong midfield, possibly the strongest in the division. Sadly, that wasn't an isolated game and we cannot afford passengers in this league. If NJ was as ruthless as he comes over in some interviews then we should have seen the last of a couple of players who still find themselves ahead of alternatives. I couldn't give a flying duck if they train well during the week, it's what they do in competitive matches and, in too many cases, it is clear that they are no match for less technically gifted players who have been motivated and prepared for games by more experienced managers. NJ will get there, of that I have little doubt as he is a determined bugger, himself, if nothing else, but I would love him to take his blinkers off with regard to the diamond formation as it leaves us either vulnerable down the flanks (when we're too narrow) or allows acres of space through the middle (when we try to play if wider). It seems to be a lose-lose situation with this system at this level as it leads to enormous pressure on the defence and GK. Clean sheets have been so few and far between that we need to score twice to win ... and we wonder why there have been so many 1-1 draws!
  6. Sorry Liz, but this thing about needing time to gell is something of an urban myth to me. This article it shows that Doncaster, Plymouth, Portsmouth and nearly all of those other PO contenders recruited more players last summer than we did. Those teams currently in the automatic promotion places may not have made the very best of starts to the season but it didn't take them too long to start to string some performances and results together whilst we stuttered and spluttered until, well, now! Our best 'steak' being a mere two successive league wins confirms that. Is it because the other managers and their respective coaches are more experienced and know how to get the best out of their players? Is it that they know the best formation(s) for this particular league? Is it because the players are better motivated? I spoke to a yellow belly fan the other day who, through his employers sponsoring games at KR, has seen us four times this season and he joyously said he cannot believe how little effort our midfield players "want it" (his quote) - I couldn't really disagree with that. The most disappointing thing about the motivation aspect is that just when we needed the most effort from the players to push for an automatic promotion place, it seems that many of them have appeared to be far less determined than the opposition at the very start of the matches. The Stevenage game being the prime example where they were far more determined to win tackles, aerial battles, track back and play for each other ... yet, bizarrely, we could and should have scored at least one goal from the number of decent chances created despite, generally, losing midfield. The speed of their start caught us cold and that shouldn't happen when we are at home and where the stakes were so high. Am I expecting too much? Maybe, but why shouldn't I hope our professional players (who, we are told, have been recruited with a view to playing in L1) are as good, as motivated, as fit and as organised as those from other 4th tier clubs with genuine aspirations of climbing the FL ladder? COYHFFS!
  7. JS did a radio interview where he said he hadn't a clue what the answer was to putting a brake on a long-running series of defeats ... strangely enough it would have been at about this time of the season as well. NJ's post-match interview from last night reminded me so much of that and I must confess that it greatly concerns me if he so mystified about how to change things around. Please consider that your preferred diamond formation neither suits this division nor this squad. TBH, I doubt any of the current squad will have been brought up using that system. Given the consistently poor performances of some players, please consider alternatives. Players who have let NJ down in the past are still being rolled out rather than being sidelined. Knowing that their performances in training could get them onto the teamsheet, maybe they're too knackered from training to be effective in a real match. As for alternative midfielders, the argument I have read about why D'Ath isn't playing relates to his fitness - if that truly is the case, why did he start at Crewe only 2-3 weeks after signing but has never being in contention for a starting berth since then? Bizarre. Seeing that every other avenue seems to have been explored regarding our inefficient/invisible midfield, why has Zane Banton never been given a chance? Even if the experiment failed, would that really be much worse than some of the no-shows by Cook and Lee? Mobility - why do all other teams have greater mobility in general but in breakaway attacks in particular? NJ professes that we press the opposition high and fast - sorry, Nathan, but that doesn't wash with me! We may have one or two players who go through the motions of chasing the ball in the opposition half but our midfield is utterly woeful at applying pressure at the right points and the right time - IMO, this is, again, down to their starting positions in the bloody diamond and it leaves them with too much ground to cover to pressurise the ball properly. The claim that our squad will be in a better position (fitness-wise) at the business end of the season sounds very much along the same claim by JS that his teams all start slowly and that training was tailored to ensure a fitness frenzy from March onwards ... sound familiar? I mentioned elsewhere that NJ stated at Meet the Manager they deliberately recruited smaller (height-wise) squad because of the way he wanted to play. How that decision has come back to bite him in the gluteus maximus! Not able to defend opposition's set pieces and not able to score from our own set pieces. Coaching academy/development players vs FL players: there cannot be a comparison and the fact that Andy Awford didn't want the main gig at Pompey or KR shows there are two different approaches to coaching. As a scout told me, NJ came from a development background and, I believe, Paul Hart's association with NJ was forged at Charlton's academy. Given this is NJ's first full season, advice from more experienced heads should be a massive help but if Hart's last experiences have only similarly covered youngsters/development players then is he really in a position to give as much assistance as it now seems NJ may need? The one thing I do find very strange (and disappointing) about this season is that the team's performances at the end of last season were a lot more gutsy and yet the squad he had to work with included JS players that have since been shown the door. Begs the question whether some of this season's signings are actually better - if they are better then it possibly means that the way they are deployed is questionable.
  8. That's as maybe, but it takes a lot longer to type that someone is being a bit of a gluteus maximus hole.
  9. At Meet the Manager NJ was at pains to stress that this summer wouldn't see a sea-change in the squad as happened last summer, even if we are plying our trade in L1. Furthermore, he also said that we were a small (height-wise) squad and that was a deliberate/conscious decision because of the types of players he wanted. I, for one, sincerely hope that he re-calibrates his squad requirements now that he has had a full season in which to see the strengths and weaknesses. We may have two CBs progressing from the academy but, despite being technically gifted, neither could really be classified physically as 'monsters' and, if we remain in L2, just having Cuthbert to clear aerial attacks isn't enough, especially if we have a GK who doesn't look overly confident with crosses. But our main shortfall is in midfield where there are too many clones (some may pronounce that "clowns") and not enough variation. Having a shipload of no. 10 players hasn't done us or NJ any favours IMO. The usual request for an experienced general who can lift a team when required can be repeated until the sun burns out but I'm not convinced we will see such a signing ... if such a player actually exists for us at L2 or, hopefully, L1 level. I do wish NJ would trial 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 from the start of a match to see if it is more suitable for players in the 4th tier - I haven't spoken to anyone who really believes the diamond (or narrow diamond) formation works in our favour. With all the best will in the land, if the players aren't mobile enough fit enough, clever enough or motivated enough to play it then why persist? Our home results and performances (in the main) have been little short of shocking with most other teams looking better organised and better equipped to cope with the requirements of L2 - our technically better players cannot show that they are technically better!
  10. Great news as long as it doesn't mean an imminent extension for Juan Toomany Cook! Maybe the longer term security that this contract gives NJ will result in him being a bit/lot more flexible with some of his more 'stubborn' beliefs that haven't really clicked properly this season at this level ... or maybe he will simply continue with them until they eventually work.
  11. I thought you meant that Mick needs a good stuffing.
  12. It's incredibly unlucky (and an incredible shame) that our youth team has mustered just one home tie in cup matches over the last two to three seasons. Their one home tie this season was a cracker vs Barnet with spectacular goals - it would have been nice to see more of them.
  13. Got to agree there, Ders, some of them on the park aren't quite men when it comes to making 50-50 challenges against barrel-chested journeymen with Desperate Dan jaw lines. Strange, then, that wee Jack Senior seems to relish those types of challenges for someone who is (supposedly) too small to be chosen over Potts vs Stevenage and (allegedly) jaded.
  14. Bit harsh on Macey there, Mick! Macey is a work in progress and has shown huge improvements since he arrived, although quite what that says about Arsenal's coaching or NJ's judgement (although to be fair he was painted into a dark corner by B&HA's very late recall of Walton) is another matter. Bearing in mind that we know for certain the only other GK we have access to from now until the end of the season is Stuart Moore, I know who I would prefer! Unless they both mysteriously contract synchronised food poisoning , then re-signing Walton is a no-no. Being dumped into important L2 matches from development games must come as something of a shock to Macey's system - yes, it's sink or swim but the level of competitiveness and the importance of results would be relatively new to the lad. Warnock railed Warren Joyce after he was sacked by Wigan last week stating that there is a vast difference between academy football and that in the FL. In fact that topic came up in a conversation I had with a freelance scout before the Exeter game that NJ was in the same position at B&HA as Joyce was at Old Trafford and he made it very clear that it isn't at all easy to make such a transition - older players cannot be re-moulded into something they're not and the pressure of being able to develop and/or nurture one or two youngsters so that they (may) get to first team level in the future is completely different to the need to gain results and points week-in, week-out. Bearing in mind the gulfs in class, physicality, expectation and pressure, Macey is on a hiding to nothing if and when he makes mistakes ... and they will happen. SOD - yup, he did put in a couple of decent crosses but two from umpteen opportunities simply isn't good enough IMO. NJ mentioned about our poor ability to convert crosses into chances in his post-match interview. Even if we haven't got the height to compete for every single cross, if they are that good then there's always a chance of picking up second balls (although this does rely on Cook being alert ... hmmm!) but we never see those chances as the crosses are usually cleared with ease (either hitting the first defender or clearing the penalty area). Compare those to some of the curling, tempting crosses that Exeter slung into our box in the second half and you can see how easy it is for opposition defenders to repel our attacks and quickly break away. Was it the fluorescent shirts that made SOD find their players so frequently with his throw-ins? Mind you, that's when he managed a legal throw-in! Yesterday's comedy gold moment was his foul throw - talk about relieving the pressure on their defence. Cook - Mick thought he was abysmal: if he HAD been abysmal then it would have been a bloody improvement upon his actual 'performance'. It's not as though he or anyone else can claim it was just a bad day at the office - the half decent performances are the oddities. I'm actually staring to feel embarrassed for the guy now as it's patently clear that he won't get heavily involved in any midfield dogfights, has little or no pace and is continually on the periphery of the action - so much so that it seems he makes himself unavailable for 'out' balls from the back or from fellow midfielders. Sorry, but the word "passenger" springs to mind. More irritating still, IMO, is that there is sweet FA chance of him not being selected despite his poor form for the rest of the season. One thing about NJ's comment regarding Exeter making more of their bye-line crosses - they had four, five or six players regularly storming into our penalty area when the crosser was about to play the ball. Our midfield barely reach the opposition penalty area during a breakaway, let alone storm into it, so there is far less chance for the crosser to find one of his own team-mates - possibly why our forwards have become greedier over the last couple of months. Without a midfield to play the ball around/through, our GK and CB's have started hitting long-balls but, unless Palmer starts, it becomes predictable and a meat-and-drink fest for the opposition's CBs. If we do not change this before any PO matches (if, of course, we get there!) then we could be embarrassed as, with the possible exception of Carlisle (who are plumetting out of the PO places anyway), I cannot think of any midfield from the top eight or nine who we would compete with for physicality, pace and fitness ATM. Pelly is the only one who can claim to equal most of the opposition midfielders but, other than him, none of the others 'like a tackle'.
  15. Fully agree about Vassell but must say that Hylton's fire has been partially extinguished for the last three or four outings. One thing I have noticed since we (appear to have) changed tactics and started knocking the ball longer and quicker into the front line is that the forwards (and that includes Marriott when he has come on) have become more selfish than earlier in the season. Whilst it's good to see that they are now firing off a lot more shots at goal (rather than trying to walk it into the net, Arsenalesque!), neither do they interchange passes and that is handicapping their effectiveness. There were a number of times that (mainly) Hylton and Vassell went on runs with the ball at their feet vs Carlisle but had either no intention of passing the ball or the partner didn't or couldn't make themselves available ... hugely frustrating as a couple of them started with the Carlisle defence being stretched. Okay, the defenders managed to send them up blind alleys in SOME instances but there were other occasions where a pass-and-go would have created opportunities (or better opportunities) to test the keeper and/or defence. Most of the time our players were facing the goal for the entire run so it's not as though the defenders had turned their backs to goal. Unfortunately, by trying to beat 3 or 4 defenders the ball was, invariably, lost and danger easily cleared. Coming back to Vassell, he has hardly won a header from the long balls (Macey or Sheehan) in the last few games and has been consistently jumping under the ball. NJ stresses that Justin and Senior need resting to recharge their hunger and energy levels - Vassell looks like he could do with that treatment ATM.