A cold blustery autumn morning in Luton, against a team we played a few weeks back, gave toothless performance and suffered our biggest mauling for a few seasons.
Back to back league wins had restored confidence in the away team. They started well, comfortable on the ball, playing out from the back, it seemed a bit of a shock to the home side, same faces but a completely different team to the one they swept aside just a few weeks back. Ajiri, Brandon & Billy were coming out on top in midfield, the back four of Nathan, Archie & Jack C looked organised and solid. The opening 10-15 minutes were played largely in midfield, defenders for both sides keeping on top of the attacking threat. 15 minutes on the watch, a free kick was awarded on the left after neat play between Ajiri and Sam, saw the latter clipped as he turned. Sam took it upon himself to take the free kick, a chipped curling delivery forced a mix up between the defender and keeper, with the defenders header clipping the outside of the post. The home team were being restricted to some long range shots, all fired wide of the goal. They did build up some pressure with a series of corners, but the away side dealt with it comfortably, Nathan catching the majority, commanding his box well.
It was a tight first half with defences on top, no real clear cut chances, but with the away team, certainly looking the better side with the ball at their feet.
Half time team talk was really positive, we needed to keep the same work rate in the second half, but add a little more quality in the last 3rd, chances would be few a far between, so we needed to be clinical in front of goal.
Second half got underway and followed much the pattern of the first, the away side looking now a little bit stronger and with bit more space opening up in midfield, Billy at his bruising best dominating the centre ably accompanied by Ajiri and Brandon, they had control and as a result it was the away side who were largely in control of the game. Jack M working his socks off up front, got some reward for his endeavor when putting a defender under pressure he skewed his defensive header, Sam alert as ever, latched on it and clipped past the advancing keeper in to the corner of the net 0-1, on the balance of play a deserved lead.
The away side expected a back lash, but it didn’t appear, instead they continued to control the game, any sign of a come back was quickly snuffed out by the resolute whirlwinds rearguard. It was the away side that were carving out the chances, Jack M took the ball on the half turn and fed a beautiful diagnal ball through the defence, Oakley raced clear of the defence, bearing down on goal he decided to turn in on his stronger foot, and the chance was gone as he was closed off by the a covering defender. Jack M was the next to be fed clear by Sam, clean through he swiped with his right foot and missed the ball and the space was quickly closed down. The next action saw Jack M again in the the thick of the things, fed by Ajiri down the left, he found a half yard of space and clipped a cross in to the box, Sam alert and to the ready, got in front of the defender and his header missed the post by millimeters with the ‘keeper well beaten. It was all the away side, and they could have trebled their lead in their best spell of the game.
The Bulls are too good a side to be pinned down for long periods, they changed tactics and started hit long balls at the away defence, hoping to pick up second balls and force an opportunity, it had limited success, but from being dominant in the game the away side were now being pegged back. Then came a moment of magic, a home attacker picked the ball up on the right, drifted past three whirlwinds defenders and a hit a sweet shot from the edge of the box, just in side the left hand post, it was sublime goal 1-1.
The home side tails were lifted and they started to apply pressure, long ball after long ball was chucked at the home defence, and from being comfortable all of sudden the looked panicked and under pressure. A curling ball from the left evaded all of the whirlwinds defence, three Bulls attackers were left free at the back post, the ball was collected by one, with the goal at his mercy, his first touch got stuck under his feet, as he dug it out and went for the shot….. Archie appeared from nowhere with a sliding block tackle, it was as good a piece of defending you will see. It seemed to raise the home defence, and they started to resist the pressure, slowing the game down and eventually settling for a good away point.
Summary: We spoke prior to the game about being competitive, defending aggressively and then letting our better quality football come to the fore. We did all of this and then some. It was a great away performance, against I think the strongest team we will face in the league, we showed composure when we needed it, and aggression when we needed it. Possibly we could have converted one of our chances when we were on top in the game, and we had 5 minutes of panic after they scored, but somehow found a way to battle through.
M.O.T.M: Very difficult decision, as all played really well, the midfield trio of Ajiri, Brandon and the pick of the bunch Billy were superb, Sam & Jack M worked hard and were creative in attack, but the back four were commanding and in the most controlled, the stand out performer was Archie who had his best game in claret & blue colours, and was this weeks star performer.