Our first game of 2017 and we welcomed the league leaders on a dull grey morning, with a heavy pitch at Crawley Road.
It was a fairly even start, with both teams seeing plenty of the ball. The home side however looked the more threatening, playing with speed and purpose on the counter attack. Ibu showing great touches to link play, Sam playing in advanced midfield role, releasing the pace on the flanks, with both Ajiri and Oliver enjoying success down the flanks. Brandon operating at the base of midfield was dictating play, breaking play up and allowing the home side to counter quickly. The deadlock was broken after around 15 minutes, a corner was swung in from the right by Sam, a half clearance landed at Ajiri’s feet and he smashed home 1-0.
The goal gave the home side a spring in their step, and they took the game by the scruff of the neck in search of a second, they showed lots of threat but couldn’t quite carve out a clear opportunity. Luton were always in the game, but were coming up against a resolute Whirlwinds defence. The end of the half provided the most goalmouth action, Jake on a sub, provided real energy down the right, was set free with a clever through ball by Sam, he raced clear of the defence, bearing down on goal, he opted for precision rather than power, his well placed shot to the bottom right hand corner, just didn’t quite have enough power to beat the ‘keeper who pulled off a smart save. Luton broke forward, and for the first time in the half, isolated the home defence, a home defender was beaten too easily on the right and a lovely curling cross swept in to the box, it was watched all the way on to his left foot by the Luton attacker and he showed super technique to use the pace of the cross to direct the ball in to corner of the net 1-1.
It was a bit of a sucker punch, as the home team had been the more progressive side and deserved to be at least a goal in front. None the less half time team talk, was very positive, we had executed the game plan well and just needed to keep playing the same way.
The early stages of the second half were all Luton, the home team had lost their shape and balance in midfield, which was allowing Luton to dominate the centre of the pitch where they are particularly strong. They had a couple of long shots, which were really just catching practice for Nathan. The home side just couldn’t get going, sloppy passes, insecure touches, they were their own worst enemy. Fortunately mainly down to a resolute home rearguard Luton were unable to punish what was a shaky second half display from the home side. With ten minutes to go and the introduction of some substitutes the home side found their shape in midfield, and as a result wrestled control of the game from Luton who had been entirely dominant for the last 25 minutes. It was the Whirlwinds who finished much the stronger, Billy going close from a corner, but his goal bound shot deflected of Ibu. Oliver flashed a cross across goal, and it just evaded two attackers flying in at the back post.
Summary: It was as good a first half as we have played this season, with lots of attacking flair and creativity, we just lost our team shape and pattern of play, at the beginning of second half, which handed the initiative to our opponents. However we recovered and finished the game the stronger and just couldn’t quite nick the winning goal. All in all it was a pleasing performance, a good start to 2017 after some insipid displays at the end of 2016.
M.O.T.M: Some good performances today, Archie was strong at the back, Sam full of creativity, Ibu was impressive particularly in the first half. This weeks award goes to Brandon, who looked back to his very best, playing much more simply he completely controlled the game in the first half.