15 August 2013

Back at home

So Tuesday’s out of the way then. I don’t know what you were all so worried about. Easy this. 2 nil every week please, John. The champagne stuff can wait till our head’s back above water. 

Not sure about you, but during the first half of the season-opener at Kenilworth Road the edginess of the faithful seemed to creep onto the pitch at times. Either that or the edginess of the players managed to clamber over the seats of the enclosure and up into my spot in the Main Stand. I lose track of which way round this relationship works.

One thing’s for certain though, just like an agitated wasp and a flapping beer-garden patron, events on the pitch and the mood on the terraces are inextricably linked.

Take for example some of the more directionless and nervy touches that peppered the Bedfordshire turf as half time approached the other night. During that unsettled period the most extraordinary sound began to echo around the famous old ground, a sound that no one really wants to hear at a football match.

It wasn’t the sound of boos or irate abuse that some keep in their locker. No, this sound was much more peculiar. It was the unmistakable sound of 6,000 Lutonians chatting. Chin-wagging away as if the game was of no consequence. A distracted hubbub filled the ground.

The familiarity of the performance seemed to leave the crowd suddenly and unexpectedly at ease. It was as if an awkward silence at a family reunion had been broken by the not-wholly-unexpected but nevertheless disheartening flatulence of an elderly aunt.

Neither are an inspiring noise, but during the beginning of what can be an uneasy reunion of players and fans, the ice had been broken.

The beauty of this fairly uneventful first half of course was that we went in nil-nil at the whistle, an austerity that if repeated often enough this season might prove vital to our eventual renaissance. The sense that a carelessly conceded goal may have led to mass panic, and more than just the pantomime idiocy of a smattering of boos, hung in the air.

The back-four look well-drilled and largely comfortable in the face of Salisbury’s best efforts, even if we seemed to rush to the final third via the Bury Park sky at times. My dedication to enforcing Luton’s tactical heritage remains resolute however, shouting “ON THE DECK” every 4 minutes like a lumbering Guinness infused cuckoo-clock. We’re all in this together, as a chubby-faced man once said, and I’m happy to play my part.

Come the second half and some shrewd switches from Mr Still, the ball began to find the hallowed turf more regularly and with tiring Wiltshire legs the game opened up. And once it did, so too did the lungs of the crowd.

The squad seems packed with options to exploit and create gaps where there are none, especially late on, and the prospect of Andre Gray appearing when you’re gasping for air is one that no defender in this league will relish. Each fresh surge forward was greeted with a returning, if tempered confidence in the stands.

Some love too for the wingers. As a tactical relic and determinedly retrograde football fan, seeing two purposeful wide men attacking full-backs and feeding a pair of strikers makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. And as the nights draw in and the afternoons begin to cool, the more marauding from these two the better.

Up the Town

First published in the Luton Town matchday programme - 17/08/13  

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