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MATCH REPORT

PUBLISHED
17:08 2th January 2011

HATTERS 3-0 RUSHDEN - REPORT & ANALYSIS

The Town returned to action with a bang to secure their sixth win in seven matches in the Blue Square Bet Premier with a fine New Year's Day victory over Rushden & Diamonds. It was a brace in a seven-minute spell either side of the break from Matthew Barnes-Homer that put them in the driving seat to take his tally to the season to 13. Claude Gnakpa, who had early seen a superb effort in the first half chalked off for a marginal offside decision, completed the scoring with his fifth goal of the campaign 15 minutes from time to ensure the Hatters began 2011 with three points to keep the pressure on Crawley and AFC Wimbledon ahead of them in the table. For the Town it was their first league fixture since a blizzard put pay to their meeting with York on 18th December and you had to go back a total of 42 days for their previous outing with three points at stake when Histon were thumped 5-1 at Kenilworth Road. Richard Money's men had of course had four fixtures in two competitions more recently with the FA Trophy first round replay at Welling United on 14th December their last competitive game. Justin Edinburgh's side, however, had not played at all since a 1-1 draw in the same competition against Eastwood Town on 11th December. Sadly, three days later, tragedy rocked the Nene Park club when they revealed their England C international goalkeeper Dale Roberts had died. With fixtures called off in between - including the proposed Boxing Day clash between the two sides - it meant the New Year's Day fixture was the poignant first match for the Diamonds since Roberts' death and a well-respected minute's silence was held in his honour prior to kick-off. It was also 60 seconds for the Hatters to remember former captain Terry Branston who also passed away during December. Showing one change from the abandoned snow-bound York game, with Dan Gleeson returning at right-back, it was the Town who were the quickest out of the blocks with Amari Morgan-Smith - still sporting a protective cheek mask to protect a compressed cheek - Danny Crow and Matthew Barnes-Homer keen to make an early impression. However the visitors weathered the Hatters' sprightly opening and on eight minutes a neat move down the left-flank eventually saw the ball worked to midfielder Alan Power who's rasping attempt from 25 yards was pawed away by Mark Tyler, diving away to his right. With that early warning back came the Town and two minutes later Crow spurned a great chance with time and space on his side when put one-on-one with Joe Day in the visitors goal by Morgan-Smith's defence-splitting pass. The striker only shooting straight at the goalkeeper. All of a sudden the Hatters sensed the Diamonds were there for the taking and a minute later Andy Drury - employed in the centre of midfield once more - picked the ball up on the half-way line, waltzed past three Rushden men and poked the ball square to Gnakpa. If ever there was a competition for best disallowed goal this was it as the Frenchman, on the extreme left of the penalty area, looked up and bent a first time shot in the top right hand corner of the net. Amid scenes of wild celebrations the home faithful were quick to spot the offside flag of the linesman and the super strike was chalked off. The Town were well and top and looking full of confidence, exemplified when Barnes-Homer robbed marker Shane Huke, playing the ball through the defender's legs before seeing a low shot saved by Day at his near post on 16 minutes. Rushden were having their fair share of the ball but Tyler had largely remained untroubled but the visitors almost shot themselves in the foot on 27 minutes when they gifted the ball to Morgan-Smith down the right. His cross was poor but only half-cleared - falling straight to Gnakpa. With Crow and Barnes-Homer screaming for a square pass the winger decided to go for glory and only succeeded in finding the seats in the Oak Road end. Huke did better against Barnes-Homer on 41 minutes when the right-back's crucial toe-poke intervention denied the striker a run at goal but three minutes later the former Kidderminster man was not to be denied as the Town took the lead. An expert touch and pass from Crow with his back to goal instantly fed Gnakpa down the right. Up against his marker down in the far corner he still found space to deliver an inch-perfect cross onto the head of Barnes-Homer who looped an effort past the motionless Day. Leading at the interval the Town looked good value and they and Barnes-Homer should have been celebrating a second just four minutes after the restart when the striker ballooned a shot high in the Kenilworth Road end when put clear. However, as all strikers invariably do, they spurn the easy chances and take the tougher ones and Barnes-Homer was not to be denied his second and double the Town's tally for the afternoon on 51 minutes. Drury was the architect, bringing the ball down and spraying an accurate ball forward into the path of the front man. He took a touch to beat one defender and a second to beat another before swivelling to hammer a low left-foot shot past Day. Relief all round. With the Hatters 2-0 to the good Rushden should have immediately reduced arrears but Aaron O'Connor headed over from six yards. By now the Town were well in command restricting the visitors to efforts from range and with 15 minutes left on the clock Gnakpa got the goal his performance deserved to completely put the game beyond the Diamonds' reach. Barnes-Homer poked the ball through looking for Crow but offside he left it for the Frenchman. With only one thing in his mind he dropped a shoulder, worked the ball onto his left foot and rolled an accurate left-foot shot beyond the outstretched hand of Day for his fifth goal of the season. As time ticked down the Town looked in the mood to extend their lead with Barnes-Homer sensing a second hat-trick of the season. He came close to doing so with four minutes left on the clock but saw a stinging left-foot effort palmed away by Day from the left-hand edge of the six yard box which turned out to be the last clear-cut chance on a comfortable afternoon back to work for the hosts. Rusty? No chance. Victories for AFC Wimbledon and Crawley did not dampen enthusiasm. "As expected they both won," Money said afterwards."But we made it pretty clear to the players that it was important we didn't lose any ground on those two teams today. "We could have slipped up today because Rushden are a good side and it was important because we now enter the busy period and face three tough away games on the spin." A sixth win in seven and eighth win in 10 the Town are motoring and are playing like they've never been away. The hectic schedule continues at Hayes & Yeading on Tuesday night. Get down to Church Road to back the boys. Be a part it and keep believing. For minute-by-minute analysis see below. Full-time from Kenilworth Road Luton Town 3 (Barnes-Homer 44, 51, Gnakpa 75) Rushden & Diamonds 0 Result FULL-TIME  All the reaction, goals and much more to come after the Town's 3-0 victory. 90 mins  Third and final sub as Godfrey Poku joins the fray, on for Morgan-Smith. 90 mins - A minimum of three added minutes to play here. 90 mins  And there's another change...Alex Lawless on for Gnakpa. 89 mins  First change for the Town and it's with a minute to play as Jason Walker replaces Crow. 86 mins - Almost the hat-trick for MBH as he sees a smashing shot from an acute angle parries away by Day, stinging the goalkeeper's fingers from an acute angle on the left hand side of the six yard box after he'd taken down Keane's pass. 85 mins - Like his effort in the first half, the visitors' Alan Power thunders a shot goalwards that whistles inches past the post. Great hit. 83 mins - Diamonds are 3-0 down but they're still going and a goalline clearance from Morgan-Smith denies Miller the chance to pull a goal back. 80 mins - The attendance at Kenilworth Road is 6,928 which includes 279 shouting for the visitors. 78 mins - Those gremlins have wormed their way in again, my apologies. Right so, where were we? Yep, well now we're 3-0 up as CLAUDE GNAKPA turns in the box and rolls a lovely left-foot finish from an acute angle past Day. Excellent, goal. 3-0 and good night. Then, almost from the restart the Town break and Gnakpa crosses for Barnes-Homer but the striker, on a hat-trick can't control the ball when well placed. 75 mins  GOAL! TOWN 3-0 Rushden & Diamonds - Gnakpa 73 mins - Barnes-Homer and Gleeson combine and the latters hit a shot from the edge of the area into the side netting. 69 mins - Drury free-kick saved, Cocorocan in the book for Diamonds. 65 mins - No internet gremlins but just nothing to shout about here. Rushden have woken up and have been on top in the last five minutes but Tyler hasn't been tested. 60 mins - Strange looks from the Town players and faithful as Crow is somehow flagged offside despite it looking like he'd made the run behind his marker when the ball was played. 60 mins - Rushden have made two changes, Rene Howe and Michael Corocoran on for Shane Huke and Sam Smith. 56 mins - Bemused looks from the Kenny End as Claude marauds down the right. He surely must square it but he seemingly runs the ball out of play. The assistant ref gives a corner. Whipped in from the right by Drury it's Gnakpa that rises to meet the flag-kick straight at Day but the ref had already blown for an infringement. 53 mins - Back come Diamonds and Aaron O'Connor should make it 2-1 as he somehow heads over following Smith's free-kick. Very good chance, that. 51 mins  GOAL! TOWN 2-0 Rushden & Diamonds - Well after missing the easy chance, Barnes-Homer converts a difficult one to make it two-zip. The striker takes a pass 12 yards out, gets the better of two Diamonds defenders, turns and slams a left-foot shot underneath the body of Day. Get in! 50 mins - Ooooh that's even closer and it's almost one a piece as Sam Smith looks up and smacks a super shot from 25 yards that whistles inches the wrong side of the crossbar. Very good effort. 49 mins - Oh what a chance and the Town and Barnes-Homer in particular should have doubled their tally. A long ball over the top eludes the Diamonds defence and bears down on Day's goal. Crow is square for a tap-in to his right but instead he goes for glory and whacks into the Kenilworth Road end. 46 mins And we're back underway as Rushden restart this Blue Square Bet Premier fixture and the Town are now shooting towards the Kenny End. HALF-TIME Decent effort from both sides in this their first 45 minutes for what seems an ice age ago. Denied a super goal earlier they have a lead at the break thanks to Barnes-Homer's 12th goal of the season. Check back in 15 minutes for the second half updates. 45 mins - The Town are up in arms with the referee again as he inexplicably signals for a foul against Drury when he was racing through on goal. Rushden then counter and although an offside flag eventually goes up, Johnson sees a shot well-stopped by Tyler. 44 mins  GOOOOOAL! TOWN 1-0 Rushden & Diamonds - Just when I was typing "the Town have upped the ante as half-time approaches" they take the lead with a super goal. Crow does brilliantly to send Gnakpa racing down the right and the Frenchman whips in a delightful and accurate cross onto the head of MATTHEW BARNES-HOMER who sends a deft header looping past a motionless Day, in off the post. Get in! 41 mins - Half a sniff for the Hatters as AMS feeds MBH in the penalty area and is momentarily free but a last ditch toe by Shane Huke denies the Town's leading scorer the opportunity to test Day. 39 mins - Six to the break and it's not the most inspiring of stuff out there at the minute. Rushden have settled well and look dangerous on the break. As for the Town, well they have plenty of match-winners on the pitch. 36 mins - It was snow against York but this time it's that horrible fine rain that is falling in the press box this afternoon. Anyone have a cloth to wipe my laptop screen? 33 mins - The ref's not helping the Town get into this - it's been pretty stop-start - but there doesn't seem to be any rustiness in their play. Been a while since a decent effort though. 31 mins - Not been a dirty game this but Diamonds' Matt Johnson becomes the first man in referee Robinson's notebook for a late sliding tackle on Drury in the Town's half. 27 mins - Then the Diamonds gift Morgan-Smith the ball and he ghosts down the right flank but puts in a poor cross. Still, it's only half-cleared straight to Gnakpa, but instead of passing square to unmarked Crow screaming for it he goes for goal, blasting it over the top of Day's crossbar. 26 mins - Rushden having their fair share of the ball but not testing Tyler this time. 24 mins - And we're back in the room...rumour we've had a small electrical fault causing the net to crash every so often so sorry about that. You've only missed a 16th minute chance for Matthew Barnes-Homer that he struck straight at Day after doing well initially, nutmegging Shane Huke down the left. Still 0-0. 11 mins - Oh what a goal. Unfortunately as you can tell there is no GOAL! notification as the flag is up to deny Claude Gnakpa a sensational finish. Drury slaloms past three Rushden men in the middle of the pitch and pokes the ball to his left to the Frenchman who bends in an awesome right-foot strike from the left-hand edge of the area. Check the highlights for that later. Brilliant and such a shame a margin offside decision saw it chalked off. 10 mins - Back come the Hatters and they should be ahead as Morgan-Smith slides in Crow one-on-one with Joe Day in the Diamonds goal. You'd put money on him to net from 12 yards but the striker's shot is poor and is straight at the body of the diving keeper. 8 mins - Updates might be a bit sporadic I'm afraid, the connection is a bit iffy today but Rushden come close with the best effort so far as space opens up for Alan Power who lets rip with a flying shot that Mark Tyler does really well to parry away, diving to his right. Good all round football. 6 mins - A few internet teething problems. Remember the Millennium bug? It's not come 11 years too late. Tyler in goal, Gleeson and Howells full backs, Kroca and Pilks centre-halves, Drury and Keane in centre mid, Claude on the right, Morgan-Smith on the left with Crow and MBH up top. Town on top early doors. 1 mins  And we're off after 42 days without a league game at long last as the Town kick-off shooting towards the Oak Road end. 14:56 HERE THEY COME Out come the two sides onto the Kenilworth Road pitch, Town in orange, Rushden in their change strip of blue and white stripes. A minute's silence will follow. 14:52 PRESS BOX PREDICTIONS Andrew Barringer: 4-1 Luton, Simon Pitts: 2-1 Luton, Ian Pearce: 3-1 Luton, Mark Wood: 2-0 Luton, Mike Simmonds: 3-1 Luton, Bill Cole: 2-1 Luton, Ian Ryan: 3-2 Luton. 14:45 DULL Not a great day to kick-off the New Year although it has stopped raining. Just 15 minutes to it all re-starts, thank goodness. Football, we have missed you. 14:27 MINUTE'S SILENCE The Hatters have respectively asked Rushden how they would like to remember Dale Roberts. The answer is with a silence rather than applause. 14:15 ONE CHANGE The York game doesn't officially count but from that game there is one change with Dan Gleeson returning to right-back in place of Ed Asafu-Adjaye. Rushden have Ryan Charles in their side with Kevin Nicholls on the bench in his role as First Team Coach, he's sure to get an excellent reception later on. 14:10 BREAKING NEWS Luton Town: Tyler, Gleeson, Pilkington, Kroca, Howells, Gnakpa, Drury, Keane, Morgan-Smith, Barnes-Homer, Crow. Subs: Hinton, Lawless, Asafu-Adjaye, Walker, Poku. Rushden: Day, Miller, Stuart, Osano, O'Connor, Power, Smith, Johnson, Charles, Huke, Gash. Subs: Farrell, Howe, Corcocan, Key, King. 13:53 NEW YEAR'S RECORD The Town's record on 1st January: played 25, won 8, drawn 7, lost 10, scored 37, conceded 37. Perhaps surprising that there have only been 25 games played on New Year's Day but the last time we were in action on this day was in 2008 when a Calvin Andrew goal gave the Town a 1-0 win over Yeovil. 25 years ago in 1986 a Mick Harford hat-trick earned a 3-1 win over Leicester City before a crowd of 10,917 at Kenilworth Road. 13:40 HORRIBLE Grey skies above and rain falling in LU4. 13:30 2010 IN NUMBERS Courtesy of Simon Statto Pitts: Played 53 (all competitions), won 30, drawn 11, lost 12, scored 108, conceded 50. Just four games ended goalless whilst the Town only failed to score in 10 of those matches, keeping 20 clean sheets in the process. In league for the calender year the Hatters' record is: played 43, won 27, drawn 8, lost 8, scored 94, conceded 38, GD +56, points 89. Three players are in double figures (league only): Tom Craddock 18, Matthew Barnes-Homer 12, Claude Gnakpa 10. 13:05 GOOD TO BE BACK As sung by Oasis, it really is good to be back. The Hatters after a long, long break are finally in action in the Blue Square Bet Premier this afternoon. Casting my mind back to last week is difficult for me sometimes so rewinding 42 days since the 5-1 hammering of Histon has got cogs in the grey matter doing overtime. Of course we've had games since then, notably four consecutive cup ties in two competitions. A superb 2-2 draw at the Valley against Charlton in the FA Cup was followed by what was widely considered as an unfortunate 3-1 reverse in the televised replay. From the FA Cup to the FA Trophy and two games with Welling United eventually saw the Hatters through to meet Uxbridge in a fortnight's time. Then of course the snow came down and try as we might a fixture just wouldn't fall our way. The country came to a standstill and so did football. The York game was abandonded after 56 minutes and then the games with Rushden and Tamworth fell foul of the cold snap. A new year always bring new optimism and both the Town and today's visitors Rushden & Diamonds will be hoping for a successful 2011. It promises to be an emotional afternoon down at Kenilworth Road. The first game for the Diamonds since the tragic death of their goalkeeper Dale Roberts, the visitors will be all out to bring home three points for their team-mate. Both Roberts and former Hatters legend Terry Branston, who also passed away in December, will be remembered before kick-off. Not only that the game is an important one for both sides. The two teams of course were the two defeat clubs in the semi-finals of the play-offs last season. Both are sure to be in the shake-up come April and a fantastic spectacle on the pitch awaits...Happy New Year to you all and enjoy the game, or of course the updates. 11:30 HAPPY NEW YEAR! Good morning and welcome to 2011. We hope you've managed to drag yourselves out of bed if you've had a heavy night's celebration. With that in mind, we'll just wish you a Happy New Year for now and we'll check in with you in an hour or so to preview today's big game against Rushden & Diamonds at Kenilworth Road. Remember tickets are still available so if you're at a loose end why not come down and back the boys this afternoon. Click here for further information.
    Data provided by Press Association

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