Date: 9 April 2005
So the jinx affecting home games continues. We've equalled an all-time club record by winning five away games in succession, but spoiled it by losing our last four home games. Luton were very good, and played exceptionally with ten men as well as using their substitution opportunities wisely, but our own tactics once we had a one man advantage (with three quarters of normal time remaining) left a lot to be desired.
At the end of the match over 1000 Luton fans stayed in place to cheer their successful team who had now guaranteed promotion to the Championship. It wasn't until the goal - in the last ten minutes of the game - that we'd realised how many Luton fans were in the home supporters' seats. Several stood to cheer and celebrate, and stewards removed those in the East Stand. But they weren't ejected: simply moved into the already crowded away end. The same leniency was shown by the referee who for the first twenty-odd minutes seemed reluctant to show a card for anything. Thus when Perrett tackled Hayter, technically the 'last man' racing to collect a long ball, and caught Hayter with his leg, we doubted the referee would give more than a 'yellow'. But no, he awarded a 'red' and Luton were down to ten men.
We never capitalised on this, and even continued to keep all eleven men back for every Luton corner, which resulted in the permanent risk of an own goal from a crowded penalty area, as well as reducing our chances of scoring on the break. Towards the end of the game Luton - seeing a small chance of snatching a victory - went from one striker (since the sending-off) to two, and eventually three. It was one of their substitutes, Showumni, who indeed scored from a corner, through a crowded penalty area, with less than ten minutes of the match remaining. Cherries then went for broke, bringing on Connell and Rodrigues, and even moving O'Connor forward, until in the end we effectively had five strikers! But it was too little too late.
Fletcher had a poor day - perhaps trying too hard on his 500th appearance for Cherries. Browning (a last minute replacement for an injured Stock) also didn't look up to it. Elliott's passing wasn't as good as usual and at one point Spicer took him to task for a particularly poor one. (For a moment we feared a Bowyer-Dyer style punch-up between the two!) Moss had a mixed game: one or two absolutely brilliant saves and one or two dreadful bungles. Purches got in one excellent long-distance strike and also effectively marked his own brother-in-law, Feeney, when the latter came off the Luton bench to a mixed reaction from the crowd. Purches / O'Connor managed some good overlapping play on the left, as did Simek / Elliott on the right.
The starting line-up (with my scores out of ten) was :
N Moss (7);
Simek (9), Mills (8), Howe (8), Purches (9);
Elliott (6), Spicer (7), Browning (5), G O'Connor (7);
Hayter (7), Fletcher (5).