A Tuesday night in Luton is nobody’s idea of a good time, and the Saddlers team that boarded the bus back to Bescot after the match will rue a succession of missed chances that should have seen them grab all three points.
Sir Ray made three changes, as he said he would, from the team who lost at Bury – Leitao, Bennett and Wrack coming in for Hall, Angell and Bukran.
Ashamed to say it was the first time I’d see the Saddlers this season – and I was looking forward to seeing the 15-goal strikeforce in action. Typical then that 90 minutes produced no goals.
In the first half Byfield and Jorge showed some good touches, particularly the ability to hold the ball up and turn. But we were a bit one-dimensional, always trying to feed Wrack, and Luton had learnt the lesson of 2 years ago (when Wrack destroyed them in 3 different games) and frequently had 3 men on him as soon as the ball reached him.
What Tom and Deano should have done in the first half is give more of the ball to Pedro. Because in the second half he gave Locke a torrid time, combining well with Zigor Aranalde and supplying a few good crosses.
Let’s go through the Saddlers near misses. I would mention the Luton ones but they only had a single effort all evening – when Jim Walker smartly tipped round a volley from Spring on 86 minutes.
14 minutes in a deep cross from Byfield – note to Sir Ray, get the lads working more on these as we frequently had chances at the far post, but the lads were a bit slow in racing in to meet them – resulted in Wrack hitting the post. From 4 yards out Darren really should have done better.
The Luton keeper also saved his side near the end of the first half when he raced out of goal to clear, denying Byfield a certain opportunity. But he was powerless to prevent a Byfield header early in the second half – unfortunately the effort clipped the crossbar.
Midway through the second half we really should have gone 1-0 up when Byfield smashed the offside trap, but like those efforts Ricketts missed at Palace, he couldn’t finish the job, and Abbey pulled off a great save.
So, disappointment for all Saddlers fans – we should have beaten Luton comfortably. They looked a very weak side, particularly in attack – and were apparently stuffed by Northampton on Saturday, who could have had a hatful. Perhaps Bukran should have played to open up their defence more, although as mentioned their keeper had a great game, and in central defender Boyce (an England U21 target) they had the best player on the pitch.
A question for the Luton directors – to pay Â£14.50 for a ticket in the main stand which turns out to have the entire goal obliterated by a pillar is unacceptable. A letter will follow to the Football Authorities, as clubs are obliged to print on the ticket “restricted view” under such circumstances. And to the Luton fan who stuck chewing gum on my seat, to quote Alan Partridge: “scum. sub human scum.”
This report on the game from Luton fan Ben Elwes, a Pedro Matias lookalike who recently celebrated his wedding to Adeline.
Luton’s young side fought manfully to gain a point against a more experienced, table-topping Walsall side. Although Walsall had the best chances it was a game in which both defences were in control, as the result suggests.
Emerson Boyce was again commanding in the centre of Luton’s defence, and he pulled off a couple of goal-saving tackles. Nathan Abbey also looked far more assured than he did in some matches last season.
Although Luton competed and battled well in midfield, there was a worrying lack of link-play between midfield and attack, and very few clear chances were created. Walsall looked like a solid unit who will always be hard to beat, and also had more of a cutting-edge upfront than the Hatters.
However, on the night Walsall did not appear to have enough flair to break the deadlock. Dean Keates, their scurrying midfield general, perhaps most personified their team effort.
A draw was the right result.