MONDAY 4TH AUGUST, 2003
LUTON TOWN 2 (0) SPURS XI 1 (1)
Attendance:- Est 1,500
Luton (4-4-2):- Jalal (sub Abbey, 46); Foley, Boyce, Bayliss (sub Coyne,83), Neilson; Mansell (sub Davis, 11, sub Okai, 74), Nicholls (Captain), Spring, Hughes; Howard, Thorpe (sub Crowe, 83)
Spurs (3-4-2-1):- Burch; Kelly, Mabizela, Doherty; Marney, Ricketts (sub Hughes, 25), Jackson, Galbraith; Poyet (Capt) (sub Bowditch, 81), Yeates; Slabber
Subs not used:- Eyre; Foster, O'Donoghue; Barnett
Perhaps because of their financial problems (Luton Town FC are in administration), this game only seems to have been finalised in the last week. I only heard about it today, and maybe countless Luton fans had not heard about the game, as there was a meagre crowd to see what turned out to be an excellent game for the home fans. I was lucky enough to make the acquaintance of a home fan, who helped with the home team, but there was no programme, no team sheet, and a terrible P.A system, making any announcements indecipherable.
For me the main interest was the opportunity to see Spurs' potential signing Mbulelo Mabizela in our colours, and he played the full 90 minutes in the centre of a back three. Mabizela is not tall, and whilst he alone was not responsible for marking big Stevie Howard, Howard did dominate the Spurs defence, and I would not wish to judge the debutant on this game alone. What I did see was that without doubt, Mabizela is a good ball player, reads the game well, sticks close to the attacker (plenty of physical evidence of this including a booking after only 14 minutes for a late challenge on Spring) and has a cool touch about him - passing out of defence rather than belting it upfield. After that early booking, he probably had to restrain himself, as he has a medical to complete, and needed to stay on to impress his potential employers.
Chris Hughton was on the bench with Colin Calderwood today, and there did seem to be more zip and urgency about Spurs from the kick off. Our own Jalal guested for Luton in goal for the first half, and he was to be facing Mark Yeates and Jamie Slabber advancing into his area in those first exchanges. Gary Doherty had of course received a warm ovation from the home crowd, but Gus Poyet was the only other recognised first team player in the Spurs line-up. Luton feature "the other" Alan Neilson at left back. He of ex-Southampton and Fulham antecedents; not our ex-player.
Yeates had the first shot on goal, but pulled it wide of Jalal's right post. Mabizela was penalised near the half way line as he got too close behind the Luton player. After the free kick Mabizela intercepted and found Jackson with a short pass. Jackson was strongly tackled and dispossessed, and Mabizela had been drawn away from the centre when the cross came, but he recovered his position to successfully deflect the shot for a corner.
Gus Poyet was popping up for the occasional attempt on goal, but as is often the case, he seemed to disappear for long periods. Gus had a left foot 18 yard shot just outside the post, and also had two good headed attempts on goal in the first half. Both came from Galbraith crosses. The first he met with power at the near post, and should have glanced it goalward; the second he misdirected too far outside the post from another Galbraith cross.
After 25 minutes Howard (who has good pace despite his great size) was away on the left, hitting a rasping shot, which Burch flew to his right to save. Burch is having a great pre-season, and was to feature later with another great save. Spurs took the lead in the 27th minute, as he was served up by Yeates and Hughes on the right. Slabber turned his defender and hit a low shot that Jalal got a touch to, but could not prevent the ball hitting the back of the net.
Some good approach play left Marney inside the box, but Bayliss made a great tackle to save the situation, and clear. Just before the break, Galbraith was the supplier again, as John Jackson rose in the middle of the goalmouth and headed just over the bar.
Luton (who play their first league game this Saturday against Rushden and Diamonds) got stronger and stronger as the second half progressed, but not before Yeates impressed with another great run, cutting back to Marney who fired high and wide. Howard had two chances in quick succession. One was a header which he put over the goal, and then he was beaten to the ball by a timely Burch punch as the cross came from the right.
The Luton skipper, Nicholls was adjudged to have been fouled on the edge of the area by Galbraith, but the free kick was well cleared by Spurs, allowing Yeates to advance down the right. Yeates made a great pass to the centre to Marney, but Luton's second half keeper Nathaniel Abbey had come way out of his area, and just managed to trap the ball depriving Marney of a great chance. (We had seen Abbey's brother in action at Norwich against Spurs, when he replaced Paul McVeigh.)
Burch made a marvellous low save at close range from Hughes' header, when Howard had been threatening to convert the cross from the right too. Sadly, Burch could do nothing to prevent the equaliser when it came in the 69th minute. Nicholls cross from the right left the defence stranded, and it was Marney who allowed Howard to get behind him and slide the ball home from close range, in front of his own fans (and me!)
Galbraith sent Yeates away down to the left bye-line. Yeates hit a strongly driven cross shot that eluded everyone in the goalmouth. Then Abbey punched away a Poyet long range effort. Burch beat away another powerful shot, this one by Spring. With five minutes to go, Howard made it to a threaded ball on the left of the box. Substitute Crowe was behind Galbraith and met Howard's short cross, which beat Burch. Crowe had an easy job to fire home, but contrived to fire over. Just when a draw was looking to be the result, Luton got a last minute winner following a throw-in on the right. Spring received the throw and got to the bye-line sending a short cross to full-back Foley, who hit a great low shot past Burch to send the home crowd happy.
The Spurs XI faces Crawley on Wednesday night, and has its first competitive reserves game next Tuesday at Leicester.
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