Here we go again: Luton in the play-offs. Let’s hope it goes rather better than last time!
We’ve enjoyed some notable successes over the last fifteen years or so at Luton, but overall our record at Kenilworth Road isn’t great. We’ve won four games, drawn four and lost eleven there, including last season’s 1-0 reverse.
However, despite the fact that we haven’t kept a clean sheet in ten games at Luton, indeed, we’ve managed just three shut-outs in our nineteen games at Kenilworth Road, all four wins have come in our last twelve matches there, and some of them were memorable victories!
A 5-2 win in September 1997 stands out. Admittedly, Luton were struggling with injuries, but you can only beat what is put in front of you, and Wrexham comprehensively did that! Dave Brammer and Karl Connolly struck in the first half, but Luton managed to pull themselves level at the start of the second period. The roof then caved in for them, as Craig Skinner scored a penalty and then Connolly struck two more times to earn the only hat trick a Wrexham player has scored past The Hatters.
One would have thought that was a once in a lifetime success, but three years later we enjoyed anther incredible win at Kenilworth Road. Ten minutes into the second half we found ourselves 3-0 down despite looking the better side, but we immediately set about hauling ourselves back into the match.
Crucially, Craig Faulconbridge and Chris Killen quickly got two goals back to give us hope, Martyn Chalk equalised in the eighty-third minute, and with three minutes left Darren Ferguson clinched an amazing win.
Mind you, the next time we went to Luton they gained a remarkably similar revenge. We went 2-0 up through a Hector Sam strike and an own goal, but the home side came back to win 3-2!
We’ve earned the advantage of playing at home second. Whether its a real advantage or not is something I’ve always doubted though.
Football is a low-scoring sport, and the smallest advantage can be decisive. Looks at the stats for how often a side enters a second leg needing a two-goal win and actually gets it if you need proof of that.
So wouldn’t it be better if we played Luton at The Racecourse first? Nicking a one goal lead would give us a real advantage, winning by more, as we did in the league, would give us a statistically massive chance of going through.
The semi finals of the Champions League bear me out. Both times the home side won the first leg by one goal and, as they were both the underdogs, everyone predicted that that wouldn’t be enough in the away game. But you wont be seeing either real Madrid or Barcelona in the final will you?
So what’s the plan tonight? Keep it tight, wear them down, grab what you can, I suspect. To that end, Morrell certainly won’t gamble, but then with a side which accumulated 98 points, yet scandalously didn’t go up as there are only two promotion slots, there’s no need to gamble is there? His main selection issue is at right back, where it has proven difficult to replace Curtis Obeng. That’s fair enough-he was one of the outstanding players in the Conference this season-but while the focus has tended to be on how much we’ve missed his attacking forays, I can’t help thinking that his absence at the back has been more crucial. Mark Creighton liked having his pace next to him, I suspect.
In midfield it’s no time for gambling, so much as I love Glen Little (there, I’ve said it) he won’t be starting, for the reasons I outlined on Saturday. And up front it’s a case of whether Morrell rewards the efforts of Adrian Cieslewicz, who has rediscovered his form in the last two games and certainly played against Braintree like a man trying to catch his manager’s eye. I suspect he’ll also have his customary role on the bench though, as Morrell opts for the following:
Wright Creighton NKP Ashton
Harris Keates Tolley
Wright Morrell Speight