The D3D4 correspondent give you their reports from matches attended in League One and Two this weekend…
MATCH REPORT: Luton Town 1-0 Morecambe
Mullins Makes Muggins of Morecambe
Morecambe faced the long journey to top of the table Luton knowing that their hosts have a reputation this term for taking visiting teams to the cleaners at Kenilworth Road. Nathan Jones’ team put eight goals past Yeovil in their opening game of the season at this stadium. Since then, the Hatters have demolished neighbours Stevenage 7-1 and thrashed Cambridge United by seven goals as well without reply. This, coupled with outstanding results on the road – such as their 0-5 win at Swindon Town – shows the potency of their main strikers, James Collins and Danny Hylton. Including their efforts, the Bedfordshire club had netted an astonishing 67 goals already this season before kick-off – a record for any League Two club this century.
Apart from the three precious League Two points on offer today, the teams were also competing for the Eric Morecambe Trophy: a miniature copy of the statue of Morecambe’s favourite son whose original can be found on the promenade in the Lancashire seaside resort. Little Eric has been exiled in Bedfordshire ever since Luton beat the Shrimps 1-3 at the Globe Arena during September 2015. On form, he would be staying there today. But the visitors’ hopes of pulling off a win and rescuing Little Eric was based on their own recent record, which must have given encouragement to Jim Bentley and his team. They went into the match on the back of three matches unbeaten in the division. Furthermore, the Shrimps had already held the league leaders to a goalless draw back at the Globe Arena last September. This, coupled with the Hatters’ shock 2-0 defeat at bottom of the table Chesterfield last Saturday, gave the visitors some basis for hope that they could retreat back up the M1 with at least one point to help them move slightly further ahead of the gaggle of strugglers at the bottom of the EFL.
Best wishes were expressed before the match kicked-off by Morecambe’s players and management for a rapid recovery from testicular cancer for former player and current Plymouth Argyle defender Ryan Edwards. Then there was a round of applause for three former players as well as the incomparable Cyrille Regis who died this week. What an icon. What a man. God bless him. God bless them all.
On a wet pitch and with intermittent rain sweeping across the ground, there was a scare for the hosts after just six minutes when star striker Danny Hylton pulled-up with what looked like a hamstring strain. This happened as he unsuccessfully tried to turn Max Muller on the edge of the Shrimps’ penalty area. Despite treatment on the field, he was unable to continue and had to come off shortly afterwards. Bad luck for him but his departure meant a less testing time for the visitors – Danny always is a handful for whoever is up against him.
Play was fairly even before Luton fashioned the first chance of the game after fourteen minutes. Andrew Shinnie won the ball in the Morecambe midfield, strode forward and unleashed a wicked shot from twenty yards out which big Barry Roche in the Shrimps’ goal did well to palm away. Straight after this, Luke Berry crossed towards the visitors’ back post; the ball was knocked down and substitute Elliot Lee’s shot was blocked at the expense of a corner which came to nothing. Up at the other end, Jack Stacey did really well to put in a tremendous block virtually on his own goal line after twenty minutes just before the ball found its way to an unmarked Aaron Wildig. This followed an accurate cross by Garry Thompson after he had been played-in by Adam McGurk to make good progress down his right wing into the heart of the Hatters’ defence. With the hosts probably just about shading the play, Berry tried his luck after twenty-eight minutes but his shot went over the Morecambe bar. Five minutes later, Glen Rea found the ball at his feet following a corner kick but his shot also failed to trouble Big Baz between the Shrimps’ sticks as it whistled past a post. With thirty-eight minutes on the clock, Lee played an excellent defence-splitting cross to Shinnie who tried to find James Collins at the far post but the Shrimps defence managed to deal with the danger. In fact, the visitors probably had the best chance of the opening period with just a minute still scheduled to play. Aaron McGowan cut in from the right wing and unleashed a fantastic curling shot which Marek Stech in the home goal did brilliantly to push away to safety. That was the last action of the first period. So it was all-square and Little Eric remained imprisoned in the Kenilworth Road display cabinet as the players trooped back to the Dressing Rooms.
With the sixty-one stalwart travelling fans noisily making their presence felt, the second half’s first notable chance fell to the visitors. McGowan again tried his luck after fifty minutes but this time missed the target. On the counter-attack four minutes later, Lee also missed the target for the hosts. With fifty-five minutes played, Morecambe had an even better chance as Thommo again whipped-in a cross which McGurk controlled well before unleashing a low shot which Stech excelled once more to claw away from the corner of the goal. Three minutes later, the Czech goalkeeper did even better as he managed to divert a shot which had taken no less than three deflections – including a touch from McGurk – away from a corner. But as the visitors continued to dominate the play – with Stech denying Wildig and McGowan in quick succession – they were caught with a sucker-punch when Luton went ahead after 64 minutes. Lee took a free kick on the Luton left and Captain Johnny Mullins beat everyone else to the ball to head home and put the league leaders in front. The Hatters could have gone further ahead after seventy minutes when recent substitute Harry Cornick drew a save from Roche at the cost of a corner. From this, Mullins headed only just narrowly wide. Glen Rea then lost possession to substitute Kevin Ellison but redeemed himself when he worked wonders to deny Kev with a last-ditch tackle as he was about to unleash a thunderbolt after 75 minutes. Shortly afterwards, Thommo knocked the ball down to him and Kev again tried his luck from 20 yards out but missed the target. The best chance of the second half for the visitors arrived after eighty-five minutes when Steven Old produced one of his trade mark headers from just ten yards out following a corner kick. Sadly for the visitors, he also missed. So the game ended with three points for the visitors and the prospect of exile for Little Eric for at least the next few months. The mark of a championship-winning side is to play poorly and still win. This was how Luton’s performance today could best be described. They remain top of the pile with a six point lead over second placed Notts County. Meanwhile, although the Shrimps still found themselves in nineteenth position after the game, they actually slipped back towards the trapdoor at the bottom of the EFL. Their advantage over third-bottom Chesterfield – who won at Yeovil today – shrunk to just two points, albeit with a game in hand for the Shrimps. With Forest Green also winning and bottom club Barnet drawing, Morecambe are still very far from secure as far as their future in League Two is concerned. Having said that, they will again play worse this year and actually win.
Luton Town: 1 Marek Stech; 7 Jack Stacey; 5 Johnny Mullins (C); 16 Glen Rea; 3 Dan Potts; 8 Olly Lee; 18 Luke Berry; 24 Lawson D’Ath (14 Harry Cornick 65 mins); 11 Andrew Shinnie; 19 James Collins; 9 Danny Hylton (38 Elliot Lee 8 mins).
Subs not used: 36 James Shea; 2 James Justin; 10 Jordan Cook; 17 Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu; 39 Akin Famewo.
Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 22 Max Muller; 16 Sam Lavelle; 5 Steven Old; 2 Aaron McGowan; 8 Andy Fleming (Y); 24 Michael Rose (C); 14 Luke Conlan (Y); 15 Aaron Wildig (Adam Campbell 69 mins); 7 Garry Thompson; 28 Adam McGurk (11 Kevin Ellison).
Subs not used: 12 Danijel Nizic; 6 Dean Winnard; 17 Mitchell Lund; 3 Patrick Brough; 11 4 Alex Kenyon.
Ref: Trevor Kettle.
8476 (61 from Morecambe)
words Roger Fitton, D3D4 Morecambe FC correspondent
MATCH REPORT: Northampton Town 2-1 MK Dons
Northampton made it three league wins in a row after an important victory over the MK Dons in a lively local derby at Sixfields.
John-Joe O’Toole opened the scoring for Northampton before Dons skipper Alex Gilbey levelled, with Chris Long tapping in the winner for the Cobblers just before half time.
The Cobblers had won their previous two games in League One whilst MK were winless from their last two fixtures, but despite the disparity in recent fortunes, Northampton were made to work hard to overcome a Dons team who battled throughout in what was an exciting if somewhat testy renewal of the rivalry.
Matt Grimes saw his free kick from 25 yards out saved by Lee Nicholls in the opening stages but it was O’Toole who got the breakthrough for Northampton after 16 minutes, finishing well at close range from debutant Joe Bunney’s cross.
Northampton led for just three minutes before Osman Sow’s cross allowed Gilbey to slot in an equaliser, and the Dons almost went ahead soon after through a Sow header which was cleared off the line by Shay Facey. Cobblers goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell was also forced into a good save by a powerful long-range strike from Callum Brittain, one of several crucial stops he made during the afternoon.
Milton Keynes were made to pay for not finishing their chances when Chris Long put the Cobblers back in front just before half time, Northampton’s top scorer tapping in from Sam Hoskins’ cross.
The home side took control of proceedings for much of the second half, with Nicholls denying Hildeberto Pereira from distance and then Matt Crooks from the edge of the box. A customary local derby scuffle broke out late in the second half which saw MK’s Chuks Aneke given a straight red for grabbing the throat of John-Joe O’Toole.
The Dons rallied in the last few minutes with O’Donnell forced into making an outstanding save in the final seconds of the match from Marcus Tavernier’s sweetly struck free kick, but on the balance of play Northampton ended the match deserved winners over their local rivals.
The Cobblers moved out of the relegation places and into 18th position after their win whilst the Dons headed in the opposite direction and now find themselves within the drop zone in 21st.
Northampton manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was delighted with his side’s third league win on the bounce, saying:
“We played ever so well in the first half. We played some good football going forward and really understood where their weaknesses were with the system that they play.
“At the end they threw everybody forward and we had to have a little bit of luck but also the goalkeeper was excellent today.
“It was always going to be a game of cat and mouse in the second half and I thought we handled that well.
“It feels great and we want to prolong this for as long as possible. We will still be working on areas where we need to improve but with every game we are learning”.
Under-fire MK Dons boss Robbie Neilson was defiant after his side’s loss, saying:
“I feel the fans’ frustration. They were two poor goals to concede. I have huge belief in the team and we’ll definitely get there. We all have to stick together. There are still a lot of games to go. 100 per cent I believe we’ll get out of this.”
Teams and Man-for-Man Marking
Northampton: O’Donnell 9/10, Facey 7, Taylor 7, Turnbull 7, Bunney 7, Crooks 8, Grimes 8, Hoskins 6, O’Toole 8, Foley 6, Long 7
Subs: Pereira (for Hoskins, 57′) 7, Ariyibi (for Foley, 73′) 6, Revell (for Long, 90+1′) 6
MK Dons: Nicholls 7, Brittain 7, Wootton 6, Ebanks-Landell 6, Williams 5, Cisse 6, Tavernier 7, Gilbey 7, Pawlett 5, Ugbo 5, Sow 6
Subs: Aneke (for Sow, 59′) 6, McGrandles (for Cisse, 71′) 6, Agard (for Pawlett, 83′) 6
Referee: Brett Huxtable
Men of the Match: Richard O’Donnell for Northampton and Marcus Tavernier for MK Dons
words Toby Foster, D3D4 Northampton Town correspondent
MATCH REPORT: Rotherham United 1-0 Portsmouth
A freezing cold South Yorkshire afternoon greeted the 1,420 Pompey fans attending New York Stadium for the first time in this League 1 clash.
After a minutes applause to honour the lives of the two ex Millers players (John McGlashan & Rodney Fern) who sadly passed away this week, impeccably observed by both sets of supporters the match got under way with the visitors quickly in the ascendancy. Pompey’s Matt Kennedy’s ball seemed perfect for Kal Naismith but the Pompey forward screwed his effort well wide.
Jamal Lowe was the next Pompey player to threaten the Rotherham goal with a good effort that brought a good save from Rodak in the Millers goal. Rotherham were struggling to gain a foothold in the game & almost fell behind again on the half hour when Pompey striker Brett Pitman could only head a Naismith cross into Rodak’s hands. A good turn & snapshot from striker David Ball that just cleared the bar towards Half Time was the Millers only real chance of any note & the Millers manager Warne must have been happy & relieved to go into the break level.
HALF TIME………..MILLERS 0 POMPEY 0
Despite their being no changes in personnel at the start of the second half the home team came out invigorated & started taking the game to Pompey almost opened the scoring after just a few seconds of the 2nd half when loanee midfielder Richie Towell saw a goalbound effort blocked by the Pompey defence.
Rotherham were doing all the pressing now & after a few Millers corners were starting to panic Pompey’s back line Centre Half Richard Wood sent a close range effort wide from around 6 yds. Plenty of goalmouth scrambles were coming fairly regularly now & from one of these both Towell & David Ball saw their close range efforts well wide. Ball then sent an effort inches wide after good wing play on the right by midfielder Forde.
The decision to go for the win had been taken with Newel, Smith & Taylor replacing Forde, Yates & Ball in an attempt to get the goal our 2nd Half performance deserved. Just as the 4th official 5 minutes board has started the start of added time, the Millers were not satisfied with a point &.went all out for the win which was achieved when in the first minute of the five a good cross by sub Michael Smith was expertly headed home by left back Joe Mattock. A tough but deserved win for Rotherham in a game of two halves but for me Rotherham’s attitude was spot on & they dominated the second half.
words Ian Bradley, D3D4 Rotherham United correspondent
MATCH REPORTS: Peterborough United 3-0 Oldham Athletic
Saturday 20th January 2018, English Football League 1.
PETERBOROUGH UNITED 3-0 OLDHAM ATHLETIC ATT: 5,072
Morias 53, Cooper 84 Edmundson s/off 68
Marriott pen 90
Line-up- Bond, Shephard, Tafazolli, Taylor, Hughes, Forrester, Grant, Maddison (Cooper 77), Morias (Kanu 83), Marriott, Lloyd (Ward 60).
A commanding performance by Posh, who generally struggle against opposition at the wrong end of the table. This trend gladly didn’t continue Saturday. The first-half saw Posh focus on getting enough possession/retention only to eventually perish in Oldham’s final third.
Oldham’s Pringle, Benya and Davies looked lively in the attacking third, however Boro’s resistance was not broken, as decent interceptions/clearances could be found from Tafazolli and Taylor. Placide in the Latic’s goal was troubled with a few pot-shots, highlighting his handling as somewhat suspect, it did show improvement in the second-half, especially as he confidently gathered crosses.
Second-half arrived with Posh again looking the more likely, this time Morias found the space and the break-through. Showing power and confidence, before unleashing a shot from 20 yards into the bottom corner. Oldham had an effort hit the post, to show another goal to kill it off was essential. Their endeavour was made more testing, once Edmundson was dismissed for a second yellow, with just over 20 minutes remaining.
New signings Cooper and Ward were given run-outs in the second-half. Cooper making the bigger impact with a debut goal, latching onto a great ball from Forrester after some fine play by Kanu, before dispatching his effort into the back of the net.
The game was put beyond all doubt when Kean Bryan brought down Marriott in the box, penalty the outcome. With Maddison already having been replaced, up-stepped Marriott to send Placide the wrong way for his 19th league goal of the season.
A good platform for the week ahead for Peterborough, as they fight on three fronts. The Checkatrade Quarter-Final midweek, and a mouth-watering FA Cup tie at London Road against Premier League’s Leicester, Saturday lunch-time.
words Ian McFarlane, D3D4 Peterborough United correspondent