Buckle urges Hatters to cement play-off place at Gateshead

HATTERS boss Paul Buckle is determined for his side to cement their play-off place at the first time of asking in Gateshead this evening, writes Mike Simmonds.

Tuesday, 24th April 2012, 10:51 am

Town’s win over Kidderminster on Saturday, the only team that can catch Luton now, put Hatters one point ahead of the Harriers with Buckle’s side still having two games to play.

Victory tonight would ensure Hatters can’t be overhauled by the Harriers, and the manager wants them to take the opportunity, ahead of their trip to champions Fleetwood on Saturday.

Buckle said: “It’s in our hands now. We’ve worked very hard to get into this position, which is why we didn’t really celebrate on Saturday.

“We need to recover quickly, get up there and focus, as the games are only going to get bigger.

“We don’t have to change our mood, style or tempo. We just have to keep playing 90 minutes of football with the belief and organisation and if we do that, we’ll be in there.

“You didn’t catch me talking about this game before Ebbsfleet and won’t catch me talking about Fleetwood, it’s solely now Gateshead. It’s the next opportunity for us as a group to not let ourselves down and stand proud and that’s what we have to do on Tuesday.”

The Tynesiders had been in with a shout of the play-offs for most of the season, until a run of three defeats their last five games, including a 4-2 reverse at relegated Bath City on Saturday, saw them drift out of contention.

Whether that will play a part in their performance tonight though, Buckle isn’t so sure.

He continued: “I don’t know, honestly, I don’t know, it’s not for me to say.

“All I’ve got to do is concentrate on the squad I’ve got, the players I’ve got and make sure we’re right and we don’t leave anything to chance.”

Heed boss Iain Bogie doesn’t think his side’s failure to reach the play-offs will impact on their performance though as he said: “Luton Town is always a game to look forward to as they are the biggest club in the Blue Square Bet Premier.

“Our promotion challenge may be over but we want to end the season on a high and send our fans into the summer break in good spirits.

“We certainly won’t be letting up. The result at Bath was a massive disappointment but it has gone and we must now get straight back on track.

“The fact the Luton game is televised adds to the occasion and I’m looking for a huge improvement from the one in the west country.

“Our home form recently has been good with four straight wins without conceding a goal and Luton have had some difficult times on their travels this year.”

When Buckle came in, there was a real possibility that Town would suffer the unthinkable and not even make the play-offs as they had dropped to seventh place.

Three wins from four have put them right back in the mix though and Buckle has put the improvement down to the hours spent on the training ground.

He said: “It’s a nice time at the moment, to take the points we’ve taken has been a fantastic return.

“It was a fine line when I came in, to put the hours into the players at this stage of the season, you worry if their legs are going to go.

“But we had nothing to lose, we were out of the play-offs which was hurting everybody. We made an incredible effort to get back in there and now we must stay there.

“I reminded them that these chances don’t come round too often. Lets not waste it, lets not tiptoe around, worry about anything. The biggest message I gave them was that to play without fear. Fear comes if you’re not prepared, in the back of your mind if you think maybe we cut a corner here or there.

“I can assure you we’ve cut no corners, since I’ve been at the club the players have been immense and the staff have been great.”

Buckle named an unchanged side for Saturday’s home win over Kidderminster and picked up no fresh injury worries, meaning only James Dance and Amari Morgan-Smith are out.

The boss said: “Players earn the right to keep the shirt and I know how strong the chemistry is of the players earning the right to keep those 11 shirts, they’ve not disappointed me.”

Full back Greg Taylor was back at the weekend though after a lengthy absence and took his place on the bench.

The manager said: “I’ve not seen the boy play, he’s come back in training this week and is a real threat, has a good energy, is dangerous and forward thinking which I like so I thought why not put him on, we might need him.

“I took a long time picking the subs as we try and look at all the scenarios that could happen. In the end I was pleased as we went for experience and height as we needed that in the 18-yard box at the end.

“We know as the clock was ticking down that we didn’t need another goal, we just needed to make sure we were nice and tight and we did that.”

Buckle also took time to praise the 8,415 fans that packed into Kenilworth Road on Saturday and although their numbers won’t be so significant at the International Stadium, the boss wants the players to reward their loyal support.

He added: “We carry their chants in our ears up there. They were outstanding, outstanding and we responded. We’ve got to have that work-rate to our game and effort, that’s what Luton fans want to see.

“We’re proud of ourselves for turning the season round. It’s been a crazy few weeks, we’ve got a massive game on Tuesday, so we need to prepare for that.

“But with this crowd behind us, if we can get in there (the play-offs) and with this crowd behind us, anything can happen.”

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