Walker and Dance in contention for Skem visit

Striker Dan Walker has thrust himself into contention for Saturday’s FA Trophy visit of Skelmersdale United thanks to a practice match hat-trick, writes Mark Wood.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 10th January 2013, 8:00 pm

Midfielder James Dance is also fit again for the visit of the Evo-Stik League Northern Premier First Division North outfit in the third round of the competition.

Boss Paul Buckle revealed after Tuesday night’s 6-1 home win over Barrow that the Hatters were anticipating changes, although most of Luton’s 20 fit players will again be called upon to form part of the matchday squad.

Assistant manager Alan Neilson said: “The injury list is good at the minute.

“James Dance has trained in the last week, he joined in with the first team on Tuesday.

“He rested yesterday, he trained with the first team again today and we’ll assess him in the morning.

“The only ones who are definitely out for Saturday are JJ O’Donnell with his nose and of course Danny Spiller and Garry Richards.

“I think we will look at the squad, we know we’ve got a good squad here now.

“We will look at it Friday morning, see all about the injuries and the fit players and take it from there.”

Manager Paul Buckle has previously indicated that either Adam Watkins or Matt Robinson will get a run in the centre of midfield, but Walker has also laid a marker down.

Neilson said: “We had 20 training this morning. You need 16 for the squad, if they play or are on the bench. Some of the players (from the other night) will of course be involved.

“I think if you look, the squad was changed for the Dorchester game, nearly the whole squad, and they went and won the game convincingly.

“So it gives them an opportunity to show the fans when they get in the first team how good a players they are.

“There are lads chomping at the bit. Dan Walker trained on Tuesday morning and scored four goals in a practice match against the youth team.

“So the commitment of the players at the minute has been absolutely superb. The ones in the team, the ones on the bench, and also the ones in the squad.”

But with the Hatters gunning for promotion and still in both cups, Neilson admitted there was a need to use their whole squad.

He said: “I think everyone has seen our fixture log at the minute, playing Saturday/Tuesday for all of January and probably early February as well and we’ve got other games to fit in as well.

“It’s a chance for the whole squad to play games, before we decide tomorrow, we will look at the schedule and look at the players we’ve got fit and pick the team tomorrow.

“We’re in the two cups, we’re in a good position in the league, yes we’re behind on games and we’ve got to win those games and we can be top.

“We go in to win every game, I think the manager’s said to you every game we want to play we want to win it, and we’ve got a squad that can do that.

“The players know now if you get in the team and you play well, you deserve to stay in it.

“Some circumstances change, but the majority of the time if the team plays well (you stay in).

“You look at the Wolves team, when they went out they were absolutely superb, but a few players got their chance and took it and were in for the league game on Tuesday.

“And they went out and did it again as the scoreline showed.”

One player though who has impressed ever since his return is Greg Taylor.

The left-back has been in exceptional form following his recall, shining in both the 1-0 defeat of Wolves and again against the Bluebirds on Tuesday.

Neilson added: “His performances have been very good. He’s had his opportunity and he didn’t get an opportunity before because Jake Howells and (Lathaniel) Rowe-Turner were doing well.

“He’s gone out and played games, got his head down and worked hard, he’s waited for his chance and got his chance and at the minute he’s taken it.

“He set up two goals the other day and he’s done the nasty things. He’s closed down really sharply.

“The gaffer’s wanted him to close down, win headers and he’s done that, he’s done the nasty part.

“And then on Tuesday he’s gone over and set up two goals with two great crosses.

“The manager spoke on Tuesday saying his quality of crosses is superb, the way he whips the ball in.

“If he keeps on whipping the ball in and keeps on defending properly and being big and strong at the far post there is no reason why he can’t stay in the team.

“We’ve done a lot of work, myself and Carl Emberson and the gaffer. We do a lot of crossing and finishing in training and whipping it in for Andre Gray and Jon Shaw.

“The two or three crosses we whipped in across the box we’ve scored goals from it.

“Out on the practice field it’s the little bits. You don’t realise sometimes as a coach until afterwards you think, we’ve done that. Carl Emberson done that in that little practice or I’ve done this in that little practice, headering and free-kicks.

“Carl Emberson does all attacking free-kicks and the second goal has come from a free-kick.

“So it’s pleasing things you work on on the training ground go out on to matchdays.”