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Former York City player Alex Lawless eyes Luton Town triumph
FORMER York City midfielder Alex Lawless has admitted that meeting his old team in Sunday’s Blue Square Bet Premier play-off final will give Luton Town extra motivation in their bid for promotion at Wembley.
Over the last three seasons, the two clubs have forged a rivalry dating back to when Lawless was on the books at Bootham Crescent with unsavoury scenes following City’s 2010 play-off semi-final victory over the Hatters at Kenilworth Road.
Managerial arrests, boardroom squabbles, abandoned matches, controversial transfers between the two teams, a raft of red cards and this season’s FA Trophy semi-final triumph for City have enhanced the game’s standing as one of the fiercest-contested fixtures in non-League football.
During ten meetings outside the Football League, however, it is the Minstermen who have largely enjoyed the upper hand, winning six and only losing once when goalkeeper Michael Ingham was sent off after 15 minutes and Chris Smith donned the gloves with farcical consequences.
Throw in last season’s snowed-off match when the Minstermen were drawing 1-1 at Kenilworth Road after 60 minutes, then you could also include another occasion when the Hatters have failed to get the better of their North Yorkshire nemesis.
But, with defeats in the play-off and Trophy semi-finals to avenge, Lawless believes his team-mates will have the bit between their teeth for various reasons when the two teams meet for a match that the 29-year-old midfielder believes was always inevitable.
He said: “I’m in contact with a few players from York and we said it was written in the stars for it to be between us two. We even said it at the beginning of the season, however the season panned out.
“We sort of owe them this season and I know there’s a few other players who will feel that from the last play-offs when I was actually playing for York. We’ve lost once or twice against York this season and there’s something in there for us, that added incentive as well.
“Everyone wants to win now, it hurt a few weeks ago when we lost against them at home, so it’s a good chance for us.”
Luton have actually been defeated three times by City this term, with Lawless’ memory either selective or failing him.
But the former Littlewoods Cup winners have won four of their last six matches under new boss Paul Buckle and hadn’t conceded a goal in over nine hours of football before Adrian Cieslewicz netted in the play-off semi-final second leg for Wrexham.
On the team’s run up to Sunday’s crucial contest, Lawless added: “We can take confidence from the amount of clean sheets we have had and how many goals we’ve been scoring. We started as underdogs in the play-offs, but deep down I think we certainly know we’re not.
“We’re on good form. We played against a difficult type of style in Wrexham and came through it.
“We are all more than confident we can go to the final and win it. It’s great to get there, but we all fully well know that the most important thing is winning there.”
On a personal level, Lawless is desperate to avoid a heart-breaking hat-trick of play-off final defeats, having been on City’s losing side against Oxford in 2010 and a member of the Hatters team defeated by AFC Wimbledon last season when he missed a spot kick in the penalty shoot-out.
“I’d like to think it’s third time lucky and there’s a little fire in my belly from the last two years,” the former Forest Green midfielder added. “Everyone wants to get into the Football League. We’re desperate and I think everyone has seen in the last few weeks how much we do want it.”
Lawless has also warned his former employers to expect a barrage of noise from the Bedfordshire ranks this weekend, with the club close to selling out their allocation of 29,000 tickets.
Praising the Luton fans, he said: “If they’re anything like they have been the last few weeks, it’s going to be rowdy which is great for us.
“They were great last year (at the City of Manchester Stadium), but there will probably be even more this time and it’s just amazing to play in front of.
“It gives you that extra lift and makes you want it that much more.
“It’s a different venue but our lads are more than capable of playing at big places.”