Reality bites as Luton's thoughts turn to the fight for points at Macclesfield
Luton Town 0 Millwall 3: Getting out of the Conference remains the dream after big Cup awakening
After the FA Cup circus and the television cameras leave town comes the return of reality; and for a non-League club who had been on the verge of the sixth round, it is a cold reality indeed.
For Luton Town there was relief that the balance sheet following Saturday's 3-0 home defeat by Millwall showed a six-figure profit; a good advert for Blue Square Premier football among all of ITV's; and only seven arrests in a huge police operation. The club chairman, Nick Owen, believes their performance showed why he is launching a campaign to increase promotion and relegation between the Football League and the Conference to three up and three down; but the combative manager, Paul Buckle, made it clear that there will be no resting on laurels in his dressing room.
After live TV coverage, prime-time highlights and a near-10,000 crowd, tomorrow brings a trip to Macclesfield, in which Luton cannot afford a result like recent defeats at Dartford and Barrow. As with Bradford City and Oldham Athletic, Luton's league form has suffered since they made Cup headlines, leaving them nine points adrift of the play-off places, in which they have finished every year since dropping out of League Two in 2009.
Buckle, who has played for or coached four different teams in a play-off final, said: "The problem I have at Luton is that you bring quality players to the club [but] there's got to be a real understanding now that we're a non-League club. I think it's the first time I've said it, but I think it's about time. I know what it takes to get out of the Conference. It takes things that are probably not easy on the eye, dogged performances, a whole group of players who are just willing to do the basics and are happy to go home at night being probably a six out of 10. You need grit and honesty and a willingness to turn up at Barrow and Dartford in the winter, away from home, to roll your sleeves up and get the job done."
Millwall, he acknowledged, had those qualities on Saturday. Their manager, Kenny Jackett, said: "It is great to be in the last eight, but it is league form you get judged on."
Latest in Sport
Kevin Pietersen saga: Chris Gayle offers untimely reminder of absent friend
Ashley Cole and Luke Shaw rise to the bait to deny they are the rumoured 'gay England footballer'
Former British tennis No 1 Elena Baltacha told she has liver cancer
West Bromwich Albion v Manchester United: Is Wayne Rooney really in Robin van Persie’s way at United?
Robin van Persie: Manchester United manager David Moyes a 'little bit surprised' after striker plays 90 minutes for Netherlands day after being sick
- 1 International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important
- 3 Orgasm machine to deliver climax at the push of a button
- 4 Too upsetting? Academy members voted for Oscar-winning 12 Years A Slave 'without watching it'
Apple's Tim Cook: Business isn’t just about making profit
Thousands of young people forced to go without food after benefits wrongly stopped under 'draconian' new sanctions regime
Ukraine crisis: New navy chief 'defects' and surrenders Crimean HQ as Putin claims ultranationalists forced intervention
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Ukraine crisis: Russia dismisses '3am ultimatum' as 'total nonsense'
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast