This is a crunch match and if we win, it’ll greatly solidify our hopes of automatic promotion. It remains to be seen how the departure this week of Luton’s manager Nathan Jones will affect their performance today but I’m certainly hoping that it’ll unsettle them. I was glad that Sinclair returned to Watford as it never looked like he was going to do much for us but I presume we’ve got another striker definitely lined up. It would be great to see more of Kimpioka as he creates havoc in opposition defences and would be a great impact sub in league games too. I’m not sure if Catts has completed serving his ban yet but if he has, he’ll no doubt feature this afternoon. I’ll not be at the game but there’s going to be another bumper crowd roaring us on and I think we can win so my match prediction is a battling, nerve-wracking 2-1 win.
I got the team-news around 2.30 Maja was nowhere to be seen. Maguire was starting while new boy Dunne as well as Kimpioka were on the bench. I got the match on SAFSEE and there was a great deal of noise as the teams emerged. It turned out that Maja was ill… I didn’t know that Luton hadn’t lost a league game since mid-October and I felt it was about time that they did.
Luton won an early corner but Flanagan got it clear and we immediately retaliated with a good move involving O’Nien that ricocheted off Maguire and went for a goal-kick. It was clear from the off that Luton were going to be a handful with McCormack and Ruddock sounding threatening. We conceded a couple of free-kicks in dangerous areas in the first ten minutes, the second of which McLaughlin did very well to put out for a corner. Luton dominated the early stages and we sounded very unsettled. We won our first corner in the fourteenth minute but it was cleared easily. We started to press a lot more than we had earlier and a couple of minutes later we were one-up and it was another great effort from Maguire who shot home beneath Shea in goal after a Gooch effort had been blocked. McLaughlin made a great point-blank save from Collins when he looked certain to score and it went for a corner. I felt sure there were going to be a few more goals in the game. Elsewhere Barnsley, Charlton and Peterborough were all leading 1-0 but Burton were losing by the same score. Both sides continued to attack and for a neutral it would be very entertaining but I was waiting for a second goal to settle my nerves. Commentator Gary Bennett said that referee Lee Probert had given us nothing so far and the home fans certainly agreed. With a few minutes to the break we won two corners in quick succession but again could make nothing from them. Flanagan was booked in the last minute and after the whistle went he yellow-carded Lee for maybe a bit of verbal. 1-0 at the break was great but big thanks had to go to McLaughlin for that scoreline.
As the teams re-emerged the attendance of 37,791 was announced. I felt like it was going to be a very long forty-five minutes unless we could get a second goal quickly.
We conceded an early corner after sloppy play by McGeouch that resulted in a second corner, though our fans thought that McLaughlin hadn’t touched the ball. A chant of, “You’re not fit to referee!” soon did the rounds. The opening ten minutes were rather low-key, which suited me as I’d expected Luton to be going at it hammer and tongs. Justin had a good shot that went narrowly over and that was the first real chance of the half. McGeouch was giving the ball away quite a lot and as the hour-mark passed I could see him being subbed. Our fans were in great voice and they were even happier when Shinnie was booked for a foul and we won a free-kick in their half. Probert had hardly endeared himself with the commentators and our fans but in the sixty-eighth minute he awarded Luton a penalty for reasons that escaped everyone. Collins duly put the spot-kick away and it was 1-1.
Probert did get something right when he red-carded Hylton for elbowing Baldwin a short while later. So, they were down to ten men for the final twenty minutes but could we make it count? Luton had by no means given up and they won their eighth corner as Kimpioka warmed up. McGeady had a great shot that hit the bar and news came through that Portsmouth had gone one behind so it felt like the gods were favouring us. Kimpioka received a great ovation when he came on for Gooch with about ten minutes left and next thing Collins only got a yellow for hitting Baldwin with his arm. It was all go and I thought we could nick it. Luton were taking their time over everything and were surely playing for a point. Gary Bennett said we should bring Oviedo on, which sounded a very good idea, and sure enough Oviedo replaced James. Five minutes of stoppage-time were announced during which Maguire was sent off and we couldn’t get a decent effort on target. So it ended 1-1 and there was a good deal of booing when the whistle went.
Portsmouth lost but Barnsley, Charlton and Peterborough all won so this was a disappointing afternoon all round. Anybody got a spare ticket for Scunthorpe?