The Lads failed to take advantage of a home game against another top team in a game that was frustrating in the extreme. The referee - well, you'll read about him, as he produced a performance that smelled very strongly of "I won't be swayed towards favouring the big club". Possibly the worst so far this season, and further demotions must be in order for him. Once of the premier League, amazingly, but we needed the second goal - but with eight big blokes between us and their keeper, it was always going to be difficult.
Is it a good time to play a team when they've just lost the manager? Nathan Jones (he's been gone too long) has instilled a style and footballing philosophy that has seen the Hatters promoted and flying high this season - can former Lad Mick Harford, the Plains Farm Prodigal and the only member of Wimbledon Crazy Gang that the others didn't play practical jokes on, keep that going? Does he even need to, as there's been precious little time for things to fall apart since Jones went, and if you don't want to play for big Mick, you're a brave man.
With the official opening of the Roker End, and a win in the unwinnable derby that's given us Man City's U21s in the Checkatrade quarter final fresh in our minds, today was a good day to play football. Too soon for new boy Jimmy Dunne? Aye, on the bench. There was an inordinate number of kids (for a quid, presumably) being hauled over the bridge, and the Lads lined up:
O'Nien Flanagan Baldwin James
Gooch Wyke Maguire McGeady (c)
Maja was reportedly I'll, so make of that what you will - there's been a lot of Accy Flu and Blackpool Lurgy about.
With 4,000 Mad Hatters in the Upper North, we in the seats had our shouty work cut out, but greeted the Lads with an almighty roar - a good sign.
Let's do this. We headed for the Roker, with the visitors kicking off.
After a first minute corner to Luton on our left, the ball spent most of the first ten minutes in our half, but we did manage back break down the right, with the cross being too long for Chas and bouncing off Maguire at the back post for a goal kick.
The first real shot came five minutes in, with a visiting shot going wide of Big Jon's right-hand post. The ref signalled that the game was way too big for him by awarding a free against O’Nien when the basically touched his man with his hand but refused to award anything to Wyke, despite virtually every challenge on him being illegal.
We needed McLaughlin to produce a good save, but just after the quarter hour, we went down the right, Gooch had a shot blocked, and the rebound fell nicely for Maguire, who took his time and lashed it low to the keeper's right
An equaliser looked a formality when they rolled in into the middle for a tap in, but Big Jon was there again to preserve our lead. After more strange stuff from the brief, there was a huge cheer when we got a free for a foul in Luke. In his defence, the ref did play the advantage whenever he could, but some of his decisions were weird. Nothing for a rugby tackle on Luke, nothing for holding him down, nothing for leading with the elbow (their 9) but a late yellow for Flanagan for a gentle push.
The added minute saw another attempted rugby tackle, this time on Maguire, which earned a retrospective yellow after the whistle. Happy with the lead, and amazed to discuss the ref was Lee Probert, once of the premier League - presumably never to return.
No changes for the second half, and the ref was straight back into his groove, which was a very scratched B-side.
Luton won a couple of corners, the first after James shielded the ball out, and Power took a knock as we cleared it, and ten minutes in Luton had a great chance coming in from the left, but put it over the top. Some great twazzles by Maguire on the touchline set James away but his cross was cleared. On 66, a Luton shot came back off McLaughlin's left-hand post and was cleared, but the linesman flagged and it was a penalty with 66 played.
1-1, and bad vibes sent to the Hatters in the box behind us. The ref had a moment of enlightenment on 69 when he at last spotted their 9 leading with his elbow, which he had since about 3pm, and he was straight off. He reverted to type almost immediately, missing a blatant shirt-pull when we swing in a corner, them missed more elbows but booked James when their 17 ran into him.
A McGeady thunderbolt came back off the bar and Wyke got under the rebound to head over. Should have done much better with 15 to go.
Kimpioka replaced Gooch on 78, more to do with an extra body in the box than the American's contribution, but the first thing that happened was another elbow, this time in Baldwin's chops - but only a yellow as Mr Probert (FA cup final, on his CV) continued to make the rules up as he went along. There was a late save by McLaughlin, tipping a fierce shot over the bar, Oviedo replaced James, we tried to pile forward as Luton wasted time.
Maguire crossed for Kimpioka, but his header was comfy for the keeper, who slowly fell on the ball and laid on it for a while. Five added minutes were announced, Power blazed over, Wyke headed over, Maguire tangled with his marker and eventually got a red - apparently for a stamp, in which case IDIOT!
Disappointed. Upset, but were no worse off regarding Luton, and a point closer to defeated Pompey, so onwards and upwards.
Man of the Match? Probably McLaughlin for those two saves in the first half.