Date:Saturday January 14 2006
Friday 13th January 2006
Despite a late equaliser for Luton, the dismal run of away results continued, when Paul Ince struck a beauty for an even later winner for Wolves.
Following the magnificent performance against Liverpool in the FA Cup, the Luton fans anticipated more of the same against a Wolves side in a poor run of form. Although difficult to beat, to date they have drawn far too many games, which manager Glenn Hoddle believes they should have won. However, this match was not the classic that Sky was hoping for! With Luton’s options compromised by injury, Mike Newell selected Enoch Showunmi in midfield, leaving Dean Morgan and new signing David Bell, on the bench. Pre-match interviews suggested that Bell would not take part, unless it was late in the game, as he has a cut ankle, but I am not a fan of playing a 6’ 5” forward in midfield when there are midfielders fit and available.
The first half was so poor that the home crowd booed when it was announced that there would be two minutes added at the end of the first 45 minutes. This was understandable, as Luton had stuck to their task well, preventing Wolves from playing the passing game that Hoddle favours. This week, however, Luton were one paced and did not look a force going forward.
Neither keeper was seriously troubled in the first half. Enoch broke through the centre after about 30 minutes and scuffed a shot straight at Postma, but it signalled the first shot on target for the match. As half time approached, Mike Newell would have been the happier of the two managers, having survived goalless and it was with almost the last kick in anger of the first half that Kennedy shot, for arguably Wolves first shot on target, but Marlon Beresford saved easily, and the shot may have been heading for the side netting.
The second half could not have been as poor entertainment as the first, and so it proved. Both teams seemed to have benefited from their respective managers’ half time words of wisdom and emerged in a more positive frame of mind. However, it was the visitors who took up the initiative for the first ten minutes, and, but for some unfortunate bounces and rebounds, might have found an opening. But Luton rarely keep a clean sheet these days, so the longer a match remains 0-0, the more the fans worry. Once again, their fears materialised when, against the run of play, the Luton defence was drawn towards the centre leaving the left wing vacant for Mark Kennedy to chase a long pass and cross towards the far post. While the cross was airborne, Cort appeared to impede Chris Coyne, but the referee saw nothing wrong with the challenge, which left Leon Clarke with a free shot at goal. Beresford made a very good save from Clarke’s powerful drive but the ball fell invitingly for Mark Davies to slide the ball under Beresford for his first senior goal for Wolves. The goal changed the dynamic of the game, as Wolves enjoyed a period of domination and Luton had to work hard to keep the score to one goal; however, they managed to do so with only a cross shot from Kennedy which was well covered by Beresford before it clipped the very outside of the post, being the only really dangerous moment. Luton still looked unlikely to score, though, and Warren Feeney was sent into the fray replacing the hard working Rowan Vine.
Wolves still had the better of possession and Cort wasted two good opportunities to score, and Luton came back again, with Brkovic causing some panic in the Wolves penalty area leading to Ince and Lescott giving Ross the sharp edge of their tongue for not making a challenge soon enough. Another Luton attack saw Howard turn and run forward in the inside left position only for Ross, who still seemed annoyed by Ince’s words, to clatter Howard. It earned the first yellow card of the evening in the 78th minute. Nicholls took the free kick driving the ball right footed into the outside of the defensive wall, and the ball cannoned left. Nicholls was the first to react and clipped the ball smartly into the edge of the six yard area, this time with his left foot and Steve Howard put his head in danger from the oncoming fist of keeper Stefan Postma, to head the ball firmly home for the equaliser.
The game seemed over and, on the balance of play, both sides deserved a point, but in the 88th minute Paul Ince broke Luton’s hearts with a goal out of nothing. How many times has this happened this season? The ball broke to him 20 yards out. Nicholls closed on him quickly but, with very little back lift, Ince struck a sweet left foot drive past Beresford’s despairing dive into the bottom left corner. Déjà vu! Another team snatch the points with a quality strike, but that is to be expected in the Championship, where there are more players capable of a flash of brilliance, even in an overall poor performance. Luton must start to string some good results together soon, or they could find themselves drawn into the bottom half of the table, and, heaven forbid, the relegation scrap.
Referee Mike Dean had a very good game, and was very consistent. 9 out of 10.
Wolves 2-1 Luton Town
Date:Saturday January 14 2006
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