Luton Town 3 v 0 Huddersfield Town

Huddersfield Town story posted by Andy Dixon on 09/03/2003
Consecutive 3-0 defeats have seen the terriers slip into the relegation zone once more, after a brilliant February had persuaded many supporters that the team had final turned the corner. Anyone who witnessed Tuesday night's collapse against Queens Park Rangers at the McAlpine will know how it felt for the loyal Town travellers among the 6,122 at Luton. The few who attended both games will feel pretty disheartened and frustrated especially after the gutsy recent away victory over fellow strugglers Barnsley.Luton Town 3 v 0 Huddersfield Town

On a day that promised a reversal of fortunes (after Luton's injury-time winner at the Mac in late September) as well as a revitalised team from the poor display on Tuesday was ultimately disappointing on both counts. A stagnant performance was watched by joyous Luton fans who saw their team romp to a comfortable three goal victory on an afternoon when Town looked as if they couldn't even score in a Durex.

For many Town fans it would have been their first visit to Kenilworth Road and they won't be recommending it to their friends. The turnstiles are actually situated in a pair of terrace houses and their was also a giant net above the 'executive' stand to prevent any stray clearances or miss-kicks from landing in someone's back garden. As soon as the players began their warm-up the pitch literally broke up under their boots and to make things worse the heavens open for some nasty drizzly rain. Topping all this off were three distinct drainpipes/suspension beams which constantly obstructed the view of the action.

The action was actually started by Luton who kicked off and had their first attempt on 2 minutes when an Ahmet Brkovic shot from the edge of the box went inches wide, perhaps hinting at the home side's agenda. 5 minutes later and Luton staged a threatening move down the right wing when a cross was headed towards goal by Matthew Spring, but midfielder Dwayne Mattis managed to time a sliding clearance to perfection as the ball went wide. The resultant corner saw a miss-kick clearance from Nat Brown which led to a scramble in the box which was eventually dealt with when goalkeeper Philip Senior claimed the vacant ball.

After 11 minutes Town had their only real shot of the match when returning Chris Holland drilled a speculative effort towards goal. The chance was created by Andy Booth who laid off a Simon Baldry cross into the path of an advanced Holland who struck the ball toward the centre of Luton's goal and into the waiting hands of goalkeeper Carl Emberson.

A minute later though and Luton's response on the break was delightful for all home fans to see as Sol Davies came up with a low shot through the legs of Brown which Senior dealt with easily. Nevertheless, on 17 minutes Tony Thorpe missed a golden opportunity when a controversial free-kick was given against Holland on the corner of the penalty box. The set-piece was directed onto the forehead of Steve Howard who guided the ball across the six-yard box past a stranded Senior towards Howard who failed to connect with the ball in front of a relatively open goal.

Four minutes later and home captain Kevin Nicholls tried his luck after waltzing through the Town midfield, showing shades of Roberto Carlos with a couple of fancy step-overs he decided to shoot but instead of bulging the net the ball ballooned over the bar and plummeted into the travelling Town fans.

These terriers fans were on their feet soon after as Simon Baldry, the true master of dribble, danced his way past a number of Luton players before switching the ball to captain Kenny Irons. The architect of many recent Town goals endeavoured to lob the ball over the Luton back-line to current leading scorer Martin Smith who had evaded the offside trap with a timely run. Upon receival of the perfectly weighted pass, Smith was seemingly rugby tackled by 'keeper Emberson, yet there was no penalty awarded and the ball drifted off for a goalkick.

On 27 minutes the game was back on track when Luton attacked once more as Howard provoked an excellent full-strech save from young Senior. However, Senior could only push the ball out as far as Adie Moses who couldn't effectively clear the danger as a cross flew back into the box. This time a flapping Senior dropped the ball at the feet of Kevin Sharp who kicked his clearance straight at the back of Thomas Heary, only for Moses to make amends with a final clearance.

Nevertheless, the writing seemed to be on the wall as the home side could smell the blood of their prey. They could sense that the terriers were rattled and relentlessly pressurised the visitors for the remainder of the game. On 33 minutes there was a Nicholls free-kick which was dealt with by Booth, yet the headed clearance fell to the feet of Brkovic who attempted a volley which went inches over the bar.

Two minutes later and Heary became a hero as he cleared a goal-bound effort off of the line. Heary's goal-line feet clearance was the result of yet another free-kick which picked out Howard. His header was destined to be the opening goal until midfielder Heary saved Town's blushes. Seven minutes later and it was almost a case of de-ja-vous as a Nicholls free-kick found the feet of Howard who targeted an effort past Senior but not past the alert Brown who kicked the ball off of the line.

At half-time the game was still goaless yet it appeared as if it was men against boys as Joe Kinnear's men looked determined to teach Mick Wadsworth's counterparts a footballing lesson. Without a goal and under the cosh the terriers needed every word of wisdom that old MW could manage yet they probably hadn't envisaged a double half-time substitution by the home side.

The introduction of Ian Hillier and Peter Holmes paid almost immediate dividends as five minutes inside the second half Luton took a deserved one goal lead. Tactical changes had not been recognised by the terriers as Luton flooded the midfield and caught Heary in possession, then played the ball through to striker Thorpe who rounded 'keeper Senior and strolled the ball into an empty net. Even though there was no recognised infringements the Town players apparently thought Thorpe had been offside when he was played through. This resulted in tempers boiling over and seconds after the restart a ill-timed challenge by Irons saw the midfielder see red for the first time this season.

A goal down and a man down Smith was awarded the captain's armband and switched back into midfield. This left Booth alone up front and on the 60th minute terriers fans chanted for Peruvian newcomer Labarthe to be given the opportunity to impress. Regardless, MW didn't listen and it was left to the players on the pitch to deal with the situation. Rising to the challenge was Baldry who produced another of his superb runs on minute 62. His shot though was pushed out to a supporting Sharp who sliced his effort wide from around twelve yards out.

From this point on Luton totally dominated the game. A second goal looked inevitable and on the 66th minute Brkovic lined up an effort from the edge of the box which deflected off Sharp and onto the bar. Sighs of relief among away fans were soon replaced by sighs of disbelief as Luton scored their second. On minute 71 Nicholls attacked down the right and crossed past a stretching Senior to Howard who shot low at Sharp. His indirect clearance was not enough though as it fell kindly to Holmes who shot from the edge of the box, the ball transcended through a melee of bodies and nestled in the back of the goal.

Not until the 77th minute was there another chance for the terriers to stage a comeback. A Heary cross picked out Brown, who had joined Booth up front after incurring the two goal deficit. Yet his flick-on header evaded his strike partner Booth, who was prepared to pounce at the back post.

The fightback however, was short lived and Luton wrapped up the game and the three points on the 87th minute when Howard finally scored the goal he had been setting his sights for all afternoon. A high cross from the left gave dwarf-sized 'keeper Senior no chance as it floated over his head to the back post. Fortunately Heary was present to head the initial danger clear, yet the ball fell invitingly to Howard who volleyed Luton's third and final goal into the top corner of the net past a flat-footed Senior.

The comprehensive victory saw Luton move to four points outside the playoffs and dropped Town back into a relegation battle that many fans thought they had escaped. Two dismal 3-0 defeats in a week leaves the terriers one point behind Stockport County and fourth from bottom. Arguably today's performance highlighted the poor tactics of MW, especially after being reduced to ten-men.

When one nil down they played one man alone up front, then when they went two goals behind they moved a defender up front therefore leaving them more exposed at the back. Seemingly Joe Kinnear's managerial acumen and experience produced the vital point of the game with the double substitution at half-time and unfortunately MW couldn't respond. If Town players and coaches don't sharpen up their tactics and responses soon, it will be a tough and torturous end to the season, especially with high-flyers Wigan, Bristol City and Oldham still to play at home.


Ratings:

Senior (5): After a series of good performances between the sticks, the youngster has conceded six goals in the space of five days. Unfortunately oppositions may have become wise to his vulnerabilities on high and long crosses.

Moses (5): Unable to prevent his side from conceding six in a week.

Sharp (6): Probably the best of a bad bunch as he attacked and defended relatively well.

Brown (5): A clearance off the line, but was asked too much by having to join Booth up-front.

Baldry (5): Produced his mazey runs, but didn't defend well at all.

Irons (5): Showed a little too much heart and passion for the cause as he was red carded for expressing his views at the first Luton goal, in which he must have noticed a misdemeanour of some sort.

Holland (5): Returned to the first team and had the only real Town shot, but didn't appear fully match fit.

Heary (5): A goal-line clearance was vital yet other poor clearances invited pressure and at least one Luton goal.

Smith (5): Arguably should have had a first half penalty, but overall he didn't look at his best.
Booth (5): He's no spring chicken and looked lonely up front alone after Luton's first goal. Towards the end he also looked to be slightly injured, but what's new?

Mattis (5): Showed some passion but not enough to create any real chances.

Subs:

Stead (4): Looked disappointing and really needs more self-confidence before he will start scoring again.

Scott (4): A surprising introduction after Irons was sent off. He firmed up the midfield to a degree but didn't create much.

Worthington (3): Didn't really have enough time or opportunities to make an impact.


Referee rating:

Iain Williamson (4): Overall he looked indecisive. After allowing their controversial opening goal, then sending off Irons, he gave more or less every decision the way of the terriers, perhaps due to a guilty conscience. Nevertheless, the damage was done and his earlier decisions meant that Town had to try and fight back but to no avail.


Teams:

Luton Town:

16. Carl Emberson
21. Paul Hughes (OFF 45)
8. Kevin Nicholls (CAP)
15. Dean Crowe
4. Matthew Spring
25. Duncan Jupp (OFF 45)
24. Sol Davis
18. Ahmet Brkovic
9. Tony Thorpe (GOAL) (OFF 85)
5. Russell Perret
19. Steve Howard (GOAL)

Subs:

23. Ian Hillier (ON 45)
10. Carl Griffiths
11. Steve Robinson (ON 85)
20. Peter Holmes (ON 45) (GOAL)
22. David Bayliss


Huddersfield Town:

35. Philip Senior
5. Adie Moses
22. Kevin Sharp (MOTM)
20. Thomas Heary (OFF 82)
8. Kenny Irons (CAP) (RED)
27. Nat Brown
6. Chris Holland (OFF 76)
9. Andy Booth
19. Martin Smith (OFF 67)
11. Simon Baldry
33. Dwayne Mattis

Subs:

40. Andrew Jeffrey
29. Jon Worthington (ON 82)
28. Paul Scott (ON 76)
14. Jon Stead (ON 67)
12. Gianfranco Labarthe

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