Match Reports

Leeds v Luton Report

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With Chris Coyne and Paul Underwood returning to the fold, Mike Newell had two new enforced changes, when Skipper Kevin Nicholls failed to recover from the hamstring strain picked up in training, and Markus Heikkinen was unwell.

The match was one for the record books, with Gary Kelly making his 500th appearance for Leeds and Chris Coyne his 200th for Luton, and, as it turned out, Steve Howard netting his 100th goal for the Hatters.

The first half was an even affair, and although Leeds had the lion’s share of possession, they failed to make it count.

Coyne had an ideal opportunity to cap his milestone game with an early goal, but he fired over the bar after Leeds had failed to clear a free kick from Underwood.

Blake and Kelly went close before Vine, in the 34th minute, surged forward leaving Butler in his wake and placed the perfect cross onto the head of Foley, who somehow managed to head over when scoring looked easier from 7 yards.

Luton continued to press and Brkovic shot wide when well placed, and with Vine wide open in space, but the shot was on for him and he should have done better.

Leon Barnett is benefiting from his run in the side and looked assured in defence today. He cleared a dangerous cross from Kelly and then another from Lewis. Chris Coyne seemed to be talking him through his game and between them they did all that was necessary to prevent a Leeds opener in the first half.

In general the two sides had cancelled each other out and a scoreless half time was about right.

Leeds started the better in the second half and might have gone ahead early on when Blake made a mess of a good cross from Kelly. However, Luton were not out of it by any means and on 49 minutes Sean Gregen clearly handled in the box, as Howard tried to cross the ball, and the referee, Keith Hill, waved away the appeals and allowed play to continue.

As Luton continued to protest, Leeds broke away to take full advantage of the Town’s loss of focus on the continuing play, and Douglas strode forward to smash a well placed drive past Beresford.

It was harsh on Luton to be behind when they probably should have been ahead, and was the turning point of the match. Having scored, Leeds settled and began to play more composed football, causing the Luton defence some problems, culminating in bad turning to worse less than 5 minutes later, when Rob Hulse got to the dead ball line almost unchallenged and his cross was met by Lewis for the easiest of tap-ins.

Sol Davis fouled substitute Bakke and received the yellow card for disagreeing with the referee over the award, which was going to prove a very silly act, and then Hulse charged into Foley and also found his name in the referee’s notebook.

Mike Newell threw on Feeney and Showunmi in the 63rd minute, for Brkovic and the strangely ineffectual Morgan. It was almost a 4-2-4, with Luton desperately trying to retrieve the situation.

As time was running out, Luton created a period of pressure, when Howard shot powerfully, only to see his drive deflect off Chris Coyne, but Edwards got on the end of it and crossed again, and there was some panic in the Leeds defence, but Feeney was just unable to get on the end of it and Sullivan intervened in the Leeds goal.

Underwood crossed in the 83rd minute and Steve Howard headed his long awaited 100th goal for Luton.

There was still time left to equalise and Luton piled forward, with Leeds counter-attacking like the away side. Underwood crossed again and, this time, it fell to Howard’s feet, and he blasted a shot goalwards but it was brilliantly saved by Sullivan.

Almost immediately, Howard had another chance, but he shot wildly and it sailed harmlessly over. It seemed to signify the end of Luton’s hopes, but the referee indicated 3 minutes of added time and Luton continued to attack.

As Leeds countered, Kelly looked to have Sol Davis beaten for pace and a fairly innocuous nudge by Davis saw the referee show his second yellow card, followed by the inevitable red one. It just goes to prove how futile it is to show dissent to referee’s decisions. Not only did that reduce the Town to ten men, but it used up a good portion of the injury time when, from the free kick, Leeds won a corner kick and kept the ball in the corner, making it impossible for Luton to get back on the attack, and the whistle went for full-time.

A less than amused Mike Newell said in his after match interview for ?s Official Website:

‘Everyone in the ground has seen it was a penalty. It changed the game because Leeds went straight down the other end and scored. It was a ‘double whammy.

‘I am getting a little bit fed up explaining that we are playing decent stuff everywhere we go and not coming away with results.

‘It is becoming more than frustrating and when you come to a place like Elland Road, you know it will be difficult. People were expecting Leeds to win but we don’t see it that way and I was pleased with the way the lads played, especially in the first half.’

It has to be said that Luton were the victims of not only a poor refereeing decision, (and probably the only poor one he made all day, in an otherwise excellent display), but also their own lack of discipline. Once the referee makes his decision, he is not going to change his mind because players protest. Had they concentrated on the game instead of arguing with the referee, Leeds may not have scored their first goal and Sol would only have got one yellow card. Food for thought lads!

The play-offs look a very long way off from Luton’s current position, and a period of further consolidation will be required to prevent their being drawn into the lower half of the table, which would be scant reward for their efforts this season.

Leeds had more possession, but Luton did more with their possession, and deserved a draw from a competitive match.

However, before we complain too loudly about a poor penaly decision,lest we forget, 1) Ours against Liverpool was outside the box, 2) Cardiff should have had one when it was 3-3, and Reading might have had one last week (even though it was also outside the box, we’ve seen them given….see no 1?)

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