Match Reports

Two points slip away!

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Mike Newell made three changes, two enforced and one by choice, after Saturday’s humbling at Deepdale. It was great to see Sol Davis back in a first team shirt, as shell-shocked Keith Keane was rested. Chris Coyne and David Bell, who picked up knee injuries at Deepdale, were replaced by Leon Barnett and Dean Morgan, the latter of whom has been unlucky not to have been recalled sooner. Beresford continued between the posts, after successfully appealing against the ludicrous sending off, late in the match, at Preston.

After such a poor result on Saturday, Luton needed three points against Cardiff City, and despite the Bluebirds’ superior league position, Luton looked the better side in the opening exchanges. Brkovic looked sharp having reverted to the right of midfield and Carlos Edwards showed that he is just as effective going forward from right back as he is from Midfield. Kevin Foley was a revelation alongside Nicholls in central midfield, and, having two left footed left flank players in Davis and Morgan balanced the side much better.

My man-of-the-match, however, was Rowan Vine, who seemed to be involved in everything in the opponents’ half of the field.

Howard supported him superbly, and Vine might have scored on 20 minutes, when a slick knock forward by Howard, let him in for a shot, but Alexander saved well. The opener was not long in coming, though, and it came through Rowan Vine. Dean Morgan sent over a delightful cross from the left, which was met by Vine at the far post with a glancing header.

Hardly had the applause died down, before he had the ball in the net again. This time he received the ball from the right wing, through Carlos Edwards, and swung his boot at the ball at the near post. It seemed to wrong foot the keeper and as the ball remained near Vine he swung again from almost a seated position, to prod the ball home for a 2-0 lead. Game over! Let the St Valentines Day Massacre continue!

Maybe not!

Luton were in the ascendancy and went forward at will, with Cardiff wondering what had hit them, although they still looked very sharp and dangerous on the break, but had not seriously tested Beresford. Matters should have been even more wrapped up by half time, when Ahmet Brkovic over elaborated after good work by Howard and Vine, and Berko again missed an opportunity having whistled past Darren Purse, only to hit a weak shot, which caused Alexander no anxiety.

As the second half began, Luton continued to control the game and while little of danger occurred in either penalty area, time was on Luton’s side, but Nicholls lost the ball to Koumas around 55 minutes, who hammered it into the top corner from 28 yards, giving Cardiff a lifeline that had not looked likely to that point.

However, the lively Vine slipped through the Bluebirds’ defence and crossed dangerously, where Barker panickingly swung at the ball slicing it goalwards with the outside of his boot. Alexander was stranded and Brkovic made sure. Whether it was already over the line I could not tell, but either way it was 3-1 with only 30 minutes remaining.

Five minutes later, Cameron Jerome thought he had scored before seeing Marlon save majestically, but Cardiff were finishing the stronger and seemed to have a belief that they could retrieve the situation.

On 71 minutes, Neil Ardley was gifted the ball in midfield, and crossed into the box, where Scimeca rose to head home for 3-2.

Immediately, Cardif came forward again, and Joe Ledley attempted to remove Heikkinen’s shirt, before running clear and smashing a shot against the crossbar, with referee Woolmer, unimpressed by The Swedish Finn’s appeals for a free kick.

With four minutes left of normal time, Cardiff’s scored again, when Jason Koumas was given too much time and space, and hit a hopeful drive low through players and into the corner of the net. Not as spectacular as his first by any means but just as effective. They all count 1!

There only looked one winner at this point and it was not Luton! As the game went into injury time, Jason Koumas was again allowed to run through almost unchallenged, (don’t they ever learn?) As he strode into the box, I thought at the time it was Kevin Nicholls who challenged, but it was Sol Davis, who got there as soon as he could! However, as Koumas was upended it looked for all the world a penalty kick, but the referee had other ideas.

As he bore down on the penalty area, Andy Woolmer looked across to his assistant for an opinion and, when he received none, waved away the protests. Had it been up the other end, I would have been incensed.

Referee, Woolmer, who had shown 99 yellow cards and 9 red in only 30 games this season, was very tolerant all evening, and he must have been looking forward to a card free evening for once. However, in injury time, two players, Scimeca and Leon Barnett insisted he got his cards out, and after the final whistle Dave Jones the Bluebirds’ manager rushed onto the pitch to berate the referee and Cox talked himself into a yellow card to help the referee keep up his 3 a game average!

Personally, disappointed that I am the Town did not close the game out, Cardiff were well worth their point over the 90 minutes, and so were Luton.

Mike Newell was unamused! In his post-match interview he said:

‘It was probably the most annoying game of the season. The game should have been over at half-time, but we have said that on many occasions this season, especially at home.

‘Individual errors have cost us maximum points and I can’t keep defending my players, and I won’t keep defending players because I am not happy with the goals we have conceded. We haven’t been able to see the game out and we should have done.’

Of the penalty incident, he said, ? I wasn’t convinced, but if it was a penalty and not given, we got away with one.?

Reading in their form are perhaps not the manager’s first choice of opponents to follow this confidence draining few days!

Manager Rating
Mike Newell 8 Better team selection although I disagreed about taking off Morgan to put an out of position Holmes on.

Opponent Rating
Dave Jones 8 Has a good side and they played for him, never giving up when they looked down and out of it.

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