Ex-Hatter Liam George still fondly remembers his Reading winner
Although it took place some 20 years ago, the only man to score a winner for Luton Town at the Madejski Stadium, Liam George, admits it’s a goal he still remembers fondly to this very day.
Back on August 21, 1999, the Hatters visited Reading, after being the first opposition to play at the new ground the previous year, when they went down to a 3-0 defeat.
This time there was an altogether different outcome though, as Andrew Fotiadis put the visitors in front on 54 minutes with a bullet header.
Former Luton attacker Martin Williams then made it 1-1 moments later, before George struck with five to go, turning in Michael McIndoe’s cross from close range.
Speaking to the Luton News, George said: “I’ve got quite fond memories of playing against Reading at the Madjeski, because we played the season before, the year it opened.
“We lost 3-0, so coming there that season, they were one of the clubs that were on the up and were becoming quite a powerhouse at that time.
“We were all quite excited to go back to such a big ground, and it was by far the best ground that was in our league.
“It was a brilliant day, I played upfront with Foti, who’s still a very good friend of mine and it’s one of the games we talk about quite a lot as we both scored in that game.
“Michael McIndoe set my goal up, with a nice little bit of wing play, he was doing a little bit in the corner and managed to dig a cross out, and I’ve got across the front post.
“We always have a laugh, as I scored the winner, but Foti’s goal was far better that day, fantastic.
“We used to really enjoy playing together, but one of the resounding memories was that it wasn’t very full and that’s what they were complaining about at the time.
“They had a fantastic new stadium but they never seemed to get many fans in it.
"The Luton fans were behind the goal, so we were well travelled that day.”
“Martin Williams scored for them, he’s a friend of mine as well, a Luton boy, so even in the tunnel, and since then, I get reminded of that game quite often because of bragging rights.
“He went on to have quite a good season that season, so it's one of the Luton games that sticks out in my memory really.”
George had only opened his Hatter account the previous weekend, scoring twice in a 3-2 in over Blackpool on his 18th appearance.
The strike in Berkshire was his first away goal for the club, made better by the fact it was in front of the away end.
He continued: “It’s quite funny as I’d scored two the week before against Blackpool and was getting stick all week, because that was my first goal for Luton.
“The first one was an inconspicuous header, it hit the back of my head at the front post, and everyone was mocking me all week saying it wasn’t really my goal, it was an own goal.
"Luckily I went on to score with my left foot in front of the Kenilworth Road End and Foti set that up for me, so it was the start of me going on a bit of a run after that.
“I remember when I scored (at Reading), running behind the goal to the fans, and it was one of those special moments.
“The away support for Luton has always been fantastic, so everywhere you went, you always felt somewhat comfortable as you’d just get to know faces as well, of the travelling fans, so it was brilliant to be able to score in front of them.”
Since that day, Luton have visited a further five times, beaten out of sight on most occasions, losing 5-1, 3-0, 1-0, 4-0 and 4-1.
That makes George’s strike even more noteworthy, as on the goal itself, he said: “We took the lead, they scored, last five minutes, McIndoe does his little bit and I nick a little front post winner, which is something I was always taught to do, get across the front man.
"I would go front post, someone like Gary Doherty or Fotty would go back post, so it was one of those that we were always training on that type of movement, one goes near and one goes far.
"Luckily that day it came off for us, I didn’t even have to get much on it, it’s a bit of a scuff really, but you’re that close in, that anything towards the goal, it can worm or squirm in and I’ll take the credit.
“It's something you don’t see modern strikers do as much, anything can happen in that situation.
"Luckily I got the flick, but being able to react in those situations, if it hits him, everybody says it’s a great save, but as a forward you know as long as you get that on target, anywhere near or just away from him, has got a chance of going in.
"That’s what making those positive runs is all about, just get in on target, get something on it and let the luck of the gods take over."
Asked for his reflections on the 90 minutes, George said: "It was a game of the forwards as both teams were very attacking sides.
"Going away to Reading, you’d think 1-1, you’d settle it and get out of there, but we kept playing and if you look at the players that came on, they were very positive substitutions.
"We were going to win the game, I'm not sure the back four would be happy with us, but we didn’t really know how to draw games back then.
"We were going for it, we came unstuck a few times, but it was fearlessness and maybe a bit of naivety as well, so it was a bit of a topsy turvy game."
Meanwhile, Luton's starting 11 that day contained nine players who had come through the youth ranks at Kenilworth Road, in Nathan Abbey, Stuart Fraser, Marvin Johnson, Gary Doherty. Matthew Spring, Paul McLaren, Matty Taylor, Fotiadis and George himself.
That left just Julian Watts, who joined from Bristol City and Phil Gray, brought in for his second spell from Fortuna Sittard, as George added: “It's unbelievable.
"We bang on about the Barcelona era, Ajax and all of these fantastic academies, but for a very long time Luton and even a team like Crewe have always been very famously known for the amount of players they developed.
"I think Norwich, if you have a little look at them, they’re starting to produce quite a lot of good players and all of a sudden Frank Lampard at Chelsea is getting a lot of the plaudits for bringing a couple of people through, whereas teams have been doing that for a lot of years.
"Luton are one of the starting points of being able to develop your own and being able to give opportunities in the first team at a very young age."