Canaries assist is still on JJ’s mind as he plots Luton upset

JJ O'Donnell sets up Scott Rendell for his winner at Norwich in January 2013
JJ O'Donnell sets up Scott Rendell for his winner at Norwich in January 2013

Playing a starring role in Luton making FA Cup history is something that former Hatters JJ Donnell admits he still thinks about every single day.

For it was the winger who helped set up one of the most famous goals in Town’s recent history at Carrow Road as the visitors became the first non-league side to knock a top flight team out since the Premier League started.

When asked if he still recollects that famous day on January 26, 2013, O’Donnell said: “Constantly, it’s probably the biggest career highlight I’ve ever had to be honest with you. Playing at Wembley with Gateshead is another thing I always wanted to do as a kid, but the FA Cup’s the greatest club competition in the world, so to create history at the time with Luton is something I look back on every day.

“We went there with no chance and we won. The club was struggling at the time in the Conference, they couldn’t get out of the Conference, then going to Carrow Road with 4,000 fans and they deserved a bit of a smile on their faces, even for a few weeks or months, it was brilliant.

“To play a part in setting up Scott (Rendell) is something I almost relive every day I suppose.”

O’Donnell had only been on the field for 12 minutes when he took fellow sub Stuart Fleetwood’s pass on the left hand side, and waited for Rendell, another replacement, to make his run, before crossing for the striker to score the only goal of the game.

JJ O'Donnell celebrates with Norwich match-winner Scott Rendell

JJ O'Donnell celebrates with Norwich match-winner Scott Rendell

The winger, now playing for Luton’s opponents this weekend, Gateshead, continued: “Scott was someone I enjoyed playing with.

“I had a great relationship with him, I still speak to him constantly now, and he’s a great lad.

“As soon as Stuart Fleetwood played me through and as soon as I knew Scott was there, I knew where he was going, he knew where the ball was going, it was just a case of timing.

“Whenever I played with Scott, I knew if I put the ball across the first defender, he was always going to get there.

To create history at the time with Luton is something I look back on every day.

JJ O’Donnell

“It was the case that day, I put it across there and Scott got across and we scored.

“It was a great day, the FA Cup throws up an upset every so often and I was grateful to be part of one.”

O’Donnell is now looking to be part of another upset involving the Hatters this weekend, as he takes to the field against Luton for the Tynesiders, who ply their trade in the National League.

He believes it could be possible too, saying: “Of course, the emotion goes out of the way on Sunday at two o’clock, I want Gateshead to get through.

“I want Luton to get promoted and Luton to have a fantastic season, but ultimately I’d love to get Gateshead into the third round and draw a big team.

“Every run comes to an end, I know Luton are free scoring and scored this many goals this week, this many goals the next week, but you’d like to think eventually it’s got to come to a halt.

“If we can turn up on Sunday, we’ve got great ability up here and if we turn up and play the way we know we can, then we can cause an upset.

“The manager knows the history with me being at Luton, so I’m hoping I’m either from the start on Sunday and I’ll be doing all I can to try and help the team get through to the next round.”

When asked just which Heed players could give Town the most problems, O’Donnell added: “We’ve got a few decent players, we’ve got some goalscorers too.

“We’ve got Jordan Burrow who’s scored a few goals over the last few weeks, Luke Hannant, a young lad who’s just come into professional football the last 18 months who’s done really well.

“Ability wise we know we’re not as good on paper as Luton are, but I was part of the Luton team that went to Norwich and that was four leagues difference.

“This is only one league, so if we play the way we can, I think we can make it difficult for Luton.”