Clever Cornick's quick thinking secures Luton's Championship play-off place

Championship: Luton Town 1 Reading 0

By Mike Simmonds
Saturday, 7th May 2022, 4:30 pm
Harry Cornick gets the plaudits after his winner against Reading
Harry Cornick gets the plaudits after his winner against Reading

A moment of ingenious quick-thinking by Harry Cornick that wouldn't have looked out place in the World Hide and Seek Championships (yes it is actually a thing) saw the Hatters secure their place in the Championship play-offs this afternoon.

After an excellent first half display against a Reading side with nothing to play for, the only thing lacking for Luton was the final ball or finishing touch.

Then, with the clock ticking down to the break, visiting keeper Orjan Nyland, who had already made some decent saves to keep his side in it, competently gathered a left wing cross from Amari'i Bell before a home forward could turn it in.

Looking to launch the ball downfield ahead of the referee's whistle, the Norwegian dropped the ball the floor, but criminally hadn't checked his rear view mirror.

Had he done so, he would have noticed a lurking Cornick, who was quick to pounce, nipping the ball off his toes and slotting into the empty net for his 13th of the season with what proved to be the winner.

Going into the game, Town knew that victory was all they needed to cement a top six berth, although any kind of result would be enough depending on the outcomes at Sheffield United, Middlesbrough and Millwall.

Although the Blades made the most of Fulham's title success by hammering the champions 4-1, both Boro and the Lions suffered defeats, which meant that whatever happened at Kenilworth Road, the Hatters would be above the dotted line.

They weren't to know that in the early stages though, as boss Nathan Jones made five changes from the 7-0 hammering at Fulham, given a huge boost with James Bree, Sonny Bradley and Allan Campbell all recovering from injury to take their place in the starting XI.

They were joined by Cornick and Jordan Clark, replacing the injured Fred Onyedinma, with Robert Snodgrass, Dan Potts and Danny Hylton dropping to the bench, Peter Kioso missing out on the squad.

Town had a magnificent chance to settle any nerves inside the opening 60 seconds, when Clark nipped in to win the ball and and found Jerome, who was clean through, but couldn't beat Nyland, the keeper diving to his left to save what was ultimately a rather tame attempt.

The striker then nodded down for Campbell who tried his luck from 20 yards, but on the run, couldn't keep his effort down.

Clark's return certainly upped Town's intensity in the midfield areas, winning the ball back on countless occasions, while he created anther decent chance, dinking the ball over for Campbell, who caught in two minds, could only head straight at Nyland.

The chances kept coming though, Bree's magnificent set-piece from the right met by Bradley at the far post, his header unable to get past the gloves of Nyland.

Jerome continued to see plenty of the ball, unable to pick out Cornick after escaping on the right, before leaping well to meet Reece Burke's cross, heading over.

Reading began to have a decent spell though, with the impressive Ovie Ejaria breaking into the box on the left, his deflected effort repelled by the body of Matt Ingram.

With news filtering through of Middlesbrough going behind at Preston, Bree went close from a free kick, his effort not missing the bottom corner by too much.

On the stoke of half time, Town had the lead with Cornick's brilliantly opportunistic strike, meaning any worries during the break were simply swept away.

After the interval, Cornick looked to double his tally from a more conventional method, only to see his header fly over the bar.

Rather than be happy with one, Luton chased a second that would surely have killed off their opponents, and they were whisker away from doing so.

First a cross was cleared intro the path of Bree, who 25 yards out, had more time that he might have thought on his hands, curling wide, before Jerome's clever skill made an opening, but his luck wasn't in, rattling against the crossbar.

Reading then went close again, Michael Morrison reaching a deep delivery at the back post, his header saved by the body of Ingram, while Yakou Meite dragged wide on 70 minutes.

With the Royals starting to look capable of rescuing a point, Bradley made a terrific block, throwing himself bravely in the way of Morrison's blast, the centre look looking a dead cert to make it 1-1.

The centre back then tried his luck from far further out, Ingram able to watch it slice into the stands and preserve a clean sheet on his home debut, some effort after having to go through the mill at Craven Cottage on Monday.

With Millwall conceding to Bournemouth, then it meant the final few minutes, plus stoppage time, could be played out in what was quickly becoming a party atmosphere, as no matter what happened, the Hatters were assured of the play-offs.

Now it’s the small matter of Huddersfield Town over two legs, starting under the Kenilworth Road lights on Friday, as Luton look to extend their season even further, with the dream of a trip to Wembley to take on one of Nottingham Forest or Sheffield United at the end of the month and playing top flight football once more, becoming a real possibility.

Hatters: Matt Ingram, James Bree, Reece Burke, Sonny Bradley ©, Kal Nasmith, Amari'i Bell, Henri Lansbury, Allan Campbell (Robert Snodgrass 78), Jordan Clark, Cameron Jerome (Danny Hylton 90), Harry Cornick (Admiral Muskwe 66).

Subs not used: Harry Isted, Dan Potts, Tom Lockyer, Carlos Mendes Gomes.

Royals: Orjan Nyland, Tom Holmes (Kelvin Abrefa 84), Michael Morrison ©, Tom McIntyre, Yakou Meite (Rashawn Scott 74), Terrell Thomas, Ovie Ejaria, Lucas Joao, Baba Rahman, Junior Hoilet (Tom Dele-Bashiru 78, Josh Laurent.

Subs not used: Dejan Tetek, Luke Southwood, Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan, Nelson Abbey.

Bookings: Rahman 41.

Referee: Jeremy Simpson.

Attendance: 10,070 (1,032 Royals).