Collins on the spot with his first touch as Luton record famous win over arch-rivals Watford

Championship: Luton Town 1 Watford 0

By Mike Simmonds
Saturday, 17th April 2021, 4:09 pm
Updated Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 6:04 pm
James Collins wheels away after scoring the match-winning penalty against Watford
James Collins wheels away after scoring the match-winning penalty against Watford

Luton striker James Collins came off the bench to score with his first touch and secure a famous, famous win for the Hatters against arch rivals Watford at Kenilworth Road this afternoon, their first on home soil since 1993.

With 12 minutes to go, striker Elijah Adebayo beat keeper Daniel Bachmann to an underhit backpass, before being clumsily bundled over inside the area by the stopper for a penalty.

The forward couldn't continue after the challenge, with Collins brought on, as he went straight up to the spot to roll his shot beyond the keeper and find the net for a goal that, had their been supporters present, would have no doubt brought the house down.

With Watford reduced to 10 men late on due to Kiko Femenia's second booking, the Hornets thought they had undeservedly salvaged a point in stoppage time, ex-Hatter Andre Gray turning home, only for the offside flag to be raised, as the points remained in Bedfordshire.

The Hatters made two changes for the clash, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and Kazenga LuaLua both coming in after their impacts from the bench against Wycombe Wanderers last weekend, Ryan Tunnicliffe and James Collins dropping to the bench.

There was no place for the injured Harry Cornick, with Dion Pereira included, and after boss Nathan Jones called for an improved first half following the need to make changes at the break in Town's last two games, he got just that.

Hosting their sworn enemy for the first time since January 2006, Town were excellent from the opening whistle, maintaining their level of performance for the entire 45 minutes as the visitors barely got a kick.

Jordan Clark's cross from the right met by Elijah Adebayo, with Luke Berry twisting to volley, Bachmann holding on easily.

Skipper Sonny Bradley also curled off target when the ball broke invitingly to him just outside the area, while Luton had penalty appeals turned down when Clark went down in the area, with Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall's effort deflected behind too.

Still the Hatters kept going, Bradley's header from James Bree's inswinging corner flying into the stands from close range.

Just before the 20 minute mark Luton went as close as they had, Dewsbury-Hall's fizzing free kick stabbed goalwards by Bradley and Kal Naismith flung himself at the ball, only to miss by a matter of inches.

Dewsbury-Hall then tried his luck from 20 yards, his right-footer falling a few yards wide, with the Hornets restricted to efforts from range, Will Hughes rifling over.

Berry almost timed his run to perfection to beat Bachmann at his near post following Bree's cross, but with half an hour gone, Town fashioned their best opportunity.

Dewsbury-Hall's crossfield ball was perfect for Clark, whose cross was cleared more up than away, allowing Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu to bring the ball down but blaze disappointingly over from eight yards.

Luton didn't let their foot off the accelerator either, Dewsbury-Hall cutting across an effort from outside the box that had Bachmann flying across goal, only just missing the target.

Changing ends, Jones would have been thrilled with his side's effort in the opening 45 minutes, although slightly frustrated that from their 12 shots, none had actually tested Bachmann.

After the break, the visitors improved, as they were always liable to do so, Luton unable to enjoy the kind of territorial dominance they had, with Hughes missing his kick from a decent position, Matty Pearson making an excellent block too.

Although keeping their opponents at arm's length, the Hatters struggled to create any really meaningful chances, Naismith's free kick landing on the Oak Road roof.

Former England midfielder Tom Cleverley came on and also failed to locate the target when the ball was worked to him on the edge of the box, while Adebayo couldn't quite turn Dewsbury-Hall's dipping free kick on target.

On 72 minutes, Luton finally had their first shot on target, Bree's free kick from the angle flipped over by Bachmann.

Town then upped the ante again, as a great break by Mpanzu saw the ball played to Bree, the full back dinking over the perfect cross, but Adebayo, rather than head home, went for the spectacular volley, and only ended up rather comically handballing it.

However, the striker was then quickly involved in the game's major incident on 75 minutes, racing on to an ill-judged backpass, as he was cleaned out by keeper Bachmann.

Referee Gavin Ward, who had fine game himself, pointed to the spot, but having been injured in the challenge, Collins was brought on.

After the Hornets' Francisco Sierralta was cautioned for an attempt to damage the penalty spot, Collins showed no signs of nerves, and with his first touch, coolly sent Bachmann the wrong way to break the deadlock.

Hughes sliced well wide of an instant reply, while with two minutes left, Watford were reduced to 10 men.

Femenia, who had already been booked for a needless push on LuaLua, did exactly the same when the attacker chased a long ball forward, and was shown a second yellow by Ward.

Late in the game, Gray thought he had salvaged a point, netting from a corner, but the linesman's flag meant it was the Town players celebrating, as at the final whistle, the fans who were no doubt watching up and down the country, and abroad as well no doubt, could do exactly that.

Hatters: Simon Sluga, James Bree, Kal Naismith (Dan Potts 90), Matty Pearson, Sonny Bradley ©, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Luke Berry (Glen Rea 83), Jordan Clark, Elijah Adebayo (James Collins 77), Kazenga LuaLua.

Subs not used: James Shea, Joe Morrell, Martin Cranie, Ryan Tunnicliffe, George Moncur, Dion Pereira.

Hornets: Daniel Bachmann, William Troost-Ekong, Philip Zinckernagel (Isaac Success 46), Joao Pedro, Achraf Lazaar (Andre Gray 83) Ken Sema (Joseph Hungbo 79), Will Hughes ©, Kiko Femenia, Ismaila Sarr, Carlos Sanchez (Tom Cleverley 60), Francisco Sierralta.

Subs not used: Ben Foster, Craig Cathcart, Dan Gosling, Andre Gray, Christian Kabasele, Joseph Hungbo, Marc Navarro.

Booked: Bradley 29, Femenia 72, Bachmann 75, Sierralta 75, Berry 80.

Sent off: Femenia 88.

Referee: Gavin Ward