FEATURE: Find out when was the last time Luton Town used five goalkeepers in one season

Hatters gave West Bromwich Albion loanee Alex Palmer his debut at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday

By Mike Simmonds
Monday, 7th March 2022, 12:17 pm
Updated Monday, 7th March 2022, 12:32 pm
Alex Palmer became the fifth goalkeeper used by Luton Town this season - pic: Gareth Owen
Alex Palmer became the fifth goalkeeper used by Luton Town this season - pic: Gareth Owen

When Alex Palmer took to the field for the Hatters at Middlesbrough on Saturday, it meant that five players have now gone between the posts for Luton Town this season.

Croatian international Simon Sluga began the campaign as number one, James Shea then taking over due to Covid and keeping his place, with Sluga eventually moving to Bulgarian side Ludogorets in the transfer window.

His departure led to Aston Villa's Jed Steer arriving, the on-loan stopper eventually displacing Shea and looking like he would finish the season as boss Nathan Jones' first choice.

Carl Emberson made 25 appearances in the 2002-03 season

However, an Achilles injury during the FA Cup fifth round clash with Chelsea last week, a game that Shea missed due to a tight hamstring, saw Harry Isted off the bench to perform heroics as Luton went out 3-2 on the night.

With Isted having not played five games though to be considered a senior keeper, and Shea still absent, it means Jones turned to West Bromwich Albion's Palmer to don the jersey at the Riverside to become keeper number five with the season only just in March.

You have to go back to the 2002-03 season when Joe Kinnear was in charge for Town to make so many changes in the same position, and he went one further, using six in total!

Back in the old Division Two, Carl Emberson played the first three league games, Luton losing all three and conceding 10 goals in the process, before Ben Roberts was signed on loan from Middlesbrough for his second stint at Kenilworth Road.

Mark Ovendale featured eight times for the Hatters as Luton used six goalkeepers in total

He began the next five matches, the Hatters registering their first victory over Chesterfield, the 3-0 win over the Spireites one of three successive clean sheets, Cardiff and Brentford shut out too.

Emberson was back in goal for the 2-1 Worthington Cup win at fierce rivals Watford in September, then coming on at half-time during the 2-2 draw with Notts County after Roberts picked up an injury.

That saw the stopper get the nod for the next three league contests, keeping his first clean sheets against Huddersfield and Swindon, plus playing in the 3-0 Worthington Cup exit to Aston Villa.

October meant it was time for Frenchman Cedric Berthelin to get his opportunity, having signed a two month deal after leaving Lens

Rob Beckwith played the last four matches for Luton in the 2002-03 season

He started with a 3-2 win at Stockport, going on to play nine matches, with three clean sheets and five wins, Luton only losing once, that at Northampton Town.

Despite being offered a long deal by Joe Kinnear, finances at Kenilworth Road meant that couldn't go ahead and he went to Crystal Palace instead.

During his run of matches, Luton also used keeper number four, Mark Ovendale starting the 2-0 LDV Vans Trophy win at Woking, although Emberson came back in for the 4-3 triumph at Stevenage in the next round, plus the FA Cup first round 4-0 success over Guiseley.

With Berthelin gone, Ovendale had his first league outing, a 2-1 home defeat to Colchester, Emberson then starting the next six, Luton putting a good run together to win four, also in goal for the 3-0 FA Cup second round defeat at Wigan Athletic

Ovendale, who had the gloves for 2-1 LDV Vans exit to Cambridge, was then back for three games in February, replaced by Ovendale for another two, before it was time for keeper number five to be introduced, Lars Hirschfeld.

The Canadian international joined on loan from Spurs, playing three games, Town losing two, Emberson back for the 3-0 win over Huddersfield, as Hirschfeld returned for the 1-1 and 0-0 draws with Wigan and Oldham.

That was it for Hirschfeld though, with injury seeing him substituted for Emberson after 24 minutes of the Latics stalemate, as his replacement began the next three, Ovendale starting the 2-0 defeat at QPR.

With four games of the season left, Ovendale was struck by his own injury in the warm-up ahead of Town's home clash with Bristol City, which meant keeper number six had to be drafted in, 18-year-old Rob Beckwith.

It worked out too, as the Hatters drew 2-2 on the day, which meant he stayed in the side for the last three games, the highlight being a 5-0 win at Colchester.

With 12 games to go of the current season, 15 if Luton can achieve their dream and reach the play-off final, then Jones will be keeping everything crossed that Town's goalkeepers can stay fit and available for the run-in so he doesn't have to equal Kinnear's record from almost 20 years ago.