Hatters' winning run is ended by play-off rivals Middlesbrough

Championship: Middlesbrough 2 Luton 1

By Mike Simmonds
Saturday, 5th March 2022, 5:15 pm
Updated Saturday, 5th March 2022, 5:20 pm
Luton were beaten at the Riverside Stadium this afternoon
Luton were beaten at the Riverside Stadium this afternoon

Luton's run of three successive Championship wins was ended with a tame defeat at fellow play-off chasers Middlesbrough this afternoon.

A game low on real genuine quality saw the hosts move ahead in the first half through Paddy McNair's penalty before sewing up the points late on when sub Duncan Watmore found the bottom corner.

Harry Cornick found the net deep into stoppage time, but Town were never at their best throughout the contest, although Nathan Jones' side weren't helped by three injuries which saw Gabe Osho, Kal Naismith and Allan Campbell all have to come off at various stages.

The Hatters chief had made seven changes to the side from the 3-2 FA Cup defeat against Chelsea on Wednesday night, as on-loan goalkeeper Alex Palmer came straight in following his emergency loan signing from West Bromwich Albion yesterday.

Striker Elijah Adebayo was also recalled, along with James Bree, Danny Hylton, Cameron Jerome, Naismith and Campbell, while Jordan Clark and Luke Berry were on the bench.

A scrappy opening suited Town to a tee, new keeper Palmer called on to claim one cross, with Hylton showing some neat touches and looking dangerous in flashes in his role behind a front two of Jerome and Adebayo.

Having got through that period, the Hatters then found themselves behind on 17 minutes when Boro's first real foray into their box saw Reece Burke trip Folarin Balogun for a spot-kick that McNair sent Palmer the wrong way from, rolling into the corner.

Jerome saw yellow moments later for a high boot on Anternee Dijksteel, while with half an hour gone, Town had their only real opening, Bree's free kick headed wide by Adebayo when the oncoming Jerome was better placed.

Town then had their best opportunity on 32 minutes, Campbell doing splendidly to weave his way around one and pick out Jerome, whose close range stab was unfortunately straight at Joe Lumley.

The visitors were forced into a change six minutes later when Osho was injured in conceding a corner by the falling Matt Crooks and couldn't continue, Henri Lansbury on in his place.

When the set-piece was eventually cleared, Isaiah Jones' attempt from the edge of the box was a poor one.

Town looked to up their game after the break, going close 10 minutes in when Jerome found an onside and unmarked Adebayo, Lumley out well to save, diverting his rebound behind too.

From the resulting corner, Bree's delivery was met by a towering header from Jerome, Lumley doing well with his feet on this occasion.

Luton were then forced into their second change midway through the half when Kal Naismith had to be replaced, Clark making his first outing since the 2-0 defeat at Sheffield United in January.

The Hatters' bad luck with injuries continued, Campbell also going off after a head injury and Cornick on, before Palmer was tested for the first time, collecting ex-Luton loanee Aaron Connolly's acrobatic overhead volley.

Connolly escaped the Town defence to send a dinked attempt wide, but there looked little way back for the visitors, and so it was to prove, sub Watmore first to react when his cross was blocked, rifling past Palmer at his near post.

Deep into stoppage time, Cornick reduced the deficit, diverting Adebayo's cross beyond Lumley for what was a career best 10th of the season, but Boro managed to avoid any further scares in the final 60 seconds to claim the points.

Boro: Joe Lumley, Anternee Dijksteel, Neil Taylor, Dael Fry, Marcus Tavernier, Jonny Howson (C), Paddy McNair, Matt Crooks, Aaron Connolly (Josh Coburn 83), Isaiah Jones (Sol Bamba 90), Folarin Balogun (Duncan Watmore 63).

Subs not used: Andraz Sporar, Lee Peltier, Marc Bola, Luke Daniels.

Hatters: Alex Palmer, James Bree, Amari'i Bell, Tom Lockyer, Reece Burke, Kal Naismith (C Jordan Clark 65), Gabe Osho (Henri Lansbury 38), Allan Campbell (Harry Cornick 73), Danny Hylton, Cameron Jerome, Elijah Adebayo.

Subs not used: Harry Isted, Robert Snodgrass, Peter Kioso, Luke Berry.

Booked: Jerome 20, Hylton 50, Lansbury 61, Lumley 90, Coburn 90.

Referee: Jeremy Simpson.