Luton's impressive run is ended in subdued fashion with disappointing defeat to Sheffield United
Luton's wonderful run of form ended in a hugely disappointing manner as they turned in an unusually subdued performance against bottom side Sheffield United this afternoon, falling to a first defeat of the calendar year.
Kenilworth Road had been bathed in confidence ahead of the contest, manager Rob Edwards and Elijah Adebayo both up for monthly Premier League awards, with Town on a run of three wins from six, scoring four in both of their last two games and up against a Blades who hadn't won in their last seven, and not on the road all season.
With Chris Wilder’s side having been thumped 5-0 by Aston Villa last weekend, the expectation from the majority inside the stadium was Luton would pull further clear of Everton after the Toffees' 2-0 defeat to Manchester City in the early kick-off. As we all know though, football is never as easy as that, as Luton, with Reece Burke in for Teden Mengi, should have been behind with just 28 seconds on the clock, Gustavo Hamer flicking the ball cleverly on for John McAtee who was completely unmarked in the area.
He bent his side inches wide of the post, when he really should have picked out the bottom corner, but that was to give the Hatters a warning they ultimately failed to heed. The visitors, without striking duo Ben Brereton Diaz and Oli McBurnie, were then dealt another injury blow on five minutes, former Luton loanee Rhys Norrington-Davies colliding with the advertising hoarding and immediately signalling to the bench that his afternoon had come to a premature end.
Town threatened on eight minutes, Alfie Doughty's free kick met by Gabe Osho who could only put his downward header off target, but that was as good as it got as despite conceding 59 goals so far this term, the Blades looked solid in the opening 20 minutes. The Hatters were unable to really create a clear-cut opportunity, Burke's hopeful volley taking a nick on its way behind, as United were able to successfully repel another Doughty corner, which again, was to become a frustrating theme.
The visitors somehow weren't in front on 29 minutes though when Jack Robinson's long throw saw the ball drop just eight yards out after some head tennis, Cameron Archer completely unmarked, but scuffed wide in what was a shocking miss. However the £18m summer signing didn't need to wait too long to turn from villain to hero as with the visitors breaking, Gabe Osho slipped, allowing the former Aston Villa forward to race into the box and with Amari'i Bell covering his man instead of closing him down, it gave the forward acres of time to find the bottom corner.
It went from bad to worse for Luton, as six minutes later, a corner met by Vini Souza looked to have deflected straight into the gloves of Thomas Kaminski. Play went on, before a minute later, it was stopped, referee Chris Kavanagh sent to the screen by VAR to look at the ball hitting the outstretched arm of Burke and belatedly a spot-kick was given.
James McAtee assumed the responsibility and easily sent Kaminski the wrong way from 12 yards to give the visitors a 2-0 advantage that they held going into the second half. Needing a big start if they wanted to find a way back into proceedings, Luton had just that with seven minutes gone. Again, it was in extremely fortunate circumstances, Doughty swinging a corner over that saw shouts for a spotkick, although at first glance they looked more in hope rather than expectation.
Play went on once more before Kavanagh stopped the play and went to the screen once more, spotting Adebayo’s header brush against the raised hand of Souza, who wasn’t even looking at the ball. Signalling to the spot for the second time in the game, this time it was met with a huge roar from the Luton faithful, Morris stepping up and waiting for the whistle this time, as he hadn’t at St James’ Park last weekend, confidently sent Foderingham the wrong way, pulling it back to 2-1.
Town won some corners as they looked to use the momentum with the fans believing again, but Osho could only manage to put one over the top. Buoyed by a sixth goal of the campaign, Morris tried his luck from 25 yards on 63 minutes, Foderingham able to palm behind.
The air went out of Luton's balloon though on 72 minutes, as Barkley was caught on the ball in an advanced position, and the visitors broke away, Osho looking like he had done superbly to get back and avert the danger. He too had his pocket picked though, the ball worked wide to Souza, who was involved in everything, slamming beyond Kaminski.
Town looked to reduce the deficit once more on 76 minutes, Doughty's corner headed down for Adebayo but he was unable to beat the sprawling Foderingham. With Luton running out of ideas in the closing stages, sub Andros Townsend’s curler was easy for the keeper, Tahith Cong was inches wide from outside the box the only real moment to raise heartbeats.
Although nine minutes were added, the belief had gone out of the home supporters by now, as despite witnessing their team having 75 percent possession and 20 shots, Town's run came to an end with a disappointing whimper.
Hatters: Thomas Kaminski, Chiedozie Ogbene, Reece Burke (Andros Townsend 68), Gabe Osho, Amari'i Bell, Alfie Doughty (Luke Berry 87), Ross Barkley, Sambi Lokonga, Jordan Clark (Tahith Chong 53) Elijah Adebayo, Carlton Morris (Cauley Woodrow 87). Subs not used: Tim Krul, Issa Kabore, Teden Mengi, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, Jacob Brown.
Blades: Wes Foderingham, Gustavo Hamer (Tom Davies 59), Cameron Archer (Rhian Brewster 81), Anel Ahmedhodzic, Jack Robinson, Jayden Bogle, Vini Souza, Ben Osborn, James McAtee (Oliver Norwood 81), Mason Holgate, Rhys Norrington-Davies (Max Lowe 5). Subs not used: Jordan Amissah, Auston Trusty, Yasser Larouci, William Osula, Andre Brooks. Referee: Christopher Kavanagh. Booked: Holgate 10, Hamer 26, Morris 41. Attendance: 11,138 (1,350 Blades).