Second successive play-off final victory meant far more to Luton's USA international keeper Horvath

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Stopper had won at Wembley with Forest last year

Winning the Championship play-off final for the second successive season meant that little bit more to a lost for words Luton keeper Ethan Horvath on Saturday.

The 27-year-old had been part of the Nottingham Forest team who had done so last term, beating Town’s conquerors Huddersfield Town 1-0 at Wembley, with Horvath on as a late substitute for the injured Brice Samba.

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However, leading up to the final, the USA international had been on the periphery at the City Ground, with just six league outings, as he played very much second fiddle to his French team-mate.

Fast forward 12 months though and taking his place between the posts for the Hatters, Horvath, who moved to Kenilworth Road on loan in the summer, had already completed a half century of matches for Town, keeping 20 clean sheets in the process.

Following 120 minutes and penalties, he was then celebrating once more, Town winning 6-5 in the shoot-out, although this time Horvath knew he had played a much greater role in the success, saying: “I’m really just so grateful for it.

"It was a bit different compared to last year as this year was my 52nd game, so feelings, emotions, through the roof.

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"It’s kind of hard to put into words, but I’m so happy for Luton, the club, organisation, the town, everybody."

Ethan Horvath leaps for joy after Coventry miss from the spotEthan Horvath leaps for joy after Coventry miss from the spot
Ethan Horvath leaps for joy after Coventry miss from the spot

On the game itself, Horvath said: “It was fantastic, the first half we were really, really good, unlucky to not get more.

“Second half they came out good, they equalised, I mean it’s football.

"It’s refocus and go again, that’s been our mentality, when a little setback happens, we just go again.

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"Then you can kind of sense at the end of the second half we were coming and then had the momentum and that’s what we just said, extra time who wants it more?

"The tactics and all that goes out the window and it’s who wants it more?”

In the end it was Luton, as after normal time and extra time couldn’t separate the two teams, it was down to spot-kicks to see who would reach the top flight, Luton holding their nerve to net all six of their efforts.

Coventry made it up to five until Fankaty Dabo was off target, much to the delight of the near 38,00 Luton fans packed behind Horvath’s goal.

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The stopper continued: “We did our homework and we practiced the situation for two or three weeks, so I was confident in the boys to get it done and just being patient knowing that one of them was going to go our way.

“Great penalties from both sides and the situation like this, after the fifth, you always know it’s going to be that one and credit to both teams it was great pens.”

It had looked like Horvath might not have been on the field to face the penalties at one point, struggling in the closing moments with a hamstring injury that required treatment.

However, he managed to come through it, saying: “I’ve done a lot of kicking this season, all the goalkeeping movements were fine it was just the kicking was bothering me, everything else was good.”

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Town’s victory did come without their leader Tom Lockyer on the field though, as the Welsh international collapsed inside the opening 10 minutes and had to be replaced by Reece Burke.

Thankfully now okay and recovering, Horvath reiterated the entire team’s view that the success was for their inspiration captain, saying: “I kind of saw it out of the corner of my eye and I just thought he tripped, so the first thing I did when I came in at half time was ask how is Tom, is he okay?

"As I didn’t know it was that serious, but everything’s good and he’s okay.

“After something like that happens, we all know Tom, how important he’s been the last few games, so it’s like we want to get this done for him.

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“The whole season, all credit to them, we’ve had different injuries, it’s all credit to everybody, the defence has been absolutely fantastic this year.

“The only word I know is that he’s all good and everything’s okay, so happy for him, and that he’s okay.”