Warnock: We had to play Sunday League style to beat Luton

Boro manager felt officials got it right over penalty decision too
James Collins' shot strikes Sam Morsy's hand as the Middlesbrough player was sent off last nightJames Collins' shot strikes Sam Morsy's hand as the Middlesbrough player was sent off last night
James Collins' shot strikes Sam Morsy's hand as the Middlesbrough player was sent off last night

Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock revealed he told his players they had to adopt ‘Sunday League’ tactics in a bid to beat Luton 1-0 at the Riverside Stadium last night.

After a goalless first half in which neither side really threatened a breakthrough, it was the hosts who came out stronger for the second period, clearly attempting to up the ante.

It worked too, as they scored the only goal of the game after just seven minutes through former Arsenal striker Chuba Akpom, tapping in Marvin Johnson's cross from close range.

On his side's efforts after the interval, Warnock said: “I was disappointed in the first half if I’m honest.

"Luton had come and we told them what it was going to be about, what a scrap it was going to be, and I thought they won the scrap in the first half, and I told them at half time.

“I asked any of them if they’d ever played in Sunday League, I said, because tonight you’ve got to play Sunday League.

“You’ve got to match them for their effort, their physical side of it and get into them, like they’re doing to us and get on that front foot, turn them round, get the balls in their channels and I thought we did that second half.

“We started really well, the best part of the game, got a good goal.

“Then I’m so proud of the lads really with the penalty, how we reacted to a long time with 10 men, the defending was fantastic really.”

The game’s major talking point came on 66 minutes when Boro midfielder Sam Morsy was sent off for handling James Collins’ shot in the box.

From the penalty, Collins beat home keeper Marcus Bettinelli, but only after the ball appeared to hit his standing foot.

Referee Andy Davies at first awarded the goal despite coming under huge pressure from a swarm of home players, with Bettinelli himself going straight to the linesman, who admitted he had seen Town’s striker touch the ball twice.

Boss Nathan Jones felt the home players had persuaded the officials to change their mind and when asked about the incident, Warnock said: “We’re disappointed if I’m honest, I’m not sure if the ref is in a position to give it (the penalty).

“He’s in a poor position, Sam’s been pulled first of all by the white shirt, then he slips, then he’s on his stomach when it hits his arm, I just don’t see it.

“But listen, Luton appealed for every decision tonight, every second of the game they were appealing to the referee, so I think that just swung the decision.

“When they took the penalty I don’t think the referee would have disallowed it, I think the linesman was excellent in looking at it.

“He’s definitely touched it twice, so you might say we had a bit of luck, but I don't think we had a bit of luck, I think we're a bit unjust.

"We might have won more comfortably, even with 10 men, I thought we broke out and had the better chances.

“He’d given it hadn’t he? It was only when Marcus went to then linesman and when Marcus came running towards me, he said, ‘gaffer he said he’s touched it twice, the linesman.’

“When he said that to me I thought, he’ll disallow it now, because I knew that he’d seen it and if he’d seen he’d kicked it twice, then end of story.

“It’s only like Norwich did to us (when Boro also had a penalty disallowed for a double touch), they (the players) chased him.

“You’re going to slip on that pitch as I’ve told you, you’re going to need to go straight down the line when taking penalties, you can’t go in at an angle.”

Jones also felt that the Boro players were guilty of some blatant time-wasting after taking the lead, and that the officials needed to clamp down on it.

A sympathetic Warnock added: “I agree with him, but every referee I’ve known always points to the watch and doesn’t play.

"I think we did well to get seven, you normally get five, six, or something like that, but we’ve had it every time we’ve been behind.

“Stoke City started wasting time just after half-time and we learned then, everything was time-wasting and they were the home side.

"So for me, if referee's put a stop to it, if they put 10 minutes up, I’d agree with that as it affects us more than the other way round, but they don’t do it.

"There should be an independent time keeper, that’s the only way to do it, but if they’d have been 1-0 in front they’d have been doing exactly the same, the referee's just do what they normally do.”