Get Their Groove Back
Amari’i Bell celebrates with teammates after scoring his first goal for the Hatters. Photo courtesy of Luton Town FC

Getting Their Groove Back – Luton hang on to beat Barnsley

Following two defeats in the past seven days, Luton Town traveled to Barnsley looking to get their groove back. It arrived in the form of summer signing Amari Bell, who joined the Hatters on a free transfer after leaving fellow Championship side Blackburn Rovers. The win temporarily pushes the Hatters into third place and will boost confidence before a weekend clash with Birmingham City at Kenilworth Road. And maybe even get their groove back after an opening day win against Peterborough.

Last Tuesday saw a much-changed Luton team exit the Carabao Cup in the first round following an embarrassing defeat on penalties to neighbors Stevenage. That was quickly followed by a 3-2 loss to former Premier League side West Bromwich Albion in a game that wasn’t as close as the scoreline suggests. Positives come in all forms, though, and the update that Jordan Clark was released from hospital after a sickening collision with Albion goalkeeper Sam Johnstone was all the good news Luton fans needed.

A win to get back on track was needed, and with five wins in their last seven trips to the Oakwell, the Hatters didn’t feel intimidated. Within 90 seconds, though, they were under the cosh and acting captain Kal Naismith, wearing the armband in the absence of Sonny Bradley, was lucky to get away with a trip on Romal Palmer inside the box. Somehow both the referee and linesman saw no problem with the tackle as the ball rolled out of play, and Luton escaped unscathed.

Luton didn’t take long to capitalize on the decision, and in the fourth minute, they took the lead. A long free-kick from Henri Lansbury found Elijah Adebayo on the right-hand side. The striker held off his defender before pushing it across the box, but Cameron Jerome was slightly ahead of the ball and could only lean back and get a toe on it. That was all that was needed to take the pace off the ball and set up the emerging Amari’i Bell for a cool right-footed finish from just inside the box.

Goal: Bell Assist: Jerome, Adebayo

Barnsley continued to press, and Luton had Croatian shot-stopper Simon Sluga to thank in the 22nd minute when Palmer, again causing problems, slipped past Pelly Ruddock-Mpanzu to find himself one on one with the keeper. Sluga stayed on his feet, though, and Palmer’s shot was easily chested wide by the Croatian.

Five minutes later, Barnsley threatened again with Callum Styles finding space at the edge of the box to feed a perfectly weighted ball to Clarke Oduor. Unfortunately for the Kenyan international, Luton defender Tom Lockyear was alert to the danger and was able to get a foot in first to send the ball out for a corner.

While Barnsley tried the slow possession-based build-up, Luton was more than happy to use the direct approach, using Adebayo and Jerome as targets. In fact, by the time the full-time whistle was blown, Barnsley would have 71% possession. Yet again, another showing of why the possession stat means little without an end product.

“Possession is Possession. It’s alright having a load of money but if you don’t spend it, it’s no good.”

– Nathan Jones talking post game

Barnsley’s best chance came in the 36th minute when Dominik Frieser put a low ball into the box from the right-hand side. Callum Brittain got on the end of it and forced a magnificent save from Sluga in the Luton goal with the loose ball cleared by Peter Kioso.

The second half looked like a training game of attack versus defense, with Luton using every opportunity possible to run down the clock and stop the Barnsley pressure. When Luton did put any pressure on it normally came in the form of set pieces.

A fellow fan and friend said after the game, “I, as a fan of football, prefer more attacking football than time-wasting,” which is admirable. Everyone wants to see their side play the beautiful game the right way. However, three points is all that matters at the end of the day, and that would have been a game Luton would have dropped points in the past. Remember Millwall?

The Luton defense soaked up the pressure, got the three points, and after two losses in a row, hopefully the three points will help the Hatters get their groove back.

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