Luton Town
Forward Kazenga Lua-Lua celebrates his goal (Luton’s second) with one of his trademark backflips. Photo Courtesy of Luton Town Football Club

The last few weeks have been difficult for my Luton Town fandom, as long hours at work, combined with international breaks, meant I hadn’t caught a Luton game live since the 1-0 win over Preston North End in March. If the first half of the Wycombe Wanderers game was what I’ve been missing then I’m glad I was working. Not a shot on goal during the first 45 minutes and outplayed by Gareth Ainsworth’s side meant Luton had a lot to think about during the halftime break, going in 1-0 down.

“We didn’t display any kind of quality”

Nathan Jones talking post-match about the dreadful first-half display by Luton Town

No Glen Rea, Harry Cornick, or Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall meant Nathan Jones wasn’t scared to ring the changes after two defeats on the bounce against Derby County and Barnsley. It didn’t seem to help though as Luton lacked any energy and played a long ball game that suited Wycombe and the way they wanted to play. Strikers James Collins and Elijah Adebayo had little to feed off in their first start as a striking duo, as the Wycombe defense was comfortable dealing with their aerial threat.

WYCOMBE START BRIGHTER

This also meant Wycombe had the better chances and could have had a penalty in the 25th minute. Luton Town defender Matty Pearson bundled over Wycombe striker Admiral Muskwe on the left-hand side of the box but referee Oli Langford waved it off. It was one of those decisions that if it’s on your team it’s a definite penalty but for the opposition, it’s a soft decision. So realistically it’s somewhere in between.

Wycombe got their penalty ten minutes later when Kal Naismith was beaten to the ball in the ball by Muskwe and caught the man. Luton players surrounded the referee to dispute as Pearson had seemingly been caught by a flailing elbow from Uche Ikpeazu in the build-up. Anis Mehmeti stepped up to face Simon Sluga and despite the Croatian shot-stopper saving one against Barnsley he was unable to keep the midfielder’s shot out despite getting a hand to it. Mehmeti sent it to Sluga’s left and in.

From here on out it was going to be about how Luton could deal with Wycombe’s typical time-wasting tactics. Every goal kick took a lifetime. Every throw an age. They couldn’t let it frustrate them and getting to halftime without conceding another was the bare necessity (simple bear necessity).

SECOND HALF U-TURN

If the first half had me wanting to punch walls the second half had me bouncing off them. Harry Cornick and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall entered the fray to replace Ryan Tunnicliffe and Luke Berry, and suddenly Luton Town looked like an actual football team. The ball stayed on the ground and they moved it quickly around what had become Wycombe statues.

Instantly the chances started flowing with a long throw from Cornick in the 48th minute confusing the Wycombe defense. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t drop quickly enough for top scorer James Collins and Wycombe were able to clear. Three minutes later Dewsbury-Hall forced a fantastic save from David Stockdale and Luton were in the driving seat.

I can probably count on one hand the amount of times Wycombe entered the Luton half during the second 45 minutes, which wasn’t helped by the sending off of defender Josh Knight in the 57th minute. With Luton Town pressing, Knight tried to control a loose ball but it ended up running away from him to Jordan Clark. The following tackle left referee Oli Langford no choice but to dismiss the defender as he went in, studs up, with a reckless challenge.

From then on Luton were parked in the Wycombe half with Ainsworth’s men hanging on for dear life. Laying bottom of the EFL Championship the Choirboys were in desperate need of the points as their battle against relegation slips away. Luton on the other hand was throwing attackers at the situation as they looked to cement their mid-table status.

GAME CHANGERS, CHANGING GAMES

Kazenga Lua-Lua replaced James Bree in the 54th minute while George Moncur replaced Matty Pearson in the 77th minute. At this point, Luton Town had Cornick, Collins, Clark, Lua-Lua, Moncur, and Adebayo all on the pitch in search of an equalizer. The ‘game changers’ as Nathan Jones refers to his substitutes as played a part in what was to be eight minutes of heaven starting in the 80th minute. 

After Jordan Clark was fouled at the edge of the box George Moncur stepped up with one of his somewhat trademark free-kicks. The attacker curled it around the wall and into the bottom left-hand corner giving David Stockdale no chance. Luton was buoyed while Wycombe looked deflated.

It didn’t take long for Luton to take the lead after breaking the resilient Wycombe defense and four minutes later Lua-Lua made it two. Picking up a short corner from Dewsbury-Hall the pacy winger cut inside onto his right foot and from the edge of the 18-yard box curled an absolute gem past Stockdale. It was what Luton deserved from a much better second half but you couldn’t help but wonder why the first 45 minutes was such dross.

AND THEN THERE WAS THREE

Elijah Adebayo should have added a third in the 86th minute but he failed to control Pelly Ruddock-Mpanzu’s through ball and blasted over from 12 yards out. The striker did however add a third two minutes later when Luton showed their passing dominance. Dewsbury-Hall picked the ball up just outside his own 18-yard box and released Moncur inside the Wycombe half. Moncur had Cornick in support who sent an inch-perfect ball into the box for Adebayo to head home.

A recap of Luton’s 1-1 draw with Millwall from earlier this season

The comeback win means Luton Town has still yet to lose at Adams Park in 15 games. While the sending off changed the game, Luton’s second-half performance alone meant they deserved something from the game. The less I see of the first 45 minutes though, the better.

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