On the 12th of January, the Courier Sport team made the trip to Sunderland to watch the Rebecca's beloved Mackems do battle with Harry's cherished Luton Town. Having just about survived a trip to Wearside with our lives, we decided to offer a wholly objective and completely non-biased report from the 1-1 draw between the two sides.
The Home View- Rebecca Johnson
On a chilly day in the middle of January, the Courier Sport team jumped on the Metro and headed down to good old Sun’lun, to watch some proper football. The Stadium of Light was host to Luton Town in what promised to be a mouth-watering top of the table clash in League One. Sunderland were sat in third, just behind the Hatters in second. The game was already to be a tasty one, but more spice was added beforehand when it was announced Luton’s manager Nathan Jones had packed his bags and walked down the hall to Stoke to take the managerial position there.
After a pre-match pint in a local Spoons, the Courier team split up, with half in the away end and the other half in the North-East corner of the stadium. As the teams jogged out to “Invaders Must Die” by the Prodigy, a tight 90 minutes lay ahead. The early part of the first half saw a controlled performance by Luton. Sunderland were unable to get their heads in the game and unable to handle the attacks by the Hatters. Within the first ten minutes of the game, Luton’s relentless attacks had resulted in them gaining three corners. Sunderland needed to put the Christmas hangover to one side and wake up, which they did. “King” Chris Maguire scored in the sixteenth minute, striking the ball in the bottom right-hand corner to put the Black Cats 1-0 up, and put his goal tally up to seven in all competitions this season.
Despite going a goal down, the Hatters still pushed on, Sunderland stopper Jon McLaughlin pulled off some excellent saves to prevent them pulling level. Luton’s Danny Hylton, the dictionary definition of a big and nasty forward, was a bit of a nuisance for Sunderland, causing their defence problems. However, Sunderland still persevered and dominated possession for the remainder of the half, with Sunderland centre-half Jack Baldwin missing a header from a corner. The first half finished 1-0 to the home side.
Luton came out fighting in the second half, itching to get that equalizer. Sunderland seemed unable to get their attacks flowing and start a build-up of play. Neither team was helped by the referee, Lee Probert, who at times seemed utterly clueless as to what was happening in the game. A standard of refereeing that fell far below an acceptable threshold. What’s more aggravating is that he is apparently of Premier League class. In the sixty-fifth minute, Probert awarded a penalty to Luton after Baldwin nicked Hylton in the box. A coolly dispatched penalty by James Collins gave Luton their much craved equalizer. 1-1.
The final twenty minutes of the game became incredibly scrappy. Much to the delight of the Sunderland fans, Danny Hylton was dismissed for elbowing Tom Flanagan in the head just five minutes after he’d won the penalty for his side. Sunderland started to build up their attacks more, using their extra man as an advantage. Sunderland midfielder Aiden McGeady hit a thunderous effort from outside the box off the crossbar, rumour has it the bar is still shaking. However Charlie Wyke failed to capitalise from the loose ball and the chance was gone.
As the game reached its dying minutes, a bit of a fracas emerged. “King” Chris Maguire was sent off after an apparent stamp on one of the Luton players. The huddle of angry players took a couple of minutes to disintegrate, and Lee Probert blew his whistle to call the end of a scrappy second half. Sunderland had failed to take advantage of Luton’s one man deficit and the game finished 1-1.
Although a draw was a decent result for both sides, it was a shame Sunderland couldn’t sniff out that victory that can send them on their way to automatic promotion. However, it was great to see “Sweet” Luke O’Nien settling in for the Lads and putting in a good 90 minutes graft. Additionally, Jon McLaughlin’s solid performance was a pleasure to watch after recent season’s disastrous goalkeepers. Sunderland need to start scoring more than one goal in games, and hopefully deadline day signing, Will Grigg, will provide them with much needed goals.
The Away View- Harry Parsons
In October 2005 Championship Luton Town defender Sol Davis was on board the team bus with the rest of the squad heading to an away game at Ipswich Town when he suffered a stroke. Davis recovered and resumed playing with the side in January but, obviously shaken, The Hatters lost 5-0 that day, 6 successive losses later the season was looking bleak. They were relegated that summer and the following year struggled in League 1 following a November entrance into administration and fast forward to April, Luton were relegated from League 1.
In the 2009, after receiving a brutal 30 point deduction Luton Town saw a painful demotion as we finished the season in the most depressing place in English football, 24th in League Two. Finishing the season with 26 points, the only form of light relief was a 3-2 victory in final of the football league trophy at Wembley. % seasons in the conference, 4 seasons in league two, 4 losses at play-off finals and promotion to league one last season meant it’s been a long struggling decade of football for the Bedfordshire side.
Now finding themselves sitting comfortably at the top of League 1, several weeks ago they faced league favourites Sunderland, who were looking for a 3points to add while the still hold multiple games in hand. Luton had rose to the top of League One almost unexpectedly, with almost all the praise being thrown at manager Nathan Jones’ style of club and team management. But surrounding rumours Stoke City were ready to convince him to move announcement of his departure was confirmed on the Wednesday before the Saturday game, away against Sunderland, arguably the toughest game of Luton Town’s season. Nathan Jones left the Hatters with the highest points per game ratio in the clubs history.
Venturing over to the Stadium of Light that Saturday was first for me, never having before been treated to an outing to England’s 10th biggest football stadium. A sorry sight to see a ground once flying high in English football sitting uncomfortably in League One. I have no shame in saying that the Stadium of Light, feels ever so slightly better constructed than Kenilworth Road. While it’s a shame the North Eastern side were unable to fill their colossal stadium the away end was filled with 3100 supporters who had made the 245 mile journey.
A competitive first 15 minutes showed both sides pace and energy; Luton hadn’t been deterred by a lack of Nathan Jones in the dugout. In the 16th minutes Maguire got a comfortable shot into the bottom left corner. 1-0 to the hosts. Luton seemed undamaged with a mighty James Collins making a shot on target 4 minutes later. Significant action was held off until the 45th and 47th minutes which saw Flanagan (Sunderland) and Lee (Luton) both receive yellows for poor fouls. They were certainly not the last, or most controversial, refereeing decisions of the game.
The second half was fast, and loose, filled with obscure refereeing decisions up until Luton’s Danny Hylton secured a penalty, and a tucked it away into the top corner of the right hand post. 1-1, Luton have equalised. 3 minutes passed and Danny Hylton was ushered off the pitch by a red card, controversial would be an understatement but let’s not bother going into that.
For 10 minutes Luton looked comfortable with 10 men but the final 17 minutes (with 7 played minutes of added time), showed a side that were ready for the whistle to be blown. It shows the tenacity and ability to adapt to the changing environments of this Luton side that they held on without incident for the entirety of the rest of the match. Sunderland appeared to be keeping their cool until an arrogant shove, from Maguire saw him join Hylton in the red card club. The full time score of 1-1 meant Luton left satisfied, with some hope that Nathan Jones was not the be-all-and-end-all of Luton’s success. 56% Possession, twice as many on-target shots, the victims of 21 fouls it was an impressive showing from a side that were only hoping for a play-off spot at the beginning of the season. At this point in time the Hatters sit very comfortably on the top of England’s third division.
Oh, and not that it’s important but Stoke City have lost 4 of their last 5 games.
The Neutral View- Tom Hardwick
Sunderland vs Luton Town. Perhaps not an obvious contender for the biggest game of the season, but as far as the Courier Sport team goes, this meant absolutely everything. Office bragging rights were on the line in this North vs South clash, the kind of colossal encounter that only comes about once in a blue moon.
There was a schism in the Courier team, and as such I ended up braving the home end. This decision seemed to have been vindicated when Sunderland took the lead in the 16th minute, with a rasping half-volley strike from the composed Chris Maguire being the difference early on. The much-talked of atmosphere at the Stadium of Light was beginning to generate, although credit must go to the Luton fans who made the mammoth trek in great numbers and remained in fine voice.
Half time came and the score remained 1-0, with Sunderland just edging what was an evenly poised half. However, Luton seemed rejuvenated as the second half started, launching attacks and highlighting that they would not lie down and accept defeat. Danny Hylton is the kind of imposing, physical forward that gives defenders a serious headache (both literally and metaphorically in this game), and having caused problems all afternoon he won a penalty in the 65th minute. James Collins converted with ease, and suddenly it seemed that the momentum was with Luton.
This momentum was shattered when, some 5 minutes later, Hylton was given his marching orders for an elbow to the head of Tom Flanagan. At this point, Luton opted to try and see the game out and play for the draw, ending any hopes of a grandstand finish. Sunderland peppered the Luton box with crosses but the defence stood firm, and the only other moment of note before full time was the dismissal of Chris Maguire as the game was concluding.
1-1 was, ultimately, a fair result for both sides. The referee arguably killed the game off, and had Luton not gone down to ten men, the game would have remained open and a winner would likely have come. Each side definitely has the quality to get promoted, but lets hope that, for the sake of morale at The Courier, it is both rather than just one that reach the Championship next season.