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Luton Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Matchday Musings: Hard-fought point for Sunderland at Luton Town!

Tough test for The Lads as they come from behind to take a well-deserved draw - here’s a few thoughts on what went on at Kenilworth Road...

Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Luton is just one of those places, isn’t it? You just want to get in, get what you need and get the hell out as quickly as possible.

Having said that, one can have a good game of Theft & Shrubbery upon leaving the away end... those who know - know.

The whole feel about the place just makes you uncomfortable. Small stands, people’s back gardens, hospitality boxes that look like those huts you can rent out down at the seafront for the day and a pitch that looks far too small to be up to the regulation minimum. Also, being of a certain age, I keep expecting the ball to bounce thirty feet into the air off a plastic pitch - but I digress...

Based on all of this, and the fact Luton are a well-oiled machine under Nathan Jones, most of us would have taken a point if offered ahead of kick-off, so on that alone, it could be deemed a fairly successful Saturday afternoon.

In fact, ten minutes into the game I think I would have snapped your hand off for a point.

Luton Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Twice in the opening period Luton failed to take advantage of our mistakes. First it was Leon Dajaku and then Dan Neil decided to join in the competition to see who could put us in the deepest shit early on.

Thankfully, we didn’t see an early goal from the home side, but it’s fair to say I feared the worst as we were clearly second best in the opening exchanges. This is where we have to give credit to The Lads, because Luton looked stronger and seemed to be first to every ball, and then slowly but surely, we got ourselves back into the game.

We had a couple of breaks as we got the ball forward quickly, by playing a bit longer, that got us up the pitch a bit and it gave the players a visible lift, with Amad and Jack Clarke getting into dangerous positions to provide a reminder to our hosts that they were in a game.

But, Nathan Jones’ side responded and with around 18 minutes on the clock the home side hit the post with a header that required a couple of tidy follow-up saves by Patterson to extinguish the danger. Then just over five minutes later Dajaku cuts inside onto his left foot to hit a shot low to the keeper’s left, to see us hit the post.

Luton Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
Leon Dajaku hits the post in the early exchanges
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

It’s probably worth adding that this was probably one of the most scrappy games we’ve been involved in this season and as a result, one of the most compelling.

Neither side looked like they could, or even wanted to put a foot on the ball for a period of possession. It was like one of those frames of snooker where the top players forget their talent and the drama increases because of the lack of composure on display.

The longer the first half went on the more we were competing, until both sides were throwing punches at each other like we’d been thrown out of the pub after last orders and we had forgot what we were fighting over twenty minutes ago.

That was until, however, we mistook the fourth official’s board to signal two minutes additional time as the half-time whistle and we lost concentration in first half injury-time. There appeared to be an off-the-ball incident involving Carlton Morris and Danny Batth in the six-yard box as the ball evaded everyone and ended up on the Luton right.

At this point Dennis Cirkin won’t require anyone to tell him he needed to do better as he was beaten all too easily to allow the ball to come back across the face of goal to find Morris, minus a Danny Batth who was recovering from what had occurred previously, who slotted past Patterson without requiring a huge amount of effort.

Luton Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Kenilworth Road
Carlton Morris celebrates scoring the opening goal
Photo by Rhianna Chadwick/PA Images via Getty Images

Having done so well to get back into the game, it was a kick to the bollocks to go in behind at the break.

As we came out for the second half, maybe unsurprisingly based on Mowbray’s substitutions so far, we didn’t see any personnel changes and we began sloppy after the break, but thankfully, so did Luton.

The early exchanges followed much the same pattern as the first but with perhaps a drop in quality that lasted until around the hour mark when the gaffer made his move.

Alex Pritchard, Leon Dajaku and Dan Neil made way, being replaced by Edouard Michut, Patrick Roberts and Elliot Embleton - resulting in a different game.

We began to keep possession of the football, with a first sequence of passing the ball on the deck to other fellas in light blue coming only moments after the changes were made. In particular, our on-loan French midfielder, Edouard Michut stepped in to become a calming presence on the ball as we began to turn the screw a little.

This effort was aided by the introduction of Ellis Simms around ten minutes later which was a welcome sight for all concerned. It has to be said that the fact Mowbray waited until there was just twenty minutes left on the clock to put up Corry Evans’ number to introduce Simms, suggests that the on-loan Everton striker might still be in the very early days of rehabilitation - but it was great to have a focal point up top again.

Luton Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
Elliot Embleton levels the game with a tidy finish
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

It was only a couple of minutes after the introduction of Simms, when Jack Clarke smashed a ball from six yards out against a defender, and then, with just under fifteen minutes left on the clock, it finally happened.

Clarke, who came more and more into the game as we looked for a goal, typically drove at the defender to give himself half-a-yard close to the touchline and pulled a ball back to Elliot Embleton who finished neatly from around six yards out.

It was deserved. The home side had thrown everything at us, including some of the physical stuff and we stood up to it, going toe-to-toe with them.

It was an odd feeling after the goal. After spending around half-an-hour of the second half longing for a goal and wanting to take a point out of proceedings, there was now a feeling that we might actually nick all three.

We were close on a couple of occasions to catching them on the break, with Roberts going close with a shot after cutting inside, and in injury-time, Simms almost got in behind after an Amad ball from wide. Frustratingly, it seemed to catch him by surprise when it arrived at his feet with a decent first touch away from going in behind the Luton backline.

But all-in-all, a cracking point for The Lads today. Luton Town are a useful side and will likely be sniffing around the play-offs once again this season and we forced ourselves into a game where we had to change the momentum, which isn’t an easy thing to pull off, especially at places like Kenilworth Road.

Luton Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Kenilworth Road Photo by Rhianna Chadwick/PA Images via Getty Images


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