Last Wednesday I went to watch Luton against Aston Villa in the EFL Cup 1st round. Villa had just lost their first match in the Championship after being relegated from the Premiership last year and were without an away win since August 2015. Luton however were top of League 2 after a 3-0 opening day win at Plymouth and were looking to cause an upset.
Villa started much the better team, hitting the woodwork twice in the opening minutes and were carving Luton open at every opportunity. Grealish and Gardner were running the game and the Hatters midfield trio couldn’t get into the game. It was no surprise when Ayew scuffed a knockdown from a corner past the Luton keeper to give Villa the lead. With the packed away end buoyant and the Villans on top it was hard to see a way back into the game for the Hatters. However, Luton slowly grew into the game and soon realized that the Villa defence was shaky when challenged. With the support of a roaring Kenilworth Road, Luton gained confidence and after a lovely flowing move through the midfield, Jake Gray (on his first start for the Hatters) slotted the ball past an onrushing Mark Bunn. The Hatters fans celebrated wildly and Ex Arsenal man Paul Merson, sat in the Sky box, was so surprised he even put down his cup of tea!
The Hatters were now on top and after the break McGeehan, Ruddock and Marriott took control of the game. In fact it was those three who combined for Luton’s second goal. McGeehan won the ball on the half way line and surged past despondent Villa players with ease before playing the ball through for Ruddock to chase. The midfielder got there but his shot was blocked by a recovering Villa defender. However the ball fell to Marriott who had burst away from his marker and he shot fiercely towards the goal. Bunn managed to divert it away with his feet but it hit Grealish and fell to McGeehan and the youngster smashed it in from 5 yards out. As the ball hit the net Kenilworth Road erupted. McGeehan wheeled away almost touching the Luton fans as he spread his arms wide in celebration. Luton were ahead!
Villa were now stunned and distraught. 10 minutes later, a scuffed Olly Lee cross went straight to Villa defender Okore who summed up the Villans evening (and last 12 months) by mindlessly passing the ball straight past his own keeper to give Luton the win. The Sky cameras certainly got the upset they came for but as McGeehan pointed out in his interview afterwards the Hatters fans really contributed to the team’s victory with incredible support throughout.
For Villa their dismal run continues and although they won yesterday in the league there is lots of work to be done. Every time Luton pushed forward they looked like scoring and there was no outlet up front for the Villans. One thing I can say though is that their fans were superb throughout and for a club relegated the season before to pack out an away end of a League cup 1st round tie is no mean feat. The Villa fans deserve better than their performances over the last year and it is incredible they are still supporting their team with the same enthusiasm.
As for the Hatters their performances last Saturday against Plymouth and against Villa were superb and yesterday they were the better team in a tricky 1-1 draw with Yeovil which keeps them top. I really believe this year they could go up automatically and maybe win the league as the squad they have is too good for this level. For now though they need to focus on the games ahead and with the young talented manager they have in Nathan Jones, they should be winning the next few games.