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The Adrenaline Game
By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 28/01/2023 (Last updated: 29/01/2023)
PEOPLE dream of winning the FA Cup. Well I don't but I'm here at Luton's poky Kenilworth Road ground to watch Town in FA Cup Round 4.
Nice of them to reduce ticket prices to £14 on the basis that no-one will come. No-one came to our last two matches either but they were postponed due to the weather.
Just seeing Town play is a bonus at the moment. Luton away is hardly our dream draw but it's the potential dream draw on the other side of it that's the big attraction. Luton were as aware of that as we were so I couldn't see any chance of us catching them by surprise. Some may remember that we beat Luton 7 - 1 in the 1995/6 FA Cup. Hopefully, no-one in the Luton camp would be fired up by thoughts of revenge. My expectation today was of a game full of blood, thunder, guts and adrenaline. I couldn't somehow see this being a game of cat-and-mouse.
Town's line-up today was depleted by virtue of McAtee being cup-tied, Amos being suspended, injuries and the departure of loan players. This was cause for concern but performances have been inconsistent anyway. The starting XI was: Crocombe - Efete, Maher, Waterfall, Smith, Glennon - Hunt, Holohan, Morris, Clifton - Orsi. It wasn't exactly a scratch line-up and it's hard to say what our strongest is. Luton were clearly the favourites. A draw was going to be a good result but with the fixture backlog, it's not ideal. A draw however would be worse for Luton as barring complete disaster we have nothing to play for in the league, where Luton are looking to get into the promotion play-offs and don't need an extra fixture.
1,473 Town fans, many armed with Harry Haddocks, greeted the teams. The total crowd was 8,552. The tension was mounting. I think I'm with Paul Hurst on being no more excited watching us in FA Cup round 4 than I am watching us play Harrogate or Crawley. I'm not really interested in being the plucky underdog. This morning the talk on tv was of Stevenage and Walsall. Town were off the radar. The game started. The Pinks of Town v the Orange of Luton. A kaleidoscope of colours on a bleak day in a desperate town and a crumbling stadium. Luton kicked off. The sprinklers came on. We don't need the water, thanks. Off we went again. Town had a succession of throws but Maher's range was weak and Luton dealt with them comfortably. Hunt did well to block a shot from Adebayo who wasn't happy. On 12 minutes Luton won a corner on Town's left. Doughty's corner was headed clear by Holohan. The ball was returned for Potts to head home - offside. Glennon was fouled in the Luton half and sent in a long free-kick to Holohan whose header disappointingly went downwards to the keeper. A mazy run by Doughty was cut out by Maher for a corner which was dealt with easily. The attack continued until Adebayo fired over, prompting more sulking. Luton were passing the ball around quickly and slickly as you'd expect of a Championship side. Waterfall cut out another dangerous attack involving Adebayo. The situation was looking precarious but Town were showing dogged determination. Luton continued to attack. Doughty thundered a shot off Morris's back. Smith headed clear from the corner and Mpanzu blasted over. Morris got a shot on target from long range but Town attacks were rare. Doughty earned Luton another corner on 37 minutes. This time Efete headed clear. A ferocious header by Clark struck Smith's knee. Harry Cornick, who I thought was a singer, had a chance from the edge of the box but scooped his shot over. Better stick to singing, Harry. Town were hanging on but the concentration level and positional sense were good. Town's defence was solid, and Holohan and Morris in particular were making life difficult for Luton in midfield. Right on half rime Holohan saw an opportunity after winning the ball, breaking to the right from where he crashed a 30 yard volley, which Luton's keeper Horvath had to tip over for a corner. Glennon's corner was met by Holohan's head at the far post. The ball beat Horvath and with Waterfall in close attendance squeezed into the left corner of the net. Against the run of play it was Luton 0, Town 1. Clifton was booked for wasting time as Town defended for the rest of the half. Time for a nice cup of tea and preparation for the inevitable second half onslaught from Luton.
Luton started the second half on the attack. On 47 minutes Osho wriggled and cut inside from the right. Morris was caught out and tripped Osho. The referee awarded a penalty to Luton. Adebayo stepped up and calmly sent Crocombe the wrong way. 1 - 1. Holohan found himself heading a long ball out for a corner as Luton pressed on. Some nice passing play from Town resulted in Clifton being pushed over outside the box. Hunt wasted the opportunity by sending his free kick high and wide. Holohan and Morris continued to exert influence in midfield, but on 57 minutes Adebayo almost dribbled the ball into Town's net as the home side continued to pile on the pressure. Town had smatterings of attacks, Hunt, Holohan and Clifton all linking up at one point, but were unable to control the bounce on what was a good pitch. On 65 minutes Orsi was booked for needlessly pushing over Lockyer deep in Luton's half. From this Luton launched an attack. The redoubtable Doughty crossed to Clark. Crocombe got his hand on Clark's shot but was unable to stop it from going in. Luton 2, Town 1. Oh dear. Town worked forward in numbers from the kick-off. With Holohan involved, Orsi slotted a pass into the box for Clifton who deftly clipped the ball over Horvath into the left corner of the net. Luton 2, Town 2. What was going to happen now? Clifton had a scrambled shot before being bundled down in midfield. Town were visibly more confident after being overrun for most of the game so far. But with the game being played at pace, it was time to take stock. Crocombe picked off a cross on 75 minutes before going down with Histon Mariner next to me called “Crocombe Cramp”. Time out. Dave Moore came on with the magic sponge, the rest of the players took on water and managerial advice and the game resumed. Luton attacked. Crocombe made a good save from a header by Luton's Morris. Holohan then had a chance but took too long as he looked for space and struck a weak shot with his left foot. Luton were now making substitutions as they sought to score the winner but there were signs that their hitherto incisive attacks weren't coming off. Holohan broke for Town on 83 minutes, finding Orsi who played the ball to Clifton. Clifton pushed his shot past Horvath but Onyedinma was on hand to clear the ball off the line. The momentum was with Town now. Town won a free kick on 86 minutes on the right. Glennon crossed. Luton cleared and started an attack. Great work by Efete, who was playing in an advanced role today, and Orsi earned Town a throw deep in Luton's half. Town were playing with great confidence but had to be wary of Luton counter-attacks. 90 minutes was up. 7 minutes were added. Luton won a corner. Crocombe was fouled as the ball came in. Orsi then played a nice lay off to Efete but the defender did well to stop Efete from advancing from the byline. Town won a free kick. Luton countered. Crocombe did well to save a strong volley from Berry. Clifton had a speculative shot blocked. As the minutes ticked on, for the first time Luton were starting to look ragged. Town made two substitutions with 97 minutes gone. Khouri and Green came on for Glennon and the superb Holohan. 99 minutes had passed. Hunt was fouled in the right corner. Hunt himself took the free-kick which was cleared. Luton broke. Morris raced forward, but Clifton came across and put in a perfectly timed tackle to stop the attack. Clifton't tackle summed up Town's heroic team performance. This open game ended: Luton Town 2, Grimsby Town 2. It's back to Blundell Park the week after next for the replay, and the tantalizing prospect of finding out who we might meet in round 5 if we manage to get past Luton.
Exhilarating, passionate, pulsating, blood and thunder … there are so many positive words which could describe this game. Both sides deserve credit. Luton played with skill and flair, but Town matched this with determination and concentration. After taking a battering in the first half Town's confidence grew after the well-worked equalizer and not only fought on, but posed a real threat. The adrenaline flowed on the pitch and in the stands today. The replay should be a treat.
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