Fortune favours the brave as Luton Town prove victorious in their Good Friday showdown


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Nathan Jones arrested Luton’s recent jitters with an excellent 1-0 home win over Nottingham Forest in a spirited performance that saw The Hatters move into 4th place in the table. 

With Steve Coopers Forest coming to town on the back of a five match winning streak and having to manage an in-house injury crisis, Jones nailed his tactics and approach to deservedly earn ‘a whatever it takes’ result in a performance full of endeavour and bravery.

For large parts of the first period, Luton simply bullied Forest into submission. With a crowd in sync with Luton’s in your face aggression that saw every challenge and decision fought for.

From the off, Luton pressed hard on the Kenilworth Road pitch with striker Elijah Adebayo leading the charge to press Forest at the back that brought supporters to their feet in the early moments.

With Tobias Figueiredo the main target at the back, the Luton striker almost got himself in on goal following some hesitation from the Forest defender, stealing the ball momentarily only to see the ball squirm away for a goal kick. 

The blue touch paper had been lit inside Kenilworth Road, not that the supporters needed any encouragement to get behind their side. 

The home crowd vociferously challenged every decision and sent referee James Linington into an early spin that he never truly recovered from. As the game wore on; both sets of supporters joined in a chorus of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’?

Fighting for every scrap of possession, Forest were well and truly rattled in the opening half. 

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A fascinating battle along the Luton left was one of the standout features of the game. Djed Spence, the Championship player of the month for March, faced his toughest test of the season up against Fred Onyedinma.

Having enjoyed the lion share of his battles in the division up to this point but up against Onyedinma, a player with similar attributes of wanting to get forward, the Forest defender lost out over the 90 minutes to his counterpart but had a much improved second half.

Failing to deal with a delightful knock over the top from Robert Snodgrass, Spence lost his footing and as Onyedinma ghosted in on his shoulder, the Luton man found himself in on goal but could only direct his effort at Brice Samba’s near post which the Forest keeper did well to save. 

Despite Luton’s early pressure Forest should have taken the lead through Lewis Grabban. Against the run of play, Keinan Davis who led the line admirably for the away side, went on a powerful run and have slipped Grabban in on goal, the experienced striker’s goal bound effort was superbly blocked by James Shea in the Luton net.

The home side soon forced their way back into proceedings, pressing high and not allowing the Forest midfield or Spence to get any rhythm into their game.

With Snodgrass and Allan Campbell showing their experience against the relatively younger Ryan Yates and James Garner, the Forest midfield had not received this type of treatment since their Cardiff defeat back in January. 

Garner was booked for a frustrated tackle having lost out to Campbell and was second best to the former Motherwell midfielder for large parts of the contest. Campbell’s contribution saw him named as the sponsors man of the match for his endeavours.

Snodgrass, making his first start for The Hatters, used his nous to try to get under Yates’ skin.

During one first half moment, Snodgrass conceded a foul on Yates, pushing his face into the turf as he then went to referee Linington in protest that Yates needed to get up. It typified the know- how required to win a crucial game down to the bare bones. 

Snodgrass acknowledged Yates moments later as the play moved on, making a play for the Forest midfielder’s under carriage in a friendly gesture as they crossed paths.

The decisive moment in the game arrived before the break and in contentious fashion. As a long ball found full back James Bree up against Jack Colback, the latter appeared to handle the ball initially onto the Luton man’s arm and as Linington seemed to take an age on the decision having blow his whistle, consultation with the linesman saw him point to the spot. 

Following Adebayo’s penalty miss in midweek, Kal Naismith took responsibility to confidently rifle past Samba, sending him the wrong way.

Forest started brightly at the start of the second period and almost grabbed an equaliser through Djed Spence but his effort was disallowed for offside when TV replays showed that he was being played on. 

As Luton’s press inevitably began to fade, Forest enjoyed more possession but struggled to really penetrate the home goal. Captain Sonny Bradley was sent off for his second yellow card to set up a nervous finale.

Substitute Philip Zinckernagel could only head straight at Shea having been picked out by Johnson and the Watford loanee was a whisker away from getting his side an equaliser.

With Luton pinned back, the Dane hit the top of Shea’s post with an effort from the edge of the box with Luton’s shot stopper then reacting well to Johnson’s snapshot on the rebound. Adebayo almost killed the game in injury time but could only find the legs of Samba.

With eight minutes of injury time signalled, the home support rallied behind their side sensing that victory was within their grasp. Forest failed to muster another attempt and the Kenilworth Road faithful were sent into raptures at the death. 

It was full on blood and thunder performance that Jones’ was delighted with at full time.

“It was a magnificent performance. First half I thought we were outstanding – really, really good. (Then) we had to dig in, defend our box well and we did.

“I thought tactically we were superb. Two of the outstanding young individuals in the league this year have been Brennan Johnson and Djed Spence and we went with Amari’i Bell and (Fred) Onyedinma against them.

“I felt they were exceptional today, so tactically I thought we were brilliant. We went up against a top, top side and managed to get the win.”

Steve Cooper, a frustrated figure on the Forest touchline could only rue the missed opportunities and now faces an anxious wait on Keinan Davis’ fitness as the striker limped off in the dying moments.

“The Djed Spence (disallowed) goal is a huge error by the linesman. The left-back (Onyedinma) has played Djed in. That’s cost us.

“I don’t think a (refereeing) mistake like that should happen at this level. It’s had such an impact on the game. Everyone saw it.

“In saying that, we missed a load of good chances as well. We’ve created more than enough chances in the second half to have got at least one point.”

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