4 observations as Luton breeze past rivals Watford
It was a special day for the Hatters as they swept aside Watford in a dominant performance which emphasises the major improvements Rob Edwards has made. Only a few months ago Luton were dismantled 4-0 by this same Watford team (albeit with another manager, it's tough to keep track of them), conceding as early as the 3rd minute. Yet today was much different, and since then it is clear that both teams have gone in opposite directions. A 2-0 scoreline flattered Watford, who did not look up for it at all, unlike Rob Edwards and his players who relished every single minute of this enjoyable derby match, made all the more sweet by Rob Edwards getting one over on his former employers. Another fun talking point was the Watford supporters having to travel from all over England in order to get to Vicarage Road before making the journey up to Luton. They ended up making the journey in Harry Potter Experience coaches that the club had most likely got a good rental deal on.
Rob Edwards started the season as Watford manager, but lasted 11 games before being shown the door | Photo credit Gareth Owens
Utterly dominant performance
The stats back up what was a controlling and superior performance for the Town against their local rivals. Luton were ahead on shots (13-2), ahead on shots on target (6-1), ahead on corners (9-3) and ahead on xG (expected goals) Luton 1.85 - Watford 0.07. The only moments when Luton weren't dominant was the first 10 minutes of each half, where Watford were quick out the blocks, but Luton's settled defence dealt with any threats and we never looked like conceding.
It's now only two goals conceded from open play in 13 games for Luton, which coincides with the arrival of Mr Marvelous into the team. The defence is performing as one of the best units in the league, and Ethan Horvath now has the joint highest amount of clean sheets in the league, with 17, and is now in prime position in the race for the Golden Glove. Such was the amount of possession and chances Luton had in the last 20 minutes, the game could easily have ended 3 or 4 nil. The players turned up for the game, big time.
Full of energy
The Luton team did not stop running from the first to the 90th minute. The only Luton change came in the 93rd minute, when the game was already won. The Hatters looked more energetic and lively than Watford did despite the fact they had made 4 subs before the 80th minute. In the last 15 minutes, Watford were walking while it was Luton who were running, pressing for that second goal which they eventually got through a corner.
Something that really highlighted the difference in effort and mentality between the two teams was the image of Pelly sprinting down the right flank late on in the second half, having (surprisingly) just come back from injury. Meanwhile, Joao Pedro spent most of the second half walking around and sulking, compared to Adebayo and Morris who were closing defenders down until the last second. Overall, it was so impressive the way Luton kept on fighting even when we were in the lead, we didn't sit back and instead kept on pushing for a second goal.
Redemption for Osho
Osho was sent off for a reckless, desperate two footed challenge in Luton's 4-0 defeat last time out to Watford. Troost-Ekong made a crying gesture towards him as he walked off. Yet it was Osho this time doing the crying gestures to the Watford supporters watching on as he ran off to celebrate scoring Luton's first goal in the derby, a superb one touch move with Gabe calmly slotting it past Bachmann.
The former Reading centre back has been a key part of a defence that has kept 4 clean sheets in the last 5 games. Such is Osho's form, he is keeping Reece Burke out of the team. . He reads the game superbly, is calm and progressive on the ball, and has the pace to keep up with most attackers. It has been a big turnaround for Osho, as earlier this season he gave away a few penalties and was subject to criticism from fans, yet Edwards has kept faith with him and it is really paying off.
Playoff finish firmly on the horizon
The Town are now a huge 10 points clear of Norwich and Coventry, the closest teams outside the playoffs. We also pulled 6 clear of fellow playoff hopefuls Blackburn and Millwall, meaning that Luton are in a very strong position to qualify for the second year running, with just 7 games left of the season. This win also put a dent in Watford's playoffs hopes (lovely), although they are only 6 points off, with the form they are in it is unlikely that they will qualify, considering they have just 1 win in their last 6 matches.
Now the task is to keep up this form and head into the playoffs in a strong position. The team this year is playing better than it was last year, where our form slipped slightly before the end of the season, and key players like Adebayo and Pelly got injured. Jordan Clark coming back fit would be a boost for the midfield, although the trio that started against Watford are all playing extremely well. We should be well equipped to put up a better fight in the two legs in the playoffs this year, compared to last year where we were beaten by Huddersfield.
By Samuel Roy