This article featured in the official Luton Town matchday programme for the game against West Bromwich Albion (19/2/22), in the 'Dylan's Diary' column.
What is it with so-called ‘bogey’ teams? They lurk in what appears to be mediocrity before swooping from nowhere, throwing all recent form and supposed momentum out of the window and somehow come to occupy this label of ‘bogey’ team.
The Hatters headed to the Midlands last Saturday fuelled by a run of five wins in seven, sitting in 9th place and just a point off the Championship play-off places. Despite a patchy performance in midweek against Barnsley, the Town were oozing with momentum and confidence.
That marked a stark contrast to their opponents who sat five points from safety having played two extra games, and on a run of just one win in eleven. Fan protests rife, a damp atmosphere and confidence clearly lacking.
But this is a ‘bogey’ team. The Hatters collapsed to a 5-0 defeat in the reverse home fixture back in August, and those demons came back to haunt a Luton side that is far more disciplined, consistent, and dangerous than the one that the Blues faced at the start of the season. All form went out of the window as the Town were well beaten 3-0, rejuvenating their opponents and bringing the Hatters crashing back down to earth.
The term ‘bogey’ team is vague, and I think the fact Luton have conceded eight with no reply against one of the poorer teams in the division just goes to emphasise the fine margins of the Championship, rather than the supposed impact of so-called ‘bogey’ teams. But over the years the Hatters have had their fair share of ‘bogey’ sides who they simply couldn’t overcome.
York City spring to mind, defeating Luton 2-0 on aggregate in the 2009/10 Conference play-off semi-final, before beating the Hatters again two years later at Wembley to secure promotion to the Football League. Again, the margins were fine – a last minute winner against the run of play, direct free-kick and offside goal proved the difference across those three crucial games.
Moving to the present day, Stoke City also seem to have Luton’s number. The Hatters haven’t beaten the Potters since the turn of the millennium, facing defeat in their last three meetings by an aggregate score of 6-0.
But it’s not a one-way street - the Hatters dealt out the kind of treatment they faced against Birmingham City to their neighbours Coventry City. On a run of six games without a win, the Town came out swinging against an opposition who had won seven of their opening nine league games, thrashing them 5-0 under lights at Kenilworth Road as they smothered their usually free-flowing opponents and extended their unbeaten run against them to six games.
Are ‘bogey’ teams really a thing? To an extent, yes. There are just some teams where all form and momentum becomes irrelevant for reasons beyond explanation.
But I think the phenomena of so-called ‘bogey’ teams says more about the nature of football as a game of the finest margins than much about a specific team or opposition.