Three Memorable Luton Town 4th Round FA Cup ties
That’s not the number of goals that we are expecting Elijah to grab between now and the end of the season, now his luck has changed in front of goal (although that would be handy).
Nor is it the amount of English pounds you would have to bet on us winning the FA Cup to make you able to retire (at around 150/1, it’d be a lot more than that)!
What twenty is, is the amount of times in the 137 year history of the club that Luton have managed to win an FA Cup fourth round tie, which may well represent just how silly you would have to be to put £20 on us to win the thing!
That gives us a very limited list of games in which to pick our three memorable ties from.
1994 (Replay) – Newcastle (home)
A 1-0 regulation win over Southend had led to us being drawn up at St. James Park, who were on their way to turning promotion to the Premier League into a third-place finish in their first season back in the top-flight under Kevin Keegan.
We were very close to going up there and winning the tie first time out as David Pleat decided that this was the perfect time to throw a teenage Tony Thorpe on for his debut. Thorpey responded by almost winning the tie with an absolute screamer that, if it wasn’t for John Dreyer giving away a late penalty, would have won the tie first time up.
Giving a 19-year-old a debut wasn’t enough for Pleat, so in the replay he started a youngster up top who was still the best part of two months short of his own 19th birthday. Those too young to remember him at the Kenny, I implore you to look up the footage as, amongst other things, it will show that, at one stage, John Hartson did have a modicum of pace!
Just a quarter of an hour in, Hartson took advantage of a Newcastle back-line that showed all the hallmarks of the downsides of the entertainers tag that Keegan’s side would earn a couple of years later, one long-ball resulting in Hartson nicking the ball past keeper Mike Hooper, who was charging out probably wondering where his defence had disappeared to, before giving us the lead.
That lead was held onto until around the same time as the penalty was given away in the first game, with nerves beginning to jangle around the Kenny that were caused, not just by the likes of Peter Beardsley and Andy Cole, but also the prospect of a lower-division side in Cardiff in the next round and a possible passage to the Quarter-Final.
Scott Oakes would ensure there would be no comeback this time though, galloping away down the left in front of the main stand, giving a preview of what was to come later in the cup run. His shot was straight at Hooper but he was lucky enough to be free in the middle as right-back Des Linton (who only scored one goal in his entire Hatters career) came onto the rebound and turned down driving a shot (that probably had better odds of destroying the Oak Road scoreboard hoarding Keith Keane style than finding the net), instead rolling the coolest of passes back to Oakes to finish off the tie
2013 – Norwich (away)
Who could ever forget this one, struggling as we were to somehow manage to finish below the play-offs in non-league for the first and lets hope only ever time.
By heck, it’s been a very crazy decade since. You read that right, as of Thursday just gone, it is now over 10 years since we made FA Cup history at Carrow Road.
Yes, it makes me feel old too.
Anyway, despite the awful league form, we had already disposed of Wolves in round three (with a little help from Kevin Foley), getting Stale Solbakken the sack in the process. Proving that while some things do change, it’s comforting that a loss to us being the final nail in a managers coffin is not just a modern phenomenon.
Some people at least gave us a chance in that Wolves clash though, coming as it did with Wolves on their way to relegation to the third tier. Playing away at a top-flight side is a different kettle of fish though. 1989, when Sutton Utd had knocked out Coventry, was the last time a non-league club had knocked of a top-tier one, and it had been over 30 years since Altrincham had managed to do it away from home.
Looking back at the footage of the goal, you would be given to think that the victory was a pure smash and grab job. However, it really wasn’t like that at all.
Norwich created nothing for the first half-hour, which was quite a bit down to them trying to rest captain and star-striker Grant Holt by giving him the afternoon off and his replacement being so awful on the day that they had to drag him off at half-time. Not a great afternoon for the teenage loanee, a certain Harry Edward Kane.
To be fair, we were lucky to be level at half-time, as how Leon Barnett never scored from that corner, I am entirely sure not even he knows.
But in the second half, we created as many decent chances as them. Holt and Wes Hoolahan probably both should have scored, but so should Alex Lawless at the end of a lovely move about ten minutes before we did score and Jon Shaw had a decent chance too, albeit one where Andre Gray was screaming in anger at him that he should have somehow passed it through three Norwich defenders to him!
1961 – Manchester City (home)
This was an excellent win against a mid-table side from the top-flight who featured both cup winning goalkeeper Bert Trautmann and a young Dennis Law.
It was also probably the first true reason to cheer that Hatters fans had to celebrate since reaching the final itself two years previously, seeing as we had then finished bottom the previous season.
What was also a rarity is that we scored three in the game without club record scorer Gordon Turner getting on the scoresheet, with Alec Ashworth grabbing two and Jim Fleming getting the other.
However, what makes this one more memorable than any other FA Cup tie Luton have ever played is that the Hatters win came four days after the game was originally meant to be played.
Not only we were getting stuffed in the original game 6-2, but Dennis Law had been credited with scoring the lot for City (although it is commonly considered that one was probably an own goal).
However, the game was stopped because of what was apparently a ‘quagmire’ of a pitch in pouring rain with 21 minutes left (although I doubt it was any worse than how it was during the New Year’s Day game v Barnet in 2014!), abandoned, and we went on to win the tie with Law scoring their goal in that one too.
What really tops it off is that Law finished his career with 41 FA Cup goals, this puts him second for 20th century FA Cup goals behind Ian Rush, who scored…
By Steve Moore