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Luton Town 1-3 Sheffield United
by Layth Yousif
at Kenilworth Road
WITH Blades fans celebrating in a corner of Kenilworth Road at the end of a hard-fought match on Saturday afternoon, a beautiful, bright rainbow suddenly appeared in this part of Bedfordshire.
Alas, the crock of gold was not to be found, but the visitors will certainly not be complaining about the three points they snaffled from lacklustre Luton, as Sheffield United grabbed only their third win of the season.
Goals from Cameron Archer, James McAtee, and Vini Souza lifted United level on points with fellow basement side Burnley.
While Rob Edwards previously in-form Hatters side dominated the Blades with 70 per possession at times, they only had Carlton Morris’s second-half spot-kick to show for their efforts, as they missed an excellent chance to ease away from the relegation trapdoor.
While United remain bottom, for all their refreshing play recently, Luton are only three places above the side from south Yorkshire.
“A tough day. Disappointing to lose the game of course. They defended the box very well, we made a couple of errors and got punished,” Luton boss Edwards surmised after the match.
Following on from United’s embarrassing 5-0 home defeat by Aston Villa last time out, Blades boss Chris Wilder made four changes, but it appeared that nothing had really changed, when James McAtee fired narrowly wide of Thomas Kaminski’s far post in the opening moments, when the Blades forward really should have scored.
Bizarrely Blades’ No 3 Max Lowe came on as substitute after the hapless Rhys Norrington-Davies collided with an advertising hoarding moments later, in a move that underlined the struggles United seem to be mired in at the moment.
The stricken No 33 hobbled around the pitch to the changing rooms, earning no sympathy whatsoever from the home support.
In an absorbing opening, referee Chris Kavanagh was forced to book Mason Holgate for a late challenge on Jordan Clark.
On 20 minutes as the crowd clapped for Tom Lockyer, the club’s redoubtable captain, No 16 Reece Burke fired in a shot that flew narrowly wide with a slight deflection.
While the resulting corner failed to test the visitors resolve, the move highlighted Luton’s dominance in the opening stages. United's Gustavo Hamer, who featured for Coventry during Luton’s momentous victory in last season’s Championship play-off final at Wembley, also found himself in official Kavanagh’s book when hauling down Ross Barkley midway through the first half.
United missed a cast-iron chance on 28 minutes when Archer latched onto Vini Souza’s clever flick, but the Blades No 10 wasted his chance.
However, Luton failed to heed the warning and 22-year-old Archer grabbed the opening goal on the half-hour minutes to put the Blades 1-0. Archer did well to power past Gabe Osho and into the box, prior to giving the Luton keeper “the eyes” — before a shimmy sent Kaminski the wrong way to slot satisfyingly into the net.
Worse was to come for Luton when Burke had a penalty awarded against him for handball in the box following a VAR check. At the time Souza’s header had struck Burke’s arm, not a single player on the pitch appealed for, or argued against a penalty. Yet VAR in its wisdom decreed a spot-kick. No wonder a baffled Edwards said after the match: “I don’t know what the rules are [for penalties] anymore.”
Up stepped McAtee, who slotted calmly past Kaminski to double the visitors lead and make it 2-0 on 36 minutes.
The smattering of boos at the half-time whistle were replaced by cheers when Hatters captain Morris pulled a goal back from the spot on 51 minutes to make it 2-1 to the visitors.
The goal came after VAR instructed referee Kavanagh to take a look at the monitor after the ball hit the arm of Blades No 21 Souza.
On 63 minutes Morris unleashed a low left-footed curler that Blades keeper Wes Foderingham did well to keep out, as the Hatters strove for parity. But nine minutes later Souza made it 3-1 to the Blades with a fine finish across Hatters keeper Kaminski, and low into the far corner, as the visiting fans from South Yorkshire celebrated long and hard.
“The reaction of the players this week has been great,” said a delighted Wilder after the match.
“Our attitude was only going to be answered when it is questioned on the pitch and I thought they were outstanding and deserved the result.”
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