Luton Town 1-0 Newcastle United. Luton lived up to their pledge of making it “a special day” for convalescing captain Tom Lockyer by beating Newcastle United at an emotionally charged Kenilworth Road.
Andros Townsend headed home the Hatters’ winner against his former club in Luton’s first Premier League game since Lockyer’s collapse at Bournemouth seven days earlier.
Townsend held up Lockyer’s number four shirt in celebration after the goal – one of a number of tributes paid by Luton players and fans to their stricken skipper before, during and after the game.
Only the woodwork denied Luton a more straightforward victory as Ross Barkley struck the bar with a 35-yard thunderbolt and Jacob Brown also hit the frame of the goal from closer in.
Newcastle mounted increasing second-half pressure as Alexander Isak had an equaliser ruled out for a marginal offside while Bruno Guimaraes and Anthony Gordon also went close.
However, they slipped to a fourth successive away league defeat to stay seventh while Luton remain 18th but move within two points of safety and have a game in hand on Nottingham Forest, the side directly above them.
Prior to the game, Luton boss Rob Edwards admitted he did not quite know how his players would react after the scare suffered by Lockyer, a player he described as “a hugely influential and important figure for this club”.
Much of the matchday programme was devoted to Lockyer while both sets of fans unveiled banners with well wishes and there was a fourth-minute period of applause for both the 29-year-old and those who came to his aid.
Edwards revealed the captain had messaged him prior to the match against Newcastle, telling him to “get those three points” which prompted the manager to say his side wanted to make the day special.
They did just that, adding to a growing collection of memorable top-flight displays already this season, producing a typically high-energy display headlined by their two former England players, Townsend and Barkley.
It was Barkley who flicked on the corner to give an unmarked Townsend the simplest of headers for the decisive goal and the ex-Everton man was unlucky to see a ‘Goal of the Season’ contender denied by the crossbar.
Luton’s lead should have been greater as Elijah Adebayo – found by a lovely through ball from Barkley – was thwarted by Newcastle keeper Martin Dubravka, who also foiled Brown, Townsend and substitute Ryan Giles.
The Hatters have let leads slip on several occasions this season but, backed by a support who at times seemed to will the ball away from danger, they held out amid a barrage of attacks in the last half-hour.
The final whistle was greeted with a mixture of relief and delight – and the importance of both result and occasion was evidenced by the time Edwards and his team spent on the pitch afterwards applauding the fans.
The clean sheet – Luton’s first since promotion – would have been another tonic for central defender Lockyer as he continues his recovery at home with his family.
source – BBC