Report from an unbelievable day at Carrow Road
The Hatters created history and earned a place in the fifth round of the FA Cup after a sensational, deserving 1-0 win over Premier League Norwich City thanks to a late Scott Rendell strike – the first time a non-league side had ever beaten a Premier League club.
A tireless, hard fought performance from the Hatters brought about its rewards as Rendell slammed home with ten minutes remaining to send the 4,000 travelling Hatters fans into unencumbered ecstasy.
Paul Buckle named just one change from the side that dumped Wolverhampton Wanderers out of the FA Cup in their third round giant-killing as Jake Howells replaces JJ O'Donnell, who returns from injury to seal a place amongst the substitutes. Andre Gray and Jon Shaw continue to ignite their partnership in attack as the Hatters looked to claim their second scalp on a magnificent FA Cup journey.
Chris Hughton made nine changes from the side that were comprehensively turned over by Liverpool at the weekend with former Hatter Leon Barnett coming into the heart of the Canaries defence. Declan Rudd kept goal for Hughton's men as Russell Martin skippered the side as club captain Grant Holt dropped to the subs bench.
Loud and proud, the 4,000 Town fans were in full voice as Arnaud Mendy and Gray kicked off proceedings at Carrow Road with the Hatters kicking towards the Norwich & Peterborough end.
The first corner of the game fell to the visitors as Mendy looked to release Gray away down the right flank but Barnett stepped across to clear the danger. Howells delivery was snubbed out of the front post and allowed Fox to clear the danger.
Norwich brought about a reply soon after as Harry Kane linked up with Jackson. Kane's flick on found Jackson who raced down the right touchline before drilling a cross back from the byline into the grateful grasps of Mark Tyler.
The Town pressed their Premier League opponents and won a second corner of the game after Greg Taylor's ambitious long range volley was deflected wide. Alex Lawless whipped the delivery front post for Ryan Bennett to nod out of the keepers hands and Mendy's looping effort back into the area bounced kindly for Rudd who shielded the ball out of play.
Clever, intricate play between Lawless and Gray nearly brought another sighting at goal for the Hatters on 16 minutes after Shaw bustled the ball away from the Norwich full back. Lawless, on the stretch, hooked the ball into the path of Gray who returned the favour to play in the Welshman. He then cut inside and swung in the cross which was nabbed out of danger from Jonny Howson who slammed it long to relieve the pressure.
Another excellent passage of play from the Hatters saw Shaw peel off of his marker and head across a gaping goal only for Bennett to rescue the hosts. Brilliant build up from the Hatters as Gray, Taylor and Howells combine with two touch football before the latter floated the ball into the far post. Bennett's clearance brought about roars of anticipation from the Hatters and groans of frustration from the Carrow Road faithful.
Tyler was brought into action briefly before the half hour mark when Jackson scampered through on goal. Bringing the bouncing ball down early he hammered across Tyler who flung up a strong right glove to palm it to the feet of Surman. Closed down instantly, Surman's effort cannoned off the shins of Henry who hammered it clear to safety.
A second sighting at goal for the hosts just after the half hour mark as Garrido and Surman linked up well to give Kane the chance to break the deadlock. Kane dragged his shot and Taylor was on hand to deflect the ball wide.
Kane looked set to race away for Norwich five minutes before the interval after a long searching ball by Barnett. As Kane drove on, twisting and turning Rowe-Turner stood firm to hammer the ball out for a corner. The resulting set piece Martin rose highest as Tyler contested before Barnett deflected his header onto the post leaving Lawless to sweep the ball off the line.
Second later a long clearance from Shaw gave Gray the chance to run at Howson. Gray dropped the shoulder and swivelled into the box before tangling with Howson and falling to the floor. His and the 4,000 Luton followers roared Marriner on to point to the spot but to the disbelief of Gray, Buckle and the travelling fans he waved their appeals away.
The final chance of the half fell to the hosts as Martin's volley from close range dropped inches wide of the post. Strong build up from the hosts saw Howson and Surman connect before slipping the ball through to Jackson. Rowe-Turner again was the body in the way for the Canadian who lashed goal bound. The ball looped up onto the chest of Martin who's controlled effort had the home fans gasping.
Substitution at half time for the hosts with Kane departing for Holt who was introduced to the Carrow Road crowd with a rapturous reception from the home fans and a wary eyed greeting from the Town fans.
Despite the change it was the Hatters who started the brightest with Howells latching onto a Lawless cross early on to remind the hosts of the threat posed. Tidy build up from the Hatters with Henry and Lawless exchanging passes before the latter swung an early cross in with Howells darting in front of the marker but failing to find the target.
Gray re-announced his arrival on 48 minutes as he tested Rudd from range. Shaw nipped in to steal the ball from Howson in the middle before setting it back to Taylor. The full back picked his head up and drilled a low pass into Gray who turned and lashed goal wards but Rudd was down early to stop the effort.
End to end stuff to start the second period as Barnett's long diagonal found Holt. The substitute glanced the ball onto Jackson in the area who tried a spectacular over head kick but his acrobatic effort found only the torso of Tyler.
The first set-piece action of the second half was for the hosts as Elliot Bennett asked the question of both Taylor and Howells down the left. Racing away, turning in and out the wide man was finally stopped by Howells who took no chances in belting the ball into touch. The resulting corner however was dealt with by Kovacs who headed clear.
Chances began to appear for City who nearly found their breakthrough on 54 minutes. Jackson wanted the ball off of Surman who duly obliged sliding him into the channel before digging out a cross to find the unmarked Holt at the far post. His header was saved emphatically at point blank range by Tyler before Rowe-Turner volleyed clear with half the ground preparing to celebrate.
Martin continued to get forward from the right back slot as his driven cross was nearly deflected into his own net by Kovacs as the home side finally found their voice.
The pressure was mounting on the Hatters but their response was swift as Shaw's blockbuster volley was muffled by Barnett. Again brilliant build up between Henry and Lawless allowed the cross to be dug out from the byline and Shaw's sweet connection found Barnett preventing a headline stealer.
Shaw was buoyant from his earlier effort and after a mix-up between the Canaries midfield pairing allowed him to collect the ball from deep he had them back peddling. Head down and determined Shaw struck a left footed effort just over Rudd's crossbar.
67 minutes and it was time for a change, JJ O'Donnell was brought on to re-ignite the Hatters engine with Mendy being replaced. O'Donnell then slotted in wide left allowing Howells to join the Town engine room with Smith.
Lawless drew the foul from Garrido just inside the Norwich half allowing Hatters bodies to flood forward. Hoisted into the area Bennett and Barnett challenged for the same ball which allowed Gray to pounce and fling an effort over his shoulder towards goal. The ball sailed over the crossbar with Rudd barking orders at his back line for allowing the chance.
73 minutes gone and Norwich rung the changes. Hughton introduced Pilkington and Hoolahan for Surman Elliot Bennett. Two changes for the Canaries but a slight suspicion of a dismissal for captain Holt who seemed to catch Kovacs with a careless arm but avoided detection.
As time winded down the Hatters announced a double change of their own as Gray and Shaw ended their tireless running to be replaced by top scorer Stuart Fleetwood and Scott Rendell.
77 minutes on the clock and Norwich began to throw caution to the wind as Pilkington headed over in a congested penalty area. Hoolahan picked up the ball from deep and jinked between Town bodies who threw their bodies in for the cause but the ball popped out to Garrido.
The fairytale nearly had its dream ending as Rendell looped a pass over the defensive four for Lawless to pounce on. The Welshman watched the ball all the way onto his foot and volleyed inches wide with Rudd standing motionless.
A giant-killing was on the cards and it finally arrived on 80 minutes as all three subs combined to send the Hatters fans into uncontrollable jubilation. Fleetwood picked the ball up on the half way line before sending it through to meet the lung-busting run of O'Donnell. The wide man then held the ball on the byline awaiting reinforcements. Rendell darted in front of his man to the front post and convert into the top corner as the roof burst off of Carrow Road with the Hatters faithful bouncing into dreamland.
The hosts had a disgruntled home support to answer too and when Pilkington found Martin at the far post time stood still. His looping header evaded the charge of Holt and dropped millimetres wide with the home fans less than pleased with their sides showing.
Hoolahan continued to worry the Town fans as time winded down ever so slowly. An early cross in was headed out by Taylor but only as far as Fox who adjusted his body early to volley goal-wards. Hoolahan nipped in behind to clip the ball up and over Tyler, and over the bar with the Town players appealing frantically for an offside flag.
Three added minutes were announced with the home fans belting out their feelings onto the field as Holt was upended by Kovacs. Fox stood over the delivery and swung a teasing cross into the area but Tyler, yet again, punched clear to ease the pressure.
Norwich began to grasp at straws as a frivolous appeal for a penalty against Rowe-Turner was adamantly waved away by Andre Marriner.
All eyes on the watch as the Hatters hero's wound down the clock. Marriner glanced, the Town fans glared, Marriner blew, the Town fans wept. A triumph unexpected, a triumph deserved, a giant-killing beyond belief and the Hatters march on to the FIFTH round of the FA Cup.