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Match Reports

REPORT & GALLERY | SUNDERLAND 1 LUTON TOWN 1

Collins' second-half penalty earns tremendous Town a point on Big Mick derby day!

12 January 2019

The Hatters put a traumatic week behind them with interim manager Mick Harford masterminding a tremendous point as his side came from behind at his boyhood club Sunderland to make it 17 games unbeaten.

James Collins' 68th-minute penalty cancelled out Chris Maguire's opener, which came 16 minutes into a first half in which the Town performed magnificently, as they maintained second place in the Sky Bet League One table.

They did so despite playing the last 20 minutes, plus the majority of five added on, a man down after Danny Hylton was shown a straight red card after referee Lee Probert adjudged the striker to have caught Jack Baldwin in an aerial challenge two minutes after the leveller.

Almost 3,100 travelling Town fans gave Harford a reception he admitted brought a tear to his eye, singing his name before, during and especially after a game which had everything - lifting any fear or gloom that might have lingered since Nathan Jones' departure on Wednesday.

Big Mick, our much-loved former player, assistant, manager and current chief recruitment officer, stuck with ten of the players who appeared at Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup last Saturday.

The only change was in midfield, where Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu returned in place of Luke Berry, who dropped to the bench alongside new loan signing from Derby County, George Thorne.

That meant James Shea was in goal behind a back four of Jack Stacey, Matty Pearson, captain Sonny Bradley and James Justin. Alan McCormack achored the midfield with Mpanzu, Andrew Shinnie and Elliot Lee ahead of him.

Hylton and Collins led the attack as the Hatters looked to extend their unbeaten run to 17 matches in league and FA Cup against their third-placed hosts, who start the match a point behind the Town in the Sky Bet League One table.

The Hatters started brilliantly, Lee firing narrowly wide from the edge of the area as they earned a succession of corners and a wide free-kick, which Justin whipped in from the left and goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin needed help from his defence to clear.

Within seconds the home keeper was flying across his goal-line to claw away a shot from Shinnie that was heading into the top corner.

The hosts had the lead in the 16th minute, however, when Gooch's low cross from the right was blocked by McCormack, but the ricochet flew straight to Maguire, who lashed it past Shea from just inside the penalty box.

That one moment aside, the Town were playing well and dominating possession and attempts on goal.

They were almost level within four minutes when Shinnie slipped Lee in on the left side of the area, and the forward squared to his fellow ten-goal top scorer Collins, whose low shot was pushed away brilliantly by McLaughlin.

Mpanzu retrieved the ball and attempted to cut it back for Collins, but the home defence managed to smuggle it behind for a fourth Hatters corner.

That count had risen to five inside the opening 24 minutes when Lee played Justin to the byline on another lightning quick raid down the left, but the ball was intercepted at the near post.

The Hatters continued to play the better football as the half progressed and looked comfortable at the back, but the next chance didn't arise until 11 minutes after half-time, when Shinnie threaded a lovely ball through the Black Cats' backline for Justin to run onto.

With Hylton also looking to gather the ball just inside the area, the left-back took charge and looked to bend it into the top corner, but his effort was too high.

The equaliser the Hatters deserved came in the 68th minute when, after another incisive spell of possession, Collins' 25-yard shot bounced back off the foot of the post to Hylton, who was fouled as he tried to put the rebound in.

Collins took responsibility from 12 yards and scored empatically into the roof of the net for his 11th goal of the season.

Hylton's afternoon was soon over when referee Lee Probert showed him a straight red after an aerial challenge with Jack Baldwin.

There was a let-off in the 76th minute when a McGeady shot rattled the crossbar, then Charlie Wyke headed over with the goal at his mercy.

The Hatters dug in stubbornly, and superbly, almost taking the lead in the 86th minute when Shinnie stung McLaughlin's palms from the left side of the area, before sub Luke Berry volleyed over seconds later.

Stacey led a magnificent counter-attack at one stage with a marauding run through the middle, and the hosts had no answer to a defence magnificently marshalled by Pearson and Bradley, who even grounded each other as they clashed heads fighting to head a corner clear, Shea's only real late save coming from a tame header from sub Benjamin Mbunga-Kimpioka.

Sunderland were reduced to ten men deep into injury-time when Maguire saw red for a late challenge on McCormack, but by then the Hatters' resistance with ten men had already virtually confirmed a valuable point.

It's been some week. Now onto another massively important seven days with the third round replay against Wednesday under the lights on Tuesday - then the following day's council meeting regarding Power Court.

The future is bright, the future is definitely orange, Hatters!

 

TOWN: Shea, Stacey, Pearson, Bradley (c), Justin, McCormack, Mpanzu, Shinnie, Lee (Berry 79), Collins, Hylton. Subs: Potts, Berry, Thorne, LuaLua, Jones, Sheehan, Isted.

Goals: Collins (pen) 68

Red: Hylton 70

Yellows: Lee, Shinnie, Collins, McCormack

SUNDERLAND: McLaughlin, Maguire, McGeouch, Wyke, Gooch (Mbunga-Kimpioka 79), Flanagan, O'Nien, Baldwin, James, McGeady (c), Power. Subs: Ruiter, Matthews, Oviedo, Ozturk, Dunne, Mumba, Mbunga-Kimpioka.

Goals: Maguire 16

Yellows: Flanagan, James

Red: Maguire

REFEREE: Lee Probert

ATT: 37,791 (3,081 Hatters)


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