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CLASSIC CLASH REPORT | LUTON TOWN 3 WEST HAM 2

Read Brian Swain's match report from the Luton News...

31 March 2020

Some Luton Town fans can remember the delight, then the heartache of May 1959, the only time the Town have been in the final of the FA Cup.

Very many more can recall, as though it were yesterday, the two occasions when it was so close, then snatched out of our grasp, in the semi-finals of 1985 and 1988.

For all of them the hope is that it will be third time lucky for David Pleat and his 1994 team.

And if they play as well as they did against West Ham in the quarter-final replay at Kenilworth Road, Glenn Hoddle’s Chelsea are likely to be the third Premiership team to suffer the snappy style of the Luton underdogs.

Hammers manager Billy Bonds had to join in the admiration for 21-year-old Scott Oakes, whose hat-trick won a pulsating football match in front of a capacity crowd.

“We talked about Oakes before the game, but we couldn’t stop him,” said the West Ham boss. “He caused us all sorts of problems and took his goals brilliantly.”

Fortunes swayed both ways in a match that was alive with electric excitement and full of uncertainty until the last minute.

Luton tore into the Hammers from the start, But Czech international Ludek Miklosko pulled off a tremendous flying save to tip a header by Kerry Dixon over the bar. The keeper foiled Oakes as well, and it was a shock when West Ham’s first attack brought them a goal against the run of play.

As the Town defence pushed up, Martin Allen timed his darting run forward perfectly, met an astute pass by Peter Butler, and gave Juergen Sommer no chance with the shot.

It was cruel and unfair. But it served only to raise the Town to new heights of excellent teamwork and quick passing.

Even when they saw Paul Telfer’s header blocked and Des Linton’s thundering drive from the rebound hit the bar, they kept up the pressure.

And within five minutes Oakes struck the equaliser, a right-foot drive across Miklosko into the far corner, after David Preece and Dixon worked the opening.

Two minutes into the second half the stadium erupted in delight – except for the Oak Road end where 2,000 Hammers fans sat – as Oakes put Luton ahead. Skipper Trevor Peake sent a free-kick soaring towards Dixon, who shielded the ball and chested it down for Oakes to hit a stinging left-foot drive into the net.

But the visitors had their turn again in the 56th minute. A clearance attempt by Preece was mishit, and the swirling wind sent the ball to Trevor Morley. He moved it smartly to Butler, and from his pass Ian Bishop shot accurately at the far corner. He was at a difficult angle, and poor Sommer hung his head for a moment as he realised he should have saved.

But not a single Luton head dropped. Once more every man settled down to show massive composure, determination and talent.

Mr Bonds thought that at 2-2 the Hammers were the more likely side to win. They might have been, except that Sommer pulled off a glorious save when a crashing drive by Allen might have made it 3-2 to the Londoners.

And experienced referee Brian Hill, right up with play, turned down desperate West Ham please for a penalty when Morley made a good job of falling over John Dreyer’s leg.

And the night’s tragedy then befell West Ham skipper Steve Potts, who had looked brilliant.

He was on the halfway line as a clearance by Ceri Hughes landed at his feet. Potts went to trap the ball, failed to get it under control, and before he could have a second bite Oakes had nicked it off him, sprinted down the middle, and fired in the winner with his right foot.

He might have had a fourth, but former Town defender Tim Breacker felled him outside the penalty area when West Ham were caught on the break. There was no other way of stopping quicksilver Oakes.

Breacker was lucky; he got a yellow card for that, the least he deserved, but had escaped an earlier one when he brought down Hughes on the edge of the box.

But West Ham needed more than luck, and to underline the point, in the final minute, Bishop had a sight of the Town goal in front of the West Ham fans and shot hard and accurately.

But Sommer more than made amends for his earlier misjudgement by diving to grab the ball, then clutched it a second time as desperate West Ham men piled in hoping for a rebound.

At that minute, hoarse-throated Town fans knew it was all over.

OK, so going to Wembley for a semi-final is not quite the same as for the final itself. But this team has deserved to get there anyway.

 

 

TOWN: Sommer, Linton, Dreyer, Peake, James; Telfer, Harper, Preece, Hughes, Oakes, Dixon.

Subs: Hartson, Thorpe, Petterson (GK)

Goals: Oakes 36, 48, 74

Yellow: Harper

 

WEST HAM: Miklosko, Breacker, Potts, Martin, Burrows, Marsh (Jones 78), M Bishop, Allen, Morley, Butler, Chapman.

Subs: Jones, Gale, Kelly (GK)

Goals: Allen 30, Bishop 57

Yellow: Tim Breacker

 

REFEREE: Brian Hill

ATT: 13,166 – Kenilworth Road’s highest since the visit of Manchester United in the old First Division two years ago.


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