Luton Town extended their unbeaten run to four games with a 1-1 draw against Birmingham City. Birmingham opened the scoring in the 23rd minute with a Lucas Jutkiewicz penalty after Elliott Lee stuck his hand up attempting to block a cross. Luton equalised 14 minutes later through a strike from Matty Pearson from a corner.
Luton went into the game in decent form after being unbeaten in their last three games, winning one and drawing the other two games and only losing once in their last six games. Birmingham have been inconsistent recently after two wins, two draws and two defeats in their last six games
Nathan Jones made 2 changes from the 1-1 draw against Blackburn on Saturday. Ruddock and Collins came in for Cranie and Moncur who dropped to the bench. As a result of those changes Pearson moved across to right-back and Glen Rea dropped back into the centre back position. Both players are comfortable in those roles having played in those positions several times already this season. Aitor Karanka made three changes from their 0-0 draw against Coventry on Friday night. Clarke-Salter, Gardner and Hogan came in for Bela, McGree and Sanchez who were on the bench. They also changed their formation to 3-5-2.
The pattern of the first half was clear from the first minute. Luton were dominating possession throughout the half looking to play through the lines while Birmingham were playing counter-attack football. The first ten minutes of the game were quite cagey. The only opportunity came from a Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall corner which was whipped in from the right which Etheridge did well to push away from his own goal line.
The first big chance came in the 11th minute from a great cross from the right from Dewsbury-Hall which was headed a few yards wide by James Collins, he should have hit the target. It was the first of many chances Collins had in this game and one of many occasions where Dewsbury-Hall was heavily involved in the play.
Sloppy play in possession from Luton almost led to Hogan being clean through but luckily for them, Gardner overhit the pass so it went straight through to Sluga.
Then in the 23rd minute against the run of play Birmingham were awarded a penalty. it was a stonewall penalty and there were no complaints from The Hatters. It came from Bradley failing to clear his lines which allowed Colin to get into the box and get a cross in. As he did so Lee was back defending, he slid in to try and stop the cross however he stuck his arm up and as soon as it hit him there was no doubt that it was a penalty. Jutkiewicz took it and scored low to Sluga’s left who was beaten by the power of the penalty. This was their only shot on target in the first half.
Then came a spell in the game where both teams were guilty of giving away possession very easily and this suited Birmingham more who were happy to have a low block and frustrate the home team. They were also wasting a lot of time, especially from goal kicks. At this stage Luton were lacking patience, they were making the wrong choices in possession and at times shooting from too far out when other players were in better positions. Lee was guilty of this in the 30th minute as he hit his shot straight at Etheridge which allowed him to time waste rather than trying to pick out other players who were in better positions to have a shot.
In the 36th minute, some great work down the Luton left led to a chance for Pelly Ruddock to get a cross in. His cross took a deflection off of Harlee Dean and Etheridge reacted well to clear the ball over the bar. From that corner, Luton equalised. A great ball in from Luke Berry picked out Rea who knocked the ball down and Matty Pearson was there and he turned and smashed the ball into the net, Etheridge got two hands to it but couldn’t keep it out.
Luton dominated possession for the rest of the half but didn’t create any clear chances
Half Time- Luton 1-1 Birmingham
Both teams came out for the second half unchanged although it took a while for the Birmingham players to come out for the second half. The second half was very end to end. Birmingham’s wing-backs played higher up the pitch which helped them to create more but also left more gaps for Luton to attack and create chances.
The first opportunity came early in the half when Luke Berry benefited from a lucky deflection which allowed him to breakthrough on the right and put a cross-shot beat Etheridge but was cleared off the line by the Birmingham defender before it could reach Lee. San Jose had a shot for Birmingham which went over the Oak Road roof.
In the 52nd minute Gardner lost possession for Birmingham as he trod on the ball which allowed Collins to break down the left and beat his man, he put a shot in with his left foot which forced another good save from Etheridge. Jutkiewicz had a couple of attempts which were never troubling Sluga, one was so far wide that it went out for a throw.
Dewsbury-Hall made a great run from deep beating several Birmingham players which led to a shot from Pelly Ruddock which lacked power and was straight at Etheridge. Colin then had a shot for Birmingham in the 68th minute that went just past the post.
Luton’s best chance in the second half came in the 72nd minute. George Moncur came off the bench earlier in the second half, he started the move when his brilliant touch brought the ball down and controlled it perfectly so he could set off on a run down the left, he then played in Dewsbury-Hall who had overlapped him, his cross was perfect for Collins who should have scored. He went for power over placement and Etheridge made an excellent save while slipping, had Collins lifted his shot or placed it anywhere else he would have been beaten.
Three minutes later Etheridge again frustrated the Luton attack. This time it was from Clark. Also a second-half sub, he was given plenty of time and space to shoot by the Birmingham defence and he did so on his left foot. Frustratingly for Clark and Luton Etheridge tipped it over the bar.
Luton’s crosses in the second half were excellent, especially from the left-hand side. In the final 5 minutes, Luton had another chance in the game which came from a cross from the left this time by Norrington-Davies. His cross perfectly picked out Collins, his shot had enough power on it but was blocked by the last Birmingham defender.
in the last few minutes of normal time plus added time, Luton had tired which gave Birmingham opportunities to steal all 3 points. Dewsbury-Hall showed that the defensive side of his game is also strong as he put in a great block just as McGree was about to shoot and Bela had a shot straight at Sluga. Their best chance to win it came in stoppage time as their attack linked up well to create a chance for Sunjic who was clean through, fortunately for Luton Sluga was there to make an outstanding save which ensured The Hatters kept their point which could and probably should have been more.
Full Time- Luton 1-1 Birmingham
Luton Man of the Match- Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall. An outstanding all-round performance, the only thing missing from his performance was a goal
Birmingham Man of the Match- Neil Etheridge. He kept Birmingham in the game especially in the second half with several great saves