Date:Monday January 23 2006
Rangers’ mini unbeaten run of four games was ended after another disappointing away day display as the Hatters moved above their rivals in the league table as a result of the three point haul.
Goals in either half from Markus Heikkinen and Steve Howard gave Luton their first victory over the Hoops since 1985 and in truth they didn’t have to work too hard for it in a poor match.
Rangers had started the better of the two with the main share of possession despite Luton striking a post as early as the fourth minute. Kevin Foley’s effort was deflected off Matthew Rose to strike the left-hand post of Simon Royce’s goal. But that shock spurred the Hoops on and they took the game to their rivals.
Gareth Ainsworth blazed over from close range and Richard Langley had a decent free-kick stopped by Luton keeper Marlon Beresford after the trickery of Lee Cook resulted in a foul.
But after a tame Luton attack, Rangers conceded a corner from which a crucial individual error gave the home side an early advantage.
The corner whipped in by Kevin Nicholls wasn’t properly cleared by the Rangers defence and as the ball was chipped back into the area, Hatters defender Heikkinen found himself in acres of space to flick the ball passed Royce.
Rangers’ players appealed for offside but it was Ainsworth who had stayed on his post and played the Finnish international onside to score in front of the away support.
Despite the goal Rangers continued to plough forward with the impressive Cook causing problems to the Hatters right-back Carlos Edwards. Despite the lions share of possession the R’s were finding it difficult to find the final pass to unlock the physical Luton defence.
Luton’s main threats were coming from set-pieces were Rangers seemed extremely uneasy and disorganised in their defensive duties. Enoch Showunmi was proving a liability in open play for the Hatters but from dead-ball situations he was causing all sorts of problems and it was his glancing header that nearly doubled the score midway through the first half.
Marcus Bignot was the unlikely striker of Rangers’ next effort when he sent a fizzing drive straight at Beresford but Luton were denied their second goal right on half-time by the referee.
Nicholls sent an ‘up and under’ towards Royce who was challenged by the onrushing Steve Howard with the ball being bundled into the net. Referee Richard Beeby awarded Rangers a free-kick despite Howard wheeling off to celebrate after believing the goal had been given.
With plenty to think about at half-time, Ian Holloway sent on Marc Nygaard to replace youngster Shabazz Baidoo in attack.
The injury prone forward was noticeably lacking match fitness and sharpness but was causing the home defence a different problem in the more direct Rangers approach.
Paul Furlong then went close with two attempts in quick succession. His first was a near post header after some good work from Ainsworth down the right which went over. His second again followed some excellent build up play by Ainsworth and Bignot down the right which Ainsworth was able to pull back to Furlong. After a scrap for the ball on the six yard box, Furlong’s sliced shot was pushed wide by Beresford and cleared by the Hatters defence.
Luton were denied a goal for the second time with 20 minutes to play. Warren Feeney, a second half substitute, had finished from close range after Edwards and Howard had been denied by the in-form Royce.
Feeney was beginning to threaten the Rangers attack with his pace and nearly doubled the lead minutes later. His glanced header flashed just wide of Royce’s right-hand post.
Nygaard was then gifted a great chance to equalise late on. Cook combined well with Matthew Rose whose cross found the big Danish forward’s head only to see his header lack power and direction. Beresford produced a comfortable save and Rangers’ hopes of a point started to fade.
Howard claimed the winner on 84 minutes for Luton with a poacher’s finish from just outside the six-yard box following fine build up play from Edwards.
Luton Town: Beresford, Heikkinen, Coyne, Underwood, Foley, Brkovic (off 75), Edwards, Nicholls, Showunmi (off 64), Vine (Off 65), Howard.
ubstitutes: Brill, Barnett (on 64), Morgan (on 75), Bell, Feeney (on 65).
autions: Feeney (68) - dissent
oyce (6) Was let down by his team-mate for the first goal and was a little lucky with the disallowed goal when challenged by Howard. No big saves to make in a fairly quiet game for the in-form keeper.
ignot- Off 83 (6) Rangers most consistent out-field performer this season showed some good skill coming forward but was outfoxed in defence.
ose (6) Like Bignot he looked a threat coming forward supporting Cook down the left but defensively a little inconsistent.
hittu (6) Kept Howard reasonably quiet but was not as influential as usual and earnt himself a booking for a miss-timed challenge.
antos (5) After some good recent performances Georges was a little lame with his distribution and made some poor unforced errors.
insworth- Off 79 (6) Wild Thing took the blame for the opening goal which seemed to effect his early performance. Blazed over when well placed but never gave up and gave his best as always.
ook (7) Quite clearly Rangers’ best player and caused problems down his wing all game. Starting to find his best form again after a few average performances
omas (6) Followed up last weekend’s commanding performance with a quiet game. Rarely involved in anything notable but encouraged the team with his experience.
angley (6) Continues to improve but let himself down with poor distribution. Showed nice signs of fight to win the ball back in midfield and came close with a swinging free-kick.
aidoo- Off 46 (6) Caused problems with his pace and was unfortunately replaced at half-time.
urlong (5) Wasted a few good chances when well placed and showed experience in pivotal areas but could/ should have done better.
aylor- On 83
oore- On 79
ygaard- On 46 (6) Caused Luton’s defence a few headaches but like Furlong wasted a great opportunity. The promise is there if he can stay fit.
hittu (57) foul
angley (84) foul
The Manager’s Comment’s:
Rangers boss Ian Holloway felt that the victory and winning margin flattered the hosts at Kenilworth Road on Saturday.
alking after the match which saw the Hatters leapfrog Rangers in the table, Holloway said:
I thought 2-0 flattered them. I felt we were pushing in the second half, but the second goal killed us. They were very physical but got the job done.”
olloway bemoaned his sides finishing in the first period, pointing to that as the only difference between the sides.
You have to take your chances at this level- we didn’t and they did and that was the difference.
We had six shots in the first half and didn’t score any.”
e went on to pick out some poor defending for the first goal which handed Luton the lead. He said:
We’re conceding far too many goals. We were punished for sloppy defending. Gaz (Ainsworth) didn’t push up for the first goal and you can’t afford to make errors like that. He’s held his hands up and it’s over now.”
llie went on to praise Marc Nygaard for his contribution in the second half. Saying:
I really wanted to start Marc, but his recent injury problems meant we felt it would be better for him to come off the bench.
He came on and caused them all sorts of problems- more than justifying his place in the squad after injury.”
After last weekend’s impressive performance at home to Southampton we were all coming to Kenilworth Road relatively positive and forward thinking after a good run of form since Boxing Day.
We had overtaken the Hatters in the table and despite still being a good half-dozen points off the playoff positions we were optimistic having been unbeaten against Luton in the past 20 years
It was only fair that the same 11 were given a start after defeating the Saints last weekend, but the most notable change was Marc Nygaard’s inclusion on the bench.
e only returned to training midway through the week and following his recent injury problems it was a surprise to see him introduced so early in the game.
In truth, Shabazz Baidoo was probably causing the Luton defence more problems than his strike partner Paul Furlong and in theory the ‘little and large’ partnership alongside Nygaard seemed a good idea.
ot in the eyes of Ian Holloway however, who opted to pair Furlong and Nygaard for the second period.
Baidoo has impressed since imbedding himself into one of Holloway’s two striking positions in the past month and has grown in confidence with it. His searing raw pace has caused many problems against experience defences such as Southampton and Premiership Blackburn Rovers. But sometimes we do get carried away. He’s still only 17 years old and it’s important we do not expect too much from him too early. The risk of burning out one of our brightest young prospects must be taken seriously and although this was probably not in Mr Holloway’s thinking on Saturday, it may have been a good decision none the less.
By the time Nygaard was introduced we were one down and having to chase the game in the second half.
Due to Nygaard’s size it was inevitable we would change our style to a more long-ball based game built around the giant striker. Nygaard was clearly lacking fitness and looked off the pace when not in possession.
When he did have the ball or the ball was played towards him however he did cause problems. It was just a shame we didn’t have the pace or injection to run off the flick on’s and knock down’s.
Lee Cook down the left was our best channel of attack. He caused Carlos Edwards plenty of problems, especially when Matthew Rose went scurrying outside him. It was good to see as Cookie hasn’t shown the form this season we were all hoping for, but in the past two fixtures he has been our most promising player and still leads the way with the most assists in the Rangers squad.
What really did confuse Rangers fans late on were the substitutes Ollie decided to make.
Gareth Ainsworth was starting to tire and so was he replaced by the ineffectual Stefan Moore and then with 10 minutes to play you would expect us to gamble again and throw on an attack minded player, for instance Scott Donnelly?
No, we took off Marcus Bignot and on went Andy Taylor. That saw a defensive reshuffle, Rose moving to right-back and Taylor slotting in at left-back. Now forgive me if I’m wrong but shouldn’t Luton be the team looking to make defensive changes in the remaining minutes to hold onto their slender 1-0 lead?
Whatever the answer behind the decision, the change seemed to worsen our plight in the game. Our defence looked far more open, we looked unorganised and the gap we left between the defence and our midfield was huge, allowing Luton to flood forward when they broke with the ball.
Ok we were looking for an equaliser but surely we would push up from the back, not leaving any space between banks of defence and midfield.
It was a very frustrating end to a frustrating match in which I felt we deserved something from. Ollie was right in what he said about taking our own chances but we do lack the killer touch.
We haven’t got a 20 goal a season striker, Furlong is not producing the form he did last season, Moore doesn’t seem like the striker we supposedly signed and our long-ball game is not as effectual as last season.
There are 10 days now to prepare for the visit of Leicester City at Loftus Road; hopefully in that time it will give us the chance to get some much needed quality back from injury. Martin Rowlands should return and new signing Marcin Kus will have an extra week’s training under his belt.
Overall Thought: We got what we deserved!
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