Date: 25 September 2021
Once again a match that we should have had sewn up at half time nearly slipped out of our grasp towards the end, resulting in a very nervy finish.
There were no surprises in the starting line-up, Brooks losing out to Christie in the battle for the right wing position while Pearson sat in front of the defence in a 4-1-4-1 system. As with the Barnsley and QPR games we started on the back foot and didn’t really get going until we’d scored our first goal. But we’d had two minor scares just before that: one when Cornick crossed to Adebayo from the Luton right and Adebayo, perfectly positioned on the goal line, somehow managed to shoot over the bar; a second when, moments later, a Bournemouth back pass was fumbled by Travers but Adebayo, who was on hand, failed to capitalise on it.
So there was some relief all round when, against the run of play, Billing scored a great goal following a perfect pass from Christie. And later in the half Anthony and Christie co-operated over a corner routine they’d obviously worked on – and it came off, with a Christie cross finding Solanke’s head for 2-0. Solanke was the weakest link in our team for most of today’s game, (his distribution was particularly poor,) so it could be argued that this headed goal was the only thing he got right!
So we were 2-0 up at half time, and very much in command, but no fan who’d watched the Blackpool and QPR games was going to take anything for granted. We really needed a third goal to be comfortable – and it never came. Travers made two world-class saves early the second period which more than atoned for his error in the first half, but then a Luton cross from their right flank (again!) was deflected into our goal off the unfortunate Lloyd Kelly. 2-1 now, and all Luton pressure.
Adebayo missed another golden opportunity later on (it just wasn’t his day) as he had a free header which he somehow managed to put wide of the target. We stopped trying to score and instead tried to shore up our defence. Though Rogers had come on for Anthony and Lowe for Solanke in like-for-like substitutions, Mepham replaced Christie so that – as in the previous home game – we ended up with three centre backs. Somehow we held on to our slim lead, resulting in a return to top place in the Championship – so, nothing to grumble about, really.
Pearson was the official sponsors’ man of the match, and he’d certainly played well. Travis and Kelly had too; though as I’ve mentioned they’d made one mistake each. But perhaps a worthier contender was Christie as he’d provided the assists for both our goals.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game:
Smith, Cahill, Kelly, Zemura;
Christie, Lerma, Billing, Anthony;