Date: 16 December 2023 (MATCH ABANDONED AT 59 MINUTES)
Today’s match won’t be remembered for the football – which, in the end, didn’t count for anything anyway – but for the abandonment of the game and the circumstances that caused that.
This is the third time I’ve been at a match that was abandoned after it had kicked off. Coincidentally on two of those occasions the opposition has been Luton Town! Today’s match was suspended on 59 minutes when Town’s captain, Tom Lockyer, had what was subsequently confirmed as a heart attack on the pitch and collapsed to the floor. Philip was one of the closest players to him and immediately realised how serious this was and frantically waved for medical assistance. In no time medics from both clubs were surrounding Lockyer while the Luton manager was summoning all players off the pitch. They subsequently returned to their respective changing rooms.
It was a long wait whilst Lockyer was being attended to, first on the pitch but subsequently off it. The stadium screens continued to update the time before being stopped at 65 minutes. I wasn’t the only fan to be calculating what train I’d catch – and how I’d update my plans for the evening – if the match ended say half an hour, or a full hour, late. I heard people on their phones already reorganising their evenings, which – as it turned out – proved premature.
When the stadium announcer finally announced that the match had been abandoned (he said suspended but he meant abandoned) it was almost exactly the time we’d have expected the match to end under normal circumstances. So I got my intended train and reverted to my original plans for the evening, as presumably did everyone else. But we’d wasted a day in that the match goals won’t now count; and Luton and Bournemouth will each have a game in hand for the conceivable future.
For the record, this match was played in continuously rainy conditions – despite the BBC weather app claiming the chance of precipitation was 0%! Iraola had unsurprisingly stuck with the team that’s had such a good run of late – except that he’d moved Semenyo to the left. This didn’t really work – he was asking for the ball so often but rarely receiving it in the first half, and rather than being moved to a different position was substituted at half time. Kluivert now moved to the left and Philip took up what had been Kluivert’s original role.
But we weren’t playing particularly well and there’s no guarantee we’d have won this game if it had continued. Luton scored within the first three minutes; our response consisted mainly of a couple of tame shots – and one selfish shot from Senesi. We were deservedly 0-1 down at half time. The second half wasn’t looking much better until Solanke scored the equaliser. Luton’s coach responded with a triple substitution but then Lockyer went down – and the rest is history.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game:
Smith, Zabarnyi, Senesi, Kerkez;
Tavernier, Kluivert, Semenyo;