|Matches of Yesteryear - Luton v U's 12/09/06|
Written by wessex_exile on Friday, 30th Aug 2019 19:29
Luton Town v Colchester United
Tuesday 12th September 2006
Coca Cola Championship (Tier 2)
We return to the league for the 8th in the Matches of Yesteryear series, and for the first time, during those heady days in the Championship. Glamorous days indeed, but not such a glamorous setting on this occasion, away at Kenilworth Road on a cold Tuesday night. However, given Gerken’s performance at Selhurst Park on Tuesday night, perhaps having this one chosen by the random number generator is somehow fitting?
With Parky departing for Hull City at the end of the previous season, George Williams was managing the U’s for our time in the Championship. However, although we hadn’t embarrassed ourselves particularly, with five straight defeats in a row to begin with (including at MK Dons in the League Cup) things were not going well. George was slowly beginning to steady the ship with back-to-back wins at home to Derby County and away at Burnley (the charmless Steve Cotterill observing after the match “Colchester must be riding out of town with sombreros on”), and by the Luton game we had climbed just outside the relegation zone. Luton, however, were going quite well, with three wins and a draw from their first six league games and were sat just outside the play-offs (albeit only 4pts ahead of the U’s).
The U’s lined up at Kenilworth Road:
14..Richard Garcia (Kevin McLeod 65’)
11..Chris Iwelumo (Jamie Guy 81’)
Names of note within the Luton squad that season included Chris Coyne (Australian international destined to join the U’s during 2007/08), Rowan Vine (joining Luton after a loan spell with the U’s in 2003/04), and of course Dean Morgan. Dean left the U’s in September 2003 under a bit of a rumour cloud, after having his contract cancelled “by mutual consent” (make of that what you will). Only Rowan Vine started the game that night, with Morgan an unused sub on the bench, and Dean Gerken was on the bench for the U’s.
My memory is a bit hazy for this one, but I’m pretty sure that even though an evening game, I travelled over on the train – I’m sure I remember the chilly brisk walk back to the station after the match. It was certainly possible, as this was back when I lived in Salisbury, with much better train connections for me than more recent times. There were 429 U’s fans there for the match, not bad when you consider it was an evening game, and given our poor start to the season. What I certainly do remember is one of the best individual goalkeeping performances (from a sprightly 38-year old Aidan Davison) that I have ever had the pleasure to watch in all my time following not just the U’s, but football in general.
As was rather expected, Luton started strongly, and although we were giving the U’s plenty of vocal support from the back of the Oak Road Stand (and its excellent acoustics), it didn’t come as much surprise when former Ipswich striker Sam Parkin headed home from six yards to put the Hatters into a 1-0 lead in the 32nd minute. However, it wasn’t all one-way traffic, and with big Chris teeing him up perfectly, Jamie Cureton blasted home a 25-yard equaliser in the 40th minute to give the U’s faithful a big cheer, and some hope for the second half. A grainy photo from a newspaper archive is attached, and in context it is of Jamie and team-mates celebrating…in front of the Luton fans!
Davison had already pulled off a number of saves, to give a glimpse of what was to come, but after our equaliser he really came into his own. Wave after wave of Luton attacks crashed against the rock that was Aidan Davison, but he had it all that night. Acrobatic and sublime flying stops that would grace the Premier League, gnarly one-on-ones diving at the feet of on-rushing forwards, dangerous crosses plucked out of the air as if he was picking apples – Davison withheld everything that Luton threw at him. Luton’s manager, Mike Newell, put it quite simply “In the second half we created a number of chances and that is something of an understatement”. We rode our luck a bit too, Richard Langley missing a 50th minute penalty (hitting the bar), Edwards also hit the bar, and Rowan Vine had a goal disallowed in the 53rd minute for offside.
This isn’t the best photo, again from an archived newspaper report, but it conveys the right impression – Aidan defiantly in the thick of things, refusing to let anything past him.
The local press described it as the “The Aidan Davison Show!”, and I remember at the time the Luton messageboarders were unanimous that they’d never seen such a performance in their life. Aidan was quoted as saying at the time (and very modestly) “It's a long time since I've had so much to do, you have to go back a long time, to the days when I was at Bolton. I remember a game against Tranmere that was similar, which we actually won, but this was just as hectic. In fact, we were under even more pressure tonight. The luck went our way, and it was a good team effort. Luton kept pressing, and we could not relieve the pressure. However, I don't regard this as one of the very best performances of my career, because I was far too over-worked. I had too much to do. Strange as it may sound, I think some of my best games have come when I haven't had that many saves to make, because of the organisation of the defence. We need to tidy things up a little over the coming weeks, but we have a relatively inexperienced team, and the lads are learning all the time. It's a steep learning curve at this level, but we showed in this game that we really want to stay in this division”.
Luton Town 1 (Parkin 32’) Colchester United 1 (Cureton 40’)
This was just the sort of battling, backs-to-the-wall performance the U’s needed, all whilst keeping our unbeaten run going. If I’m honest, I also think this was the springboard for the rest of the season, finally giving us the confidence to realise we could genuinely compete in the Championship, and we went on to finish September unbeaten, with George Williams rightly being awarded the Manager of the Month award.
The 2006/07 season features quite prominently in my memorabilia archive, so I won’t say too much more about it now. For Luton, despite their bright start, they fell away badly after this match, and ended up relegated, alongside Leeds United and our bottom-feeding friends from South Essex. With relegation almost a certainty, Leeds shrewdly went into administration just before the season finished, when the 10-point deduction would be largely academic. Incredibly, even after a further 15-point deduction before the 2007/08 season had even started, for failing to exit administration with a CVA, Leeds still made the play-offs the following May – though they lost to Doncaster in the final.
When Steve Cotterill returned to Layer Rd with his Burnley team in February 2007, he was greeted by many hundreds of U’s fans in sombreros and various other bits of Mexican banditry attire. It was an edgy 0-0 on the day, and Burnley eventually finished 12 points and five places behind the U’s! 😊
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