Collins bags the winner as Hatters move off the bottom with Owls victory

Championship: Luton Town 1 Sheffield Wednesday 0

Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 11:06 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 11:06 pm
James Collins slides home his 10th goal of the season

Luton gave their survival hopes a massive lifeline by defeating Sheffield Wednesday this evening, as they moved off the bottom of the Championship for the first time since New Year's Day with a performance full of grit and desire at Kenilworth Road.

Going into half time 1-0 ahead, when they could and should have been out of sight, the Hatters then had to dig in after the break, as although never under incessant pressure, it was enough to provide the odd nervy moment.

However, unlike many matches this season, Town dug in superbly, with club record signing Simon Sluga keeping his first clean sheet since arriving in the summer, the shut out Luton's first in the league since October 19.

Results elsewhere went Hatters' way, both Stoke City and Huddersfield beaten at home, meaning the gap to safety was cut to seven points, rather than the 10 that had been staring at Graeme Jones' side prior to kick-off.

The Town chief made one change to the side who lost against Cardiff on Saturday, captain Sonny Bradley replacing Cameron Carter-Vickers.

There was a huge boost on the bench though, with the fit-again Danny Hylton back in the matchday squad for the first time since March 2019 after battling back from two knee operations.

Luton could have had the most perfect of starts inside 30 seconds as Izzy Brown picked up possession in his own half, burst forward and found the run of Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, who was tugged back in the area.

Referee Gavin Ward pointed to the spot, but top scorer James Collins could only blast his penalty against the bar and over.

The miss definitely settled down Wednesday, who began dictate proceedings, sending in a number of dangerous crosses, Town just about clinging on.

Gathering momentum themselves though, Luton fashioned another decent opening on 12 minutes when Ryan Tunnicliffe dummied Brown's crossfield pass and then met James Bree's cross on the half volley, his effort just too close to keeper Cameron Dawson.

Collins was off target again, with a flick header from Brown's corner, before the pair should have combined for the opener on 19 minutes.

Mpanzu's deep cross was unselfishly chested back by Collins to the onrushing Brown, who just had to put it either side of Dawson, which he did, but proceeded to clip the outside of the post, when the net should have been bulging.

Finally the deadlock was broken on 23 minutes though.

Town pressed the visitors' defence, Collins forcing Dominic Iorfa into an error, Harry Cornick racing on to the loose ball, beating Dawson and then squaring to Collins who slid home his 10th of the season, relief etched all over his face when celebrating.

Collins should have been enjoying an 11th goal moments later as Luton broke on the right, the cross scuffed by Mpanzu for Collins, who falling back, diverted over the bar.

Fernando Forestieri curled one narrowly wide as the Owls tried to find a response, but Town still hunted a nerve-relieving second, Glen Rea's 20-yard daisycutter well handled by Dawson.

After the break, the impressive Matty Pearson made a stunning last-ditch block to prevent Kieran Lee's goalbound effort from levelling as the Owls began with an added thrust to their play.

Sluga was called into action on the hour, as with Pearson's rather strange clearance across his area seized upon by half time sub Kadeem Harris, he sprung to his left, parrying the 22-yard drive away.

He should have been picking the ball out of his net on 64 minutes though, Harris digging out a lovely cross from the left, and Julian Borner somehow directing his free header wide from just eight yards out.

Bree's free kick was easy for visiting keeper Dawson, before Hylton's introduction was met with huge cheers, the striker on for the first time since March 23, 2019, and his maiden Championship appearance in place of Cornick.

Iorfa looked to atone for his error, heading wide when left unattended inside the area, while Hylton almost had an assist with one of his first touches, Mpanzu unable to gather his pass.

Town thought they had a second with 10 minutes left, as Dan Potts slammed home when Brown's corner wasn't cleared, but the goal was ruled out for an apparent infringement on Owls keeper Dawson.

Inside the final 10 minutes, and with the pressure starting to mount, Hatters showed a different side to their game that had been missing this term, running the clock down efficiently and ensuring they would not be breached.

In stoppage time, sub Atdhe Nuhiu sliced off target, as the final whistle was met with roars of approval from both home supporters and players, knowing they can go to Middlesbrough this weekend with renewed optimism.

Hatters: Simon Sluga, James Bree, Dan Potts, Matty Pearson, Sonny Bradley (C), Glen Rea, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Izzy Brown (Andrew Shinnie 90), Harry Cornick (Danny Hylton 68), James Collins.

Subs not used: James Shea, Callum McManaman, Kazenga LuaLua, George Moncur, Cameron Carter-Vickers.

Owls: Cameron Dawson, Liam Palmer (Jacob Murphy 71), Kieran Lee, Barry Bannan, Julian Borner, Tom Lees ©, Connor Wickham, Dominic Iorfa, Alessio da Cruz, Fernando Forestieri (Kadeem Harris 46), Josh Windass (Atdhe Nuhiu 61).

Subs not used: Joey Pelupessy, Joe Wildsmith, Alex Hunt, Osaze Urhoghide.

Booked: Wickham 31, Brown 43, Bree 78, Rea 90.

Referee: Gavin Ward.

Attendance: 10,001 (1,018 Owls).