Sonny Bradley defies Huddersfield dominance to keep Luton in the hunt

One leg down, one to go and one team will reach the Championship play-off final on May 29. After an exhilarating encounter, Luton Town and Huddersfield Town meet again on Monday level on both goals and expectation, although Huddersfield may yet rue their inability to turn dominance into victory.

A non-League team as recently as 2014, and with a budget still akin to that level, Luton’s eye-catching rise may not yet have plateaued, but Huddersfield, who ended the season three places and seven points ahead of Luton have their tale to tell too. Having finished 20th last year, their fairy tale might not be quite so romantic but it still resonates in West Yorkshire, three troubled years after their brief stay in the Premier League.

There was an early havoc in what would prove to be a frenetic evening. Huddersfield might have had a penalty in the first 20 seconds when Harry Toffolo was swatted by James Bree following Ollie Turton’s cross. Bree was less fortunate when he thundered upfield minutes later and fired towards goal only for a startled Lee Nicholls to tip over.

With Henri Lansbury their early base camp for most of their attempts to conquer Huddersfield’s man mountain defence, Luton pressed, but the visitors had more poise and in the much-coveted Toffolo, a man with an instinct to change a game. They were ahead after 12 minutes when Danny Ward found Toffolo who took advantage of Kai Naismith’s stumble to feed Danel Sinani. There was still much for the Luxembourg striker to do, but he ran towards goal, drew Sonny Bradley wide and slotted past Matt Ingram at the on-loan goalkeeper’s near post.

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The goal settled Huddersfield, quietened the crowd and briefly sucked the momentum from Luton. Still, the immediate future was orange and the defenders partly guilty for Huddersfield’s opener had swift redemption. Tom Lees fouled Cameron Jerome on Luton’s left. Naismith whipped in the free kick straight to Bradley, who volleyed home his first goal of 2022 from five yards.

Then Jerome moved into turn-back-the-clock mode, first with a sizzling 25-yard drive which cleared Nicholls’s bar by inches, then with a run into the box before he was felled by Naby Sarr to referee Robert Jones’s lack of interest and then with a run and low cross which gave the unmarked Lansbury a free shot at goal that was charged down by Sarr.

Huddersfield waxed as Luton’s attacking prowess waned and the more the game progressed, the more Duane Holmes dominated it, while Spanish substitute Pipa brought pace and a penchant for the whiplash cross.

Yet, for all Huddersfield’s territorial hegemony, they struggled to trouble Ingram and their waves of attacks crashed on the aerially dominant collective rock that was Luton’s defensive trio. All square and all back to Huddersfield on Monday.

match details

Luton Town (3-1-4-2) Ingram: Burke (Hylton, 80), Bradley, Naismith; Lansbury (Lockyer, 67); Bree, Campbell, Clark, Bell; Jerome (Snodgrass, 89), Cornick.
Substitutes not used Isted (gk), Potts, Mendes Gomes, Kioso. booked Bell.

Huddersfield Town (3-5-2) Nicholls; Lees, Hogg, Sarr; Turton (Pipa, ht), Holmes, Russell, O’Brien, Toffolo; Sinani (Thomas, 85), Ward (Rhodes, 72).
Substitutes not used Blackman (gk), Anjorin, Colwill, Eiting.

referee Robert Jones (Merseyside). attendance 10,005.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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