Luton Town F.C
Moncur (15), Pearson (22), Collins (47)
Luton 3-1 City: Tired Canaries come up well short
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Daniel Farke felt Norwich City’s draw against Coventry City marked an injury watershed. The Canaries will hope it came at Kenilworth Road in a wretched 3-1 Championship defeat on Wednesday night that ended a 10-game unbeaten run.
The 1,000 home fans in attendance loved the manner the Hatters set about the depleted visitors. Farke was again without a full team of senior personnel through injury, but even with Emi Buendia back in the ranks there was no defying the odds this time.
City shipped twice from first half free kicks, deposited by George Moncur and Matty Pearson. Buendia’s penalty reduced the deficit but James Collins punished more City sloppiness from the spot seconds after half-time.
Norwich will rightly point to the challenge on Grant Hanley that went unseen in the act of the captain handling the ball as he fell to the floor. But there was a needless turnover of possession just before, when Michael McGovern’s wayward pass across his own six yard box was pounced upon.
It underlined the lack of precision. Collectively, Norwich could not match Luton for intensity or urgency and contributed to the imbalance with the type of concessions that must remain the exception rather than the norm when the frontline options return.
Norwich’s impressive consistency to this point renders another forgettable trip to Kenilworth Road as an isolated blip at this stage. Now they must go again, and find the energy and appetite to respond against Sheffield Wednesday in front of their own supporters at Carrow Road.
Farke sprung something of a tactical surprise with Przemyslaw Placheta leading the line. Marco Stiepermann dropped into his more favoured number 10 role; flanked by Buendia and Josh Martin. That meant Mario Vrancic dropping to the bench in the one change from the 1-1 weekend Championship draw against Coventry City.
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Max Aarons was passed fit after suffering a shin problem in the closing stages of the Sky Blues’ draw.
Luton boss Nathan Jones made five changes from the Hatters’ side hammered 4-0 at Cardiff. Collins led the line again after the Republic of Ireland international’s early season hat-trick in the 3-1 League Cup win.
Placheta’s pace got him in behind Martin Cranie with three minutes gone but James Shea was down sharply to parry his angled effort.
Luton appeared content to let City ease themselves into the contest. Albeit the press was more concerted when the visitors were in possession on the edge of their own penalty area.
Stiepermann almost clipped a probing ball into Martin after a bout of patient passing but the youngster’s flick rolled through to Shea.
McGovern’s reflexes were tested in the 11th minute when he went full length to his left to clutch Luke Berry’s half-volley, after the Luton midfielder pulled into space on the edge of the area.
Hanley was adjudged to have manhandled Collins to concede a free kick in the centre of his own half in meaty aerial tussle. It proved a costly decision. From a quickly taken set piece, Moncur checked onto his right and curled a shot past McGovern against the inside of his far post.
Hanley continued his protests towards the official in the immediate aftermath. But City responded. As they have so often already this season. Placheta burst onto Aarons’ pass and was sent sprawling by Shea. It was the second consecutive penalty award in recent days sourced from the Pole’s searing pace.
Buendia coolly rolled the spot kick low into the opposite corner. A smattering of boos greeted the City goalscorer’s thumb-sucking celebration, which was a nod to his pregnant partner.
Back came Luton. Jacob Sorensen eased Jordan Clark off the ball deep in his own defensive third. Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall whipped in a free kick attacked by Pearson, who crashed a header past McGovern from seven yards. Farke had made great play this season of Norwich’s greater resolution in an area routinely exposed in the Premier League. This was a sour reminder after leaking two goals from free kick situations in the space of seven minutes.
Luton upped the intensity out of possession in the aftermath. A goal to the good and with the defensive organisation to frustrate the Canaries, Farke’s midfielders were unable to pick the lock amongst the massed ranks of orange shirts.
Placheta was booked rather harshly for what the official deemed a pull back, before referee England engaged Farke in a long conversation which appeared to centre on back chat from his players.
Buendia rifled a rising shot against one of the support posts holding up the Luton goal in the 39th minute. The hands to head reaction told you how close it was.
Moncur served up a poor imitation of Cristiano Ronaldo’s trademark free kick technique in first half stoppage time, when his long range effort smacked the electronic scoreboard above McGovern’s goal.
Whatever Farke said at the interval, the message failed to get through. Within 30 seconds of the restart McGovern’s wayward pass across the width of his six yard box was pounced on by the Hatters.
Clark’s whipped cross from the right was handled by the falling Hanley, who appeared to be on his way down after a challenge from behind.
Referee England had no hesitation in awarding another spot kick at the same end as Buendia’s effort, and Collins crashed it down the middle.
Buendia stung the palms of Shea with a dipping right footer from the edge of the box but there were no takers for the rebound.
Farke’s response was to switch to wing backs with Jacob Sorensen deployed alongside Hanley and Ben Gibson. Aarons moved to the left flank, with Olly Skipp on the right.
Stieperman glanced a near post header over in the 69th minute but it was sporadic from the visitors. Vrancic then replaced Alex Tettey for the final quarter.
Aarons went down after bursting past Bree tight to the byline but referee England ignored half-hearted City appeals for a penalty.
Shea then plucked Hanley’s speculative header out of the air to trigger a burst of vocal encouragement from the lucky few in attendance.
Norwich’s chances of any late drama were further hindered when Buendia hobbled out of the action to be replaced by Christoph Zimmermann with 10 minutes of normal time remaining.
The centre back did slam home a shot in the 84th minute which struck Sorensen in an offside position to wrong foot Shea.
There was a landmark moment for Tyrese Omotoye when the young striker made his senior debut for Martin a minute later.
But in keeping with the lethargic nature of the whole night, Norwich never threatened to muster a riposte despite a succession of corners.
• Luton Town (4-3-2-1): Shea, Cranie (Bree 45), Pearson, Lockyer, Norrington-Davies, Rea (C), Berry, Dewsbury-Hall (Potts, 90), Moncur (Morrell 70), Clark, Collins. Subs: Tunnicliffe, Cornick, Isted, Galloway, LuaLua, Nombre.
• Booking: Shea (foul on Placheta, 18)
• Goals: Moncur (15), Pearson (22), Collins (47)
• Norwich City (4-2-3-1): McGovern, Aarons, Hanley (C), Gibson, Sorensen, Skipp, Tettey (Vrancic, 72), Buendia (Zimmermann, 81), Stiepermann, Martin (Omotoye 85), Placheta. Subs: Barden,
McAlear, Omobamidele, Dickson-Peters.
• Bookings: Placheta (foul on Norrington-Davies, 34); Zimmermann (foul on Collins, 85)
• Goal: Buendia (19)
• Added on time: 4 minutes / 4 minutes
• Referee: Darren England
• Attendance: 1,000