Football: Luton 2 - 0 Rochdale
Date published: 03 March 2019
League leaders Luton Town made it 12 months unbeaten at home in the league after two second half goals condemned Rochdale to defeat. Strikers Danny Hylton and James Collins did the damage as Keith Hill’s side suffered their fifth defeat in six games which see’s them still in danger of relegation.
With Ethan Ebanks-Landell suspended, Keith Hill made three changes to his side for the trip to the surprise league leaders. MJ Williams and Jim McNulty were utilised in a central defensive back three with Bradden Inman drafted in as a make shift right wing back as Ryan McLaughlin picked up an injury in training this week.
Coming up against the league leaders was always going to be tough with Mick Harford’s side coming into the game on the back of a club record 21 game unbeaten run in the league. The Kenilworth Road faithful are a hostile lot and you can see why they have such a good record at home with the fans putting pressure on the referee for every decision.
With less than 30 seconds on the clock, a late challenge by Ethan Hamilton brought about an early yellow card with the on-loan Manchester United man walking a tight rope for almost the full game.
Andy Lonergan, whose emergency loan from Middlesbrough had been extended again this week, was a busy man and kept the home side out on numerous occasions. Luton’s leading scorer James Collins was frustrated by the acrobatics of Lonergan whilst Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu was bravely denied by the stopper.
Dale’s best chance of the half came when Hamilton’s perfectly weighted through ball found Matt Done who raced in at goal; only excellent defending from Sonny Bradley kept the striker out.
Lonergan was once again called into action inside the first minute of the second half; Mpanzu brilliantly played in by Andrew Shinnie with the midfielder thwarted by Lonergan’s quick thinking to race out and block.
Joe Bunney saved what looked a sure fire goal when he made a timely intervention as Jack Stacey saw sight of goal; the full back’s wonderfully timed challenge even brought applause from the home crowd.
With Dale just about holding the league leaders at bay, they succumbed to the pressure as Luton edged in front. Jack Stacey’s burst through two Dale defenders gave him space to cross for Hylton who from close range brought a fine stop from Lonergan with an outstretched foot. The loose ball was headed at goal by Elliot Lee which bounced off the face off the crossbar and whilst still grounded, Hylton stuck a foot out to turn the ball over the line.
With Barnsley having reduced the gap at the top of League One in the early kick-off, Luton looked to secure the points but Lonergan was having another outstanding game in a Dale shirt; Elliot Lee’s deflected shot was tipped around the post.
For the second game in succession, Keith Hill’s side were reduced to ten men when Ethan Hamilton picked up a second booking with five minutes left of the 90. In trying to block Shinnie’s clearance, the midfielder caught the winger with referee Lee Swabey giving his marching orders.
With the numerical advantage, Luton piled forward and when substitute LuaLua wriggled free inside the area, his pin point pass found Collins who finished emphatically from 18 yards out to seal the win.
Rochdale ended the game with nine men as Callum Camps had to go off suffering from dizziness and with all three substitutes used up, it just capped off a miserable day in Bedfordshire.
Although an improved performance from Dale, it's points that are needed and with the next five games coming against sides in and around the bottom of the table, its imperative that Hill’s side grind out some results from somewhere if they are to survive another season in League One.
Rochdale: Lonergan, MJ Williams, McNulty, Delaney, Bunney (J Williams 63), Inman, Dooley, Hamilton, Camps, Done (Andrew 63), Henderson ©, (Clough 71)
Subs: (not used) Wade, Holden, Adshead, Matheson
Luton: Shea, Stacey, Pearson, Bradley ©, Justin, McCormack, Shinnie, Mpanzu (Potts 75), Lee (LuaLua 81), Hylton (Berry 89), Collins
Subs: (not used) Isted, Moncur, Cummings, Sheehan
Referee: Mr L Swabey
Assistants: Mr P Kelly & Mr O Williams
Fourth Official: Mr T Reeves
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