AFC Wimbledon’s Matt Tubbs spoils Luton Town’s return to the league

There was more than one big return on Saturday. And this one was more than just a few months in the making. League football was back at Kenilworth Road after an absence of more than five years – 1,939 days to be exact – and it was greeted with an atmosphere akin to a late-April promotion party rather than the first home game of the season. Defeat was deflating but the club have seen far greater disasters over the past decade.

And as the Luton players warmed down before disappearing into the tunnel in front of the most vociferous portion of the main stand, those on the sidelines directed some deafening, wholehearted abuse against the FA and Football League for 15 minutes. It was an impressive display of loyalty and defiance against the points penalties that helped send the club spiralling down through the leagues and into the Conference in 2009.

“It’s one of the reasons I came to this club,” the Luton manager, John Still, said of the fans’ response. “The passion of this football club makes me very, very proud. I was so pleased that they came in numbers today, and I’m disappointed for them. But they had a great time last year and they’re going to have a good time this year.”

Old Lady Kenilworth was jam-packed for the comeback. The club have sold 5,700 season tickets, more than double the 2013-14 average for League Two and three times the number some clubs can expect through the gates on a matchday. The 9,101 in attendance were treated to a bright opening by the home side, although not until Luke Guttridge’s thrashed effort 10 minutes before the break did they unduly trouble James Shea in the Wimbledon goal.

The party, though, was about to be pooped. This may have been a new start for Luton Town but there was something very retro about the way they fell behind. It was a goal that popped straight out of the Dave Bassett/Bobby Gould years. Shea launched the ball forward, Adebayo Akinfenwa, not so much a beefy presence as a Sunday roast with all the trimmings, flicked on and Matt Tubbs crashed home. The old Wimbledon DNA runs deep.

After the break a clash between Akinfenwa, aka “the Beast”, and the Luton centre-half Steve McNulty – known affectionately as “Sumo” by the home fans – added much needed spice and the game opened up.

Akinfenwa nodded wide from close range, as did Guttridge at the other end and Mark Cullen, Alex Wall, Luke Wilkinson and Paul Benson all had chances to level but all failed to hit the target. League football may have returned but league wins haven’t just yet – 1,974 days and counting.

comments powered by Disqus