• Luton first non-league side for 24 years to beat top-tier team
• 'Fans have through tough times,' says Luton hero Scott Rendell
Luton Town, 85 places beneath their opponents in football's food chain, became the first non-league side for 24 years to knock top-tier opposition out of the FA Cup when they beat Norwich City 1-0. Sutton United were the last to achieve the feat, seeing off Coventry City 2-1 in 1989, and they were at home.
It was a thoroughly professional performance by the Hatters, who contained Norwich before catching Chris Hughton's side on the break with 10 minutes remaining. The goal was created by Stuart Fleetwood and JJ O'Donnell, and scored by Scott Rendell – all three of whom had been sent on by Paul Buckle a few minutes earlier.
"We were never going to out-play Norwich but we stuck to our game plan," said Rendell, a 26-year-old striker who has spent much of his career in loan spells at such clubs as Oxford United, Cambridge United and Torquay, before arriving at Kenilworth Road last summer.
Luton and Norwich were playing each other in the Championship only six years ago but Town's decline since has been precipitous. They came into this cup tie in sixth place in the Blue Square Premier, and achieving promotion back into the Football League remains very much a priority, but for their 4,000 travelling supporters – the biggest such contingent to visit Carrow Road this season – it was a moment to celebrate being back in the spotlight.
"The fans have been through tough times but they were fantastic. They never stopped singing and I am really happy for them," Rendell said. Many Norwich supporters stayed to applaud the non‑leaguers from the field.
"We'd dearly love to get a Premier League club in the next round too," Buckle said. "Hopefully it will give the squad some belief for the rest of the season, because we weren't hanging on."
Luton contained Norwich, limiting them to just a handful of chances, though Grant Holt – brought on as a second-half substitute – drew a brilliant save from Mark Tyler with a diving header.
Hughton acknowledged it was another low point in a season that is beginning to go badly awry for Norwich, who are 13th in the Premier League.
The manager said: "Luton are fit and organised and the one chance they had they put away. It's going to be a tough few days but all of that we're going to have to take on the chin. We didn't deserve to lose but we're in a downward spiral and we have to lift ourselves out of it."