After unforgiving Premier League travels, Luton Town found themselves returning to a newly renovated Kenilworth Road. It was a full house for this Carabao Cup Second Round tie, as the hosts seemingly relished playing back in LU4. With West Ham paying a visit on Friday, Rob Edwards’ side would look to enjoy a much-needed confidence booster against lower-league opposition.
LUT: Krul; Giles, Bell, Lockyer, Andersen, Doughty; Berry, Ruddock-Mpanzu; Brown, Woodrow, Ogbene
GIL: Morris; Clark, Ogie, Ehmer, Masterson, Alexander; Clarke, McKenzie, Dieng; Bonne, Nadesan
Luton Town were the second team since Blackpool in 2010 to have their two opening Premier League fixtures come away from home. With defeats at both Brighton and Chelsea, this Carabao Cup clash against League Two Gillingham couldn’t come soon enough.
As Jacob Brown opened the scoring just nine minutes in thought, it was like the Hatters had never been away. The visitors struggled as Luton laid on early pressure, and after failing to clear from a corner, the ball fell to Luke Berry. He provided a hopeful prod to Brown, and the former Stoke City man fired confidently home from the left side.
This low, fizzing strike across goal seemingly sparked an on-pitch rivalry – as Luton looked to one-up each other with superb strikes. With this in mind, the lead doubled in remarkable style. Alfie Doughty was the scorer on 28 minutes with a wonderful curling free-kick, after Luke Berry was fouled by Macauley Bonne, yet dusted himself off to roll the ball to Doughty in a slick routine. The winger struck the moving ball sweetly – and sent it roaring into the top left corner.
As the first half wound down in scrappy fashion, Gillingham looked determined to prove why they’re second in League Two so far this season. Perhaps bolstered by some rousing words from boss Neil Harris, the Gills snatched one back after just ten mintues. Macauley Bonne flicked the ball on for Jayden Clarke and he darted down the left before evading a flailing Mads Andersen on the by-line. Tim Krul floated off his line, but his experience wasn’t enough as Clarke slotted in well at the near post.
Unfortunately for Harris’ side, it took just 11 minutes for Luton to dispel any murmurs of an underdog story. Again, it was a goal for the personal highlight reel. This time, it was Cauley Woodrow who slammed home. Gillingham were backtracking, and Shadrag Ogie’s header away from a ball down the line didn’t have enough on it. In stark contrast, Woodrow’s rocket had plenty of fuel as it blasted into the top left corner after the ball sat up nicely.
The last 20 minutes saw a plethora of changes enter the fray as both teams capitalised on the cup opportunity. However, late on – it was a Gillingham substitute that made Luton’s evening that little less routine.
Latching on to a great cross from the right, Tom Nichols was primed and ready – heading into the bottom left corner smartly. Tim Krul got a hand to it, but Nichols was wheeling away as now Luton had to endure six minutes of additional time.
Fortunately for the majority in attendance, the Kent side couldn’t get through. Luton scraped by, and survived a flurry of late pressure to put themselves back into the draw for the Third Round.