It was the 12th of February last year that Luton Town met the Tigers at Kenilworth Road. It was 1st v 2nd in League 1 and only one point separated the two teams in the league table. City had won the home fixture in October 2004 by 3-0 and hopes were high that some sort of repeat could be on the cards.
The City team which took the field was Myhill, Stockdale, Cort, Delaney, Edge, Green, Ashbee, Hessenthaler, Lewis, Barmby and Wilbraham.
Roared on by thousands of travelling fans who formed part of the 9500 crowd, the Tigers started the game in one of their more lethargic moods which did not bode well as City had failed to win in their previous five matches and were only hanging onto second spot by virtue of Tranmere suffering a similar bad run at the time. A jittery January was turning into a feeble February for the Tigers; Stuart Elliott was on the treatment table and being sorely missed for his goal scoring heroics.
Thirty minutes passed before the Tigers threatened the Luton goal and it was five minutes before they won their first corner. Luton could easily have been three up by this stage with Brkovic being guilty of missing two good chances and Myhill performing wonders in saving a fierce Steve Robinson shot. The giant Showunmi deputising for the suspended Howard brought another fine save from the City keeper and overall City were simply 2nd best in all areas of the pitch. Showunmi had goods claims for a penalty after a Stockdale challenge but referee Matt Messias was having none of it.
Half-time came and Wilbraham was withdrawn and replaced by Delroy Facey. His pace changed things completely allowing Barmby and Green to come more into the game. Shots from Green, Barmby and Lewis all went close. Luton had chances too, with Delaney blocking a Vine shot and another penalty claim going unheeded when Stockdale brought down the same player.
The seconds were ticking away and the crowd had resigned themselves to a goalless stalemate when the ball was crossed from the right and an unmarked Brkovic beat the desperate dive of Myhill to claim all three points for the Hatters. Jason Price was introduced with 1 minute to go to replace Andy Hessenthaler who got the biggest boos of the day from the home fans due to his connections with bitter local rivals Watford.
So a day of hope ended in abject misery for the travelling thousands, the rest is history – both clubs got the promotion they desired and deserved and here we are 12 months later, one division higher but in different positions. Luton have stabilised in the Championship, but City continue to splutter their way through the season. What will this season bring?
Let’s hope it’s not another last minute heartache.