Report: Luton 1 Blues 1

Blues took a well-earned point at Kenilworth Road.

In their second away match in five days, Blues battled hard to show their capabilities at both ends of the pitch by mixing style and substance.

Lukas Jutkiewicz opened the scoring with his 100th league goal from the penalty spot, and Blues could have added more.

But Luton squeezed an equaliser before the interval through Matty Pearson and denied Blues multiple times after the break.

Although, Neil Etheridge will have the thanks of his teammates after his excellence between the posts prevented Luton from stealing the points.

Aitor Karanka made three changes to the side which drew 1-1 with Coventry City on Friday night. There was a first start of his second loan spell for Jake Clarke-Salter, along with recalls for Gary Gardner and Scott Hogan as Ivan Sanchez, Riley McGree and Jeremie Bela were all on the bench.

Operating in a 3-5-2 formation, Blues started steadily and saw off a trio of early corners for the Hatters with the only hint of danger punched away by Etheridge.

The stopper was then surplus to requirements when James Collins flicked his header wide from Luke Berry’s cross as the home side had the first serious effort on goal in the 12th minute.

Blues were next to threaten when George Friend’s header across goal was not met by a teammate, before Hogan was halted by the assistant referee’s flag as the visitors began to probe.

Such efforts were soon rewarded when Jutkiewicz blocked a Luton clearance allowing Maxime Colin to centre inside the box. And when his cross was blocked by Elliot Lee’s arm, referee David Webb had no choice but to point to the spot.

The resulting penalty was confidently converted by Jutkiewicz, who opted for power and left Simon Sluga no chance by drilling the ball home from 12 yards with 24 minutes played.

This opened the game up and moments after Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall had fired off target for the hosts, Blues went close to doubling their lead. With Jutkiewicz again causing problems the ball broke to Gardner, but his lay-off was struck over from Ivan Sunjic’s first-time strike.

However, despite the best efforts of Etheridge, it was Nathan Jones’ men who were next on the scoresheet with 37 minutes on the clock. From their fifth corner of the half, Pearson pounced on a loose ball to somewhat fortuitously equalise off the inside of the goal frame.

Half-time: Luton 1 Blues 1

There were no changes for either team at the break and from the off Blues had to be on red alert, having Colin to thank as he expertly cleared two crosses when facing his own net.

At the other end, although both Mikel San José and Jutkiewicz were unable to test Sluga with speculative shots, these attempts sparked an offensive tilt from Blues. Jutkiewicz saw his driven cross evade everybody to whistle across the face of goal and Sunjic forced a corner which Luton did well to clear from the second ball.

Colin was next to try his luck after he was fed inside by recent introduction Sanchez, only for his left-footed drive to fly the wrong side of the post.

Despite it seeming Blues would retake the lead, the outfield players were not once, but twice indebted to Etheridge. Flying across his goal he remarkably denied James Collins from point-blank range, before again showcasing his athleticism to push Jordan Clark’s swerving strike over the bar.

As the game entered its final ten minutes another defensive scare was seen off. On this occasion, Harlee Dean was Blues’ hero as he put his body on the line to block Collin’s shot.

This rear-guard action did nothing to deter the attacking ambition of Aitor Karanka’s side, with substitutes Bela and McGree both offering a serious test to the Luton defence.

And it appeared it would pay off when the Australian was able to supply Sunjic in the second minute of added time. However, the Croat was denied by Sluga to ensure the points were shared in Bedfordshire.

Luton Town (3-5-2): Simon Sluga, Sonny Bradley (captain), Matty Pearson, Harry Cornick (Jordan Clark 69), Luke Berry, Elliot Lee (George Moncur 60), Glen Rea, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, James Collins, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Rhys Norrington-Davies.

Substitutes not used: James Shea, Martin Cranie, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Tom Lockyer, Jordan Clark, James Bree, Sam Nombe, Joe Morrell.

Blues (3-5-2): Neil Etheridge, Maxime Colin, Marc Roberts, Harlee Dean (captain), George Friend, Jake Clarke-Salter (Riley McGree 75), Mikel San José, Ivan Sunjic, Gary Gardner (Ivan Sanchez 60), Scott Hogan (Jeremie Bela 75), Lukas Jutkiewicz. 

Substitutes not used: Andrés Prieto, Kristian Pedersen, Josh Dacres-Cogley, Maikel Kieftenbeld, Jon Toral, Jonathan Leko.

Booking: Dean (48), Rea (73)

Referee: David Webb