Well well well. What drama in the capital last Sunday. I’m still feeling a hotchpotch of emotions after a quite exhilarating day out, so I’ll try and share my day with you, and tell you what I thought.
Perhaps it’s best to start at the beginning. It was an early start as we got on the road for 7am, still a little groggy as half the town still slept. Despite my ogre-like state, I was still able to confidently forecast what I thought would be an inevitable Iron victory. ‘4-0, Hooper hat trick’, I repeated.
I was excited, and was really looking forward to just getting there and watching the lads at Wembley. After a stop at Watford Gap, we continued the journey, where we begun to pass some Luton fans who had started their advance on London significantly later than us. A bit of banter was exchanged between cars, until we saw an open topped bus cruising down the motorway, packed with Hatters fans. They spotted our Iron flags and hung off the side of the bus, beer cans in one hand, and making obscene gestures with the other.
When we arrived, it was time for a few sandwiches and a couple of beers, before beginning the short walk to the Olympic Way as it is now known. Looking down onto the way was some sight, and I actually began to wonder whether or not we were the only Scunny fans in attendance. You could clearly tell we were outnumbered.
The stadium dominated the skyline, and I felt a sense of pride at seeing our badge adorning it on one side.
We eventually made our way in, and as we came into our block, the sheer enormity of the stadium blew me away. Absolutely breathtaking. Perhaps fitting then, that it was to stage such a breathless game.
I was still spouting off about just how many we would be scoring that afternoon, and soon Gary Hooper showed the nation what he’s all about. A brilliant ball through, quality run, great strength, and a lethal finish. 1-0. What a player. My prediction was on. Luton could barely get out of their own half, and Lansbury almost made it two with a vicious strike, but for a marvellous clearing header off the line by a defender.
But then we took our foot off the gas. Luton gained a bit of belief, begun to come forward, and soon they were level. Static defending allowing Chris Martin to run through. I personally thought he used his arm to control the ball, but none of the replay angles seemed to shed any light on it. Nevertheless, he levelled matters with a tidy finish. My prediction was gone, and maybe this wasn’t going to be the landslide I thought it was.
It was absorbing stuff, and soon Cliff Byrne was left in a heap. Had it been seen by the officials, I believe the perpetrator, Tom Craddock, would have been given his marching orders for a slap on our skipper, but alas it was off the ball and they failed to see it. No prizes for guessing what happens in the second half then. Yep, Craddock scores. 2-1 Luton. Unbelievable.
Could we find a way back?
We hammered on the door, but nothing doing. Lansbury smashed one against the bar with five minutes left. Perhaps that was the chance to get back into it.
It was looking a lost cause, until Hayes and Mirfin won the ball back on the edge of the Luton box with a minute remaining. The next bit is a little hazy in my mind. I just remember it breaking to McCann on the cusp of the D, and watching him leather it first time. It travelled in slow motion. High over the defence and the keeper, then it came down. Ever so slowly it came down. And then it hit the net. The top corner.
There was a second long pause…
And then pandemonium. Sheer delight. An incredible strike. 2-2. Amazing. It was one of those moments that feels like an out of body experience. You don’t know what to do with yourself. You can’t help what you do with yourself. Amazing.
So extra time was upon us. Surely now the impetus was with us? Luton’s heads would go down and we would go on to win it.
Claude Gnapka had other ideas. The sub seemed to inject a bit of life into them, and his pace and strength caused our tiring defence problems. So much so that Williams floundered under his pressure, and Murphy was caught in no man’s land. Gnapka looped the ball over Murphy, and into the net. Sickening.
Try as we might, we couldn’t get back into it. Deep into extra time we had a couple of chances. Lansbury smashed one agonisingly across the face of goal. But it was over. Luton had won the day.
Such a mixture of emotions on such a topsy turvy day. My summary is as follows. A great day out, at a great stadium, watching a brilliant match. Disappointing to lose, but no hard feelings. Football was the winner on Sunday. It was a great advert for lower league football.
This week we return to our bread and butter in the league. It’s Huddersfield at home, and we ought to get back on track with three points to consolidate our play-off place. Hopefully David Mirfin will have recovered from his Wembley knock out, but he remains a doubt.
Either way, I hope there’s a decent crowd; maybe we’ll have retained some of our glory hunters.
Up The Iron.