On a bright and breezy day on the North side of London saw the FA Cup match up of Luton Town from the Championship squaring off against the Premiership’s Blackburn Rovers. Pre match interviews had Luton manager Mike Newell reminiscing about “the best 5-years of his career whilst at Rovers” while pointing out to seemingly anyone who would listen that they were down to the bare bones; the last 16 fit players available. He acknowledged that Rovers should win the tie but with a cup game, who knows and he would not be shocked if they actually beat them.
Rovers announce that Bentley would be moving to the middle of the park, the reshuffle is down to injuries to Savage and Tugay, with Emerton wide right and Zurab filling in at right back, allowing God (Ryan Nelsen) to take his place and the captain’s armband at the heart of the defence for the first time this season. Derbyshire is again given a starting spot in the team alongside Benni McGoalMachine with new signing Stephen Warnock given a starting spot at left back . Interestingly, this game was Morten Gamst Pedersen`s 101st game for Blackburn. The Rovers bench highlighted the lack of cover in the squad at present with new signing Chris Samba given a spot, along with 3 strikers, Gallagher, Nonda and Jeffers. Enckelman completed Rovers Bench.
The game kicked off with both teams getting stuck in and an early tackle from Bentley showing that he is not afraid to put his foot in, letting the Luton lads he’s about. On 4 minutes, Derbyshire was slipped through only for a very late flag to halt the striker’s progress. This would be the first of many offside decisions, many of which should have not been given, against the Rovers today. Rovers continued to pressure and probe the Luton Town backline and on 10 minutes they were rewarded when a ball played through towards Derbyshire, again looking to stretch their back line, turns the ball up field off the centre half and heads toward the penalty area on the right hand side. With the Luton centre back trying to pressure Derbyshire, he gets the ball out of his feet before hitting a fabulous right footed strike into the top left hand corner of Marlon Beresford’s net. This was Derbyshire’s 12th game in a row and he has now scored in 5 out of 7 games, an impressive rate.
On 18 minutes, Luton lost their Captain to injury, though to be fair, it was partially self inflicted as not 5 minutes before he stepped into the advancing Rovers debutant, Stephan Warnock and body checked him rather cynically, only for the pair to clash knees. He could not continue any longer and is replaced. Rovers kept up the work rate and pressure and were rewarded on 30 minutes, not by a goal, but by a lovely rendition of “Wild Rover” Blackburn style. Nelsen gets back into the wars and gets a blow above his eye and he opens up like a rotten potato. The Rovers Doctor, checks him and bandages the head would up, allowing him to re enter the fray. The on field reward came 5 minutes later when a great break forward by Warnock as he hangs a cross to the back stick. Derbyshire, very bravely gets his head to the ball, while receiving a kick to the top of the head for his efforts, setting up McCarthy for one of the easiest goals he will score this season. 2-0 Rovers and cruising.
Just before half time, Nelsen and Mokoena, who to be fair has had a decent half as the holding player in the middle, go up for a headed challenge and clash heads. No serious damage done to either player after the magic sponge has been applied, they are back in the game.
So, half time comes with Luton finally deciding they want to make a game of it but they have an uphill struggle ahead being 2-0 down and Rovers playing some fantastic football. Nelsen, Warnock and Bentley all impressing in the first stanza.
So, the 2nd half kicks off with Rovers looking to add to their tally and Luton looking to get a foothold back in the game. Rovers continued to press for a 3rd, even with a 2 goal cushion, with MGP and Emerton working hard. On 55 minutes Rovers were awarded a free kick on the left, just inside the Luton half. Pedersen knocked a wonderful cross field diagonal pass to an advancing Emerton, who crosses it into the box for Derbyshire to rise well centrally and plant the header into the top right corner. This prompts the Rovers faithful to sing Beresford, Luton’s stopper and former Burnley player, a song, something about his Mum and his Dad, you know the song!
On 67 minutes Jeffers replaces the tired McCarthy, who again added to his season tally of goals. Rovers still look on top although the game gets a tad scrappy with tackles and poor passes becoming frequent. On 70 minutes, new signing Christopher Samba gets his debut, coming on for God, who has enjoyed a very good return to the Rovers first team. The travelling support break into song once again, singing “Lets all do the Samba” to the tune of the “Conga” They can relax and enjoy the rest of the game, they have been great today as have Rovers.
Rovers are still looking to put Luton to the sword as chances come and go and Derbyshire gets 2 or 3 good chances to complete his hat trick. The best goal of the game was to come however, with a poor clearance by Luton allow Pedersen a chance on the left hand side of the box about 14 yards out. He shapes his body and strikes a sweetly struck left footed volley into the far corner past the dive of a despairing Beresford to make it 4-0. MGP showed fantastic control and technique with that goal!
Zurab makes way for Paul Gallagher for the final 15 minutes. 78 minutes into the game and Friedel finally gets his hands warmed by a Luton player, but still makes a comfortable save. Rovers continue to press for a 5th but it was not to be as Rovers run out comfortable winners in this 4th round tie.
Rovers progress and are in the hat for the 5th round draw on Monday, Luton will have to wait till next season. Oh, and happy Birthday Mike Newell.
Things I Noticed
* Zurab and Emerton were very attack minded and often drifted infield with possession.
* Nelsen was very commanding at the back, showing what we missed since last April.
* Derbyshire has now scored 6 goals in 7 games.
This match report was written and submitted by BomBom in James’ absence
Friedel – 6
Bystander for majority of game but when needed, as usual, was up to the task.
Zurab – 7
hifted to Right Back, where he plays mostly for Georgia and did surprisingly well and linked well with Emerton in attack too.
WARNOCK – 9
Can you ask any more of a debut than that performance, looks like Sparky has bagged another bargain. Has set a high level to attain every week with that performance.
Henchoz – 7
Was solid in a back line that was rarely troubled but made some key tackles.
God – 8
Great Comeback for Nelsen. Showed what we have missed and added some leadership also.
Emerton – 7
Workmanlike performance from the Aussie. Set up the 3rd goal .
Pedersen – 8
Would have been MoM if not for Warnock. Not as effective in 1st half as he was in the 2nd. His passing cut Luton to pieces and took his goal very well.
Mokoena – 6
Did what was asked of him but still doesn’t seem comfortable on the ball. One killer pass to Derbyshire, unfortunately, it was ruled offside.
Bentley – 8
Moved into the middle and was superb. If he can perform like that in the Premiership, maybe we won`t miss Savage as much after all!
McCarthy – 7
Some nice link up play with the midfield and took his goal well.
Derbyshire – 8
Can’t stop this kid scoring now. Is keeping a couple of international players out of the team with his performances and will continue to do so if he plays like this every week.
Jeffers – 6
Did not do much with the time he had on the field.
Samba – 7
Complete air shot for his first ever strike on goal in a Rovers shirt but his defending looked OK. God is this guy tall!!!
Some neat touches but did not get enough time to shine.