The Giant Killers



All time greatest F A cup giant killings

Number 7


Norwich City 0-1 Luton Town

Fourth Round: Saturday January 26th 2013

Carrow Road, Norwich

Attendance: 26,521

Scorer: Scott Rendell {80}

Over 200 people lost their lives in a fire at a night club in Santa Maria, Brazil. Britain announced plans for a new high speed rail network in the north of England. Will I Am and Brittney Spears were topping the charts with Scream and Shout. Jamie Foxx took the title role of a slave, given his freedom by bounty hunter, Christophe Waltz before the pair attempt to buy his wife her freedom from Leonardo Di Caprio in the film Django and Brendan O'Carroll delivered the laughs in the title role in Mrs Brown's Boys on the BBC.

During the history of the Football League just three teams have felt the pain of three consecutive relegations. Northampton in the 1960s, dropping from top flight to basement after an equally rapid rise. Bristol City's fall to the basement was harder to explain after having been a relatively stable top flight club three years earlier. Luton joined their ranks in 2009. Their bemused fans forced to watch as they went from a side finishing fifteen points shy of a Premier League play-off to a side dropping into the fifth tier three seasons later.

Unlike Northampton and Bristol City, Luton's decline was more in the style of 21st Century financial penalties than actions on the field as the club suffered a total deduction of forty points over the course of the period. Hatters fans felt, with a possibility of justification, that they were being laid out as an example to the remainder of the Football League to stay within their means or face harsh penalty. Even more painfully for Luton was a three season run where they reached the Conference play-offs each time and each time failed to secure promotion back to the Football League.

This season Luton were yet again battling on the edge of the promotion play-offs under the guidance of manager, Paul Buckle, a former journeyman player in the League's lower divisions who took charge in the final weeks of the previous season. Luton's F A cup campaign kicked off in October with a fourth qualifying round tie at another ghost of the League, Cambridge United who, like Luton were on the fringes of the Football League promotion race.

Buckle's side consisted mainly of players who spent their careers in the lower divisions such as keeper,  Mark Tylor, Ronnie Henry,  Jake Howells, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Andre Gray, Stuart Fleetwood and Jon Shaw.  J J O'Donnell came from non league Football while a bit of continental spice was added by Hungarian defender, Janos Kovacs. The Hatters even had an international in Guinea-Bissau's Arnaud Mendy. Another lower League stalwart, Dean Beckwith and the Robinsons, Matt and Jake, the latter on a month long loan from Northampton Town, came off the bench to cement a 2-0 victory secured by the goals of Gray and Shaw.

The first round proper brought with it the disappointment of not being paired with a League side but also the very real prospect of progression against Conference strugglers, Nuneaton. This time Dean Brill took Taylor's place between the posts  while Strikers, Scott Rendell and Dean Walker led the line. The Hatters were six minutes from departing from the competition when Rendell finally broke the visitor's resistance with a header.

Rendell was the difference in the replay with both goals in a 2-0 victory in front of five-hundred travelling Hatters to give Luton a home tie in round two with Conference South side, Dorchester Town. Jonathan Smith came into the side and helped The Hatters build a two goal lead but it was a nervy finish when the underdogs pulled a goal back and had numerous chances to force a replay.

Now Luton's ambitions went from drawing a League side to getting a Premier League side but yet again the draw fell short of their hopes as they were paired at home to Championship Wolves, A side they faced as equals as recently as seven years earlier. The visitors, relegated from the top flight the previous season, were now in a poor run in the second tier and a few pundits pencilled the tie in as a chance of a major cupset. Buckle named his starting eleven as Tylor, Rowe-Turner, Taylor, Kovacs, Henry, Lawless, Mendy, O'Donnell, Smith, Shaw and Gray. In the days leading up to the game, Wolves' David Foley told the press how much he was looking forward to returning to Kenilworth Road, where he had played in Luton's Championship days, as well as a memorable cup tie with Liverpool that finished 3-5 to the visitors.  The fates were against Foley as it was his mistake that let in Jon Shaw to set up Alex Lawless for a volleyed finish in the first minute of the second half to put Luton in front. The home side were by no means on the back foot either as they had chances to put the game beyond Wolves, although the nine minutes of injury time that were played took place largely around the Luton goal as the visitors pressed for an equaliser that didn't come. 

The result cost Wolves Manager, Staal Solbakken his job and thrust the Luton players into the media spotlight, along with their Conference counterparts at Macclesfield who had also claimed the Championship scalp of Cardiff. Finally, at the fourth time of asking, Luton got the draw they wanted when they were paired to travel to Carrow Road to face Premier League Norwich City.

The Canaries were enjoying relative stability in the top flight under Chris Hughton, himself twice a cup winner with Tottenham in the early 1980s but were going through a sticky patch with no wins in their last six league games.Hughton made the now customary Premier League manager's decision to make six changes to his team, though considering the previous line up had been hammered 0-5 at Liverpool it was questionable whether the changes made his side any weaker. Scotland's Russell Martin, Javier Garrido, Elliott Bennett and England under 21s Ryan Bennett and Jonny Howson stayed in the side. Leon Barnett and Canadian International, Simeon Jackson were elevated from the substitue's bench while experienced squad men, Andrew Surman and David Fox came into the team with youngster, Harry Kane, making his fifth start in a season long loan from Tottenham. With first choice keeper John Ruddy injured, his understudy, Mark Bunn had been deputising but stepped back to the subs bench to make way for third choice, Declan Rudd. Michael Turner and Norwegian International Alexander Tettey also moved to the subs bench, though both had yet to reach twenty appearances since signing for The Canaries at the start of the season while club captain, Grant Holt was also gambled as a reserve. Only Bradley Johnson and Scottish International Robert Snodgrass were left out of a side in which only Rudd and Kane could be considered inexperienced at the highest level. In the era of the Premier League squad system this was a side that it could not be argued was capable of winning a Premier League game, never mind a cup tie. 

The morning of the tie rekindled memories of the greatest clash between the sides when, back in 1959, Norwich were the minnows and took top flight Luton to a replay in the Semi Finals of the competition as surviving players from both sides shared their memories of that day fifty-four years earlier to Television and Radio broadcasters.Meanwhile some 4,000 Luton fans made their way to Carrow Road to get behind the minnows, hoping to witness the first victory of a non league club at a top flight stadium for twenty-seven years.

The visitors, playing in their less familiar Navy Blue change colours, started brightly and forced two early corners, which set the tone for the first half hour of the game. Norwich looked nervous and cagey. The ball going back to Rudd more often than going forward towards the Luton goal. But despite being in control of the game, Luton were unable to create any real chances and as the match ticked past the half hour, Norwich began to step up the gears. Simeon Jackson had the first real effort of the game, forcing a good save from Tyler before Harry Kane saw his goalbound effort deflected wide by Taylor. But the Canaries' best chance came right on half time when Leon Barnett beat Taylor to a cross only to see his header hit the post, rebound off his thigh and then cleared off the line by Lawless. The Norwich players were still making half hearted appeals that the ball had crossed the line when Andre Gray was put through at the other end, only to go down under a clumsy challenge from Howson that referee, Andre Mariner deemed okay, waving away Luton penalty appeals. Even then there was still time for Martin to lash a shot wide of the Luton post before the referee called the interval.

Chris Hughton had seen enough in the first half to recognise that his Norwich side needed an injection of class to take the game up a gear with star man Grant Holt brought on for the inexperienced Kane. there was certainly more purpose to Norwich's play as Holt set up Simeon Jackson with a difficult overhead chance that was fired straight at Taylor. Jackson then returned the favour by swinging in a glorious cross for Holt but with the goal at his mercy, the striker placed his header straight at the keeper who was able to parry clear. Luton still had plenty to offer  to trouble the Luton defence though as Shaw fired narrowly over from outside the box before substitute, Scott Rendell nicked the ball off the hesitant home defence before setting up Lawless with a great chance that he fired narrowly wide on the volley. 

Ten minutes remained on the clock when Janos Kovacs' powerful headed clearance from the edge of his own penalty area was picked up by Fleetwood who drove the ball down the left wing for J J O'Donnell to chase. As he got to the byline he looked across to see Lawless unmarked, racing towards the far post and Rendell moving towards the near post. O'Donnell opted for the latter, sliding the ball in for Rendell to fire high into the roof of Rudd's net with the keeper powerless to prevent it. 9,000 travelling Luton fans went wild with delight as the stunned Norwich players and fans looked on. A generation had passed since any non league side had achieved what Luton were now ten minutes away from.

Norwich had time and Wes Hoolahan somehow managed to miscue a shot wide with the goal at his mercy in what would have been a very controversial incident had he scored. The midfielder being flagged offside when he was a good yard on. Norwich resorted to pumping the ball into the Luton box at every opportunity and deep into injury time came real controversy when Rowe-Turner handled in the box only for Mariner to judge the offence as accidental. There was no time for another chance and Norwich accepted their fate and opted not to bemoan the late penalty claim too much.

Luton cared little for referee's decisions and celebrated wildly with the travelling support while a respectable portion of the Norwich fans stayed long enough to offer their applause.

Unusually, defeat did not mean dismissal for Norwich manager, Chris Hughton, who still had a relegation battle to guide his club away from while for Luton came another chance at a giant killing and the opportunity to be the first non league side for over a century to reach the quarter finals if they could defeat Championship Millwall in round five. In front of a live television audience, Luton kicked off the weekend of fifth round ties with a Saturday lunch time game that rekindled bad memories of a clash between the sides almost thirty years earlier. On that occasion Millwall fans had ripped out seats and fought pitched battles with police, which led to Luton's infamous membership scheme and ban on away fans. A heavier then usual Police presence was at Kenilworth Road, marked by the now unusual sight of officers in riot gear with attack dogs across the half way line at the final whistle. Thankfully the atmosphere remained largely cup feverish, rather than intimidating as the visitors made light work of a three goal victory.  


City: 13:Declan Rudd, 2:Russell Martin, 18:Javier Garrido, 20:Leon Barnett, 24:Ryan Bennett, 8:Jonny Howson, 11:Andrew Surman {replaced by 14:Wes Hoolahan -72}, 15:David Fox, 17:Elliott Bennett {replaced by 12:Anthony Pilkington - 77}, 10:Simeon Jackson, 37 Harry Kane {replaced by 9: Grant Holt - 46}  

Town: 1:Mark Tyler, 2:Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, 3:Greg Taylor, 6:Janos Kovacs, 11:Jake Howells, 25:Ronnie Henry, 7:Alex Lawless, 14:Arnaud Mendy {replaced by 17:J J O'Donnell - 78}, 24:Jonathan Smith, 9:Jon Shaw {replaced by 24:Scott Rendell -74}, 27:Andre Gray {replaced by 13:Stuart Fleetwood - 75}