The 1991-92 season, the last before the arrival of the Premier League, is the first season I can remember following. I had my first sticker album and only completed Coventry. Leeds won the title with Eric Cantona, and West Ham, who finished bottom, were relegated.
Relegated with them were Notts County and Luton Town. Unlike the Irons, these sides never returned to the top tier of English Football and tasted the riches of the Premier League. I’ll always, however, remember their pages in my first ever sticker album.
Luton is a much easier journey that Nottingham, so I was keen to tick them off as soon as possible. The ‘Beds-Herts derby’, as it’s known by some, against Stevenage seemed like the ideal opportunity to pay them a visit.
Competition: League Two
Refreshments: £3 (bottle of coke and a Twix)
Star Player: Luke Berry
A brief history of Luton Town FC
Luton Town were founded in 1885, the product of a merger between Luton Town Wanders and Excelsior. They are known as ‘the Hatters’. The name comes from the town’s historical links to the hat-making trade.
The club moved to their current home, Kenilworth Road, in 1905 having previously played at a couple of other locations in the town. In 1891 they became the first club in Southern England to be fully professional.
Prior to their relegation in 1992 Luton spent 10 years in the top flight, the most successful period in their history. During this time they enjoyed two successive trips to Wembley to contest the League Cup Final. In 1988 they defeated Arsenal, 3-2, for their only major trophy. They were denied back-to-back triumphs by Nottingham Forest a year later.
The Hatters were relegated from the football league in 2009, having been docked 30 points for financial irregularities. They spent five years in the fifth tier before winning promotion to League Two, where they have remained since, in 2014.
Parking: Not much around there ground. There is a car park on Dunstable Rd.
The Hatters’ home, Kenilworth Road is easily reached via public transport. It’s a 15 minute walk from Luton Station which is 35-40 mins away from London St Pancras. Head through town to Collingdon Street and walk to the roundabout at the end. You’ll soon see the recognisable orange colours of the home supporters.
The main entrance to the stadium is at the end of Kenilworth Road. I followed the eager, orange hordes up Dunstable Road to a selection of shops and fast food outlets. The queues at KFC suggested the food on offer inside the stadium wasn’t ‘finger licking’ enough, so I filled up before strolling on to Kenilworth Road.
The ground is hidden away in the residential streets, and you might not even notice it was there where it not for the club branding and the crowds outside. It wasn’t completely obvious where to enter, but I weaved through the outer perimeter, reminiscent of the industrial zone on the Crystal Maze, until I got to a turnstile. Luckily, it was the correct one.
The industrial theme continued inside, but there was plenty of room to move about and pick up a drink for the game. I caught a glimpse of the pristine pitch through the small entrances and alleyways. Kenilworth Road is instantly recognisable thanks to its executive-only section that runs down one side of the pitch. The other three sections are a little run-down but well equipped for the level.
The Main Stand and Kenilworth Road End are ample-sized single-tier seating areas. The away support and most vocal Hatters’ fans shared the Oak Stand underneath the best ‘90s’ style digital scoreboard I’ve seen so far. I was sat in the David Preece Stand, in one corner, which had been added as a link between the Main Stand and the Kenilworth Road End.
The ground was full except for a small section to the side of the Stevenage fans and, for some reason, the row I was sitting in. Luton’s recent good form meant the home crowd were excited and expectant. The atmosphere fed of this expectation as well as two very early goals. There were brief lulls, however, where many in orange stopped to pinch themselves and savour the spectacle.
This local derby was also a top of the table clash as Luton sat third and Stevenage seventh prior to kick-off. The home side have been in great form with five wins and a draw in their last six games. They were also the second top scorers in League Two and had the best goal difference.
Stevenage have won three of their last six games, but they’ve also lost two of their last three away games. The visitors are only three points behind their hosts, however, and a big win could take them into the automatic promotion places, at the expense of the Hatters.
Luton came out of the blocks quickly and were two-nil up in seven minutes. Jack Stacey’s cross was met by Luke Berry, who headed into the bottom corner for the first. Hylton capitalised on a defensive error for the second. He raced in behind the last man, cut back and finished well.
A quick break led to the third, which was a second for Berry. Cornick led the break and Berry coolly placed the ball into the bottom corner. Stevenage pulled one back just before half-time after some persistence and composure from Kennedy.
The visitors came out with renewed vigour in the second half, but the hosts soon silenced them for good. James Collins cleverly won a penalty, that was dispatched by Hylton. Berry completed his hat-trick soon after and scored the pick of the goals. He picked up the ball 20 yards out, shifted it onto his right foot and curled a sublime finish into the top corner.
The Hatters confirmed their vast superiority towards the end of the game with two more goals. Firstly, full-back James Justin rounded off a good move and drove the ball past Fryer. Maltese international Luke Gambin finished off the scoring in added time after collecting a rebound, from an Elliot Lee shot, that had hit the post.
Final thoughts and ratings
A great day out in a full stadium with lots of character, and lots of goals. Luton have been in great form this season, so Kenilworth Road is well worth a visit. It’s not the easiest ground to navigate around, so you may want to give yourself a little time to get your bearings on your first visit.