Luton Town 1-1 Everton

First half goals from Dominic Calvert-Lewin from the penalty spot and smartly taken half volley by Adebayo saw the points shared as Luton couldn’t find a winner and Kaminski in the home goal denied DCL with an acrobatic save late in the second half.

Luton, under Rob Edwards have had two victories over the Blues already this season but, still found themselves eleven points behind Everton, three places below them and still very much in the battle to avoid the dreaded drop.

Much has been written and commented upon about the outstanding Goodison Park support and atmosphere in recent weeks, if not for the past couple of seasons, as the Blues have overcome every hurdle placed in their way, and the Hatters manager was hoping their home crowd could have a similar effect when he said, “Our support is going to be huge for us on Friday. Kenilworth Road is a different type of ground and has a different type of atmosphere. 

We know the fans know how important it is. Under the lights, the feeling of being so close to the pitch. It can be intimidating and we’ve got to have it rocking.”

He clearly felt that the cramped and tight environment of Kenilworth Road could play a big part when he added, “We need them in early and we need them noisy. They can be a 12th person for us. It’s not going to be plain sailing. We’ll need to dig in and defend well and it’s in those moments we’ll need them.”

On the challenge of the game itself, Edwards added: “It’s the business end of the season and a really, really big game for us but we’ve got to be there with the performance. It’ll be tough – and we’ll expect Everton to be at their best, they’ve won three games in a row without conceding and won some big games.”

And recognising all the off-field issues the opposition have had to deal with, Edwards concluded, “They’ve been in the middle of a lot of stuff that’s been going on so they deserve credit. It’ll be a difficult game and they have good players. The importance of the game has to bring the best out of us.”

More than aware that his side needed nothing less than a victory, Edwards named his starting line-up: Kaminski, Burke, Mengi, Osho, Onyedinma, Lokonga, Barkley, Doughty, Chong, Morris (c) and Adebayo.

With top flight footie secured for the final season at Goodison, Everton were able to breathe a tad easier following last weekends results and bask in the awareness of what’s been achieved as Sean Dyche and Jordan Pickford were confirmed as being nominated for their respective Manager and Player of the Month awards.

Looking forward to the game at Luton, the manager advised his media gathering that Vitalii Mykolenko won’t play again this season having suffered ankle ligament damage in the Derby. On the flip side though, he advised skipper Seamus Coleman, and strikers Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Beto were in contention to start. “We’ll see [on Calvert-Lewin] – he was out on the grass today so we’re hopeful for no reaction and therefore he’d certainly be in consideration. Again on Seamus, it’s his first day but he’s had a few days with the sport science team, so we’ll see how he fares tomorrow and see that there’s no reaction. Beto is clear and trained today.”

In other injury update news, Lewis Dobbin returned to action for Everton Under-21s on Monday, after recovering from an ankle injury, and the boss commented, “It’s still early. He’s had around six weeks out and he played around 65 minutes the other day – I was at the game. Just before he got injured he had a real chance of playing as we thought he was doing very well but, equally, we’ve got to be fair to him and his true fitness to deliver if and when he gets on the pitch.”

Dyche is well aware of the determination Luton will have to get what could be three vital points in their battle for survival but, he insisted Everton would travel with the right mindset to match the hosts and secure a positive result. “We have to go there with the right attitude and we intend to do so. We want to take it on. We want to win, and finish the season correctly. We have to go down there to perform. We gave ourselves a platform to finish the season strongly, and we want to do that. Certainly, I’ve already referenced that. I referenced that after the win against Brentford – about taking the next one on.”

After a really good April, Dyche wants May to be a continuance and to that aim he named his starting eleven: Jordan Pickford, Ben Godfrey, James Tarkowski (c), Jarrad Branthwaite, Ashley Young, Jack Harrison, Idrissa Gana Gueye, James Garner, Dwight McNeil, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

On a cool, damp evening, our referee was Tim Robinson.

Sean Dyche again took to the touchline dressed in the track suit that has become something of a lucky charm while the team were in the two-tone grey away kit. Luton looked to make a fast start with Chong menacing down their left flank, and nearly causing a problem as he got between Tarkowski and Pickford with the England number one ensuring he didn’t make contact and concede a penalty. Harrison provided good cover to tackle Chong after he’d given Godfrey the slip and another forward thrust by Chong was halted by Garner at the cost of the games first yellow card inside the opening nine minutes.

Everton weathered the early Luton storm before Young found DCL down the left channel and he fed McNeil to gain the area and go down under pressure from Mengi. VAR reviewed and concurred with the referee that any contact was minimal and not worthy of a spot kick.

Everton won their first corner in the 18th minute as a shot from Garner was headed behind, Barkley with a clearing header before the Bleus came again and a cross from the left by McNeil was nearly turned past his own keeper by Mengi and a shot from Garner was blocked.

A second corner came when a DCL cross was turned behind by Burke and Branthwaite was clearly impeded by Mengi and again VAR reviewed the incident with the referee called to the pitchside monitor and he eventually signalled for the penalty. And just before the clock struck the 24-minute mark, Dominic Calvert-Lewin went straight down the middle as Kaminski dived to his right and the Blues were in front.

Barkley spread the ball wide left for Doughty to take on Godfrey and cross to the back post, the Blues defence standing firm until a ball into the area from Lokonga reached Adebayo who climbed above Young and he reacted quickly to send a low shot past Jordan Pickford for a 31st minute equaliser.

Adebayo won a corner off Harrison as the home fans urged their side forward and when the initial cross was cleared the follow-up was easily claimed by Pickford. Luton were certainly reinvigorated having drawn level and Everton tried to take the sting out of their resurgence by slowing the game down before Tarkowski dealt with a right wing cross by Onyedinma. A deep cross towards Doughty was cleared by Gana Gueye and again the Blues tried to slow things down with some midfield possession before Garner was fouled.

A good challenge by Godfrey on Chong regained possession and it led to Harrison sending a curling shot from the right wing just the wrong side of the far post. Into the final five minutes of the first half and Godfrey again fed Harrison for a deep cross that was too strong for McNeil to reach, and Everton again slowed things down to eat up some time. Chong was booked for a poorly timed challenge on Godfrey on halfway. McNeil sending it long for Tarkowski and Branthwaite to cause a moment of panic in the home defence before the ball was cleared by Barkley helping out in his own six yard area.

A minimum of six added minutes were announced as Pickford easily saved a volley from Doughty. DCL got the Blues going forward and a cross from Harrison was uncomfortably put behind for a corner by Mengi. Nothing ensued from the set piece and Luton edged their way forward before Morris sent a powerful shot across the face of goal and well wide of the far post. Luton were finishing the half the better and a deep cross from Doughty found Burke rising at the back post, Godfrey clearing his header aimed back across goal and the half ended all square.

Half Time: 1-1

No changes by either manager for the start of the second half with the home side again looking to make a fast start with Adebayo failing to get the better of Branthwaite. Everton responded forcing Barkley into a hurried clearance and when Luton got forward a cross from Barkley saw Morris and Young bank heads with the veteran Young, playing his 650th senior game, needing some attention before returning to the field after a cross from Onyedinma was cleared into touch.

Osho found by Barkley sent a shot from distance wide of the target and the next Luton attack involving Barkley and Chong led to Gana Gueye picking up a yellow card for bringing down Chong. Doughty flighted the free kick and Mengi sent his header miles over the bar. On 54 minutes, Sean Dyche made a double change as Abdoulaye Doucoure and James Garner were replaced by Andre Gomes and Amadou Onana.

Onyedinma conceded a left wing corner that was cleared and Tarkowski brought down Morris as he looked to break down the Luton left flank. Everton defended another Luton attack that Barkley was heavily involved in, the former Everton player clearly enjoying life with Luton.

An hour gone and the game was nicely poised as Luton won a corner on their left that Onana headed clear and the home side won a free kick wide left that again saw Onana head clear from the Doughty cross. Another burst forward by Chong saw him win another corner off Godfrey, Tarkowski with the clearing header before Doughty crossed again and Barkley saw his header nearly hit the roof of the stands behind the goal. Harrison conceded another corner from the left as Luton that was delayed as Ashley Young made way for Seamus Coleman on 67 minutes. The corner saw Morris miscue his header and Onana cleared as he was fouled. Harrison saw a looping shot ripped behind by Kaminski, the corner being cleared at the second attempt and Chong went on another surge forward before getting into a mix-up with Doughty.

Woodrow replaced Onyedinma with twenty minutes to play as Luton made their first change and a slip by McNeil gave Chong the chance to got forward, his ball though for Burke on the overlap was too strong. Luton were having much gthe better of the second half and Everton needed to find a way to take more control, particularly in midfield. Chong tried to thread a ball through for Woodrow but again, it was too strong and Pickford mopped up easily.

The travelling Evertonians raised a rendition of Spirit of the Blues to encourage the players to a strong final quarter of an hour as Luton strained forward in search of a second goal, and Adebayo turned sweetly to win a corner off Tarkowski. Godfrey blocked a shot from Barkley and the loose ball was cleared. Everton countered with a deep cross from Harrison being headed back across goal by McNeil for DCL to power in a header that Kamiski did really well to turn over for a corner, that led to a free kick from the right that Barkley twisted and turned before clearing to touch.

Another double change for the Blues saw DCL and Idrissa Gana Gueye replaced by Beto and Youssef Chermiti while Andros Townsend came on for Adebayo – all in the 80th minute.

A headed clearance from Tarkowski fell nicely for Barkley to volley straight at Pickford from 25 yards. Beto bustled his way into the Luton area before going down, VAR reviewed and ruled against another penalty. Woodrow sent a long range shot over the bar and we passed 85 minutes with both sides still looking to find a way to break the deadlock.

Chong was replaced by Berry for the final exchanges as the travelling fans taunted the home support with chants of “Going down.” Kamisnski launched a free kick long into the Everton half as we reached the 90-minute mark and another minimum of six minutes was announced.

It was hit and hope time now for Luton as Tarkowski blocked a shot from Woodrow and Chermiti, holding up the ball, did well to win a free kick in the centre circle. The free kick was put behind by Woodrow and Everton were in no great rush to take the corner. Andre Gomes was booked for voicing his opinion too strongly and the corner when taken was cleared. The game was really scrappy now, Luton desperate and Everton doggedly defending before a Mengi shot from distance was easily saved by Pickford.

Time was ticking away and Coleman and Gomes cleared a cross from Burke. Barkley found Woodrow wide on the left and his cross was shovelled behind by Pickford for a last ditch corner. Doughty sent it long and Woodrow tried the overhead kick that cannoned behind for another corner that Branthwaite headed clear only for Chermiti to concede a free kick that Doughty swung in and Branthwaite deflected a Townsend shot after he’d latched onto a headed clearance from Tarkowski – that deflection proving to be the last kick of the game that ended all square.

Full Time: 1-1

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