Football: Richardson blocks Luton's summit bid

Luton Town 1 Fotiadis 53 Bury 1 Richardson 69 Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 4,633
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The Independent Online
ON A day when international fixtures dominated the football schedule, the nearest this match got to offering anything exotic and foreign was a series of advertising hoardings for an airline. But in keeping with Luton's parlous financial situation, even they were all offering cut-price flights.

Yet Luton are nothing but brave, as was proved by their decision to kick this game off at the same time as England's match at Wembley only 30 or so miles down the M1 motorway. Inevitably, Luton suffered the worst attendance for their home League fixtures this season, and then suffered again as they conceded the equaliser to Lee Richardson with 70 minutes gone.

Luton had started the day knowing that a win could send them to the top of the Second Division, but in the end they were left hanging on grimly for the final whistle. Given the way his team had fought back from conceding a goal after 53 minutes, Bury's Neil Warnock was the happier of the two managers, and felt that this performance set his team up well for the rest of the season.

"This showed we can go anywhere and try to win," Warnock said. "When we equalised we still wanted to win it, and not try to contain them."

The explanation of Luton's manager, Lennie Lawrence, for the way his team had faded was simple: "It was hot weather and we have young players, some of whom bombed away at the start."

As Lawrence noted, it was his side who started off nearly as brightly as their orange shirts in the sunshine as Matt Taylor went close after just three minutes. From a free-kick 20 yards out, the 17-year-old left wing-back, who was a reported target for Tottenham in the summer, swung in a dangerous shot which Paddy Kenny, in Bury's goal, fisted away back to Taylor, who this time fired his shot over the crossbar.

After that fright, it took only four minutes for Bury to find their range, as the elusive Lutel James slipped an inch-perfect pass through the Luton defence, beating the offside trap and finding Ian Lawson, only for Nathan Abbey to save at the striker's feet.

Then with the half virtually up, Luton finally thought that they had a reward for their earlier pressure when Phil Gray put the ball into the net, although his effort was dis-allowed for a foul.

As hope was fading in the second half that either side would score, it was a mistake which opened the game up. Bury's Chris Billy slipped to let in Matt George near the touchline and from his pass across the penalty area, Andrew Fotiadis stepped in to drill his shot past Kenny.

Lawrence partly blamed himself afterwards for Bury getting back into the game, as he admitted he should have changed the team because they had played in midweek. With tiredness creeping in, a Matt Spring error led to James receiving the ball and his cross found an unmarked Richardson six yards out, who swept the ball in.