Luton Town. . . . .1
DERBY COUNTY, ever the enigma, made hard labour of what might have been a cruise and ultimately were grateful for an undistinguished performance by Luton's American goalkeeper, Jurgen Sommer. He inadvertently had hands in both Derby goals and Roy McFarland will be conscious his side must confront less co- operative opposition in the months of promotion-chasing in the First Division to come.
For 17 minutes Sommer dealt competently with the hopeful stuff thrown at him, and his back line coped adequately with Derby's persistent though uninspiring probes.
But then it all began to go wrong for Sommer and his colleagues. Paul Simpson crossed from the left and Sommer misjudged the pace of the ball. He clasped it with both hands yet failed to hold it and before he could recover possession Paul Kitson reacted instantly to head Derby into the lead.
Suddenly that resistant Luton defence became porous and Derby seeped in from all angles. Simpson, buoyed by the goal, tested Sommer again with a low drive but this time the big keeper's handling was faultless; Kitson weaved his magic across the edge of the penalty area and drilled a shot just wide; and Marco Gabbiadini, strong, hungry and spring-heeled, climbed above his markers to head over.
Paul Dickov, Luton's striker on loan from Arsenal, shrugged off some aggressive attention to strike a rising shot which whistled too close to Derby's goal for comfort as Luton confronted the second half with revived determination.
In the 72nd minute, however, Derby plundered a second goal from nothing and Luton's goalkeeper again rued his luck. Kitson played the ball in from the left and Tommy Johnson, arriving unchallenged from the right, turned the ball low towards the far corner. Sommer reached it with his outstretched right hand but could not deny Derby their decisive strike.
The substitute, Martyn Williams, headed a deserved goal for Luton from Ceri Hughes's cross a minute from time but it only served to illustrate what might have been.
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