The desperate decline of Leeds United reached new depths of disillusion here yesterday. For a time they had offered a fleeting glimmer of revival but Luton quashed it mercilessly and they fell to their seventh defeat in nine games.
Come springtime the description of any game that has a vague bearing on promotion or relegation will be of a "must win" variety. It all seemed a bit premature to hear the same being said by former players and present fans of Leeds this early in the season.
But here we were thinking that they had a point, or at least not enough of them to dismiss the possibility that the ailing club had already sunk beyond the reach of rescue. Managerless and with chairman Ken Bates not giving much away about that position, they are rudderless.
Mike Newell, Luton's manager, sympathised. "When there are so many changes in a club you can't have consistency. For a time they were in the game, but we half expected them to collapse."
Although they benefited from some early careless clearances from Luton, Leeds quickly felt that the chances of a lift in fortune and spirits were slipping away, especially after Carlos Edwards drifted a neat shot inside the far post after a mistake from Hayden Foxe allowed the winger to score.
That could easily have seen Leeds' heads drop, but in the event it spurred them into some impressive defiance. They moved the ball surprisingly confidently in midfield, and with pace. That brought them a 16th-minute corner that Adam Johnson placed dangerously into the goal area and Foxe made amends for his earlier error by heading in the equaliser.
From then until half-time Leeds more than justified some new-found confidence. They tackled strongly and deprived Luton of the luxury of comfort on the ball. Not that there is ever much time for that in this division.
A priority for Leeds was the subduing of Luton's Rowan Vine, whose quickness and goals this season have largely been responsible for the team's comparative success. Up until the 55th minute, they had done that well but then Warren Feeney centred for Vine to chest in.
Only a minute later and another goal flattered Luton. Edwards' centre went to Vine who miskicked an attempted shot. He tried again but the ball ran to David Bell, who finished the job.
Luton were fortunate to get a free-kick when Edwards clearly made a royal feast of a legitimate tackle on the touchline. Steve Robinson glided it into the penalty area and again there was virtually no serious opposition as Markus Heikkinen headed in the fourth.
Forgivably, at this stage, Leeds looked forlorn and wide open to any attack Luton offered. They put on three substitutes but to no avail. Luton dissected their defence for a fifth goal as the game went into added time. Vine threaded a cross through weary legs and Edwards put the easiest of chances past Neil Sullivan.Reuse content