Big Match Verdict – Doncaster Rovers quickly move on from Luton Town mauling

CLEARLY, the good folk of Luton have long memories.

My ball: Luton Town's Kazenga LuaLua is challenged by Doncaster Rovers' Aaron Lewis.

Not only is there a giant banner draped over one end of Kenilworth Road’s main stand that reads ‘Betrayed by the FA 2008’, a reference to the swingeing 30 points deduction that dumped the Hatters out of the Football League.

But, as Matty Blair discovered on his latest visit, the locals also never forget an opposition player who is felt to have wronged their team.

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Blair was involved in several Titanic encounters with Luton when at York City, including an FA Trophy semi-final second leg that saw his last-gasp strike send the Minstermen to Wembley.

It is, however, his controversial winner in the 2012 Conference play-off final just a couple of months later – he was clearly offside – that makes Blair such a hate figure among fans of the Bedfordshire club.

The 29-year-old, admittedly, did not help matters with the pre-match comments that appeared in this newspaper ahead of his latest return to Luton.

By claiming Rovers were “the best team in the league”, Blair got the backs up of a club who top the table and have not lost since October.

That said, had, say, Ali Crawford or Paul Downing uttered those words rather than the man who twice crushed Luton’s dreams then it is difficult to imagine such offence being taken.

Blair’s comeuppance came during Saturday’s second half. “Who’s winning, Blair?” shouted a lone voice in the main stand, just moments before Kazenga LuaLua made it 3-0.

This was followed a few minutes later by a mass chant of ‘Matty, Matty what’s the score?’

Then, just in case the message had not hit home, Blair was jeered from the field at the final whistle to the accompaniment of hand signals that were most definitely not a friendly wave goodbye ahead of his return trip north up the M1.

The Rovers midfielder could only glare back. This was not an afternoon when anything said or done could mitigate the thrashing that had just been doled out by the league leaders.

Better to suck it up, move on and, hopefully, make amends tomorrow night at home to Bristol Rovers. That was certainly the attitude of Andy Butler in the wake of Doncaster’s joint heaviest defeat of the season.

“A few home truths were said afterwards,” revealed the Doncaster captain. “A bit of a reality check. But there is nothing we can do about it now. We move on to Bristol Rovers, a massive game at home. Let’s not dwell on the past, let’s look to the future.

“If you do dwell on it then you beat yourself up for the rest of the night or the weekend. Then, you get to Tuesday game and feel down. I have been here long enough to know games come and go.

“The game coming up is more important than this result. If we win on Tuesday, we are back in the top six.

“On our day, we are one of the best teams in the league, if not the best. We are just missing that consistency. It will be tough but I would back us against anyone at home.”

If Rovers are to wrestle back sixth place from Peterborough United tomorrow, there will have to be a big improvement on this sorry showing.

Grant McCann’s team were outclassed in every department, a point underlined by Luton having 29 efforts on goal to the paltry four mustered by the visitors.

The best of those from a Rovers perspective came on 26 minutes. A right-wing cross from Aaron Lewis was chested down by John Marquis but his shot lacked power and James Shea saved easily.

Other than that, Doncaster offered little as an attacking threat. Much of this was down to the midfield battle having been won by the hosts.

With Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu dictating play and Elliot Lee always looking to prise open an under pressure backline with a probing pass, Luton dominated from start to finish.

The first quarter may not have brought many clear-cut chances. But there was no mistaking who looked the most likely, the only thing missing from the home side’s play being a decent final pass.

LuaLua was the man who eventually found it, laying off the ball to Pelly-Ruddock in the 34th minute. He stroked a shot past Marko Marosi from 20 yards.

Luton doubled their advantage 12 minutes into the second half. Wonderful wing play from Jack Stacey left three would-be challengers trailing as he darted into the area.

A rolled pass then found Danny Hylton, the striker firing past Marosi from close range. Now, the fun really began for the Hatters as they tore into a Doncaster side who simply had no answer.

Lee hit the crossbar from 10 yards out before Hylton tapped in LuaLua’s cross only for the linesman’s flag to cut short his celebrations.

Marosi was then relieved to see the ball land on top of the crossbar after he had got a hand to another fiercely-struck shot from Lee.

The third goal arrived eight minutes from time, LuaLua calmly finishing after being released by the excellent Stacey.

Doncaster’s misery, however, was far from over with Luke Berry completing the rout in stoppage-time with a 20-yard finish.

The attacking masterclass was complete, much to the satisfaction of the gleeful locals. Rovers’ task now is to banish this memory as quickly as possible and set about reclaiming sixth spot, starting tomorrow night at the Keepmoat Stadium.

Luton Town: Shea, Stacey, Pearson, Bradley, Justin, Ruddock, Shinnie, Potts (Berry 23), Lee, LuaLua (Cummings 87), Hylton (Cornick 79) Unused substitutes: Moncur, Thorne, Isted, Sheehan.

Doncaster Rovers: Marosi, Blair, Downing, Butler, Andrew, Lewis (Hasani 73), Crawford, Rowe (Sadlier 63), Coppinger, Wilks (Smith 63), Marquis. Unused substitutes: Anderson, Beestin, May, Jones.

Referee: John Busby (Oxfordshire).