Rob Edwards happy to take on top-flight opponents after edging past Bolton

By Sports Desk January 16, 2024

Luton boss Rob Edwards believes his side will benefit from facing Premier League opponents in the next round of the FA Cup after making life difficult for themselves before overcoming League One Bolton 2-1 in Tuesday night’s third round replay.

Having been held to a goalless draw at Kenilworth Road nine days ago, Luton fell behind to Dion Charles’ 11th minute strike at the Toughsheet Community Stadium.

But Tahith Chong swiftly equalised before Chiedozie Ogbene’s second-half goal set up a tie against the winners of Wednesday’s replay between Everton and Crystal Palace.

Luton avoided the upset but Edwards admitted his side had let their standards drop when facing lower league opposition.

“Tonight was all about winning,” Edwards said. “We weren’t at our best. We were a little bit sloppy in too many moments and probably allowed them to build and grow in the game a little bit.

“Credit to them, there was a little bit of sloppiness but overall I’m very, very pleased that we’re through.”

“I think in a way it’s better for us to play a Premier League team in the next round, we know we’re going to have to be full tilt. We dropped in the last two games and we can’t do that, we’ll get punished.

“Bolton are a big, big football club. But when we’re favourites I think we’ve taken our foot off the gas in certain moments and we can’t do that. We’re not good enough to do that.”

Bolton, two points off the top of League One with three games in hand, played with confidence and had chances to retake the lead before Ogbene struck, while also having a second-half strike from Charles ruled out for offside.

“It was a difficult night,” Edwards added. “It’s cup football and it was never going to be easy. They’re playing very well, they’re used to winning.

“It’s a cold night, snowing, the recipe is there for an upset, or for us to go out. I’m really pleased we found a way to equalise quickly.”

Before kick-off there was a minute’s silence in memory of Iain Purslow, the 71-year-old Bolton supporter who died after being taken ill during Saturday’s League One match against Cheltenham, which was abandoned midway through the first half.

“I’m proud of the club and I’m proud of my team,” Bolton manager Ian Evatt said. “We wanted to pay him respect and to pay the family respect.

“It’s not about how we feel. It’s all about the family and their feelings. Hopefully now they get the time to mourn. We’ve paid our respects and I think they just need peace and quiet to come to terms with a really sad loss.

“I thought we started the game very fast and very well and got ourselves in front. Against Premier League opposition if you make mistakes you get punished and we made a couple tonight and they were punished. We would have liked to be in the lead a little bit longer and to stabilise it.

“In the second half I thought the team were outstanding for large spells and dominated against a very good team. I’ve watched a lot of Luton, they cause teams problems and tonight we caused them problems.

“It’s about trying to replicate that for the rest of the season and if we do that we’ll achieve our ambitions.”

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