EPL

Luke Berry nets late leveller as lowly Luton earn draw against Nottingham Forest

By Sports Desk March 16, 2024

Luton salvaged a critical point in their bid for Premier League survival as substitute Luke Berry struck in the 89th minute to rescue a 1-1 draw against fellow strugglers Nottingham Forest at Kenilworth Road.

Rob Edwards’ side were facing slipping six points behind Forest, staring down defeat near the end of a cagey, nervous game that looked to have been settled by Chris Wood’s first-half goal for the visitors, brilliantly set up by Morgan Gibbs-White.

After capitulating when 3-0 up against Bournemouth on Wednesday, Luton were in dire need of a psychological uplift and it duly arrived in the final moments.

Reece Burke headed the ball goalwards from a corner and there responding quickest to lash it home from inside the six-yard box was Berry to keep Forest looking nervously over their shoulder in the table.

Luton had made by far the stronger start. Three times in the opening 15 minutes Ross Barkley tried his luck from range, the first two efforts requiring saves from goalkeeper Matz Sels before a third whistled by his left-hand post.

After the pain of defeat at the Vitality Stadium, it was a dominant start during which Luton rarely allowed Forest to advance out of their own half.

The visitors did eventually get a grip and carve out two chances of their own. Divock Origi dashed through and attempted a chipped finish over Thomas Kaminski but failed to apply the requisite power, before Willy Boly glanced a header wide from a free-kick when firmer contact was needed.

Forest were increasingly a threat. They should have led on the half-hour mark but for a sensational sliding clearance off the line from Burke to deny Origi. It would be a momentary reprieve.

They took a deserved lead soon after and it owed much to the vision and delivery of Gibbs-White. Neco Williams – quiet until this point – picked him out after finding space with the ball on the right, but there was much work still to do.

Gibbs-White did it with aplomb, taking a touch with his right foot, turning and chipping it up for Wood to meet with a long, hanging right leg to nudge Forest in front.

Williams might have undone his team-mates’ fine work had his clearance from Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu’s cross not cleared the crossbar by a fraction. From the corner, Teden Mengi muscled the ball into the net but was rightly denied an equaliser by a handball decision.

Defeat for freefalling Luton would be their sixth in seven in the league. They had not won since beating Brighton late in January and things threatened to get worse for them after the break.

Anthony Elanga linked with Origi and rocketed through on goal, dinking the ball just beyond Kaminski, who got the faintest yet critical touch. There to deny him with a heroic clearance from the goal line was Mengi, a stunning intervention to keep Luton fighting.

Edwards needed a strong finish from his side, but as the second half rolled on there seemed little sign it would come. Forest were comfortable, the early harrying with which Luton had tormented them doused by tired legs and tired minds.

There were the odd signs of life. Jordan Clark never gave up down the right, running hard with and without the ball, determined not let his team go down easy. Barkley, quieter after some early creative energy, always looked like he could reignite at any moment.

Then with time almost up and all hope with it, Burke headed on at a corner and Berry whacked the ball in to salvage a point.

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