Watford's six greatest wins over Luton

Mo Johnston heads for goal

Mo Johnston heads for goal

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Luton Town managed a return to the Football League last night without moving a muscle after Kidderminster defeated their nearest contenders for the crown Cambridge United.

Whilst they might have had their feet up last night, entering the Football League presents a new opportunity to face local rivals Watford in the League Cup, and closes the gap in divisions between the pair to only two.

With some more passionate derbies hopefully on the horizon, we take a look back at Watford’s heroics over their ever so slightly northern rivals down the years.

1. Watford 2-0 Luton, January 12, 1901 – Southern League Division One, att unknown

Cassio Park played host to the first ever league meeting between the two sides, who had only met three times in the FA Cup until that point, all of which Luton had emerged from victorious.

Watford managed to grab the win at what is known today as West Herts Sports Club.

Sadly this victory didn’t set the precedent Watford would have hoped, unfortunately it would take Watford 14 years to record an away win on their local rivals, something which Luton are only two years off replicating today.

2. Watford 5-2 Luton Town, April 4, 1983 – Division One, att 20,210

Back when Division One was the top flight in England, Watford had just been promoted with rivals Luton Town from Division Two, and the Hornets were flying in third place chasing a European spot. Life wasn’t as rosy in Bedfordshire where the Hatters were scrapping for their lives, sitting second from bottom.

Manager Graham Taylor rotated his trusty centre-half pairing of Steve Sims and Ian Bolton for the greener pair of 20-year-old Steve Terry and 21-year-old Kenny Jackett.

When Watford trailed 2-1 approaching half-time, it seemed a strange decision. However, a brace from Luther Blissett and strikes from Nigel Callaghan, John Barnes and Richard Jobson secured the most comprehensive win over the old enemy in 50 years.

3. Luton Town 0-2 Watford, Boxing Day, 1986 – Division One, att 11,140

Unlike the raucous atmosphere generated at Vicarage Road three years prior, precious few Watford fans were able to enjoy and savour this away win.

In response to developing hooliganism, Luton banned all away fans from visiting Kenilworth Road. In addition, they followed QPR’s suit by constructing an artificial pitch, which, due to precious few teams’ experience of them, they unsurprisingly had an impressive record on. The odds were stacked against the Hornets.

Any Watford fears were allayed with a two-goal lead within 17 minutes. Gary Porter bundled an effort in at the far post, before Kevin Richardson smashed one in off the underside of the bar. 

Luton did miss a penalty in the 59th minute, but that was to be the only real noteworthy development in a game bereft of any real quality, much like its atmosphere.

4. Watford 4-3 Luton Town (after extra-time), January 10, 1984 - FA Cup third round replay, att 20,568

Following a 2-2 draw at Kenilworth Road, Watford took their white and orange nemesis back to Vicarage Road for a frantic cup-tie which would have left both sides managers’ hair greyer.

Watford raced into a two-goal lead after 28 minutes thanks to Nigel Callaghan’s early strike which George Reilly doubled.

Luton crucially pegged one back on the stroke of half-time through Mal Donaghy, but following a customary John Barnes solo effort five minutes after the restart, it seemed as if Watford were in control.

Luton had other ideas, and a brace from Paul Walsh meant the two teams would face 30 more minutes of action in extra time.

Mo Johnston would be the hero, ensuring the Hornets were able to go on to pursue glory at Wembley and eventually lose to Everton in that season’s final, 2-0.

5. Luton 1-2 Watford, January 2, 2006 – Championship, att 10,248

Aidy Boothroyd’s Watford made the short trip up the M1 at the turn of the year sitting comfortably in the play-off zone. Luton faced Watford for what currently is the penultimate time, as point deductions and thus relegations saw the Hatters gradually slide into non-league football.

Watford had a fine balance of youth and experience at their disposal, with future boss Malky Mackay on the score sheet at the heart of defence and future England and Manchester United star Ashley Young on the wing. He would be sent off in his first derby experience.

Though they didn’t manage four goals in 29 minutes like eight years prior, they did manage two strikes courtesy of Mackay’s close-range effort and a Darius Henderson left-footed volley to take a lead in at half-time.

Carlos Edwards pegged them back after the restart, and Young saw red for a Beckham 1998-esque kick-out after 66 minutes to give Luton hope. The Hornets rolled up their sleeves and held on secure three points which ultimately aided them in their promotion to the Premier League that season after defeating Leeds United in the Play-Off Final.

6. Luton Town 0-4 Watford, October 4, 1997 - Division Two 1997, att 9,041

Watford entered this fixture without a win over their rivals for ten years, five months and thirteen days. The bitter rivals had been relegated together from Division One in 1996, and whereas Watford had endured a hit and miss mid-table campaign, Luton had lost in the play-offs.

For the new season, Graham Taylor returned to the dug-out after a brief year’s sabbatical upstairs, and he brought in several new players to aid his new attacking ideas. Ronnie Rosenthal, Peter Kennedy and Jason Lee helped reshape his team, who by the time this fixture rolled around, sat at the league’s summit.

In a 29-minute period, Lennie Lawrence’s Luton were well and truly humbled.

Richard Johnson got the ball rolling on five minutes with a low drive from outside the area. 

Welsh striker Dai Thomas bagged the second before Peter Kennedy further endeared himself to the Watford faithful with two delicious goals.

The Luton supporters had seen enough, and some began to try and reach the delirious Watford fans to wipe the almost permanent smiles from their faces. The police managed to keep a tight grip on proceedings and Watford went on to see the game out, securing them the biggest victory over Luton in their entire history.

This list was compiled with the help of Lionel Birnie's "The 100 Greatest Watford Wins".

Comments (3)

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3:47pm Wed 16 Apr 14

Paul Gadd says...

No coincidence 2 of my faves happened with Graham 'God' Taylor at the helm...
The 5-2, considering it was best ever Horns squad in history, was a really a 'royal' thumping over the scum
COHY!!
No coincidence 2 of my faves happened with Graham 'God' Taylor at the helm... The 5-2, considering it was best ever Horns squad in history, was a really a 'royal' thumping over the scum COHY!! Paul Gadd
  • Score: 7

5:27pm Wed 16 Apr 14

SMP says...

Magic Mo with George Reilly ... now that takes me back!
Magic Mo with George Reilly ... now that takes me back! SMP
  • Score: 4

10:02pm Thu 17 Apr 14

StewartScullion says...

Does anyone recall the 2-1 win over Luton
When Colin Franks offside goal was one of the
Few highlights in a miserable season
Does anyone recall the 2-1 win over Luton When Colin Franks offside goal was one of the Few highlights in a miserable season StewartScullion
  • Score: 0

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