Friday, April 24, 2009

24 April 1988 - The Hatters Go Mad

On 24 April 1988, Luton Town F.C. staged a dramatic upset victory over heavily-favored Arsenal in the 1988 League Cup Final, claiming the club's first major trophy.

Playing at Wembley Stadium before a crowd of 95,732, the Hatters shocked the defending champions by taking an early lead with a goal from forward Brian Stein in the 13th minute. In the second half, however, Arsenal rallied. Gunners striker Alan Smith brought them level in the 71st minute, then winger Martin Hayes scored three minutes later to give Arsenal a 2-1 lead.

The match appeared to be a certain victory for Arsenal when, in the 85th minute, the Gunners were awarded a penalty. Luton keeper Andy Dibble saved Nigel Winterburn's spot kick, however, and the Hatters regained their early momentum. In the 82nd minute, after a faulty clearance from Arsenal defender Gus Caesar near the edge of his penalty area, Stein crossed the ball in for Luton midfielder Danny Wilson, who headed home the equalizer.

With seconds left in regulation, and extra time looming, Arsenal defender and captain Tony Adams fouled Luton substitute Mark Stein. Brian Stein then scored his second goal of the match from the ensuing free kick, and Luton were League Cup champions. The trophy itself was broken during the post-match celebrations.

The Hatters returned to the League Cup Final in 1989, but lost to Nottingham Forest. In 1992, they were relegated from the top flight. Luton's fortunes continued to sour, leading to subsequent relegations and administration. On 13 April 2009, by then in League Two, Luton drew with Chesterfield, confirming that they would finish the season in the relegation zone and drop out of the Football League for the 2009-10 season.

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