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Luton 3-2 Scunthorpe (aet)

By Paul Fletcher
BBC Sport at Wembley

Claude Gnakpa hits the winner
Gnakpa (right) capped a fairytale journey for the Bedfordshire club

Claude Gnakpa scored an extra-time winner as relegation-threatened Luton Town defeated Scunthorpe United to win the Johnstone's Paint Trophy in arguably the best game of football seen at the rebuilt Wembley.

The French defender, playing in an advanced position after coming on as an 85th-minute substitute, ran on to a long pass and lifted the ball over advancing keeper Joe Murphy to seal a famous victory for the beleaguered League Two club.

Gary Hooper had put League One promotion candidates Scunthorpe in front with a superb low shot across goal before Chris Martin equalised after running on to a cross from Tom Craddock and steering the ball beyond Murphy.

Craddock, who should have been sent off after he floored Cliff Byrne in an off-the-ball incident, put the Hatters ahead with a crisp half-volley before Grant McCann equalised close to full-time with a spectacular first-time strike.

Luton manager Mick Harford
Mick Harford returned to Luton as manager in January 2008

All five goals were worthy of any Wembley final - and the match provided rich entertainment for the 55,378 inside the stadium.

But ultimately the day belonged to the Hatters, who started the League Two season with a 30-point penalty and, currently 12 points from safety, face the prospect of relegation from the Football League at the end of the campaign.

Luton fans vastly outnumbered their Iron counterparts and mercilessly booed Football League chairman Brian Mawhinney as he was introduced to the teams before the match.

But once the final started it was Scunthorpe who immediately caught the eye, showing a confidence and intent that soon had their opponents on the back foot.

It took a brilliant last-ditch tackle from Lewis Emanuel to prevent McCann from shooting at goal while Dean Brill parried a crisp low strike from Matt Sparrow after an audacious Henri Lansbury backheel had created the opening.

The Hatters struggled against the crisp passing and swift movement of their opponents but almost opened the scoring after one of their rare early attacks.

PAUL FLETCHER AT WEMBLEY

Martin hooked man of the match Kevin Nicholls' corner towards goal but was denied by a clearance from Krystian Pearce.

Scunthorpe's early dominance was eventually rewarded with the opening goal after Paul Hayes flicked the ball into the path of Hooper, who brilliantly drilled his low strike across goal and into the bottom corner from 20 yards.

George Pilkington executed a perfectly timed last-ditch challenge to deny Hooper while the combative Nicholls made a sensational headed clearance off the line to thwart Lansbury as the Iron went in search of a second.

But Luton's gritty determination to stay in the contest paid dividends when they equalised just after the half-hour mark.

Martin burst forward to collect a cross from Craddock, before taking the ball beyond the Iron defence with his first touch and beating Murphy with his second.

The match was developing into a very entertaining final but unfortunately the opening half ended on an unsavoury note after Craddock floored Iron skipper Byrne. Replays suggested Craddock's slap on Byrne was deliberate.

Martin might have put Luton ahead in the early minutes of the second half but, with plenty of time to control the ball, he tried to spectacularly volley Rossi Jarvis's header back across goal into the roof of the net and made a complete hash of it.

Pearce narrowly missed from a corner for Scunthorpe, while a surging run and shot from Lansbury drew a superb block from Nicholls as the match started to ebb and flow.

But although Scunthorpe enjoyed most of the possession, with plenty of touches in and around the Luton box, they increasingly lacked an end product and it came as no huge surprise when the Hatters took the lead.

Luton's players show off the trophy
Luton's players show off the trophy to their 40,000 fans inside Wembley

The ball, half-cleared, dropped to Craddock on the edge of the area and after controlling it on his chest he drilled it beyond Murphy with a crisp strike on the half-volley.

The Scunthorpe fans tried to rouse their team with chants of "Iron, Iron, Iron" and Lansbury hit the crossbar from six yards.

But just as it started to seem as though Luton would close out the contest, McCann's curling first-time strike into the top corner restored parity for the League One side.

Hooper failed to make clean contact with a good chance early in extra-time while Gnakpa was denied by a covering challenge from David Mirfin.

However, Harford's decision to bring on Gnakpa in an advanced position paid off when the Frenchman charged on to Keith Keane's long pass up field and lifted the ball over Murphy for the winner.


Luton: Brill, Asafu-Adjaye, Pilkington, Spillane, Emanuel, Keane, Nicholls, Hall, Jarvis (Parkin 117), Martin, Craddock (Gnakpa 85).
Subs Not Used: Button, Davis, Roper.

Booked: Nicholls, Martin.

Goals: Martin 32, Craddock 70, Gnakpa 95.

Scunthorpe: Murphy, Byrne, Pearce (Wright 85), Mirfin, Williams, Sparrow (Woolford 77), Lansbury, McCann, Hurst (Togwell 63), Hooper, Hayes.
Subs Not Used: Lillis, May.

Booked: Wright.

Goals: Hooper 14, McCann 88.

Att: 55,378

Ref: Phil Crossley (Kent).



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see also
Harford praises Luton character
05 Apr 09 |  Luton
Sunday's football as it happened
05 Apr 09 |  Football
Sunday's football photos
05 Apr 09 |  Premier League


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