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Page last updated at 17:40 GMT, Sunday, 5 April 2009 18:40 UK

Harford praises Luton character

Luton boss Mick Harford
Harford was overjoyed at the final whistle at Wembley

Luton manager Mick Harford paid tribute to the troubled club's players after they beat Scunthorpe 3-2 at Wembley to win the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.

Last summer Luton were docked 30 points for financial irregularities and look set for relegation from League Two.

Harford said: "The players knew when they came to the club that they could be non-League players next season. They put their necks on the line.

"Today their camaraderie, spirit and togetherness was there for all to see."

A top-flight outfit between 1982 and 1992, Luton are currently 11 points from safety at the foot of the bottom division.

If they are to lose their League status, they certainly bowed out with a bang, with around 40,000 of their fans making the short trip to Wembley to see them overcome their opponents from League One.

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"They're very special, these fans," Harford told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"They've had it tough down the years, with (the club) being in and out of administration and having sanctions put upon them.

"We have the second-highest league attendances in League Two and the highest away following, and they've turned out again today.

"It was a very, very good game - the quality of some of the goals was fantastic - and our fans were second to none."

Scunthorpe went ahead through Gary Cooper's goal and after going 2-1 down, they forced extra time with a late equaliser from Grant McCann.

But there was no way back for The Iron after Claude Gnakpa restored Luton's lead.

Harford added: "It was an absolutely magnificent goal for their equaliser from McCann. That goal would have been at home in any competition.

"We kept going, kept battling, and got a goal in extra time and I think overall we just shaded it and deserved to win."

Harford was part of the Hatters side that won the 1988 League Cup by defeating favourites Arsenal and were beaten finalists the following year.

And the former England target man said he ranks Luton's victorious return to Wembley 21 years later among his finest moments in the game.

Harford added: "This is definitely up there with the things I've done in football.

"It's extra special because of the circumstances - everyone knows about the penalty that was incurred upon the club.

Kevin Nicholls
Luton captain Kevin Nicholls lifts the Johnstone's Paint Trophy

"To lead your team out at Wembley is a magnificent honour. I didn't expect to do it, but I have and this is just a fantastic experience for everyone at the club."

Scunthorpe boss Nigel Adkins is hoping his side make amends for their defeat by returning to Wembley in the play-offs to win promotion to the Championship.

Adkins said: "The story of our season has been giving away poor goals and we gave away three.

"Credit to Luton. I congratulate Mick Harford and his team, but we have to learn from this negative experience and use it in a positive way.

"I will make sure they (the players) will remember this because it's not nice. There are a few tears because we have lost a cup final.

"But we will draw a blue line under it and make sure we come back to Wembley in the play-off final - and make sure we win."



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see also
Luton 3-2 Scunthorpe (aet)
05 Apr 09 |  Football
Sunday's football photos
05 Apr 09 |  Premier League
Sunday's football as it happened
05 Apr 09 |  Football



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