LUTON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 23: Andros Townsend of Luton Town celebrates after scoring their team’s first goal during the Premier League match between Luton Town and Newcastle United at Kenilworth Road on December 23, 2023 in Luton, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Luton lived up to their pledge of making it “a special day” for convalescing captain Tom Lockyer by beating Newcastle United at an emotionally charged Kenilworth Road.
Andros Townsend headed home the Hatters’ winner against his former club in Luton’s first Premier League game since Lockyer’s collapse at Bournemouth seven days earlier.
Townsend held up Lockyer’s number four shirt in celebration after the goal – one of a number of tributes paid by Luton players and fans to their stricken skipper before, during and after the game.
“All the chat throughout the week was ‘do it for our captain’,” former England winger Townsend, 32, told media.
“He’s an incredible person. He had the issue [a previous cardiac arrest] at Wembley [in the Championship play-off final] and put his body, his life on the line for the first 16 games.
“So we are doing it for him – and we are going to keep doing it for him until if and when he is fit to come back.
“It was an emotional rollercoaster [today] but thankfully we got the win at the end of it.”
Only the woodwork denied Luton a more straightforward victory as the excellent Ross Barkley struck the bar with a 35-yard thunderbolt and Jacob Brown also hit the frame of the goal from closer in.
Newcastle did mount increasing second-half pressure as Alexander Isak had an equaliser ruled out for a marginal offside while Bruno Guimaraes and Anthony Gordon also went close.
However, they slipped to a fourth successive away league defeat to stay seventh while Luton remain 18th but move within two points of safety.
The Hatters also have a game in hand on Nottingham Forest, the side directly above them, but Townsend says such concerns pale in comparison with their captain’s plight.
“In a way it was easy to not feel too much pressure, to not be anxious or worried about where we are in the table,” he added.
“It puts things into perspective – we didn’t do much tactical work in the week, it was all about making sure we were in the right frame of mind, knowing there are more important things than football.”
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