Home News Luton draw with 10-man Wolves as O’Neil disputes penalty

Luton draw with 10-man Wolves as O’Neil disputes penalty

Carlton Morris
Carlton Morris

Wolves manager Gary O’Neil said the decision to award Luton a second-half penalty in his team’s 1-1 draw at Kenilworth Road was “absolutely terrible”.

Striker Carlton Morris secured the Hatters’ first-ever Premier League point when he sent Jose Sa the wrong way from the spot 25 minutes from time after Joao Gomes handled.

Luton should have won this game, given they played the majority of the contest with a man advantage after Jean-Ricner Bellegarde was sent off for kicking Tom Lockyer, but O’Neil felt Wolves were hard done by.

“It was never a penalty,” he said. “If that’s a penalty we’re in a bad place with the rules.

“I forgive the referee, but [the ball] hit two body parts before it hit [Gomes’] arm. The rules state that it’s not a penalty.

“I don’t understand. Hopefully [the referees] can improve the level they are at.”

Morris struck a post early in the game and Jacob Brown had three headed chances, while Cauley Woodrow had a goal-bound effort deflected over deep into stoppage time.

Nevertheless, Luton ended up being thankful to former Barnsley man Morris’ second goal of the season after they had fallen behind to a superb solo effort from Pedro Neto five minutes after the break.

Luton remained at the foot of the table come full-time, although they knew that would change if Burnley were to lose against Manchester United on Saturday evening.

A point, but should have been more

Luton will be pleased to have got something on the board from the first in a string of three league matches against sides who are also struggling near the foot of the table.

After those games – with Everton and Burnley next in line for them – comes a run of fixtures that includes encounters with five of England’s ‘big six’ before the middle of December.

The visit of Wolves was another reminder of the massive strides Luton have taken in recent times, given the last meeting between these sides was in the FA Cup just over a decade ago, when Luton were a National League side.

The Hatters won that day and should have repeated the success on this occasion.

Even when both sides had 11 men, Luton were the more cohesive unit and in the first 20 minutes should have profited from the space they were afforded around the Wolves box.

Morris seemed sure a shot he struck from the edge of the box was curling in. Sa was nowhere near it but the post got in the way and the visitors escaped.

Wolves also breathed a sigh of relief when Craig Dawson misplaced a pass intended for Sa, which Max Kilman had to get across to clear before Luton’s swarm of attackers could pounce.

In the final stages, Chiedozie Ogbene tapped into an empty net, but what would have been the winner was ruled out for offside.

Neto makes up for Bellegarde folly

Bellegarde, a £12.8m summer signing from Strasbourg, should really have known better than to react in the incident that brought his dismissal.

The former France Under-21 international was certainly prevented from getting to his feet by Lockyer after they both ended up on the ground following a midfield tangle, and the home skipper also made the most of the contact that followed.

But there was enough aggression in Bellegarde’s move to shove his boot into Lockyer’s thigh to justify referee Josh Smith issuing a red card in only his second top-flight match and the video assistant referee did not overturn.

At that point, the situation looked bleak for Wolves, but O’Neil’s side battled superbly and got bodies in the way of danger.

And, thanks to Neto, they had the one moment of genuine class in the game.

Gomes started it with an astute long pass into space for the Portugal international. Neto outpaced Lockyer to reach the ball first, then had the strength to nudge his opponent away, before cutting into the box and delivering a fine finish.

But O’Neil was left bemused by referee Smith’s decision to penalise Gomes for handball in the second half.

“I have a lot of experience – I’ve suffered constant negative ones,” O’Neil said. “I was told it wasn’t a penalty on [Mathias] Jensen in Bournemouth’s game with Brentford last season because it hit his leg and then his hand.