Crooks nets late winner as Boro strike back against 10-man Luton
Substitute Matt Crooks scored a dramatic stoppage-time winner for Middlesbrough as 10-man Luton suffered a 2-1 Championship defeat in Rob Edwards’ first game in charge.
Edwards got off to the perfect start when Jordan Clark fired the Hatters in front at the Riverside before Chuba Akpom levelled for Boro.
But Crooks’ last-gasp winner came after Amari’i Bell was sent off, with the win extending Michael Carrick’s side’s unbeaten stretch to five games.
On a freezing afternoon at the Riverside, it took a while for the game to warm into life, with neither side able to create anything of note in the opening half-an-hour.
It was the visitors who took the lead with the first shot on target after 33 minutes. There looked to be little danger for Boro when Clark received the ball midway inside the home side’s half, but the midfielder skipped past Hayden Hackney and Jonny Howson before finding the bottom corner with a fine left-footed effort from distance.
But the hosts responded in style, drawing level just five minutes later when Akpom continued his fine run of form to make it five goals in six games with a downward header, turning home Ryan Giles’ cross from the left.
Boro almost made it a quickfire double when defender Dael Fry saw his diving header flash just wide of the near post.
The home side ended the first half on top but had a let off moments after the restart when Luton’s Tom Lockyer missed a glorious chance to give the Hatters the lead for the second time.
From a free-kick on the left, the centre-half was unmarked in the box and had time and space to pick his spot from six yards out but skewed the ball wide.
Middlesbrough again responded by getting on the front foot. A Howson volley from distance was well blocked before Akpom came close to adding a second, cutting in from the right and hitting the outside of the post.
Home goalkeeper Zack Steffen survived a scare 20 minutes into the second half when he hesitated with the ball at his feet and was charged down by Allan Campbell, the ball ricocheting into the side netting.
Luton went down to 10 men after 72 minutes when Bell picked up his second yellow card for a foul on Isaiah Jones, the same offence that had seen him cautioned in the first half.
With a man advantage, Boro pushed for the winner and substitute Crooks had a glorious opportunity after 87 minutes but fired over from close range.
But Crooks made no mistake moments later. A Ryan Giles free-kick from the left was only part-cleared and the loose ball landed at the feet of the substitute to lash home the winner.