Not many pundits gave Luton Town much hope of staying in the Premier League after they opened the season with four successive defeats.
“I had Luton to go down at the start of the season when we were asked to give our predictions. I’m not so sure now,” Martin Keown, a three-time Premier League winner with Arsenal, told Final Score after their remarkable 4-4 draw with Newcastle.
Luton are not only giving themselves a fighting chance of staying up, they’re doing so in the most entertaining way possible.
Having hammered Brighton 4-0 in the previous match, the Hatters were 1-0 and 2-1 behind against Newcastle before pulling away to lead 4-2 in front of a stunned St James’ Park.
In the end they had to settle for a point after the most chaotic of games.
That, however, failed to dampen spirits in the Luton camp.
“We want to be a fun team to watch,” Hatters captain Carlton Morris said after the eight-goal thriller. “We do want to be exciting and play flowing football. That’s what we are doing.”
‘Teams surprised how good we are’
Luton have scored four goals in a top-flight away game for the first time since hitting five against Oxford in September 1987.
In addition, they have scored four goals or more in consecutive league games for the first time since October 2017, when they were in League Two.
There is so much to like about Luton in what is their first season in the top flight since 1991-92.
They should have beaten Liverpool while Rob Edwards’ team have pushed Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea all the way.
On Saturday, they went toe-to-toe with a club that has spent hundreds of millions of pounds on transfers in the past three seasons.
“I think we have evolved so much from the start of the season,” added Morris, whose retaken penalty put the Hatters into a 3-2 lead.
“We are learning and getting better every week. We continue to build so it’s great.”
Ross Barkley, the former England midfielder who arrived on a free transfer last August, said teams “might be really surprised at how good we are now”.
“We are all proud of each other,” added Barkley, who scored Luton’s second goal, to Match of the Day.
“We have played three games this week and every one has been positive.”
‘We were brave’
After winning just one of their opening 12 games, Luton are unbeaten in five of their past six Premier League fixtures.
They were four points from safety after 16 games but have taken 11 points out of 18 to climb to 16th in the table.
In addition, Edwards’ side have safely negotiated their way into the fifth round of the FA Cup playing an entertaining and attacking brand of football.
“I have said to the players, this is the best way for us to get results,” said Edwards after Saturday’s extraordinary match.
“The players have really bought into it. We have been this way before, but it suits who we are and what we are.
“It suits the whole football club to be honest. It gives us more threat and upsets the flow of the opposition.”
On his side’s performance against Newcastle, Edwards added: “I am very proud and pleased. We were brave. They came back quickly and the way we stayed composed and didn’t go under [was pleasing].
“That could have happened in this cauldron of an atmosphere. We even had a chance to win it at the end. It was an even game and a great game.
“There are always areas to improve. We are human beings and we make mistakes and we will always make mistakes.”
‘Edwards has done an amazing job’ – what the pundits said
Former Aston Villa and England forward Dion Dublin said he felt “shattered” after watching the 4-4 draw, while ex-Chelsea and Scotland winger Pat Nevin described it as a “phenomenal” game of football.
“We could talk about it for hours,” added Nevin on BBC Radio 5 Live.
“I would come and watch Newcastle for hours if they play like this, as would I Luton.”
Keown said the battle to stay in the Premier League was as exciting as the race for the title.
“It is becoming a bit of a nightmare to predict who it is [that is going to be relegated],” he added. “Luton went down into the bottom three after the Everton result (in the early kick-off) and they have now climbed back out, and thoroughly deserved it.
“It really could have gone either way. Quite a magnificent game. Rob Edwards has done an amazing job.”