LONDON: Luton have been promoted to the Premier League after beating Coventry in their play-off final at Wembley on penalties. The drama saw the Hatters complete their climb from non-league to the Premier pinnacle in just nine years.
The Hatters are thus back in the top-flight for the first time since 1992.
Previous point deductions and disappointments were left in the rear-view mirror at Wembley, where Jordan Clark’s opener was cancelled out by Coventry favourite Gustavo Hamer.
The match finished 1-1 after extra-time and Fankaty Dabo’s penalty miss meant a famous 6-5 sudden-death shoot-out victory for jubilant Luton.
It was a cruel way for the season to end – a £170million clash between clubs that have both gone through the mill during their decades away from the big time.
These teams were promoted from League Two together in 2018 and the latter went into half-time ahead, with Clark scoring a deserved opened for the dominant Hatters.
Rob Edwards’ side rallied impressively after captain Tom Lockyer’s concerning early collapse, but Coventry improved after the break.
Hamer, City’s semi-final hero against Middlesbrough, impressively levelled as the match went to extra-time.
Luton thought they had won it in the 116th minute through Joe Taylor, only for the VAR to find the youngster had handled when dispossessing Jonathan Panzo.
Promotion went down to penalties and Coventry substitute Dabo was first to miss, securing Luton’s promotion to the Premier League. The players held up Lockyer’s shirt as they celebrated in front of their fans.
Luton and Coventry had finished a respective third and fifth in the table, some 21 points and 31 points behind brilliant Burnley.
In 2009 Luton crashed out of the Football League altogether and spent five years in the outer darkness of the Conference League.
The Hatters – traditionally Luton was the centre of the millinery industry – returned in 2014. They climbed up into the third tier in 2018 and the second in 2019. Luton reached Wembley despite having manager Nathan Jones snatched away by Southampton in midseason.
Coventry, FA Cup-winners in 1987, were last relegated out of the Premier League in 2001. At times they teetered on the brink of bankruptcy and had to play home matches in borrowed stadia. They dropped into the fourth tier in 2017 climbed back up to the second three years ago.