Sidebar

24
Tue, Oct
51 New Articles

Typography
Luton Town manager Mike Newell looked a relieved man as he greeted the press yesterday evening after the "Hatters" snapped a three-match losing streak by defeating Derby County 1-0 at the Kenilworth Stadium.


The England League Championship win soothed frayed nerves after a testing week in which Newell's contract negotiations were subject to public speculation and an irate "fan" hacked on to the club website and lambasted manager and players.

Three points, as far as Newell was concerned, were adequate response and Derby were lucky to escape a more emphatic beating.

"I think we deserved the result over the 90 minutes," said the 41-year-old manager. "Derby came out with a five-man midfield and never really played to win."

Trinidad and Tobago right side midfielder Carlos Edwards got his just rewards as well as he received the "Man of the Match" award by the club's sponsors after a tireless performance laced with feints and teasing crosses. He did not get the decisive goal but Edwards was the main difference between the two English teams yesterday.

"I think I would give myself eight out of ten," said Edwards, with a smile. "For the first half, I think people saw the 'Carlos of old'."

Only wasteful finishing saved the visiting team in the first 45 minutes as Edwards and Ahmet Brkovic tore down either flank.

The ex-Defence Force player got two decent chances to open the scoring in the 16th and 21st minutes but sliced his first effort with the right boot and dragged the other inches wide of the far post with his left.

But it was Edwards' tracking back when Luton defended and his mazy charges forward when in possession that captivated the home crowd of just over 9,000 spectators.

Alan Wright, the left back Edwards was assigned to torment on the day, saw more than enough of the Trinidadian's golden boots.

At 35, Wright is obviously in the twilight of his career. A former teammate of Edwards' more illustrious compatriot, Dwight Yorke, at Aston Villa, Wright now earns his living a division below the English Premiership. And the diminutive, bald-headed defender will go on playing for as long as he can stop opposing wingers from regularly flying past him.

So, fearful of being exposed for pace, Wright stepped off of Edwards at every opportunity and allowed the Luton player to do everything but get behind him.

Edwards took advantage by stepping inside the defender to slip passes into his strikers or slowed down to whip crosses in with either boot.

Time and again, the strike pair of Steve Howard and Wayne Feeney as well as Brkovic got at the end of his delivery but failed to hit the target or could not get past impressive Derby captain and central defender Darren Moore.

Ironically, it was a long Edwards' throw that broke the deadlock as Luton captain Chris Coyne headed on to Howard who stabbed home from six yards in the 72nd minute.

For all his possession in the opposing half, though, Edwards managed one shot on target-a firm left-footed attempt that was parried by Derby custodian Lee Camp.

Newell's praise of the "Soca Warrior" was tempered by the view that Edwards is still playing within himself.

"Carlos has a good engine and bags of pace and ability and athleticism," said Newell, whose nine-minute hat-trick for Blackburn Rovers is still the fastest in UEFA Champions League competition. "But we still feel we can get something better from him in terms of the final product, by which I mean his final ball or shot. He can get better."

Edwards agreed with the assessment and took his boss' criticism as a tribute to his own ability.

"I think I can improve my awareness," he said. "I have the skill and the pace to go forward. I just need to know where my players are better and know when to release the ball and when to keep it.

"I have been assisting and chipping in with the odd goal but there is a lot to come from Carlos Edwards still."

It is good news for the immediate future of Trinidad and Tobago football.

Yesterday evening at Kenilworth, though, Edwards gave Luton just enough to revive flagging spirits at the newly-promoted League Championship club who remained in 12th place in the 24-team table.