Nahki Wells and his Bristol City signed off 2020 in defeat at Kenilworth Road against Luton Town, Bristol City did battle back and deservedly leveled when Sonny Bradley put the ball into his own net, but Luton went back ahead and sealed the final three points of the calendar year through Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall’s low drive.
The 2-1 loss means City slip to 10th in the Sky Bet Championship but remain just four points off the top six.
Dean Holden named one change from Saturday’s win over Wycombe Wanderers, with Han-Noah Massengo welcomed back into the starting XI. He replaced the injured Callum O’Dowda (hamstring), though Zak Vyner and Jack Hunt - who also picked up knocks against the Chair Boys - were fit to play at Kenilworth Road.
The visitors started brightly under the Luton lights. Massengo won a free-kick after driving at the defense almost immediately after kick-off and Martin stepped up with the free-kick but he couldn’t keep the ball down. City’s early intent forced Nathan Jones’ side to adopt a more defensive shape but they threatened from set-pieces, notably from corners.
The first saw Dan Bentley tip the delivery only as far as Tom Lockyer who managed a shot from a tight angle but Tomas Kalas – joint top of the Championship standings for blocks this season – well positioned to deny the goal.
However, the Hatters went ahead through the following set-piece. Dewsbury-Hall’s corner on this occasion swung as far as the unmarked Rea, whose volley was perfect as the ball sailed into the net.
It was a disappointing way to concede but didn’t allow City heads to drop, with the away side now chasing the game.
Still, there was a good passing play on the show with one move resulting in a half-hearted penalty appeal. Tyreeq Bakinson slid the ball into Antoine Semenyo who went to the ground under pressure from Rhys Norrington-Davies but it would have been a soft call if given. Semenyo was a threat coming off the right side though and he forced Simon Sluga into a low save after he beat Norrington-Davies.
Nahki Wells would blaze wide though Martin went closest when he headed against the bar, again after good build-up play from Holden’s men, but he couldn’t convert against his former club from Jack Hunt’s cross.
It could have been 2-0 not long into the second half but City had Bentley to thank. A loose pass from Bakinson, which found neither Kalas nor Tommy Rowe, was intercepted by Harry Cornick who slid a square pass to the unmarked James Collins. He was odds-on to score one-on-one, but City’s shot-stopper made a big stop to prevent the Hatters from doubling their lead.
City’s passing had been swift at times and they unlocked another opportunity when Ádám Nagy and Martin combined. The latter’s flick released the Hungarian international whose cutback for Massengo just evaded its target with Luton let off the hook.
Famara Diédhiou came off the bench with half an hour to go, replacing Massengo, and with Wells out wide City finally found a way back into the game. They built from the back before Semenyo sliced open the Hatters defense with Wells making a left-sided run. His low delivery found Bradley but unfortunately for the Hatters captain, he could only steer the ball into his own net.
Cornick flashed a shot wide as the home side looked to get back in front quickly and in fact, it was only a matter of minutes before they were! Semenyo couldn’t get himself on to a pass from Bakinson with Dewsbury-Hall quick on his toes before firing a low shot into the far corner, away from the dive of Bentley.
Norrington-Davies looked to add a third but he saw his shot smothered by Bentley, before Holden looked to his bench. The experienced Adrian Mariappa replaced Hunt with 15 minutes to go before Wells made way for the young Sam Bell with fresh legs needed.