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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear at Kenilworth Road

Bees' survival could yet all come down to Luton

FA Cup Fifth Round: Luton 2 Manchester City 6

The hint was pretty clear in the programme notes ahead of Tuesday night's FA Cup tie at Luton.

In any other season, the visit of cup holders Manchester City for a fifth round tie would have felt special beyond words for a club like Luton Town. But not this season. Not right now.

The reason: The Hatters had already had the pleasure of entertaining Pep Guardiola's men at Kenilworth Road as recently as December and had given them a stern test before losing 2-1. And the novelty of hosting elite Premier League sides, if not slightly diminished, feels now far less vital than the fight for survival.

Luton boss Rob Edwards declared in his notes: "While this might be the next game and the FA Cup is important to us, there's no getting away from the fact that remaining in the Premier League this season is our everything."

Not much room for doubt there.

Not much doubt either that with Burnley and Sheffield United looking already dead and buried, Luton's form could determine just how worried Brentford will be. Stay above the Hatters and they will be safe, and they have a five-point advantage as things stand, having played a game more.

The form of Everton and Nottingham Forest - the two others mostly in the mix - will be rendered irrelevant.

On the face of it, there should be little to worry about given how awful the Hatters were at the Gtech in December, when they lost 3-1. But Monday night's 4-2 defeat for the Bees at West Ham, following hard on the heals of Everton recovering four of their deducted points on appeal, has kept the threat very much alive.

The clash between the two teams on April 20 at the Kenny (as they call it) could yet prove pivotal.

The Bees will feel they really shouldn't be in the conversation when it comes to relegation, but the reality is that they are, and if it does come down to that match between the sides, they had better beware.

Do not be fooled by the fearful thrashing Luton took on their home patch this week. They were up against a freakish team with a freakish beast of a man up front and a freak of silky brilliance in midfield. Erling Haaland helped himself to five goals with a display of ruthless finishing that took the breath away. Kevin De Bruyne assisted the first four of those.

Ex Chelsea man Mateo Kovacic even got in on the act, having been entrusted with a start to give the win-machine Rodri a rest.

What was still impressive and evident was the spirit in the team Edwards has built and the mood in the terraces. Nobody abandoned their team. There was no turning on individual players. There was no mass exodus as the goals kept flying in. The defiance remained. The noise levels remained. The abuse of referee Anthony Taylor did not let up, even when the cause was hopeless. Their collective effort was rewarded with two good finishes from Jordan Clark.

And Edwards' team kept going for it (perhaps unwisely, given how easily they were picked off by this incredible Manchester City team). They keep looking to ask questions - prompted by a rejuvenated Ross Barkley in midfield, Carlton Morris up front and Alfie Doughty on the left wing.

The message is clear that Kenilworth Road is no place for the faint-hearted. The Bees are not so far up the food chain that they don't have a degree of familiarity with cramped old venues with a bearpit atmosphere, but it will be a test nonetheless should it come down to it. They will be really hoping it does not.


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