Sheffield Wednesday match report: Luton Town 0 Owls 1
A money-spinning trip to Stamford Bridge awaits Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup fourth round after a hard-fought victory over League One promotion hopefuls Luton Town.
Atdhe Nuhiu's 46th minute strike earned the Owls' their first win since Boxing Day and set up a glamour tie at Premier League big boys Chelsea on Sunday, January 27. It will be Wednesday's first visit to Stamford Bridge since the turn of the Millennium.
The tie with cup holders Chelsea also brings the Owls a significant financial windfall, with the clash having been selected for live broadcast by BBC1, earning each club a six-figure sum along with a 45 per cent share of what is likely to be a sell-out crowd.
There was a great atmosphere under the lights at Kenilworth Road.
It was a pulsating, full-blooded contest that Wednesday marginally edged, although Luton threw everything at them late on.
They were indebted to goalkeeper Cameron Dawson, deputising for the injured Keiren Westwood, in overcoming a spirited Luton outfit. He pulled off a string of excellent stops to frustrate the Hatters.
With Westwood and Sam Hutchinson sidelined by injury, Wednesday caretaker boss Steve Agnew was forced to rejig his starting eleven. Cameron Dawson was given the nod in goal, Jordan Thorniley started in defence and Atdhe Nuhiu returned in attack. Marco Matias made way in midfield as the Owls matched the Hatters up, deploying a 4-1-3-2 formation.
Chelsea loanee Michael Hector, a centre-back by trade, was utilised in the holding midfield role.
There are only nine places between the teams in the football pyramid, with Luton sitting second in League One and Wednesday in 16th position in the Championship.
And there was little to choose between them in an entertaining first period.
Luton, playing their first home fixture since Nathan Jones was lured away to Stoke City, created the first meaningful opportunity. Centre-forward James Collins teed up Elliot Lee, whose ambitious effort from long range was deflected behind for a corner.
Adam Reach spurned a glorious chance to give the visitors an eighth minute lead when he broke through into the box but the attacking midfielder fired wide of the near post.
Moments later, Atdhe Nuhiu was yellow carded after clumsily bringing down Kazenga LuaLua just outside the penalty area as Luton, without suspended striker Danny Hylton, continued to threaten.
But the Owls looked lively on the counter attack and Reach, Steven Fletcher and Nuhiu dovetailed effectively to set up George Boyd but the midfielder drilled over when he should have at least hit the target
Thorniley forced Shea into action in the 27th minute. His fierce left foot drive was well held by the Luton goalkeeper following a short corner routine involving Reach and Barry Bannan.
It was end-to-end stuff as Dawson produced a smart stop to keep out Jack Stacey's powerful shot.
Dawson then spread himself well to keep out Collins' shot but referee Tim Robinson bizarrely awarded a goal kick.
Wednesday came within a whisker of getting their noses in front. Bannan tried his luck from 25 yards and Fletcher diverted his strike goalwards only for the ball to hit the upright and bounce to safety.
There was a big let off for Tom Lees in the 38th minute when the centre-back nearly scored a comical own goal. His attempted back pass to Dawson trickled inches wide of the post
Luton finished the half strongly. Lee fired over when well-placed after a lovely back heel by LuaLua before Justin tested the reflexes of Dawson with a fierce low shot that the Owls academy graduate tipped behind for a corner.
But Nuhiu silenced the home faithful just after half-time.
Fletcher expertly controlled Liam Palmer's delivery and saw his attempt blocked but Nuhiu poked home via a deflection.
Nuhiu's goal rattled Luton. Boyd and Reach wasted opportunities to grab a killer second. Their performance was much-improved from their dismal showing against Hull City last weekend.
But Wednesday's profligacy in front of goal almost came back to haunt them as Luton piled the pressure on in the final quarter.
The Hatters pinned them back and were fortunte Dawson was on top form. He showed excellent reflexes to foil Luke Berry, substitute Dan Potts and Andrew Shinnie.
With 13 minutes remaining, the Owls had another lucky escape when Collins' downward header hit the woodwork.
It was nervy and unconvincing at times but Wednesday held on to sentence Luton to their first home defeat in 10 months and send their 1,400 plus travelling fans home happy.