Sheffield United prepared for their trip to Luton in early December 1994 in search of only their second away win of the season as they looked to get among the clubs jostling for a top-six spot in Division One.The Blades had endured the heartache of final-day relegation the previous season at Chelsea and their push for an immediate return to the Premiership had been patchy.
It was also played against a backdrop of unrest off the field. There were demonstrations against chairman Reg Brealey with the newly-formed Blades Independent Fans’ Association (BIFA) more than critical, all accusing him of failing to provide funds for Dave Bassett.
Brealey had agreed to name his price of the shares and stay away from Bramall Lane but this had not quelled the hostility with fans dismayed by his asking price of £3.5million, £750,000 more than he had paid Paul Woolhouse four years before when the club was in the top flight.
Bassett had complained of the “poxy atmosphere” saying: “If we had lost against Southend (the week before) I worry that they might have started ripping the seats out of the Kop” while Derek Dooley hit out at supporters who had aimed abuse at striker Jostein Flo.
So, hardly an inspiring backdrop for the players who set off to face a side managed by David Pleat. It was then appropriate that “Bring me Sunshine” by Morecambe and Wise welcomed the teams on to the field at Kenilworth Road.
Flo, Nathan Blake and Dane Whitehouse were all missing for the Blades who were looking to avenge their home defeat by Luton.
United started well though and they almost went ahead when Brian Gayle’s header brought a superb one-handed save from goalkeeper Juergen Sommer.
However, they were ahead after 13 minutes when full-back Kevin Gage carried on as many hesitated for offside and slotted the beyond the keeper’s right hand.
Kerry Dixon headed against the inside of the post only for Scott Oakes to slip when pouncing on the rebound and sending the ball wide of an empty net.
The Blades doubled their lead and again it was Gage who poked the ball across the line. It was breathless stuff and the hosts found themselves with an even higher mountain to climb 11 minutes before the break when Gary Waddock was sent off after clattering Andy Scott.
Bassett’s men were swarming all over the pitch, playing with freedom and making nonsense of their poor away form.
Seven minutes into the second half and Australian forward Carl Veart made it three with a fierce low shot into the corner.
Glyn Hodges was controlling the midfield, spraying the ball around but surprisingly it was Luton who got the next goal, John Hartson knocking past Alan Kelly.
Just two minutes later and United got a fourth when a slick passing move involving Scott, Veart and Hodges ended with the midfielder moving into the penalty area, the defence unable to get near the ball as he calmly slotted home.
However, two goals in two minutes saw Luton pull it back to 4-3 thanks to an inexplicable own goal by Brian Gayle and a penalty by Marvin Johnson.
United were then once again indebted to Alan Kelly, the keeper pulling off a miraculous one-handed save from Dixon when the game seemed destined to go to 4-4.
The Blades had been at sixes and sevens, the visitors’ penalty area a place of pandemonium after they had appeared to be cruising to victory. Scott, though, gave them and their suffering fans some breathing space, pouncing and walking the ball into the net for a fifth after the Hatters had got themselves into a terrible tangle.
Veart then rounded off the scoring with a couple of minutes left, stooping to head home Gage’s cross.
“To score six goals away from home is a terrific performance from us - but when it went to 4-3 from 4-1 I thought the suicide squad had taken over,” Bassett said.
“In every way it was a remarkable game but I wouldn’t want to see us repeat that little spell in the second half when we lost our way. Brian Gayle scored an own goal to remember. I asked him if he thought Danny Baker was here collecting bits for his goals and gaffes video.”