LONDON: Luton completed a fairytale journey to the Premier League after beating Coventry on penalties in the Championship playoff final at Wembley yesterday.
The Hatters secured a fourth promotion in 10 seasons by winning 6-5 in the shootout after the sides were tied at 1-1 after 120 minutes.
Financial experts estimate promotion to world football’s most watched league to be worth around £170 million for a club that have been through turmoil since they last played in the top flight 31 years ago.
Some of that cash will go to upgrading the club’s stadium, Kenilworth Road, which with a capacity just over 10,000 and set among rows of terraced houses, will be hosting the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool next season.
Luton had to recover from an early shock when captain Tom Lockyer collapsed on the field.
The Welsh centreback was stretchered off and taken to hospital, where the club confirmed he was responsive and able to talk to his family.
Lockyer had played his part when Luton had the ball in the net after just five minutes when Gabriel Osho was flagged offside as he forced the ball in from close range.
But a bright start from Rob Edwards’ men was rewarded on 23 minutes when Elijah Adebayo’s good work down the left teed up Jordan Clark to smash home at the near post.
Adebayo had a second Luton goal ruled out before halftime for handball.
Coventry looked like a side that had stage fright in front of 85,000 people in the first half.
But Mark Robins’ side have grown used to thriving in adversity.
In their 22 years away from the top flight, Coventry have been forced out of their home city to Northampton and Birmingham due to financial issues in leasing their stadium.
Even when restored to Coventry, they began the season at the foot of the Championship table after being unable to host home games due to the state of their pitch which had been used for rugby at the Commonwealth Games.
Coventry were much improved after the break and got their reward 24 minutes from time when Viktor Gyokeres teed up Gustavo Hamer to fire into the far corner.
The Sky Blues nearly turned the tie around fully within minutes when Matt Godden blazed a big chance over.
Tired legs and tension took over in extra-time, but Coventry had a massive let off four minutes from time.
Joe Taylor slotted home after charging down Jonathan Panzo’s clearance, but the goal was ruled out as the ball struck the Luton man’s hand.
All of the first 11 penalties were then scored as the takers showed incredible poise under the most extreme pressure.
But when Fankaty Dabo’s effort sailed over the bar, Luton’s dreams came true.