Having successfully negotiated the opening day trip to Wimbledon, Arsenal ‘s first home game of the new season came with the midweek visit of Luton Town to Highbury. Unusually, this match was on a Wednesday night, not the traditional Tuesday. I can’t recall why but perhaps the Met thought the derby at Selhurst Park that night, along with this fixture, was too much to patrol in one evening. Not that this was a high-risk clash, although I suppose the trains venturing to the north of the capital may have been a touch feisty. From this distance, it seems hard to believe though, doesn’t it? The second Summer of Love was well and truly over in the Establishment’s eyes.
In contrast to Arsenal’s comfortable win at Plough Lane, The Hatters had been held to a one-all draw at home to Crystal Palace. The previous season had seen Luton avoid relegation on the last day with a 3 – 2 win at the Baseball Ground to send Sheffield Wednesday into the Second Division by two goals. It was tighter than 1988/89; as Arsenal prepared to take on Liverpool in the title decider, Luton had escaped relegation by two points thanks to a last day victory over Norwich.
Not that I was upset by their tribulations. I hated Kenilworth Road as a ground with its’ beach hut boxes down one side and the plastic pitch, as at Loftus Road, seemed to constantly baffle Arsenal, no matter how talented the players. Add into the mix their chairman David Evans putting political aspirations before the greater good of football and it was the perfect storm. The spoon to stir it all was Arsenal’s self-inflicted 1988 Littlewoods Cup final defeat.
The victory took Arsenal to the top of the table, sharing the position with Liverpool having the same points, goals for and against. It was a taste of things to come.
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