CHUBA AKPOM ended his 13-match barren but it was the assistant referee who left Luton fuming after penalty drama in their defeat at Middlesbrough.
The former Arsenal striker stroked home Marvin Johnson’s cross from close-range shortly after half time for the only goal of the game.
But the main talking point occurred in the 66th minute when Glen Rea’s shot was spilled by Marcus Bettinelli and the follow up from James Collins was blocked by the arm of Boro’s Sam Morsy.
James Collins stepped up and slotted home the spot-kick – only for Neil Warnock’s furious players to go racing towards the referee Andy Davies and his assistant Akil Howson.
The whistleblower had awarded the goal, but after strong pressure and a lengthy consultation with Howson, he changed his mind and gave a free-kick to the home side due to Collins taking a double touch when converting.
It was deja vu for Boro after they suffered a similar fate just three weeks ago when Marcus Tavernier did the same in their loss to Norwich.
But the Luton bench went ballistic, with several screams of ‘You’ve s*** yourself’ ringing around the fanless Riverside.
Luton boss Nathan Jones said: “The assistant didn’t give it until they appealed. As soon as they, and I chose my words carefully, remonstrated with them he changed his mind.
“At no point did he flag. He’d given it and was on his way back, both of them were, and then they persuaded him to change his mind.
“If it’s the right decision then fine, but he hadn’t done that so that’s what I was angry with.”
Dael Fry produced a brilliant block to deny Sonny Bradley moments later as the angry Hatters huffed and puffed but failed to find a way through.
And Tavernier almost made things worse in additional time but his strike was deflected over following a counter.
The explosive end came after a first half that could not have been any further from a Christmas cracker.
Luton arrived fresh on the back of dishing out a 3-0 pasting to Preston on Saturday, with Boro also buzzing after firing three past Millwall inside the opening 20 minutes last time out.
Unfortunately, this opening was a lot more low-key, with chances few and far between until Akpom found the net for the first time since a 2-1 win over Barnsley on October 3.
Warnock said: “I’m delighted for Chuba. Our strikers are gonna get goals if they make the runs and we get the crosses in.
“They are the ones I love. Then what happened after the sending-off. I’m really proud.
“The referee, he’d given it, it was only when Marcus and them went to the linesman. But Marcus came to me and said the linesman told him he’d touched it twice so I knew then it would be disallowed. I think the linesman was excellent.”
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