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Tennis ball protest ‘killed’ our momentum, says Luton boss Nathan Jones

Birmingham City v Luton Town – Sky Bet Championship – St Andrew’s
(Image credit: Leila Coker)

Luton manager Nathan Jones felt the Birmingham fans’ tennis ball protest affected his side as they slipped to a 3-0 defeat at St Andrew’s.

The game was halted briefly in the 14th minute when home supporters protesting against the club’s owners threw dozens of tennis balls on to the pitch.

Juninho Bacuna opened the scoring not long after play resumed with his first for the club before Lyle Taylor made it two with his third goal in four games and Onel Hernandez added a third.

“The tennis balls killed the momentum and then the steward stepped on to the pitch inexplicably (to try to clear the balls),” Jones said.

“I am very reluctant to not give Birmingham credit because they must have done something right, but we were really inept in our performance.

“We can’t affect the protest, but it did seem to kill our momentum.

“The second goal was disastrous, they just punted, it came off someone’s toe and it was a calamitous goal.

“We saved our two most inept performances for Birmingham.

“They didn’t had to work hard for anything, apart from the first 20 odd minutes.

“I thought we were really on the front foot, and had six, seven corners and free-kicks to really put pressure on them.

“It feels tough because we were really, really poor.

“We had our second worst performance of the season and, coincidentally, the first was also against them (in a 5-0 home defeat in August).”

Bacuna broke the deadlock after 25 minutes when Taylor held off Tom Lockyer to tee up the former Rangers attacking midfielder to finish high into the net.

Blues grabbed their second goal just 13 seconds after the restart.

Jeremie Bela’s pass was diverted off Henri Lansbury to leave Taylor clean through to side-foot past James Shea.

Hernandez coolly side-footed home the third in the 69th minute.

Birmingham head coach Lee Bowyer felt Bacuna’s opener, rather than the protest, the fourth consecutive home game at which supporters have demonstrated, was the turning point in the match.

“We scored not long after (the protest), but it was the goal that changed the game,” he said.

Bowyer was full of praise for his three goal-scorers, all January signings, who helped Birmingham earn just their second win in 12 games.

“Bacuna – one chance, one goal, Taylor – a great finish, and, with Onel, we’ve got good players,” said Bowyer.

“We were keeping clean sheets earlier on in the season but, when we were creating chances, we weren’t taking them. Basically what we’ve brought in was what we were lacking.

“I worked with Lyle for two years (at Charlton) and he works his socks off, he fights for the ball to hold it up and, if he gets a chance, eight times out of 10 he will score.

“He’s got three in four games and today he provided an assist for Bacuna.

“Bacuna brings us something different in the middle of the park and receives the ball on the half turn and slides passes, so he’s got good vision.

“Onel has raw pace and wants to run with the ball and take us up the pitch.”

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