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The Unlikely Comeback

At the end of the 1988/89 season Chelsea were promoted back to the 1st Division as Champions under the leadership of Bobby Campbell. The following season saw the Blues finish in 5th place. Luton avoided relegation but only on goal difference.

In the summer of 1990 Chelsea looked to build on their success which included the recruitment of internationals Dennis Wise and Andy Townsend. Wise was a club record signing of £1.6m from Wimbledon and Townsend joined from Norwich for £1.2m and was made club captain.

Chelsea started the season with a 2-1 win over Derby County followed by losses against Crystal Palace and QPR. Results and form continued to be patchy and by the time they played Luton at the end December they lost 2-0 and were in 8th place.

In February 1991 the Blues welcomed Luton to Stamford Bridge for a Zenith Data Systems Cup third round match. Chelsea were the holders of the trophy after beating Middlesbrough 1-0 at Wembley in front of over 76,000 fans. This was in stark contrast to this game as only 3,849 people turned up to watch the Blues lose 4-1 on penalties.

Two months later and Luton were back at the Bridge for a Division One match. Bobby Campbell decided to rest four internationals for the game, including Steve Clarke, Tony Dorigo, Kerry Dixon and Gordon Durie. He chose to give debuts to youth team products Frank Sinclair and Andy Myers.

Things didn’t start well for the Blues. They found themselves 1-0 down after just 14 minutes when Lars Elstrup beat the offside trap and slotted the ball past Dave Beasant. A few minutes later and Luton doubled their lead when Sean Farrell latched on to a loose ball and scored from inside the box. To make matters even worse Kingsley Black made it 3-0 after 23 minutes when he connected with a cross from Farrell.

After half an hour Graeme Le Saux got one back for Chelsea after Alec Chamberlain in the Luton goal parried a shot into his path. However, Le Saux was sent off shortly after when he elbowed Graham Rodger in the face. The Blues were two goals and a player down at half time.

In the second half Chelsea won a freekick near the Luton box. Wise placed the ball down and Townsend quickly crossed the ball which was met by the head of Graham Stuart. Chamberlain had no chance and the score was now 3-2. Things got even better for the Blues when Wise was bundled over and referee Terry Holbrook awarded a penalty. It was Wise who stepped up to take it but his attempt was saved. However, he was quick to react and scored from the rebound. The comeback was complete!

Chelsea finished 10th in the league whilst Luton finished 18th and avoided relegation on the final day with a win over Derby County.

Footage by Chelsea Lookback

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