Irish striker James Collins netted on his Championship debut on Friday night as Luton Town rescued a dramatic 3-3 against Middlesbrough.
Collins, who was the top scorer in last season’s League One, had never played in the second tier despite being prolific in the lower leagues, however the 28-year old impressed for The Hatters in their first game in the Championship in 12 years.
Luton’s opponents Middlesbrough, managed by the new duo of former defender Jonathan Woodgate and Irish assistant manager Robbie Keane, got off to the perfect start at Kenilworth Road when Ashley Fletcher gave them an early lead thanks to a sharp header from a corner.
The Hatters hit back though, a 25-yard screamer from defender Sonny Bradley levelling things up before veteran full-back Martin Cranie headed past Darren Randolph in the Boro goal to make it 2-1.
Keane and Woodgate were understanably animated on the sideline throughout and they had reason to cheer early in the second half albeit at the expense of Luton keeper Simon Sluga, who allowed Britt Assombalonga’s weak effort to slip through his fingers and into the back of the net.
Lewis Wing put the away side in front thanks to a beatiful curling effort before Assombalonga had the chance to put Boro two goals up but his penalty sailed over the bar.
Then came Collins‘ time to shine, having been dubiously denied an goal earlier for handball, the Irish striker came up with the goods in the 85th minutes as the ball fell to him from a George Moncur shot and he calmly and coolly slotted home the equaliser.
The 28-year old almost grabbed a winner at the death in the most thrilling of finishes however he was stunningly denied by his compatriot Darren Randolph in the Boro goal as both sides left with a share of the spoils.
For Collins, it’s the ideal start to life in the Championship and a strong indication that he will be able to carry his tremendous form from League One into the second tier and perhaps earn another call-up to the Irish side.
🍾@LutonTown's James Collins is Man of the Match
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) August 2, 2019
For Keane, it’s a draw on his debut at Middlesbrough and the Irish assistant manager will certainly be hoping for improvements from his side as the season goes on.