dramatic draw at Villa Park last week left Sheffield United pondering what might have been, as the Premier League’s last-placed club briefly threatened to end the long unbeaten run of an Aston Villa side flying high in the standings.
However, Nicolo Zaniolo’s stoppage-time equaliser ultimately cancelled out a late Cameron Archer strike against his former club, leaving Chris Wilder’s men with only one point from a steadfast defensive performance.
While Villa missed their chance to move top of the table, the Blades were temporarily lifted off the bottom – at least until Burnley’s win on Saturday sent them back down to the basement – and they have now taken four points from their last three matches.
Nonetheless, the Yorkshire side remain five points adrift of safety approaching the midpoint of their latest comeback campaign and face an uphill battle to secure survival.
Having beaten Brentford 1-0 in their last home game, they are intent on making Bramall Lane a fortress once again, so meeting another promoted club on Sheffield soil ups the ante for their Boxing Day fixture.
It was back in 1990, though, that United last tasted top-flight success on December 26, with a 1-0 win over none other than Luton Town at Kenilworth Road; since then, they are winless in six, failing to score on five occasions.
Despite their dismal away form since re-joining the big time – with only one win from eight Premier League road trips to date – the Hatters may still travel north in expectation of improving that head-to-head record, after a morale-boosting win at the weekend renewed hopes of staying afloat in England’s top tier.
As with Archer at Villa, Luton’s Andros Townsend struck against his old club on Saturday afternoon, as the home side stunned ambitious Newcastle United, and the ex-Toon winger then celebrated by holding aloft the jersey of Tom Lockyer, his absent skipper.
Several tributes were paid to Town’s captain, who suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch in a subsequently abandoned game against Bournemouth, and his team’s brave 1-0 win served as the perfect pick-me-up for the central defender.
Jacob Brown and midfield maestro Ross Barkley both hit the woodwork, too, in another impressive performance that gave visibly emotional coach Rob Edwards good reason to smile following a tough few days.
Having ended a run of three straight defeats and edged to within two points of 17th-placed Nottingham Forest, Luton will want to complete their festive schedule in a similar manner: maximum points on Boxing Day would certainly set them up nicely for Saturday’s home game against Chelsea.