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May 4, 2010

York escape Luton fans after ugly pitch invasion

An ugly post-match pitch invasion which saw Luton fans chase York players into the away end has marred the Conference play-off semi-final second leg where Luton's promotion dream ended.

Luton chairman Nick Owen has vowed to hold an investigation into the scenes which followed his side's failed attempt to return to the Football League on Monday night. The Hatters lost 1-0 at Kenilworth Road, with Chris Carruthers' 47th-minute goal ensuring York of a 2-0 aggregate victory which sets up a Wembley showdown against Oxford.

The drama became too much for dozens of home fans who ran onto the pitch after the final whistle. Stewards reportedly instructed the York players to join their fans in the away end and took them to a police box high in the stand where they holed up for 20 minutes. Video footage from inside the ground shows police and stewards forming a barrier at the edge of the pitch to hold back Luton fans as the players are escorted away while shielding themselves from projectiles.

Owen told Sky Sports News: "It's absolutely dreadful, I can't condone it. One or two of our fans today have let the club down - to be honest it's shattering. We're not going to Wembley and the final but in many ways what's more devastating is to see what happened on the pitch after the game. There will be an investigation by us and no doubt by the authorities - but it doesn't look good for Luton at this minute. Hopefully it gets cleared up and there are no serious repercussions.''

York chairman Jason McGill said: "It's taken the gloss off the win - we won't be able to celebrate until we're going home.''

He claimed striker Richard Brodie was struck by a pound coin and said: "I was very nervous for our supporters and players. There was a lot of coin throwing towards our players and supporters - it wasn't very good at all. We've not discussed what Luton are going to do. We've got to let the proper authorities take the right course of action. But the scenes were pretty bad - I've not witnessed anything like that since I've been in football - it's very difficult to take.''

York manager Martin Foyle added: "Give the stewards credit, when it happened they took the players into the away end. It was a scary time but players have come through it safely.''

A Football Conference statement read: "The Football Conference has followed the scenes broadcast nationwide at the conclusion of the Premier Division play-off semi-final second leg at Kenilworth Road this afternoon between Luton Town and York City.

"In line with the rules and regulations of our national governing body, reports will be called for from both clubs and these will be submitted to the Football Association for further investigation. The Football Association will then be in a position to take any subsequent action that they may deem appropriate in the circumstances.

"Whilst the Football Association are the authority having initial powers to deal with breaches of discipline, where clubs and their supporters are involved, the Football Conference retains the right to deal with breaches of their own regulations, specifically in relation to Rule 18 if it is felt necessary.

"No further comment will be made by the Football Conference at this stage until they receive a report of the investigation findings from the Football Association.''

The events come a day after Sheffield Wednesday fans entered the playing area at Hillsborough after their loss to Crystal Palace which saw them relegated from the Championship. The incidents could cast a negative light on England's World Cup bid just seven months before the 2018 and 2022 host nations are to be decided by FIFA.

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