FA Cup first round: Luton Town 4 Newport County AFC 2
Luton Town reached the FA Cup second round after a hugely entertaining victory over Newport County AFC this afternoon.
An end-to-end second half saw Luton pegged back twice, only to emerge victorious late on thanks to goals from Ricky Miller and Jake Howells.
The Hatters had made two changes to the side who drew at Exeter, with Alex Lacey and Luke Guttridge starting for Scott Griffiths and Andy Drury, as Luton swapped to a 3-5-2 formation.
Newport had the first effort of note as Curtis Obeng got forward and tested Mark Tyler’s exemplary handling low down on the greasy surface.
Hatters looked disjointed with their new tactics early on, but started to get into their stride after 15 minutes as Mark Cullen swung over a cross and Michael Harriman, in his more advanced position, sprinted in to deflect over the top.
Cullen then curled wide, while Hatters came within inches of the opener as Guttridge sent Howells away and his delicious cross was glanced just off target by Paul Benson.
Guttridge was then at the heartbeat of another wonderful passing move, combining with Howells and Jonathan Smith to prod goalwards as it just grazed Joe Day’s bar on its way over.
The visitors then broke Town’s offside trap when Chris Zebroski raced clear but as he wound up a piledriver, it skewed horribly wide to huge cheers all round.
Zebroski’s next attempt did force Tyler into action as he dummied Lacey’s rather wild challenge only for the Luton keeper to palm clear.
The Luton keeper then had to be alert to gather O’Connor’s wonderful overhead volley that appeared destined for the bottom corner.
On 40 minutes, Town had the lead in absolutely stunning fashion though as Guttridge dispossessed Minshull, and with a body swerve was away from his nearest marker.
Driving forward, he took aim with his left foot from fully 30 yards and arrowed a shot into the top corner of Joe Day’s net for a wonderful strike.
A breathless second half then ensued as Ismail Yakubu rose highest to meet a corner, but Nathan Doyle stationed on the post did his job.
Newport were level on their next attack though as some poor marking saw Yan Klukowski afforded too much space in the box and the one-time Luton target unleashed an unerring volley beyond Tyler.
Town were back in the ascendancy just before the hour as Guttridge again showed his quality in the area, flicking a ball through for Cullen.
His fierce drive was excellently parried by Day, but the ball looped goalwards and Benson was there to bundle a header over the line for his first of the season, although the Newport keeper complained vociferously he had committed in foul in doing so.
Newport were then level once more though as Obeng took advantage of a slip by Harriman to tease over a cross that former Hatter O’Connor buried with his head and celebrated animatedly in front of the Luton fans.
Miller was then introduced on 70 minutes as he almost grabbed a goal immediately when the Newport defence and Day hesitated, but Yakubu eventually cleared.
The sub’s next chance saw him open his Luton account as from Howells’ corner, he connected with a right foot volley to give Town the lead for a third time.
James Loveridge then tried his luck from outside the box, curling past the post, but Hatters sewed the result up 87 minutes with another marvellous finish.
The impressive Howells, who looked really at home as a wingback, burst forward, unleashed a couple of step overs and then buried his angled drive into the bottom erber
Tyler had to tip athletically from O’Connor in stoppage time, but Town booked their place in the draw for the second round that takes place on Monday evening.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Alex Lacey, Steve McNulty (C), Luke Wilkinson, Michael Harriman, Nathan Doyle, Jonathan Smith, Andy Drury, Jake Howells, Paul Benson, Mark Cullen (Ricky Miller 70).
Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Fraser Franks, Luke Rooney, Shaun Whalley, Scott Griffiths.
Exiles: Joe Day, Darren Jones, Ismail Yakubu, Lee Minshull (Ryan Jackson 66), Aaron O’Connor, Chris Zebroski, Andrew Hughes, Michael Flynn, Yan Klukowski, Curtis Obeng, Mark Byrne (James Loveridge 80).
Subs not used: Lenny Pidgeley, Kevin Feely, Max Porter, Scott Tancock, Aaron Collins.
Booked: Minshull 41, Zebroski 58, Harriman 64.
Attendance: 3,656 (334 Newport).
Referee: Chris Sarginson.
Hatters MOM: Luke Guttridge. Exceptional display from Town’s midfielder and what a strike that was.