League Two: Exeter City 1 Luton Town 1
Full back Scott Griffiths proved the hero and villain for Hatters as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Exeter City this afternoon.
The defender bagged his first goal of the season to put Luton in front after just two minutes, before conceding a late penalty that ensured the Grecians claimed a deserved point after an enterprising second half display.
Chasing an eighth straight league victory, Hatters made two changes as Jake Howells returned, while Paul Benson started too, as the forward made his 50th appearance for the club.
Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu and Alex Lawless dropped out of the side after picking up slight injuries against Northampton Town last weekend.
The visitors took the lead with their first attack as Andy Drury’s corner saw the unlikeliest of sources, Griffiths, leap highest to nod into the bottom corner.
Howells then came close from a free kick just outside the box as the wall did its job, while Jonathan Smith tried an audacious lob to catch the back-pedalling Christy Pym out, but his aim was off.
As he has done so often this season, Town keeper Mark Tyler then produced a vital save on 18 minutes, when Graham Cummins escaped Steve McNulty’s attentions, latching on to David Wheeler’s header.
However, Tyler had his angles just right and made an excellent stop low down to preserve the lead.
With Exeter happy to knock the ball around patiently in search of an opening, they eventually opted to try their luck from distance as Scot Bennett and Danny Butterfield were wide.
Howells fluffed a superb opening on the counter as with faced with just Matt Oakley and Smith steaming through the middle, he opted to try and go alone, only to lose the ball.
After spending so much time without possession, Luton almost had a second on the break as Drury sent over a delightful dink and Benson’s volley beat Pym but also the far post.
If the first half was played at almost a pedestrian pace at times, the second period got going from the start as Exeter continued to dominate possession, with Luton left to attack on the break.
That they did though as Howells chipped in Cullen, who rifled over, with Town’s top scorer then having another sighter as his angled drive was parried by Pym away from the lurking Benson.
For all of City’s pretty passing, Luton continued to create the better opportunities, Howells nutmegging his man and then dragged wide when he might have gone on, while Pym flipped Drury’s free kick over.
Tyler came to Luton’s rescue once more, parrying Cummins’ downward header as Bennett wastefully fired over from close range.
Having weathered the storm, Exeter came close as sub Liam Sercombe arrowed a drive goalwards which flew just wide, with Tyler a spectator.
Sercombe was having quite an impact as he danced through a number of challenges to tee up Cummins to shoot over, before Bennett came close with an effort he knew little about, as Wilkinson’s header rebounded off him and just past Tyler’s post.
Griffiths then turned from hero to zero on 72 minutes as he needlessly slid in on the impressive Ribeiro to give away a clear penalty.
Home sub Tom Nichols stepped up and with his first touch, showed great composure to sidefoot past Tyler and into the bottom corner.
The goalscorer was close again shortly afterwards, sliding an effort narrowly wide, with Bennett’s backheel going the wrong side of the post.
With 10 minutes to go, Hatters swapped Cullen for Ricky Miller and he should have netted with his first touch, shooting low at Pym, who then saved from Smith too.
Neither side could force a winner though as Hatters saw their run of seven straight wins ended, but stretched their unbeaten sequence to 10 games, although they dropped off the top spot due to Wycombe’s 2-1 win at Oxford United.
Grecians: Christy Pym, Danny Butterfield, Craig Woodman, Scot Bennett (C), Christian Ribeiro, Matt Oakley, Jimmy Keohane (Liam Sercombe 55), Arron Davies (David Noble 55), Matt Grimes, David Wheeler, Graham Cummins (Tom Nichols 71).
Subs not used: James Hamon, Connor Riley-Lowe, Jordan Tillson, Matt Jay.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Michael Harriman, Scott Griffiths (Alex Lacey 73), Steve McNulty (C), Luke Wilkinson, Nathan Doyle, Jonathan Smith, Andy Drury, Jake Howells (Luke Guttridge 63), Paul Benson, Mark Cullen (Ricky Miller 81).
Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Luke Rooney, Shaun Whalley, Jim Stevenson.
Booked: Butterfield 84, Doyle 85.
Attendance: 5,400 (1,043 Hatters)
Referee: Dean Whitestone.
Hatters MOM: Steve McNulty - captain was a rock at the back once more.
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