Automatic promotion hopes ended for Luton after yet another draw
League Two: Mansfield 1 Luton Town 1
Luton Town saw their slim chances of automatic promotion finally extinguished this afternoon, as they were held 1-1 at Mansfield Town this afternoon, their 17th draw of the campaign.
With Plymouth and Portsmouth both winning, then Hatters' whose hopes of overhauling either side were minimal at best, will now have to hopes they can do it through the play-offs.
However, finishing in the top seven remains by no means a certainty either, as Nathan Jones' side are just four points above Carlisle in eighth, with three games of the season to go.
The visitors made two changes for their trip to the One Call Stadium, with Jordan Cook missing out due to injury and Jack Marriott dropping to the bench, as Dan Potts in for his first start since suffering a head injury at Carlisle a month ago, Isaac Vassell back as well.
Hatters had strong cries for a penalty on seven minutes, when Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu bamboozled his man and hammered goalwards, the ball striking Rhys Bennett, but referee Mark Brown signalled for a corner.
The hosts then had the better of territory and possession, with a number of testing deliveries from out wide, as Luton were thankful the official didn't spot Scott Cuthbert's rather blatant holding of George Taft from two corners, the second met by Krystian Pearce, with Danny Hylton hacking off the line.
However, Town's respite didn't last long, as with 24 minutes gone, the hosts led, a long throw headed backwards by Taft, for Alfie Potter to shoot at goal, Potts blocking one effort, but not the second, a left foot volley flying past Stuart Moore.
Hylton couldn't quite reach James Justin's cross, with the ball just flicked off his head, as Luton struggled to really get going in the first 45 minutes, sending nothing of note at Jake Kean's goal.
After the break, Mal Benning tried to make it 2-0 to the hosts, shooting over, before Town won a penalty on 50 minutes when a throw-in was flicked up Hylton and clearly handled in the area by Taft.
Hylton himself stepped up and after a stuttering run up, coolly dinked his attempt over Kean for his 26th of the season, the Stags keeper seeing yellow for tripping Town's forward as he went to retrieve the ball.
With their tails well and truly up, Luton almost had a second when Sheehan played a short corner with Lawson D'Ath, and broke into the box where his shot deflected to Glen Rea who stabbed over.
D'Ath then came close himself, unable to beat Kean with his header from Hylton's whipped cross, before Sheehan made amends for gifting possession away with a crucial intervention at the back.
Former Stags striker Ollie Palmer came on to boos from the home supporters, but almost shoved those back down their throats with a wonderful run and even better cross, Hylton heading narrowly over from close range.
Just when it looked like Town would go from strength to strength, Mansfield, needing victory for their a few play-off hopes, managed to snuff out any late breaks forward by the visitors.
Hylton them almost won it for Luton with two minutes to go, directing his header from Olly Lee's corner past the post as Hatters were held once more.
Stags: Jake Kean, Rhys Bennett, Mal Benning, Krystian Pearce (C), George Taft, Shaq Coulthirst, Alfie Potter (CJ Hamilton 75), Hayden White (Alex MacDonald 60), Joel Byrom, Ben Whiteman, Danny Rose (Matt Green 80).
Subs not used: Brian Jensen, Lee Collins, Kyle Howkins, Yoann Arquis.
Hatters: Stuart Moore, Scott Cuthbert (C), Glen Rea, Alan Sheehan, James Justin, Olly Lee, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Lawson D'Ath, Dan Potts (Stephen O'Donnell 84), Isaac Vassell (Ollie Palmer 64), Danny Hylton.
Subs not used: Craig King, Jonathan Smith, Jake Gray, Luke Gambin, Jack Marriott.
Booked: Rose 43, Kean 51.
Attendance: (4,632 with 892 Luton).
Referee: Mark Brown.