Collins strikes to down Portsmouth and send Hatters through to round two

FA Cup, first round: Luton Town 1 Portsmouth 0

Saturday, 4th November 2017, 6:20 pm
Updated Monday, 11th December 2017, 11:46 pm
Get in there: James Collins hammers Luton in front against Portsmouth

Luton Town finally ended their long-running hoodoo against Portsmouth as they knocked the League One side out of the FA Cup courtesy of a 1-0 victory at Kenilworth Road this afternoon.

James Collins' wonderful strike in first half injury time settled this pulsating tie that ebbed and flowed throughout, with the Hatters also indebted to some superb saves from keeper Marek Stech ensuring it was they who are the hat for Monday's second round draw.

Hatters went into the game on the back of seven matches without a win against their south coast rivals, having not beaten them since 1995, with Pompey doing the double over Town last season on their way to the League Two title as well.

Those defeats had clearly hurt boss Nathan Jones, who wanted his side to prove they should be playing at Portsmouth's level next season, and they certainly did that, with an excellent display throughout the 90 minutes.

Jones lined up with three changes from the 3-0 league defeat at Coventry City last weekend, Alan Sheehan back from suspension for the injured Johnny Mullins, while Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu and Andrew Shinnie returned for the banned Glen Rea and Harry Cornick, who dropped to the bench.

That meant Luton reverted to the diamond formation, with Shinnie at the tip, and the change in tactics worked well, as Town prodded and pushed for an opening against two imposing centre halves in Matt Clarke and Christian Burgess.

Visitors striker Brett Pitman, in a Danny Hylton-esque facial mask, sent an early shot straight at Stech, before visiting defender Nathan Thompson could count himself fortunate to stay on the pitch on nine minutes, jumping into a challenge on a furious Sheehan.

In the aftermath, the Pompey defender was pushed to the ground by an irate Collins, both players seeing yellow cards from referee Seb Stockbridge.

The Luton duo then almost combined for the opener on 13 minutes, Sheehan's wonderful free kick from the left glanced wide by Collins.

Pitman, who looked the most likely source of a goal for Portsmouth, saw his fierce drive tipped over by Stech, while Mpanzu made a superb sliding intervention to prevent Ben Close making it 1-0 on the half hour mark.

Luton took 33 minutes to get their first shot on target, as Mpanzu's instinctive sidefoot easy for Luke McGee, but they should have been ahead two minutes before half time, Shinnie's cross missed by Clarke and a rather startled Hylton could only head straight at McGee.

However, Luton did have the lead on the stroke of the interval and it was in truly excellent fashion too.

Scott Cuthbert stepped out of defence to send a low pass into Shinnie, he spun and delivered a deep cross that Hylton cushioned nonchalantly into the path of Collins, the striker ramming his first time left foot effort beyond a statuesque McGee for a quite brilliant team goal.

After the break, Town started mightily impressively, not letting up as they chased a second.

Hylton's goal was ruled out due to Jack Stacey being flagged marginally offside in the build-up, while a glorious passing move which encompassed the length of the field saw Olly Lee feed Berry, his curler unconvincingly palmed on to the bar and behind by McGee.

Pompey then began to up their game though, Matt Kennedy's pot shot bouncing just in front of Stech who held on well.

Town's keeper next action was quite magnificent though, arching his back to tip Clarke's dipping header against the crossbar and away.

Still, Portsmouth pressed, Sheehan perfectly positioned to clear Jamal Lowe's goalbound shot off the line with Stech beaten, while the keeper then got just enough on Pitman's volley to scramble it behind.

With Portsmouth throwing men forward, gaps opened up at the back, Shinnie beating the dithering Brandon Haunstrup to Mpanzu's hefty clearance and bear down on McGee, only to miss the target.

Stech was called into action again as he stood up well to parry Close's drive, relieved to see Conor Chaplin shank the rebound into the away fans.

The visitors were then reduced to 10 men with six minutes remaining, as Thompson's afternoon was ended prematurely by tripping Collins, referee Stockbridge showing him a second yellow.

Town then should have made far more of a quickfire break as Hylton raced away from Stuart O'Keefe, but with sub Harry Cornick screaming for the ball, he ran into traffic, Berry eventually rifling over.

Luton continued to create chances, Lee, who showed a real determination all game, particularly second half, bursting clear and attempting to dink McGee, the keeper tipping behind.

However, Hatters were then saved by their own number one in stoppage time, as Close let fly from 20 yards, the big Czech getting down brilliantly to palm away, as Luton could celebrate not quite a giant-killing, but a hugely impressive cup victory.

Hatters: Marek Stech, Jack Stacey, Dan Potts, Scott Cuthbert (C), Alan Sheehan, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Olly Lee, Luke Berry, Andrew Shinnie (Harry Cornick 83), Danny Hylton, James Collins.

Subs not used: James Justin, Luke Gambin, Lawson D'Ath, James Shea, Elliot Lee, Akin Famewo.

Pompey: Luke McGee, Matt Clarke, Christian Burgess, Stuart O'Keefe, Brett Pitman (C Conor Chaplin 62), Oliver Hawkins, Matt Kennedy (Kyle Bennett 62), Jamal Lowe, Nathan Thompson, Ben Close, Brandon Haunstrup.

Subs not used: Danny Rose, Milan Lalkovic, Dion Donohue, Gareth Evans, Alex Bass.

Booked: Collins 9, Thompson 9, Lee 24, Lowe 51, Burgess 53, O'Keefe 71.

Sent off: Thompson 84.

Referee: Seb Stockbridge.

Attendance: 5,333 (1,143 Portsmouth).

Hatters MOM: Marek Stech. Vital saves sent Town through.