FA Cup: Hatters crash out in the fog at Accrington

FA Cup, third round: Accrington Stanley 2 Luton Town 1

Saturday, 7th January 2017, 6:03 pm
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 1:00 pm
Jonathan Smith goes close for Luton during their 2-1 defeat at Accrington

Luton Town boss Nathan Jones had no cause to celebrate his year-long anniversary at Kenilworth Road this afternoon after seeing his side crash out of the FA Cup at fellow League Two side Accrington Stanley.

The Hatters chief had witnessed the visitors recover from a tepid first half in which Sean McConville's wonder strike put Stanley ahead, to level through Jake Gray's strike on 54 minutes.

However, after being named the greatest FA Cup giant killer of modern times in the build-up due to their 1-0 win at then Premier League side Norwich in the 2012-13 season, there was to be no chance of repeating that this term, Omar Beckles quickly rising highest to put Accrington into Monday's fourth round draw, with Luton unable to find a way back into the game.

Jones had sprung five changes to his side, with Josh McQuoid, Olly Lee, Alan Sheehan, Jake Gray and Isaac Vassell all coming in for the injured Cameron McGeehan, plus striker Danny Hylton, Jordan Cook, Stephen O'Donnell and Alex Gilliead, with the winger having returned to Newcastle United.

That saw Hatters line up with three at the back once more, with Sheehan and James Justin as the wingbacks, behind a front two of McQuoid and Vassell.

Gray made a promising start to proceedings in the attacking midfield role, picking up the ball to skip past one defender and unleash a low drive that wasn't too far away.

There was little to write home about chances-wise though, former Dunstable Town striker Jonathan Edwards dragging wide of Christian Walton's goal on 15 minutes.

With the fog making vision tricky at best, particularly for the 482 Hatters fans, Justin took a ball out of the sky on the half hour and fed Gray, whose dangerous cross was met at full stretch by Vassell, with Matty Pearson clearing away from the line.

However, for the umpteenth time, Jones was forced into a reshuffle as skipper Scott Cuthbert pulled up with what was later confirmed as concussion five minutes before half time and had to go off.

That saw O'Donnell on, with Sheehan dropping into central defence and Justin switching to the left.

Luton picked up the pace and enjoyed a good spell of pressure before the break, Smith pouncing on a missed clearance to send his angled half volley narrowly off target.

However, Hatters then fell behind when O'Donnell and Lee gave possession away inside their own half and Sean McConville took aim, finding the top corner with a wonderful strike.

After the break, Lee's hopeful volley well over, before he was withdrawn for Jack Marriott seven minutes in, the striker almost having an immediate impact, seeing a shot charged behind.

Gray's effort was then parried away by Chapman, before Luton levelled on 54 minutes as Marriott was put through one-on-one, denied by the Stanley keeper.

However, Gray was first to the rebound and after breaking a challenge, unleashed a fierce left foot blast that fizzed beyond the recovering Chapman and into net.

It was the former Crystal Palace youngster's third strike in what has been limited playing time since signing in the summer from the Eagles, showing that he could, just could, be the man to replace McGeehan's superb goal ratio from midfield.

Hatters were only level for three minutes though, as McConville was allowed to cut on to his right by McQuoid as he swung over a cross that the impressive Beckles flicked beyond Walton.

Jonathan Smith was then taken off before being sent off, as official Darren Deadman handed out a last warning to the midfielder who had been booked early, with Rea then picking up a caution for a mis-timed tackle.

With Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, thrown on to try and force a replay, becoming more and more of a force, Gray took up a good position on the right to drive just wide of the bottom corner.

Mpanzu's deflected effort wasn't too far away either, as was Johnny Mullins' header from Sheehan's corner, with Vassell also rising well to directing his header off target.

On 70 minutes, Hatters really should have restored parity, Vassell's knock down dropping for Rea of all people, but the centre half, falling backwards, blasted his volley wide.

Luton threatened again, O'Donnell's low cross was met by a fresh air shot from Vassell, while with the fog now thickening, making play decidedly hard to witness, Marriott was again sent clear, as faced with Chapman, he could only shoot straight at the keeper.

Mullins also shot tamely at the Stanley custodian late on, while Luton's misery was completed in stoppage time, Rea shown a second yellow for a poor challenge on McConville to pick up the first red card of his career.

To make matters even worse, the Hatters also dropped out of the play-offs this season after wins for Colchester and Barnet saw Town now eighth in the table.

Stanley: Aaron Chapman, Matty Pearson, Mark Hughes, Omar Beckles, Scott Brown, Sean McConville, Jonathan Edwards (Rommy Boco 68), John O'Sullivan (Jordan Clark 72), Seamus Conneely, Billy Kee, Janoi Donacien.

Subs not used: Arron Davies, Terry Gornell, Shay McCartan, Harvey Rodgers, Elliot Parish.

Hatters: Christian Walton, Johnny Mullins, Scott Cuthbert (C Stephen O'Donnell 40), Glen Rea, James Justin, Jonathan Smith (Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu 58), Olly Lee (Jack Marriott 52), Jake Gray, Alan Sheehan, Isaac Vassell, Josh McQuoid.

Subs not used: Craig King, Jack Senior, Lawson D'Ath, Jordan Cook.

Attendance: 1,717 (482 Lutoin)

Booked: Smith 32, Rea 57.

Sent off: Rea 90.

Referee: Darren Deadman.

Hatters MOM: Jake Gray.