Frustration as Hatters fail to make inroads with Robins defeat
League Two: Luton Town 2 Cheltenham Town 3
Luton Town wasted a brilliant chance to claw points back on third placed Carlisle United with a wholly frustrating 3-2 defeat at home to struggling Cheltenham Town last night.
On an evening where Luton had expected to close the gap to just one point on the Cumbrians, and going into the game on the back of two successive league wins at Kenilworth Road, Town preceded to give a turgid display with the handbrake well and truly on for the most part, to the increasing annoyance of the home support.
Hatters had made one change to their side, handing an immediate debut to Reading keeper Stuart Moore, who will want to forget his first start in a Luton shirt.
He was called into action in the first moments, backpedalling to turn fellow custodian Scott Brown's booming clearance over the bar.
However, Moore was then beaten from the following corner, as he opted to needlessly punch clear and made a complete hash of his attempt, allowing Will Boyle to crash home from three yards.
Luton should have levelled 60 seconds later, Jordan Cook crossing low for Isaac Vassell but with the open goal gaping, he somehow, somehow managed to miss the target.
Jonathan Smith failed to convert a dangerous Cook corner, while he met another threatening Cook delivery, only to see his looping header nodded off the line by Jack Barthram.
With 24 minutes gone, Town came close again, Cuthbert sending a long ball forward, Vassell heading down and Smith half volleying narrowly wide.
Midway through the half, Cook was desperately unfortunate not to make it 1-1, his superb free kick beating Brown all ends up only to crash against the angle of post and bar.
Town's task became that much tougher, when out of nowhere, the Robins then scored again on 28 minutes, Carl Winchester's wonderful ball inside Jack Senior perfect for the overlapping Jack Barthram to beat Moore.
Stunned into silence, Hatters took a while to get going again, Luke Gambin's angled drive not too far away, but they were back in the game on 41 minutes, Vassell left unmarked to fire through the legs of Brown.
However, if Luton's supporters had expected their side to come out and turn things around had they done against the likes of Solihull Moors, they were in for a surprise, with the hosts producing an insipid second half display.
The Robins, realising they could break for another goal, did just that, as an incisive burst and more ponderous defending saw Kyle Wootton pick out half time sub Billy Waters, with Moore unable to stop a third on the hour mark.
To their credit, Luton wouldn't give up and made it 3-2 on 71 minutes, Olly Lee's drilled free kick deflected into his own net by Liam Davis.
Rather than a grandstand finish though, visiting keeper Brown had little or nothing to do, until Jones threw Scott Cuthbert upfront as a makeshift striker
He flicked on for Vassell, who was clearly fouled in the area, only for referee John Busby to dismiss the appeals, before side-footing Town's last chance over the bar.
To make matters worst, Hatters even dropped below a resurgent Exeter City, and failed to make ground on Plymouth, who lost at Yeovil, to complete a rotten evening all round.
Hatters: Stuart Moore, James Justin, Scott Cuthbert, Glen Rea, Jack Senior, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Jonathan Smith (Olly Lee 46), Luke Gambin (Jake Gray 70), Jordan Cook, Isaac Vassell, Jack Marriott (Lawson D'Ath 61).
Subs not used: Craig King, Stephen O'Donnell, Zane Banton, Alan Sheehan.
Robins: Scott Brown, Jack Barthram, Harry Pell (C), Will Boyle, Jordan Cranston (Kyle Storer 88), James Rowe, Kyle Wootton (Danny Wright 73), Manny Onariase, Daniel O'Shaughnessy, Carl Winchester (Billy Waters 46), Liam Davis.
Subs not used: Jack Munns, Calum Kitscha, Dan Holman, Diego De Girolamo.
Attendance: 6708 (83 Robins).
Booked: Wootton 34, Justin 90.
Referee: John Busby.
Hatters MOM: Jordan Cook - tried manfully to find a way through for the hosts.