League Two: Dagenham & Redbridge 0 Luton Town 0
Ten man Luton Town kept their play-off hopes in tact, just, as they were were held to a goalless draw at Dagenham & Redbridge last night.
The Hatters were forced to play for almost an hour with the numerical disadvantage after striker Paul Benson was shown a straight red for a high foot on Ian Gayle.
John Still’s side remain in with a slim chance of the top seven though as despite Stevenage beating Portsmouth, Plymouth Argyle were held to a 1-1 draw by AFC Wimbledon, meaning Town trail the Greens by three points, albeit with a hugely inferior goal difference.
The Hatters made two changes to the side beaten 1-0 by Burton as Jonathan Smith, who became a father at the weekend, and Ryan Hall replaced Alex Lawless and Jake Howells.
Town included a host of ex-Daggers, with Benson, Luke Wilkinson, Scott Griffiths and Hall lining up against their former team, with boss Still afforded an excellent reception before kick off too.
Luton looked like they had taken the lead in the opening 20 seconds when a back header fell short allowing Hall to pounce, but his sliding effort went inches wide.
The Daggers veteran forward Jamie Cureton then turned Steve McNulty inside out, although over-ran the ball and Elliot Justham was out to collect.
In an open start, Benson reached Hall’s corner and arched a header over Mark Cousins, but not Luke Howell, covering on the goal-line.
Justham was called into action once more, handling Billy Bingham’s free kick well, while the visitors were forced into an change with Nathan Doyle limping off to be replaced by Shaun Whalley on 27 minutes.
Wilkinson volleyed Hall’s corner into the night sky, before Cureton once again showed his years of experience, with quick feet to rifle into the side-netting.
Lee showed a superb change of pace to set up Whalley, but a desperately poor first touch saw him scuff disappointingly off target.
Town were then dealt a huge blow when Benson went in with a high foot on Gayle and was shown a straight red by referee Darren Drysdale, his 10th dismissal of the season.
Although Benson’s boot definitely was raised, the intent was questionable to tay the least, but he had to go and Daggers almost took immediate advantage, Matt Partridge’s fierce drive deflected inches wide.
In the second period, Town swapped Hall for Luke Guttridge, but they had a huge let off when McNulty’s mistake was pounced on by Cureton who raced clear only to see Justham nick the ball off his toes.
The Town skipper was then culpable once more allowing Cureton to beat him and was thankful that Justham made a fine reaction stop.
Still then opted to take off Whalley for leading scorer Mark Cullen in search of a late winner, as Lee’s curler flew over.
The on-loan West Ham striker looked Hatters’ most likely outlet, as he forced Cousins into action, the keeper palming his free kick behind and then firing an angled volley over.
However, Town just lacked the manpower to launch a sustained rally and now know nothing less than a victory at home against Hartlepool on Saturday will do.
Daggers: Mark Cousins, Scott Doe, Billy Bingham, Jamie Cureton (Alex Jakubiak 77), Abu Ogogo (C), Luke Howell, Matt Partridge, Ian Gayle, Ashley Hemmings, Andre Boucaud (Jodi Jones 77), Joe Widdowson.
Subs not used: Lewis Moore, Christian Doidge, Joss Labadie, Ade Yusuff, Frankie Raymond.
Hatters: Elliot Justham, Michael Harriman, Scott Griffiths, Steve McNulty (C), Luke Wilkinson, Jonathan Smith, Nathan Doyle (Shaun Whalley 27, Mark Cullen 66), Cameron McGeehan, Ryan Hall (Luke Guttridge 46), Paul Benson, Elliot Lee.
Subs not used: Alex Lacey, Craig King, Jake Howells, Lewis Kinsella.
Referee: Darren Sheldrake.
Booked: McNulty 35.
Sent off: Benson 38.
Attendance: 2,461 (875 Luton).
Hatters MOM: Elliot Justham.