League Two: Notts County 3 Luton Town 2
Luton Town’s increasingly worrying habit of conceding late goals came back to bite them yet again this afternoon, as they were cruelly defeated in injury time by Notts County.
The visitors looked like they had battled back to earn a point from 2-0 down thanks to goals by Cameron McGeehan and Jonathan Smith.
However, despite looking the stronger side in the closing stages, Town’s defence criminally switched off once more, with Izale McLeod bursting clear only to be bundled over by last man Scott Cuthbert.
The Luton skipper saw red and after Hatters took an age to bring on Steve McNulty for Ryan Hall, it gave Liam Noble all the time in the world to size up his free kick and arrow a superb effort beyond Mark Tyler into the top corner.
It means that in Town’s seven League Two games this season, there has been now already been five stoppage time goals, but annoyingly, four of them entering Luton’s net, making it five points already frittered away.
Manager John Still had named an unchanged side from the 3-1 win at Cambridge last weekend as Town settled the better in the early exchanges, playing some nice one touch football.
It was home striker McLeod who had the first effort of note though, his 20-yard attempt easy enough for Tyler.
Referee Ben Toner made the first of a number of big calls on nine minutes when McLeod broke away and cut inside Stephen O’Donnell, before throwing himself to the ground, with the official deeming it a dive, and brandishing yellow for the County forward.
The decision incensed the home crowd, who continued to barrack Toner throughout, but looked from the sidelines like the correct call.
Craig Mackail-Smith continued where he left off at Cambridge, pestering the visiting defence all afternoon, sprinting on to a long ball forward and drawing a foul from Gill Swerts on the very edge of the box.
The Dutchman picked up a caution and from the set-piece, Danny Green went for goal, forcing veteran Roy Carroll to punch clear, with what was Luton’s only shot on target of the half.
On 26 minutes, the Magpies thought they were ahead when Mackail-Smith gave away a needless free kick deep in his half and from the delivery, Tyler looked to be fouled before the ball was bundled in.
Referee Toner awarded the goal, but the linesman’s flag was raised and despite County celebrating, with the music blaring out, the strike was indeed disallowed.
Ricardo Moniz’s side kept the bit between their teeth though and did break the deadlock on 32 minutes when Hatters couldn’t clear the danger, allowing McLeod to send a perfect downward header beyond Tyler.
Magpies were the attacking force from then on, a whisker away from a second as Genaro Snijders was narrowly wide from 20 yards.
County then made the perfect start to the second period as they broke with real pace after Hatters stopped to admire Olly Lee’s sliding challenge.
The hosts picked up the loose ball and with Scott Griffiths badly failing to cut out the final pass, McLeod went on to show just why County paid six figures for his services, impudently dinking over Tyler.
Boss Still swapped the ineffective Green for Ryan Hall, while Guttridge then hobbled off to be replaced by McGeehan, although Tyler had to be alert to stop Graham Burke making it 3-0 from long range, with Adam Campbell also blazing into the stands.
Luton then gave themselves a lifeline on 71 minutes as Griffiths surged forward on the left, McQuoid and Mackail-Smith combined, as the returning McGeehan turned his shot past Carroll.
Tyler made a vital save to deny Campbell after he had broken into the box, while Town’s 1,600 travelling fans were off their seats again as Hall teed up Smith to drill low into the bottom corner from 25 yards with 14 minutes to go.
With the scores 2-2, County’s defence looking increasingly frail and in danger of capitulating completely, it looked like Luton would go on to secure an unlikely victory, both McQuoid and McGeehan having efforts blocked.
County then saw a second goal disallowed as Graham Burke tapped home at the far post only to see the linesman’s flag once again raised.
Back came Town though, with Mackail-Smith’s angled drive narrowly off target, as time ticked away.
With County looking out on their feet, they summoned one last effort to break Town’s hearts and natch all three points, while it could have ended 4-2 but for the post to deny Julian Jenner’s blast.
Magpies: Roy Carroll (C), Mawouna Amevor (Mike Edwards 85), Haydn Hollis, Genaro Snijders (Julian Jenner 78), Adam Campbell (Liam Noble 84), Graham Burke, Gill Swerts, Jon Stead, Thierry Audel, Stanley Aborah, Izale McLeod.
Subs not used: Scott Loach, Alan Smith, Jimmy Spencer, Curtis Thompson.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Stephen O’Donnell, Scott Griffiths, Scott Cuthbert (C), Luke Wilkinson, Danny Green (Ryan Hall 51, Steve McNulty 90), Olly Lee, Jonathan Smith, Luke Guttridge (Cameron McGeehan 55), Josh McQuoid, Craig Mackail-Smith.
Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Curtley Williams, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, Paddy McCourt.
Referee: Ben Toner
Booked: McLeod 9, Swerts 15, Snijders 28, Green 34, Amevor 44, Burke 88.
Sent off: Cuthbert 90.
Attendance: 5,820 (1,689).
Hatters MOM: Craig Mackail-Smith. Striker ran himself into the ground once more.