Hatters held after letting lead slip at table-toppers

Jordan Cook celebrates his goal at Doncaster Rovers this afternoon
Jordan Cook celebrates his goal at Doncaster Rovers this afternoon

League Two: Doncaster Rovers 1 Luton Town 1

Luton Town came within 10 minutes of ending Doncaster Rovers' lengthy unbeaten run at the Keepmoat Stadium this afternoon as they had to settle for a point in this hard-fought but totally absorbing encounter.

It had looked like the visitors were going to make further inroads into the top three after Jordan Cook's classy angled finish on 53 minutes put them in front.

Hatters were then repelling most of what the hosts had to throw at them, until crucially switching off for a moment thinking they were to be awarded a free kick for a foul on Cook, only for referee Darren Deadman to way play on.

Rovers then moved the ball inside full back Stephen O'Donnell and sub Alfie May raced clear to slot through the legs of Matt Macey for the equaliser.

Results elsewhere saw Town slip five points behind third placed Carlisle who won at Wycombe, although next week's opponents Plymouth stayed eight points above, held on their travels at struggling Hartlepool.

Luton chief Nathan Jones made three changes to his side, as back in came the rested Jonathan Smith and Scott Cuthbert, with Cook fit enough to return, as Luke Gambin and Lawson D'Ath dropped to the bench, Johnny Mullins missing out completely.

A game which was short on clear-cut goalscoring chances, was nonetheless an engrossing encounter, with a number of subplots, none more so than Danny Hylton's running battle with the home defenders and supporters throughout.

Tommy Rowe put an early header over at the far post after some fine wing play from Matty Blair, who had got the better of Jack Senior.

Luton's threats were few and far between early on, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu wasting a marvellous break with an overhit pass, which was to be the only slight annoyance of Hatters' final third play.

Rowe's deflected effort only narrowly cleared the bar and from the resulting corner, Andy Butler stuck out a leg, with Matt Macey having to grab the loose ball on his line.

With Craig Alcock stopping another Town attack in its tracks, James Coppinger then went close on 19 minutes, dragging wide from 20 yards.

Rovers looked a threat whenever Blair had space on the wing and it needed a fine intervention from Cuthbert to prevent Andy Williams from turning in a dangerous delivery from the right.

Luton's best chance fell on 29 minutes as Cook volleyed Vassell into space on, but with the angle against him and Ian Lawlor rushing out, he couldn't steer his shot on target.

After the interval, Coppinger initiated a good break to find Williams, whose curler didn't have enough bend on it.

The deadlock was broken on 53 minutes, when a prostrate Hylton did magnificently well to win the ball back from deep inside his own half.

He tricked his way past two players and set off at pace, finding Vassell, who slid Cook through, the recalled midfielder spanking an angled drive beyond Lawlor for his third strike in six games, sending the 1,619 fans behind the goal into raptures.

Rowe tried for an instant response, volleying wide from 20 yards, as it looked like Hatters were doing more than enough to keep the hosts at arms length, Glen Rea sweeping up diligently in front of the back four, while both centre halves Cuthbert and Alan Sheehan were simply magnificent, especially aerially.

However, with 10 minutes to go, the visitors hesitated, waiting for Deadman's whistle and when it wasn't blown, May burst clear to level.

Luton created one last decent opening in stoppage time, Smith teeing up Rea who sliced wide, and the visitors might have unjustly won it as ex-Town attacker Gary McSheffrey fired waywardly wide, while Middleton's effort was gathered by Macey too.

Rovers: Ian Lawlor, Niall Mason (Gary McSheffrey 77), Andy Butler, Craig Alcock, Matty Blair, Jordan Houghton (Harry Middleton 60), Conor Grant, Tommy Rowe, James Coppinger (C), Andy Williams (Alfie May 70), John Marquis.

Subs not used: Ross Etheridge, Joe Wright, Paul Keegan, Gary McSheffrey, Cedric Evina.

Hatters: Matt Macey, Stephen O'Donnell, Jack Senior, Scott Cuthbert (C), Alan Sheehan, Glen Rea, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Jonathan Smith, Jordan Cook (Luke Gambin 87), Isaac Vassell (Ollie Palmer 77), Danny Hylton.

Subs not used: Stuart Moore, Lawson D'Ath, Jack Marriott, Olly Lee, James Justin.

Booked: Butler 15, Rea 66.

Attendance: 7,506 (1,619 Luton).

Referee: Darren Deadman.

Hatters MOM: Scott Cuthbert. Skipper was simply outstanding once more.