League Two: Luton Town 0 Shrewsbury Town 0
Luton Town were held to a goalless draw by fellow promotion chasers Shrewsbury Town in front of the Sky cameras at Kenilworth Road this evening.
Try as they might, the Hatters just couldn’t break down the division’s second most miserly team, even when the visitors had to play the last 20 minutes with 10 men after Nathaniel Knight-Percival was dismissed.
Shrews keeper Jayson Leutwiler proved impregnable all evening, particularly after the sending off as he made a sharp stop from team-mate Connor Goldson’s deflection, plus reacting well to deny Town sub Shaun Whalley, as although Luton climbed to fourth, they were left ultimately frustrated.
Hatters had handed new loan signing Jayden Stockley an instant debut after he joined from AFC Bournemouth on Wednesday, with leading scorer Mark Cullen dropped to the bench.
The forward was one of five changes as captain Steve McNulty, Scott Griffiths, Nathan Doyle and Luke Rooney all came back in for Paul Connolly, Jim Stevenson, Fraser Franks and Ricky Miller.
Town went into the game looking to arrest an awful record from televised games as from their previous 11 broadcast live, they had picked up just one win, with three draws and seven defeats.
John Still’s side almost made a superb start as a lovely interchange saw Stockley slip Jake Howells through but his low right footer hit the base of the post, with the rebound just evading Andy Drury.
New addition Stockley gave a sighter of his potential, taking Rooney’s cross on his chest and volleying over the bar from outside the box.
Although Shrewsbury looked to dominate possession, with tricky midfielder Ryan Woods catching the eye, Hatters were creating the better chances as Scott Griffiths’ volley into the ground produced a decent block from Leutwiler.
The rebound was worked to Drury whose curler drew a save for the watching audience around the world by the Shrews stopper, opting to spectacularly palm it behind.
Shrews midfielder James Wesolowski was then allowed to run and run by the home defence and his shot was charged down by McNulty with Mark Tyler gathering.
Luton wrested the initiative back though as Griffiths showed good strength to win the ball from his opponent, teeing up Drury for a shot that was deflected behind.
For all their intricate passing, Shrews’ never once got to see the whites of Tyler’s eyes in the first period, James Collins well wide from distance.
After the break, Stockley continued to show just why Still had been tracking him this season, sending an overhead narrowly off target, as he continued to lead the line manfully.
Liam Lawrence’s fizzer had Tyler worried for a while until it veered behind and the Luton stopper then had to back-pedal swiftly before tipping over Collins’ cross-shot that threatened to drop underneath the bar.
Leutiler then took to the air once more to punch Michael Harriman’s cross away from danger as Town fans were left irate by some dubious calls made by officlal James Adcock, with a deafening cheer as Nathaniel Knight-Percival saw yellow for a foul on Jonathan Smith.
When the Shrews defender repeated the offence moments later, he was shown a second caution and had to depart, leaving his side with 20 minutes still to play.
Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro put his head down and set off on a mazy run only to punt well over as Luton threw on Shaun Whalley and then Miller.
It was Whalley who had the greater impact, sneaking round the back and delivering a low cross that hit Mark Ellis and was inches away from creeping in at the far post.
Whalley was at it again shortly afterwards, as he got to the byline and saw his cross deflect goalwards off Connor Goldson, only for Leutwiler’s reactions saving his defender.
The substitute then went it along, cutting inside and firing low, but there was no way past Leutwiler, and when he displayed exemplary handing to Stockley’s bouncing effort, the spoils were shared.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Michael Harriman, Scott Griffiths (Ricky Miller 79), Luke Wilkinson, Steve McNulty (C), Nathan Doyle, Jonathan Smith, Andy Drury, Luke Rooney (Shaun Whalley 64), Jake Howells, Jayden Stockley.
Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Fraser Franks, Mark Cullen, Matt Robinson, Charlie Walker.
Shrews: Jayson Leutwiler, Mickey Demetriou, Ryan Woods, Mark Ellis, Connor Goldson, James Collins, Liam Lawrence (C), Cameron Gayle, James Wesolowski, Nathaniel Knight-Percival, Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro (Bobby Grant 89).
Subs not used: Jermaine Grandison, Scott Vernon, Anthony Griffith, Andy Mangan, Mark Halstead, Jordan Clark
Referee: James Adcock.
Booked: Wilkinson 38, Knight-Percival 65, Smith 88.
Sent off: Knight-Percival 69.
Attendance: 7,666 (Shrews 177)
Hatters MOM: Jayden Stockley. Faded as the game wore on, but made a real impression during the first half.