League Two: Cheltenham Town 1 Luton Town 1
Luton Town stretched their unbeaten run to three games with a 1-1 draw against Cheltenham Town this afternoon.
Although never quite at their best against a direct Robins side, whose tactic of going long to the likes of Danny Wright was evident all afternoon, Hatters had given themselves a great chance of victory, going ahead early in the second half through Danny Hylton’s sixth goal of the season.
But despite manager Nathan Jones warning his side about Cheltenham’s threat from set-plays, with over 50 per cent of their strikes coming from such a manner this term, they couldn’t deal with a dangerous corner, as Daniel O’Shaughnessy levelled midway through the second period, to earn what was a deserved point.
Boss Nathan Jones made three changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Hartlepool, with as expected, Hylton came back into the side following his one game ban, while defender Scott Cuthbert made a heroic return from being stretchered off in a neck brace the previous weekend against Doncaster to lead the Town back-line.
Jordan Cook was also recalled, as Akin Famewo, Alex Gilliead and Jake Gray all dropped to the bench.
The hosts came close early on when former Hatter Asa Hall fashioned a shooting chance inside the area, his effort deflecting off Dan Potts and behind
Cheltenham enjoyed the best of the early moments too, O’Shaughnessy glanced wide from a corner, while Jack Munns put his effort too close to Christian Walton.
The visitors finally created a decent opening, when after working the ball wide with some neat interchanges, James Justin’s cross deflected into the path of Hylton, who could only miscue his volley wide.
Town’s worrying habit of allowing Cheltenham too much space in which to deliver their numerous crosses, particularly from the right hand side, almost cost them as the towering Wright rose highest to direct a header narrowly off target.
On 37 minutes, they finally tested Walton, Hall taking aim from 25 yards and his rasping daisy cutter drew a fine stop from the keeper at full stretch.
After failing to even remotely test home stopper Russell Griffiths in the opening period, Luton were then ahead with their first effort on target after just seven minutes of the second half.
A good move out of defence saw Hylton played in wide on the right and he showed terrific feet to nutmeg Aaron Downes, then delightfully sidestep the onrushing Griffiths, and with the goal at his mercy, gleefully fire into the open net.
Luton almost had a second moments later as an inventive training ground free kick routine saw Jack Marriott dummy Cook’s low ball in, with McGeehan side-footing inches wide.
The Robins levelled on 63 minutes though, as Town’s long search for a clean sheet stretched to seven games, with a strike that came about from a corner needlessly conceded by Cuthbert, and after having two bites of the cherry, O’Shaughnessy fired in.
Hylton almost put Luton swiftly back in front, but didn’t quite have the pace to make the most of Downes’ weak back header, with Griffiths out to smother at his feet.
The Robins, with the likes of the towering Harry Pell and Wright, remained a constant threat whenever the ball was launched into the box, as Pell flipped a header over the top, while Cheltenham brought on another ex-Hatter in striker Amari Morgan-Smith.
Hall’s curling attempt from range was only narrowly over the top, as Hatters then brought on Jonathan Smith for his 150th appearance in a Luton shirt, replacing Marriott with 14 minutes to go.
Had the striker remained on the pitch, he may have been in the perfect position to pounce when McGeehan’s free kick was fumbled by Griffiths, but as it was, no visiting player was there to turn in the loose ball.
With time ticking away, Luton were continually under the pump aerially and Hall almost grabbed a late winner, denied by a crucial touch from the outstretched glove of Walton.
Olly Lee took it upon himself to try and grab the glory too, fizzing an effort that Griffiths fielded low down, while Smith had a sighter, his angled volley flying into the Town fans behind the goal.
The result saw Luton drop out of the top three once more, as they fell to fourth place, leapfrogged by Doncaster and Carlisle.
Robins: Russell Griffiths, Jack Barthram, Aaron Downes (C), Harry Pell, Billy Waters (Amari Morgan-Smith 74), Danny Wright, Jack Munns (James Dayton 81), Asa Hall, Jordan Cranston, Daniel O’Shaughnessy, Rob Dickie.
Subs not used: Daniel Parslow, Calum Kitscha, Danny Whitehead, Easah Suliman, Jonny Smith.
Hatters: Christian Walton, James Justin, Dan Potts, Scott Cuthbert, Alan Sheehan, Olly Lee, Jordan Cook, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu (Alex Gilliead 82), Cameron McGeehan, Danny Hylton, Jack Marriott (Jonathan Smith 76).
Subs not used: Craig King, Stephen O’Donnell, Josh McQuoid, Akin Famewo, Alex Gilliead, Jake Gray.
Bookings: Cuthbert 43, Waters 56, Downes 77, Pell 81.
Referee: Trevor Kettle.
Attendance: 3,660 (923 Luton).