League Two: Cheltenham Town 1 Luton Town 1
Luton Town extended their unbeaten run to six league games, but not in the manner they had hoped for, with a disappointing 1-1 draw at struggling Cheltenham Town this afternoon.
After a first half that ebbed and flowed nicely, both sides then served up a real war of attrition after the break, with a yawning lack of genuine quality on show.
The dreadful Whaddon Road pitch played its part massively in the spectacle on offer though as the surface cut up from the word go, with Hatters boss John Still labelling it as ‘atrocious’ afterwards.
The Luton chief had named an unchanged side for the second game in succession, although fit-again midfielder Alex Lawless made a welcome return to the bench, his first inclusion since the 1-0 win over Northampton on October 25.
Up against a Robins side managed by former Town boss Paul Buckle, Cheltenham opted to play with the low sun behind their backs, looking dangerous on the counter attack, especially when on-loan duo Jack Dunn and Jake Gray were in possession.
They had the first opening too as a poor touch by Luke Wilkinson was seized upon by Dunn and his swerving effort needed a smart save from Mark Tyler.
Striker Jayden Stockley then saw Jonathan Smith’s cross just glanced off his head by Troy Brown, while tricky attacker Dunn, borrowed from Premier League Liverpool, dinked a free kick narrowly past the post.
The hosts conitnued to create the better chances, with Scott Griffiths clearing Craig Braham-Barrett’s dangerous low cross away and Dunn again making room only to scuff off target.
With 21 minutes gone, Cheltenham had the lead, taking full advantage of some more uncharacteristically poor defending by Town as Zack Kotwica tucked home from close range.
To their credit though, Luton bucked their ideas up immediately and were level within 60 seconds.
Andy Drury took aim from outside the box and his shot was weakly pushed out by Trevor Carson straight to Shaun Whalley, who made no mistake, notching a third of the season.
Luton now had the bit between their teeth and went close once more when Jake Howells worked an opening as Drury struck goalwards, only for Carson to redeem himself with a good low stop, before scrambling the ball away from Stockley.
Town threatened again when a corner was swung over and Smith’s effort had to be kicked off the line by home by Gray, while Stockley arrowed off target after a good turn.
Luton had shouts for a penalty when Howells cross struck Kelvin Stewart on the arm, but referee Darren Handley waved the appeals away.
With the game there for the taking, the second half degenerated into a kick and rush affair as neither side could produce any free-flowing football, as the pitch only got worse and worse.
Skipper Steve McNulty tried to be too cute in possession and was robbed by Dunn, who burst away and saw his fierce drive parried by Tyler, with the captain captain holding his hand up to acknowledge a rare error.
Chances remained few and far between as Whalley whistled over, before Still made a double change, bringing Lawless and leading scorer Mark Cullen on for Drury and Howells.
The move finally gave Stockley a partner upfront and the pair combined well, Cullen snatching a volley wide from a promising opening.
Ricky Miller was also introduced for goalscorer Whalley, while Cullen escaped his markers to flick Harriman’s cross over and then shot wide from range as did Smith, with Carson making an easy stop.
Cheltenham won a handful of free kicks in dangerous positions during the closing moments, but to their credit, Hatters held firm at the back, as they made sure they left with a point.
Results elsewhere saw Luton stay in fourth place and although they stayed five points off leaders Wycombe, dropped to four points behind third placed Burton. after Shrewsbury went second by defeating Stevenage.
Robins: Trevor Carson, Craig Braham-Barrett, Matt Taylor (C), Troy Brown, Kane Ferdinand, Matt Richards, Zack Kotwica, Jake Gray, Kevin Stewart, Jack Dunn (Byron Harrison 89), Lloyd Jones.
Subs not used: Lee Vaughan, Terry Gornell, Jack Deaman, Joe Hanks, Omari Sterling-James, Harry Reynolds.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Michael Harriman, Scott Griffiths, Luke Wilkinson, Steve McNulty (C), Nathan Doyle, Jonathan Smith, Andy Drury (Mark Cullen 63), Shaun Whalley (Ricky Miller 69), Jake Howells (Alex Lawless 63), Jayden Stockley.
Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Alex Lacey, Matt Robinson, Alex Wall.
Referee: Darren Handley.
Booked: Kotwica 57, Lawless 82, McNulty 87, Wilkinson 89.
Attendance: 3,611 (Hatters 1,282).
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