League Two: Luton Town 1 Mansfield Town 0
Luton Town are finally are off to winning ways at Kenilworth Road in League Two after Craig Mackail-Smith’s penalty was enough to beat Mansfield Town this afternoon.
The Hatters striker won the spot-kick himself just before the hour mark, latching on to Paddy McCourt’s magnificent through ball and being clearly pulled back by Ryan Tafazolli as he shaped to shoot.
How the Stags man was only shown yellow by official Kevin Johnson remains bewildering though, with Tafazolli easily the last man, and just one in a number of baffling decisions made throughout by the poor set of officials.
Mansfield were ultimately punished though, with Mackail-Smith dusting himself down to hammer past Brian Jensen from 12 yards for his third goal of the season as Town survived another late onslaught to secure a hugely welcome three points.
Hatters had made three changes for the clash, with Steve McNulty replacing the suspended Scott Cuthbert, Cameron McGeehan in for Luke Guttridge, while Paddy McCourt was given the nod over Danny Green.
The hosts started off playing some decent football and a neat Cameron McGeehan ball saw Stephen O’Donnell flying down the right flank, whose cross was deflected into the path of Jonathan Smith,the midfielder’s low shot drawing a fine save from Brian Jensen.
However, Hatters were then indebted to a fine save from Mark Tyler, a theme that was to become recurrent, as when McNulty slipped, he was off his line in a flash to deny Matt Green.
The half hour mark of a quiet opening then saw a flash point of sorts as Luke Wilkinson fell to the floor in an off the ball incident with Green, and furiously intimated to the officials he had been elbowed.
However, both referee or linesman were clearly not of the same opinion, as the Stags forward went unpunished, with the hush quickly returning to Kenilworth Road.
Luton were then left fuming at the linesman for denying them a world class opener as McQuoid’s cross was met by a simply stunning overhead volley from Mackail-Smith that flew past Jensen, only to see a raised flag cruelly cut short his celebrations.
After the break, Luton were thankful to Tyler once more for keeping the scores level as an incisive Stags break saw Craig Westcarr racing away. The Luton stopper got just enough to block the shot, before managing to grab the rebound as it threatened to trickle over the line.
With McCourt in the role of quarter back, and Mackail-Smith on the same wavelength, the pair combined perfectly to break the deadlock on 58 minutes, although after Town’s supporters celebrations had died down, they remained irked it wasn’t 11 versus 10.
Stags weren’t a beaten side though as Tyler collected Westcarr’s low attempt, although Wilkinson could have given his side some vital breathing space, lashing over from inside the area.
The Stags were a danger from distance as well, Jack Thomas’ volley flying inches wide with Tyler appearing to get a crucial touch as the ball looked to fly into the far corner
Luton, as they have previously done in home games, started to retreat further and further into their own half, giving the home support kittens, although they could have the game safe as O’Donnell finally delivered a decent cross and McGeehan stooped to head over.
The final 10 minutes saw Mansfield throw everything at their hosts, with Tyler called upon to brave block from Adi Yussuf as Luton’s defence parted far too easily.
A marvellous intervention from O’Donnell also kept the visitors at bay, as they subjected Town to an aerial bombardment. Led by skipper McNulty though, it eventually came to nothing as Luton could celebrate a first clean sheet of the campaign, and more importantly, a first home victory.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Stephen O’Donnell, Scott Griffiths, Steve McNulty(C), Luke Wilkinson, Olly Lee, Jonathan Smith, Paddy McCourt (Alex Lawless 90), Josh McQuoid (Danny Green 80), Cameron McGeehan (Mark O’Brien 86), Craig Mackail-Smith.
Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Ryan Hall, Curtley Williams, Jack Marriot.
Magpies: Brian Jensen, Malvind Benning, Mitch Rose (Adi Yussuf 77), Krystian Pearce, Adam Chapman, Chris Clements (Jack Thomas 44), Matt Green, Craig Westcarr, Nathan Thomas (Reggie Lambe 53), Ryan Tafazolli, Nicky Hunt (C).
Subs not used: Liam Marsden, Lee Collins, Matty Blair, Jamie McGuire.
Referee: Kevin Johnson.
Booked: Hunt 25, Smith 33, J Thomas 46, Tafazolli 58.
Attendance: 7,939 (262 Stags)
Hatters MOM: Mark Tyler - rewarded for some crucial saves with a first clean sheet of the season.