Patched up Hatters tumble out of the FA Cup

Michael Harriman
Michael Harriman

FA Cup third round: Cambridge United 2 Luton Town 1

Luton Town were knocked out of the FA Cup at the third round stage after a battling defeat to League Two rivals Cambridge United.

Hatters had fallen 2-0 down just after the hour mark but almost produced a marvellous fight back but Michael Harriman’s first goal at the club proved to be in vain as they couldn’t score again.

After the game needed a late pitch inspection to go ahead due to persistent rain, Town made a surprise to their starting line-up, with five changes to the side from the 1-1 draw with Portsmouth.

Paul Connolly made his first appearance since September 6, while Fraser Franks, Jim Stevenson, Ricky Miller and Jake Howells all came in for Steve McNulty, Shaun Whalley, Scott Griffiths, Luke Rooney and Nathan Doyle.

Jonathan Smith was named captain in place of McNulty, but Cambridge had the better of the early chances through striker Tom Elliott as he glanced a header at Mark Tyler and then curled over.

Hatters threatened on eight minutes when Andy Drury fed Smith and he took aim, with his 20-yarder grazing the outside of the post.

A long range Michael Harriman cross was then met by Howells and Mark Cullen fired goalwards, U’s keeper Chris Dunn saving at point blank range.

The U’s looked threatening whenever left winger Ryan Donaldson was in possession and he cut inside before curling straight at Tyler.

Harriman was called into defensive duties, making a crucial block as ex-Hatter Greg Taylor’s shot looked to have beaten Tyler, with the loose ball hacked to safety.

The on-loan QPR man was then in action at the other end, galloping forward to meet Howells’ cross, forcing Dunn to beat away his header.

On 27 minutes, Cambridge were awarded a penalty when Robbie Simpson’s delightful through ball sent Donaldson clear and he was brought down by Tyler who saw yellow for the offence.

Simpson stepped up himself as Tyler fingertipped his effort on to the post only to see the rebound fall perfectly for Simpson to tuck home, in an almost carbon copy of Cullen’s winner in the league back in September.

Hatters had an opportunity to level immediately as Dunn came and missed another free kick, only to block Smith’s rebound, with Stevenson volleying ambitiously over.

Town then fashioned a fine opportunity when Wilkinson headed Duryr’s corner into the path of Stevenson, only for the midfielder to blaze disappointingly into the stands.

After the break, Hatters fluffed a glorious chance to level moments as some intricate passing saw Cullen feed Harriman and his cross was somehow diverted wide by the onrushing Drury from just two yards out.

Donaldson worked an opening, firing into the side-netting, but Luton looked to have the bit between their teeth as boss John Still brought on Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, who made a welcome return after six weeks out, along with Ross Lafayette.

Stevenson then sent a long ranger straight at Dunn, while Miller glanced wide, before he was replaced by Charlie Walker.

It looked like the game was up on 67 minutes though when Walker lost possession and Donaldson broke from the half way line.

Hatters’ defence backed off and backed off the winger, who needed no invitation to drive into the box and arrow into the bottom corner beyond Tyler.

Lafayette was off target from a decent position, but Hatters did give themselves a fighting chance on 74 minutes when Drury floated a superb cross to the back post when Harriman nodded past Dunn.

Tom Champion sent a breakaway effort at Tyler, but the last 10 minutes were mainly all Luton as they slung ball after ball into the United area.

They came within inches Lafayette released the excellent Harriman and his low cross just evaded Ruddock Mpanzu and then Walker at full stretch

Harriman, who would be an excellent addition during the transfer window, was causing constant problems on the right flank as Dunn only just clung on to another dangerous cross.

However, when Smith could only find the side-netting from another promising position, the game was up for Luton as they will now have to make do with concentrating on a second successive promotion.

United: Chris Dunn, Richard Tait, Greg Taylor, Josh Coulson, Ryan Donaldson (Harrison Dunk 79), Tom Champion (C), Tom Elliott (Ryan Bird 84), Robbie Simpson, Liam Hughes, Michael Nelson, Luke Chadwick (Sullay Kaikai 89).

Subs not used: Will Norris, Ian Miller, Wesley Atkinson, Liam Hurst.

Hatters: Mark Tyler, Paul Connolly (Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu 59), Luke Wilkinson, Fraser Franks, Michael Harriman, Jonathan Smith (C), Jim Stevenson, Andy Drury, Jake Howells, Mark Cullen (Ross Lafayette 59), Ricky Miller (Charlie Walker 65).

Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Alex Lacey, Luke Rooney, Ross Lafayette, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, Matthew Robinson, Charlie Walker.

Referee: Tony Harrington.

Booked: Tyler 26, Miller 34.

Attendance: 7,063 (Luton 1,380).

Hatters MOM: Michael Harriman. Defender was superb on the right flank. Permanent deal would be a real filip for the Hatters.