Luton Town’s utterly miserable record at Field Mill continued tonight as they missed the chance to climb back into the Sky Bet League Two top three with a 1-0 defeat against struggling Mansfield.
The Hatters have never tasted victory at the home of the Stags in the league, from the very first meeting way back in 1932, a run spanning 12 meetings. Victory would have seen John Still’s side leapfrog Wycombe Wanderers and close the gap on leaders Shrewsbury, but they meekly surrendered their 10 game league unbeaten run.
As expected, Town boss John Still gave Alex Lacey his first start since October, for the suspended Luke Wilkinson, while Jake Howells replaced Nathan Oduwa. On the bench were Andy Parry and Ross Lafayette, recalled from loan spells at Southport and Woking respectively.
In a turgid first half ex-Luton midfielder Simon Heslop shot straight at Mark Tyler, while it took Hatters 17 minutes to register an attempt through Matt Robinson’s wayward volley.
Luton did finally make keeper Lenny Pidgeley work on the half hour as skipper Jonathan Smith beat a man and his low shot was easily palmed behind.
However, from Town’s corner, the visitors ended up somehow falling behind as Mansfield broke on them with devastating ease. Jack Thomas picked up possession out wide, firing over a lovely crossfield ball that beat last man Robinson and with the visitors defence nowhere to be seen, Rakish Bingham blasted confidently past Tyler.
Luton almost went 2-0 down as they were cut open once more, but this time, Junior Brown was denied by a fine Lacey block.
Hatters did fashion one opportunity before the break, as Drury escaped on the right, his looping cross nodded wide at the back post by Howells.
After an insipid opening 45, Still reacted positively by bringing on Shaun Whalley and Oduwa for Robinson and Howells, giving Town the pace to burn on either flank they had been woefully missing.
With a side that it could be argued Luton should have started with, Hatters did have one almighty escape, as Tyler completely misjudged Thomas’ cross and it bounced off the bar and away.
Stockley and Cullen finally combined for the latter to shoot, with Pidgeley holding on. Town’s leading scorer then missed a wonderful chance on 73 minutes, as after doing superbly to chip the ball over his opponent, he tapped wide when faced with just the keeper to beat.
Still threw on Luke Guttridge to try and find an equaliser, but with Mansfield opting to hang on as if they were reduced to 10 men, couldn’t find a way through.
Guttridge did create one last chance for himself, but after Pidgeley parried his shot, the ball went wide to Smith who could only fire into the sidenetting.
Stags: Lenny Pidgeley, Ritchie Sutton, Martin Riley, Ryan Tafazolli, Ricky Ravenhill (C), Simon Heslop (Chris Clements 68), Reggie Lambe (Rakish Bingham 18), Jack Thomas, Junior Brown, Vadaine Oliver (Matt Rhead 85), Callum Elder.
Subs not used: Sascha Studer, Jamie McGuire, Lee Beevers, Billy Kee.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Michael Harriman, Scott Griffiths, Alex Lacey, Fraser Franks, Andy Drury, Matt Robinson (Shaun Whalley 46), Jonathan Smith (C), Jake Howells (Nathan Oduwa 46), Jayden Stockley (Luke Guttridge 68), Mark Cullen.
Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Andy Parry, Ross Lafayette, Ryan Hall.
Referee: Kevin Johnson.
Booked: Drury 90, Thomas 90.
Attendance: 2,998 (Luton 801)
Hatters MOM: Andy Drury. Possessed the slight flashes of quality that were on display from the visitors.