League Two: Luton Town 0 Stevenage 1
A dubious late penalty condemned Luton Town to yet another shocking result at Kenilworth Road this afternoon, as they were beaten by struggling Stevenage.
With just five minutes to go, Olly Lee lost possession inside his own half allowing visiting attacker Ben Kennedy a run at goal.
The midfielder recovered to track Boro’s attacker into the area, before Kennedy threw himself over Lee’s trailing leg to win the decision from official Darren Handley, who really should have been wiser to the offence.
However, he whistled for a spotkick, which Michael Tonge took, expertly beating Jonathan Mitchell and finding the corner of the net, as Hatters suffered a ninth defeat in front of their own supporters this term.
Although the manner in which they were beaten was a bone of contention, in truth Luton didn’t deserve anything from the afternoon, as they laboured from start to finish, producing a display that boss Nathan Jones admitted left him feeling ‘sick to his stomach’ with afterwards.
The Town chief made three changes to their side, bringing in Paddy McCourt, Olly Lee and Joe Pigott as Paul Benson and Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu dropped to the bench, with Magnus Okuonghae missing out completely.
Stevenage had former Hatters Luke Wilkinson, Ronnie Henry and Fraser Franks in their side, while Aaron O’Connor was on the bench and ex-assistant Terry Harris in the dug out as well.
Wilkinson could consider himself lucky not to concede an early penalty, catching Jack Marriott with a reckless high boot inside the area, but nothing was given.
Luton then struggled to get hold of the ball in the opening exchanges, with Stevenage settling far quicker until McCourt ran across the edge of the box and found the unmarked Marriott who blasted over the top.
It was the visitors who always looked the more likely though, with Luton gifting possession away in their own half on an alarming number of occasions.
From one such indiscretion, Jonathan Smith had his pocket picked by Bradley Pritchard who fed Greg Luer, the striker dragging wide of the bottom corner when faced by Jonathan Mitchell.
From then on, the half degenerated into a desperately tedious affair, as Luton meandered with the ball, constantly going backwards, while any attacking moves were over-hit and easily gobbled up by visiting keeper Jamie Jones.
Anything that could be described as an opportunity went the way of Stevenage too, Luer’s shot easy for Mitchell, as all Boro custodian Jones needed to do was gather Marriott’s deflected cross.
Such was the frustration creeping over from the terraces, Lee tried his luck from fully 30 yards, hammering well over as Luton stretched their unwanted record to eight games without a first half goal at Kenilworth Road.
After the break, Luton appeared, at least for the opening 10 minutes, to have been sent out with some harsh words from Jones ringing in their ears, mustering an attempt to try and get on the front foot for once.
They were inches away from an opening goal too, Alan Sheehan cutting in from the flank and curling a lovely effort beyond Jones, only to see the crossbar prevent him from breaking the deadlock.
The newfound positivity was catching as McCourt rifled a half volley narrowly wide and then Marriott tested Jones low down, the keeper fielding comfortably.
However, it soon tailed off, with Kennedy going close twice in the space of a minute though, shooting wide once, before picking up possession after Mitchell’s clearance rebounded off his own player and whistling milimetres wide.
Luton were then forced into a reshuffle as after bringing on Josh McQuoid and Danny Green, skipper Scott Cuthbert went off injured, meaning Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu took over at right back, O’Donnell moved to left and Alan Sheehan partnered Glen Rea.
McQuoid just failed to turn in Green’s low cross with his first tough, while the winger, who endured a tough half an hour, then fired hopefully straight at Jones from distance.
Despite the lacklustre nature of their performance, Luton created the best opening on 75 minutes as Marriott was sent clean through, but with McGeehan unmarked and waiting to ponce, opted to go for goal, finding Jones’ outstretched arms.
Stevenage heeded the warning and after weathering the slightest amount of pressure, broke away to win the penalty, which Tonge made no mistake from.
There was no chance a shell-shocked Luton were ever coming back from the hammer blow as their passing fell to pieces in the latter stages, as they miles away from a team who had harboured an outside chance of reaching the play-offs this term.
Hatters: Jonathan Mitchell, Stephen O’Donnell, Alan Sheehan, Scott Cuthbert (C Pelly Ruddovk Mpanzu 66), Glen Rea, Jonathan Smith, Olly Lee, Cameron McGeehan, Paddy McCourt (Danny Green 62), Joe Pigott (Josh McQuoid, Jack Marriott.
Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Alex Lawless, Josh McQuoid, Danny Green, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, Zane Banton.
Bees: Jamie Jones, Luke Wilkinson, Fraser Franks, Greg Luer, Michael Tonge, Dean Parrett (Dale Gorman 78), Dean Wells, Ronnie Henry (C), Bradley Pritchard, Jake Mulraney (Charlie Adams 53), Ben Kennedy.
Subs not used: Chris Whelpdale, Aaron O’Connor, Tom Pett, Chris Day, Jerome Okimo.
Attendance: 8,502 (347 Boro).
Booked: McCourt 16, Mulraney 47.
Referee: Darren Handley.