League Two: Luton Town 3 Northampton Town 4
Under-fire Luton manager John Still is under increasing pressure after Hatters suffered their second consecutive 4-3 defeat at Kenilworth Road against an impressive Northampton Town this afternoon.
Still endured a barrage of boos at the interval with his side trailing 3-1 after what can only be described as an inept defensive performance in the opening 45 minutes.
The jeers had subsided a little at full time, with Luton shown plenty of fight to battle back to 3-3, but again, their inability to see a game out, saw Cobblers sub Ricky Holmes score with virtually his first touch on 69 minutes.
After the game, Hatters’ board held a very public meeting in the directors box, with chief executive Gary Sweet, vice chairman David Wilkinson and vice president Rob Stringer, three of those involved.
Speaking before the game, Still, who sent out first team coach Hakan Hayrettin to talk to the media afterwards, insisted he wasn’t feeling under any pressure, but that will surely change now, with Luton’s board facing a decision over the weekend about the future of the manager after yet another demoralising home defeat.
The most frustrating thing, apart from the recurring nightmares at the back, was once Holmes put Northampton back in front once more, the hosts showed absolutely no gumption to mount another fight back, with the visitors easing to the top of the table.
Earlier, Hatters made three changes, with Paul Benson back in after his suspension, with Danny Green and Scott Griffiths returning too as Nathan Doyle and Paddy McCourt were injured, while Josh McQuoid dropped to the bench.
It was Benson who broke the deadlock on just 10 minutes too as Green swung a free kick over, with Cobblers defender Zander Diamond bizarrely opting to head it back into the danger area.
Luke Wilkinson jumped highest to nod goalwards and Benson was there to produce an acrobatic overhead volley for his third of the season.
However, Northampton were level on 18 minutes with a truly wonderful free kick routine that was clearly straight from the training field.
Rather than go for goal, 25 yards out, the Cobblers went short, passing their way through Luton’s defence with two touches for John-Joe O’Toole slotting first time beyond Mark Tyler.
From there, the Cobblers looked the better side as Griffiths had to scoop a dangerous cross away from the line.
The visitors had the second goal they had been threatening on 30 minutes too as Marc Richards’ strong pass was wonderfully cushioned off the chest of Alfie Potter for Lawson D’Ath.
With Magnus Okuonghae not putting in any kind of challenge, the striker had all the time in the world to pick his spot past Tyler.
Luton then should have been 3-1 down as Ryan Cresswell’s overhead ran across the hosts’ penalty area and with absolutely no-one picking up Potter, he whacked it into the stands from a matter of yards.
However, if Hatters’ back-line was ponderous for the second goal, it was some truly shambolic on 42 minutes as a corner was never cleared despite a number of opportunities, with Richards tapping in from close range.
Boos rang out from the home stands as Town’s beleaguered players trooped back to the centre circle, while there were further howls of derision as Still walked down the tunnel, with some supporters chanting ‘we are embarrassing.’
The PA announcer cried for Luton’s fans to get behind their side at the start of the second period, but it was almost 4-1 when Okuonghae bafflingly left a cross meaning Long had to chest marginally over his own bar.
The home faithful were back on side again on 52 minutes though when Okuonghae’s magnificent raking crossfield pass was superbly taken in his stride by Lawless whose deflected cross shot was perfect for Benson to make it 3-2.
The saying goals change games was never more apparent as Luton fans started to believe, Lee fizzing one at Smith from distance.
Hatters were back on terms though after 66 minutes when Lawless displayed fine vision to send Mackail-Smith clean through and also he looked to have wasted the chance, was clipped by Cresswell for a penalty.
Green took the ball and made no mistake from the spot, confidently sending Smith the wrong way.
However, any thoughts of a rousing final 25 minutes swiftly subsided as the Cobblers just upped tools once more and went to work.
Luton had warning, O’Toole shooting into the side-netting, while Tyler made a stunning save from D’Ath, palming away his curler.
The pressure proved too great though as Cobblers won it as Holmes came on and with virtually his first touch, found the top corner from 25 yards.
From that point on, despite having three strikers on, with Jack Marriott off the bench, Hatters never seriously looked like equalising once more, as their heads immediately dropped.
D’Ath then tried his own overhead kick on 76 minutes, which Tyler held on to, as Luton looked for an equaliser, as bar the odd pot shot from Green, Town were a beaten side.
With the hosts dropping to 17th in the table, seven points away from the play-offs, the question now is, will Still be in charge the next time Luton take to the field at Exeter on Saturday?
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Sean Long (Ryan Hall 88), Scott Griffiths, Magnus Okuonghae, Luke Wilkinson, Danny Green, Jonathan Smith (C), Olly Lee, Alex Lawless (Jack Marriott 75), Craig Mackail-Smith.
Subs not used: Stephen O’Donnell, Cameron McGeehan, Elliot Justham, Josh McQuoid, Frankie Musonda.
Cobblers: Adam Smith, Brendan Moloney, Zander Diamond, Ryan Cresswell, Lawson D’Ath, Joel Byrom, Marc Richards (C), Nicky Adams (Ricky Holmes 69), Alfie Potter (Jason Taylor 87), David Buchanan, John-Joe O’Toole (Dominc Calvert-Lewis 90).
Subs not used: Josh Lelan, Sam Hoskins, Rod McDonald, Ryan Clarke.
Booked: Magnus Okuonghae.
Attendance: 8,792 (1,032 Cobblers).
Referee: Mike Jones.