Hylton off but Hatters hit back to draw with Sunderland
League One: Sunderland 1 Luton Town 1
Luton Town picked up an excellent point at fellow promotion-chasers Sunderland this afternoon as they bounced back from the shock departure of manager Nathan Jones in the week.
The Hatters players, who would have been clearly shocked when former boss Jones opted to leave Kenilworth Road for Stoke City on Wednesday, produced a performance full of guts, determination and no little skill, as they fully deserved their draw, and could be slightly disappointed not to come away with all three.
It had looked like the visitors were all set up to push for the victory once James Collins brought them level from the penalty spot on 68 minutes, only for Danny Hylton's red card soon afterwards to hinder their chances, as they saw off a barrage of late Sunderland pressure to stretch their unbeaten league run to 14 matches.
Interim boss Mick Harford made one change to the side that drew with Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup last weekend, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu coming in for Luke Berry.
The Hatters made a fine start, looking to have suffered no ill effects from the events in the week, as they settled quickly to their grand surroundings.
Elliot Lee fired narrowly wide from range, before James Justin's dangerous free kick was blocked by the legs of Jon McLaughlin who then made a fine sprawling save from Andrew Shinnie's measured 20-yarder.
However, the Hatters found themselves behind on 16 minutes when Hylton ran into trouble when trying to clear the ball, gifting possession back to the hosts, and after Lynden Gooch's effort was charged down by Alan McCormack, Chris Maguire beat James Shea from just inside the box.
Town almost drew level instantly when a lovely move on the left saw Shinnie find Elliot Lee on the overlap.
He pulled the ball back for Collins, who must have thought the net was going to ripple, but for McLaughlin to somehow stick out a glove and paw his close range attempt away, also repelling Mpanzu's follow up too.
After the break, Hatters saw James Justin's inswinging corner hit the bar and bounce behind, before the defender had another fine opportunity on 56 minutes, picked out by Shinnie's pass in behind broke, but impeded slightly by team-mate Hylton, fired over.
The Hatters then won a penalty on 68 minutes when Collins' 25 yarder cannoned off the inside of the post and Hylton picked up the rebound, cutting inside his marker, brought down by Tom Flanagan in the act of shooting.
Referee Lee Probert, who already hadn't endeared himself to the home fans, thought about it, before awarding the spotkick and Collins held his nerve to confidently make no mistake, hammering his effort past McLaughlin.
Just as they looked like they could go and win it, Town were hit with another moment of apparent indiscipline from striker Hylton.
Going up for an aerial challenge with Jack Baldwin, he was shown a straight red card by Probert, his second dismissal of the season already.
That saw Luton then have to batten down the hatches for the final 15 minutes, although they were almost breached, Aiden McGeady's swerving blast beating Shea but crashing against the bar, Charlie Wyke heading the rebound over.
Despite having a numerical disadvantage, Luton remained a threat, the excellent Jack Stacey setting off on a long busting and pressure relieving run, Shinnie winning a free kick that was cleared to him, firing an effort on target that McLaughlin punched over.
From the resulting corner, Justin's ball back in saw substitute Luke Berry volley narrowly over.
Late on, the hosts pumped cross after cross into the box, with sub Benjamin Mbunga-Kimpioka heading straight at Shea while Max Power hammered over from 25 yards.
In stoppage time, the hosts were also reduced to 10 men as Maguire fouled McCormack, Probert dismissing the home player and cautioning Town's midfielder.
Wyke headed Sunderland's final chance, as Town's players and Harford went to the 3,000 plus away fans as one, celebrating their point and a hugely positive end to a highly turbulent week.
Black Cats: Jon McLaughlin, Chris Maguire, Dylan McGeouch, Charlie Wyke, Lynden Gooch (Benjamin Mbunga-Kimpioka 79), Tom Flanagan, Luke O'Nien, Jack Baldwin, Reece James (Bryan Oviedo 87), Aiden McGeady (C), Max Power.
Subs not used: Robbin Rutter, Adam Matthews, Alim Ozturk, James Dunne, Bali Mumba,
Hatters: James Shea, Jack Stacey, James Justin, Matty Pearson, Sonny Bradley (C), Alan McCormack, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Andrew Shinnie, Elliot Lee (Luke Berry 79), James Collins, Danny Hylton.
Subs: Harry Isted, Lloyd Jones, Alan Sheehan, Kazenga LuaLua, Dan Potts, George Thorne.
Booked: Flanagan 43, Lee 45, Shinnie 62, James 75, Collins 80, McCormack 90.
Sent off: Hylton, Maguire 90.
Referee: Lee Probert.
Attendance: 37,791 (3,081 Luton).