Walton's stunning late penalty save earns Hatters a point
League Two: Notts County 0 Luton Town 0
Keeper Christian Walton made a superb late penalty save to ensure Luton Town left Meadow Lane with their unbeaten record in tact after a goalless draw at Notts County this afternoon.
With just six minutes remaining, visiting captain Scott Cuthbert was declared guilty of holding in the area by referee Michael Salisbury, who awarded a hotly disputed spot kick.
After the ensuing arguments died down, sub Vadaine Oliver stepped up from 12 yards, only to see the Luton stopper stick out a left glove and somehow divert his attempt behind for a corner, with plenty of home supporters already celebrating the goal.
Walton's late heroics also ensured that Hatters picked up a first league clean sheet since their 3-0 win at Cambridge United on August 27, some nine games ago.
Defeat would have been harsh on the visitors who had been the dominant force in the first period, before keeping County at arms length after the break, only really coming under concerted pressure in the last 20 minutes, as the Magpies went direct to their front-line.
However, hang on they did, to remain fourth in the table, staying just three points behind Doncaster Rovers going into what is now a mini break from league action, with an FA Cup trip to Exeter next week.
Hatters boss Nathan Jones had made two changes to the side ahead of kick-off, with Danny Hylton straight back in after his suspension, while Johnny Mullins replaced Dan Potts, as Alan Sheehan moved over to the left back berth on his return to the club he had previously captained.
Luton made an impressive start in the opening forays, looking confident in possession and forcing the early initiative, often nipping possession back high up the pitch.
One excellent dart run from deep by the ever classy Alex Gilliead on 11 minutes saw him spin past a couple of home players during a driving run, the ball eventually making its way to Jordan Cook who hooked over the top.
County, who hadn't created a great deal early on, did muster a fine chance after 19 minutes when Jonathan Forte's low cross saw Mullins produce a brilliant interception at full stretch to stop Aaron Collins scoring, the striker also firing wide when Walton prevented the ball from running out.
Midway through the half, Luton's latest inventive corner routine saw Cook and Jack Marriott exchange passes, as Cook picked out Hylton, who got it totally wrong on this occasion, skewing his effort back from where it came for a throw.
Luton did test Adam Collin moments later, when Stephen O'Donnell's deep cross was flicked on by Hylton for Gilliead, who took a touch before shooting low at the keeper from 15 yards.
Glen Rea then put in one bone-crunching, perfectly legitimate challenge to bring the game to life, while he soon won the ball more conventionally, sending Cook away, but his cross gave Hylton too much to do, ambitiously heading wide.
Rea did see yellow for another tackle, before with 10 minutes to go until half time, he kept the scores at 0-0 with a truly wonderful goal-line clearance, sticking out a leg to turn Collins' far post header away, just when it was destined to creep into the corner of the net.
Luton recovered to carve another opportunity of their own, Gilliead advancing with purpose to slip in Marriott, the striker's first touch taking him too wide as he couldn't hit the target.
Town's intricate approach almost paid dividends too, Gilliead and McGeehan combining brilliantly to set up Marriott who side-stepped his man and from 20 yards, wasn't that far away.
On the stroke of half time, Hatters missed a glorious chance to move in front as Sheehan's free kick was met by Rea at the back post, only for Hylton to fail to convert from three yards out.
After the break, County's Rodman daisycutter forced Walton to handle smartly, while Carl Dickinson's cross was flicked over the bar by home sub Michael O'Connor, part of a double switch with Oliver.
Forte wasn't a million miles away from distance, with Luton never quite able to replicate their first half dominance of the ball, their best moment coming on the hour as Marriott sent an angled blast into the stands.
The hosts then started to come into the game more with Oliver and O'Connor upfront, often bypassing the midfield to hit their front two, as Cuthbert and Mullins needed their wits about them, the latter doing just enough to make Walton's stop from Forte easier than it might have been.
Jones opted to swap Marriott for Olly Lee with 15 minutes remaining, as Luton switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation, but all they could really create was McGeehan's overly ambitious 30-yard free kick cannoning into the wall.
Then came the frantic final last 10 minutes though as County forced a succession of corners, the last seeing Cuthbert penalised, with Walton coming to the rescue.
It was almost instantly in vain though, as the following set-piece reached Dickinson, all alone, but from a matter of yards, he couldn't win it, heading against the bar, as both sides had to make do with a stalemate.
County: Adam Collin, Carl Dickinson (C), Richard Duffy, Haydn Hollis, Jonathan Forte, Rob Milsom, Louis Laing, Jordan Richards, Alex Rodman, Adam Campbell (Vadaine Oliver 56), Aaron Collins (Michael O'Connor 56).
Subs not used: Scott Loach, Matt Tootle, Alan Smith, Elliott Hewitt, Graham Burke.
Hatters: Christian Walton, Stephen O'Donnell, Alan Sheehan, Scott Cuthbert (C), Johnny Mullins, Glen Rea, Alex Gilliead (Pelly Ruddock-Mpanzu 85), Cameron McGeehan (Isaac Vassell 90), Jordan Cook, Danny Hylton, Jack Marriott (Olly Lee 74).
Subs not used: Craig King, Jonathan Smith, Dan Potts, Jake Gray.
Bookings: Rea 34, Hylton 55, Duffy 57, Hollis 77, Milsom 88.
Referee: Michael Salisbury.
Attendance: 6,313 (2,033 Luton).
Hatters MOM: Alex Gilliead.