Blue Square Bet Premier: Barrow 1 (1) Luton Town 0 (0)
Woeful Luton’s miserable away form continued as an early defensive error handed Barrow a 1-0 victory at Holker Street this afternoon, writes Mark Wood.
Up-for-it Bluebirds outworked and outfought the Hatters throughout, who only tested the home keeper once on a terrible afternoon as relegation-threatened Barrow recorded only their second home league win of the season.
Home striker Adam Boyes seized on Greg Taylor’s early error to score what turned out to be the winner and Town’s misery was complete in stoppage time as Lathaniel Rowe-Turner was sent off after tussling with the Bluebirds’ goalscorer as former Town defender and Barrow boss David Bayliss put one over on his former club.
Town handed debuts to both of their new signings as they made two changes from the team that shocked Premier League Norwich City in the FA Cup fourth round last week.
Fleetwood capture Steve McNulty came straight into the heart of the Hatters’ defence at the expense of Janos Kovacs, who dropped out of the squad entirely, while former Southend United winger David Martin replaced Jake Howells on the left wing, with the Wales U21 star named on the bench.
Boos rung out for McNulty every time he touched the ball having previously left the Bluebirds for the Cod Army.
And Luton made a terrible start as they handed the home side a fifth-minute lead. Greg Taylor couldn’t handle Danny Hurst’s steepling clearance and could only divert the ball right into the path of the unmarked Boyes who coolly lobbed the ball over the exposed Mark Tyler.
The Hatters looked to respond immediately as Ronnie Henry bulldozed his way into the box but Hurst managed to beat his effort away. The skipper then teased the ball to the far post but a Barrow defender was able to clear behind with Jon Shaw lurking at the far post.
Composure was at premium and when Henry did fire in a decent cross on 23 minutes Martin was first to it at the near post but couldn’t direct his header.
The visitors were struggling to get into the game as Taylor had an effort well blocked, while Danny L Rowe fired well over.
The Hatters did have a great chance to level on 31 minutes when Alex Lawless dinked Gray through but his lobbed finish went well over as the ball landed on the roof of the net.
A collision though between Hurst and Danny O’Donnell led to a prolonged spell of treatment, but both were eventually fine to resume.
Having been living off scraps Andre Gray finally created room on the edge of the box on 43 minutes but could only fire straight at Hurst, while seconds later the Bluebirds should have doubled their lead.
A rare moment of quality from the hosts saw Danny Rowe time his run to perfection as he burst into the box but his effort lacked purchase as Tyler got down well to save.
With Luton struggling to cope with the conditions Barrow finished the half strongly and Town were indebted to Tyler as he came flying off his line to save Boyes’ effort with his feet in the third minute of injury time.
The ineffective Arnaud Mendy was sacrificed at the break as Scott Neilson was introduced on the right wing with Lawless moving into the centre.
Town started the second half brighter, Martin’s early free-kick failing to beat the first man while Neilson’s blast from the edge of the box was well blocked.
Matt Flynn was unable to connect with a dangerous Barrow corner before McNulty survived handball calls from the vociferous home crowd.
Gray wriggled free on the byline but could only blast against the near post, while Neilson and Martin combined with the latter just unable to find Gray at the far post.
However, the Bluebirds still looked lively going forward as Danny Rowe cut inside on 62 minutes but fired at Tyler, before Scott Rendell replaced the ineffective Jon Shaw.
Playing with greater urgency Martin’s testing cross was only cleared as far as Lawless on the edge of the area and his 77th-minute low drive as superbly blocked by Gavin Skelton.
Lawless was booked for a late challenge on Sean McConville after losing out in the middle before Town made their final change as Jake Howells came on for the unfortunate Taylor - but it was Barrow who continued to look the more likely as Jame Owen screwed a shot wide.
And Luton’s miserable afternoon went from bad to worse as Rowe-Turner tussled with Boyes in stoppage time and, after consulting with his assistant, the Luton defender was brandished a straight red card while Boyes was shown just yellow.
The Bluebirds easily saw out the remaining seconds and, although boss Paul Buckle remonstrated with the referee at the final whistle, Town had been beaten by the harder working side.
Bluebirds (4-4-2): Danny Hurst, Matt Flynn, Gavin Skelton, Danny O’Donnell (Sean Hessey 41), Mike Pearson (C), Paul Rutherford, James Owen, Richie Baker, Adam Boyes, Danny L Rowe (Lee McEvilly 89), Danny Rowe (Sean McConville75). Substitutes not used: Shaun Pearson, Alex-Ray Harvey.
Hatters (4-4-2): Mark Tyler, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Greg Taylor (Jake Howells 82), Steve McNulty, Alex Lawless, Jon Shaw (Scott Rendell 70), Arnaud Mendy (Scott Neilson 46), David Martin, Jonathan Smith Ronnie Henry (C), Andre Gray. Substitutes not used: Stuart Fleetwood, JJ O’Donnell.
Referee: A Backhouse.
Assistant Referees: G Fyvie and S Campbell.
Booking: Flynn 67; Lawless 80; Boyes 90+3.
Sent Off: Rowe-Turner 90+2.
Fourth Official: P Brown.
Attendance: 1,188 (Luton 188).
Star Hatter: Mark Tyler. No chance with the goal and made a number of decent saves.