Hatters face replay as Magpies pinch late leveller

FA Trophy first round
Dorchester Town 2 (0) Luton Town 2 (1)

Town’s set-piece hoodoo came back to haunt them again last night as defender Charlie Clough’s last-gasp header for Dorchester denied them victory at the Avenue Stadium, writes Mark Wood.

The visitors had twice led through Neil Martin’s own goal and substitute Stuart Fleetwood’s strike, but the Magpies proved a tough nut to crack and thoroughly deserved their replay which will take place at Kenilworth Road on Tuesday (December 4), just four days after their visit in the FA Cup.

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Victory will earn Luton a trip to Matlock in the second round who beat Mansfield Town 2-1 and the replay means Town’s scheduled televised league fixture at promotion rivals Newport County will have to be rearranged.

Luton’s players and travelling supporters were subject to an horrendous journey on the day, after Saturday’s encounter was postponed just three hours before kick-off for a waterlogged pitch following torrential rain.

Town named an extremely strong side as they were forced into one change from the team that drew 2-2 at Mansfield 10 days before, JJ O’Donnell coming in for midfielder Arnaud Mendy who was ruled out with a knock.

Hatters made the ideal start as they took a first-minute lead as the ball fell to Jonathan Smith on the edge of the box and his shot was parried by keeper Jason Matthews.

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Andre Gray was quickly on to the loose ball, but rather than hitting it first time he tried to take a touch, and defenders Arran Pugh and Martin combined to put it into their own net, Martin credited with the goal.

Soon after Gray broke clear but blasted wide before Matthews’ clearance rebounded off a defender and wide of the post.

Winger Jake Gosling was looking good for the Magpies as the home side fought back and, after he had curled a well-placed free-kick into Mark Tyler’s midriff on 17 minutes, the Luton stopper did well to cut out his dangerous cross.

Dorchester had responded well to going behind and almost levelled on 20 minutes when Ben Watson raced on to Richard Logan’s flick and Tyler turned his low drive round the post.

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The unmarked Clough headed the resulting corner over, while Gray almost got in behind for the Hatters but overran the opportunity.

A superb sliding tackle from Janos Kovacs denied Sam Malsom the chance to shoot midway through the half before Gray flicked wide from Alex Lawless’ cross and then dragged a good chance wide.

More trickery from Gosling resulted in him unleashing a swerving effort well grasped by Tyler before Town passed up a great chance to double their lead on 34 minutes.

O’Donnell released the overlapping Jake Howells whose driven cross into the six-yard box was perfect for Gray but his mishit effort bounced wide as the pacy striker kicked the air in frustration.

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The Magpies were finding it hard to deal with Gray’s lightning speed and after seeing his byline pull-back go begging Howells threaded the livewire striker through but Matthews challenged well at his feet.

Scott Rendell saw his heavily-deflected effort well saved on 53 minutes before another Gray pull-back went begging on 58 minutes.

The Magpies made Town pay as they equalised seconds later. Logan did well to hold a cross up and the ball fell to captain Mark Jermyn on the edge of the box who drove through a crowded area past the unsighted Tyler.

Buoyed by their equaliser Logan raced clear moments later and Tyler did well to parry his drive.

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Fleetwood replaced Gray on 62 minutes, but it was the Magpies who looked the more likely winners.

Tyler palmed Jamie Gleeson’s dangerous cross away from under the bar and when the ball was played back in, Logan could only blaze over.

Howells’ inswinging corner was just about cleared after Matthews had made a hash of his clearance, before Luton retook the lead seconds later with 12 minutes to go.

Howells picked out O’Donnell and he skipped past his man before his cross-shot was perfect for Fleetwood to sweep home from close range.

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Dorchester continued to threaten, Tyler clawing Clough’s 80th-minute header from a corner off the line and sub Jon Choperena-Garcia dragging wide.

The visitors should have sealed victory with eight minutes to go when Fleetwood latched on to Howells’ lobbed ball forward.

He found Rendell and, after the keeper had saved well, the ball broke loose to Lawless but, with the goal gaping, he was somehow beaten to it by Martin who cleared behind in the nick of time.

Three minutes of stoppage time were added and the Magpies grabbed a 92nd-minute equaliser when new Portsmouth loan signing Dan Thompson raced to take a late corner and whipped in the perfect delivery for Clough to force a replay by powering home an unstoppable header.

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Magpies (4-4-2): Jason Matthews, Nathan Walker, Neil Martin, Charlie Clough, Arran Pugh, Jamie Gleeson, Jake Gosling, Mark Jermyn (C), Ben Watson, Richard Logan (Dan Thompson 81), Sam Malsom (Jon Choperena-Garcia 69). Substitutes not used: Jake Smeeton, Lewis Morgan, Nick Crittenden.

Hatters (4-4-2): Mark Tyler, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Janos Kovacs, Alex Lawless (James Dance 86), Scott Rendell, Jake Howells, Simon Ainge, JJ O’Donnell, Jonathan Smith, Ronnie Henry (C), Andre Gray (Stuart Fleetwood 62). Substitutes not used: Dean Beckwith, Dan Walker, Dean Brill.

Referee: Brett Huxtable (Torrington).

Assistant Referees: Peter Lavelle and Mark Lucie.

Fourth Official: Gary Parsons.

Attendance: 688.

Star Hatter: Mark Tyler. Produced several fine saves to deny dangerous Dorchester.