Hatters hang on for a point against table-topping Cambridge United
Skrill Premier: Luton Town 0 (0) Cambridge United 0 (0)
Another battling and dogged performance from Luton saw them extend their unbeaten league run to four with a goalless home draw against table-topping Cambridge United at Kenilworth Road today, writes Mark Wood.
Both sides had chances to win it, especially in the first half, with Town stopper Mark Tyler pulling off several crucially important stops to help earn Luton a point.
Town kept the same side that had battled to a goalless draw at Forest Green Rovers on Saturday as a noisy Kenilworth Road welcomed both teams, with former Hatters manager Richard Money barracked by some home supporters.
But it was the visitors that threatened first in an open start when the ball was pulled back from the byline on five minutes and found the onrushing Richard Tait but Tyler saved well at his feet.
At the other end Jon Shaw and Mark Cullen combined well as Andre Gray thrashed wide from an acute angle.
It was the visitors though who were looking the more dangerous as Steve McNulty’s defensive block header fell straight to Nathan Arnold who could only find the side netting.
And the U’s were given a massive slice of luck when the offside-looking Arnold was waved on as he raced clean through on goal only for Tyler to recover brilliantly and save at his feet as the striker tried to go round him.
It was a breathless start in sweltering conditions as Town were inches away from taking the lead themselves on 11 minutes when Shaun Whalley teased a cross into Shaw and he laid the ball off to Luke Guttridge who dragged just wide of the far post.
You couldn’t take your eyes away from the game for fear of missing something as Arnold had a fierce drive well blocked by Ronnie Henry and Whalley was just unable to find Gray as the pair made a lightning break from a corner.
Ex-Hatter Greg Taylor was booked for a foul on Gray, before Harrison Dunk’s cross-shot was straight at Tyler and Gray could only head Whalley’s cross at Chris Maxwell.
Welsh U21 Jake Howells was brought on for Cullen on 31 minutes to give the Hatters more balance and he almost had an instant impact as his drive was almost spilled by Maxwell.
Jonathan Smith saw his drive deflected behind for a corner on 35 minutes before seeing his flick header cleared away from the line, while at the other end Scott Griffiths put in a superbly-timed tackle to deny Arnold on the break.
Great interplay between Shaw and the powerful Gray then ended in the target man just being unable to reach the England C international’s cross.
David Martin replaced the injured Shaw at the interval and the U’s brought on Delano Sam-Yorke for Adam Cunnington as both teams replaced their target men.
The substitute made a bright start, cutting in and sending in a cross that was half cleared to Smith on the edge of the area who lofted over.
Luton were struggling to retain possession but boasted plenty of pace to trouble the U’s, however when Howells did get the ball in on 55 minutes Gray could only head wide.
Ex-Town star Michael Spillane replaced Arnold on 62 minutes for the visitors while McNulty’s flick header from a Whalley corner drew shouts for handball.
But Luton almost committed defensive suicide on 72 minutes when Lacey’s underhit pass allowed Sam-Yorke a clear run on goal. But Tyler stood up well and a combination him, Griffiths and Lacey helped to scramble the ball away when the striker should have put the visitors ahead.
McNulty then did well to block Mitch Austin’s drive as the substitute had two bites at the cherry before the U’s went even closer on 79 minutes when they whipped a corner in and Griffiths cleared Tom Champion’s header off the line.
With the game wide open Town looked tired in the closing stages as their defending became increasingly desperate.
Luton though almost grabbed a winner with five minutes left when Gray made a nuisance of himself in the box and Whalley teed up Howells but his right-footed effort skewed wide.
Smith looped an ambitious long-range drive into the keeper’s midriff two minutes later and Guttridge lashed well over as four minutes were added, but there were to be no more chances as both sides settled for a point.
Hatters (4-3-3): Mark Tyler, Jonathan Smith, Steve McNulty, Jon Shaw (David Martin 46), Scott Griffiths, Mark Cullen (Jake Howells 31), Luke Guttridge, Shaun Whalley, Ronnie Henry (C), Andre Gray, Alex Lacey. Substitutes not used: Andy Parry, Elliot Justham, Matt Robinson.
U’s (4-4-2): Chris Maxwell, Greg Taylor, Josh Coulson, Ian Miller (C), Ryan Donaldson, Tom Champion, Adam Cunnington (Delano Sam-Yorke 46), Harrison Dunk (Mitch Austin 65), Richard Tait, Luke Berry, Nathan Arnold (Michael Spillane 62). Substitutes not used: Will Norris, Liam Hughes.
Booked: Taylor 17; Guttridge 29.
Referee: W Barratt.
Assistant Referees: L Sheridan and O Jackson.
Fourth Official: J Burridge.
Attendance: 7.517 (963 Cambridge).
Star Hatter: Mark Tyler. Important saves helped the Hatters hold on for a point.