Hatters humiliated with crushing County defeat

Newport County AFC 5 Luton Town 2

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 12th December 2012, 9:01 am

A shambolic defensive performance saw Luton Town humiliated at fellow Blue Square Bet Premier promotion hopefuls Newport County last night, writes Mike Simmonds.

Before the game, which passed two pitch inspections before going ahead, Luton knew a win would finally take them level on points with their opponents, who they had trailed for much of the season.

But that quickly became a distant dream as Hatters’ soft underbelly was exposed time and time again, conceding five times for the first time in the Conference.

Town had made two changes to the side with Janos Kovacs suspended and Jonathan Smith recalled by York City, as Dean Beckwith and Arnaud Mendy came back into the side.

Former Hatters striker Aaron O’Connor led the line for the hosts but Luton impressed in the opening 10 minutes as JJ O’Donnell and Jake Howells both saw shots fly off target.

That was all to change though as with 12 minutes gone, Mark Tyler made a stunning save to turn behind Lee Evans’ free kick that was destined for the bottom corner.

From Sandell’s delivery though, Town were behind with the diminutive O’Connor rising completely unmarked to nod past the exposed Tyler, with Hatters yet again conceding from a set-piece.

Town were level within minutes though after a truly a comical piece of defending from the hosts.

Ismail Yakubu’s back header was running behind for a corner, but keeper Alan Julian dived to stop it, then lost the ball from his grasp, allowing Andre Gray to nip in and keep his cool to slot into the empty net.

Luton were behind again on 23 minutes as their defence was sliced open once more allowing Christian Jolley to dink the ball over the advancing Tyler.

The goalscorer almost had his second of the night in stunning fashion on 33 minutes, volleying a dropping ball against the bar from 25 yards, while Simon Ainge nipped in ahead of O’Connor to clear the rebound.

Town fell further adrift on 38 minutes with another extremely avoidable goal as a cross into the box deflected off Ronnie Henry, through the hands of Tyler and into the net.

O’Connor had a great chance to make it 4-1 on the stroke of half time, dragging wide, as Town boss Paul Buckle brought Jon Shaw on for Mendy at the interval.

Alex Lawless had huge shouts for a penalty when his effort appeared to strike a hand in the box, but Luton were handed a lifeline as Shaw swivelled to volley Henry’s cross past Julian on the hour.

Any hopes that Hatters had of staging an unlikely comeback were soon extinguished on 64 minutes as Sandell drove into the box, beating Town’s backtracking defenders with ease to fire into the roof of the net.

Four became five on 66 minutes with Luton’s back line culpable once more, as Jolley burst through Lathaniel Rowe-Turner’s flimsy tackle, before exchanges passes and confidently finding the corner of the net.

Town threatened sporadically after that as Gray’s fierce blast beaten away by Julian and substitute Stuart Fleetwood was inches away from Gray’s driven cross shot.

In truth though they got what they deserved, completely nothing, while a jubilant Newport moved back to the top of the table once more.

Hatters: Mark Tyler, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Dean Beckwith, Alex Lawless, Scott Rendell, Jake Howells, Simon Ainge, Arnaud Mendy (Jon Shaw 46), JJ O’Donnell (Stuart Fleetwood 59), Ronnie Henry (C), Andre Gray.

Subs not used: Greg Taylor, James Dance, Dean Brill.

Bookings: Beckwith 31, Henry 42, Howells 51, Sandell 62, Gray 71.

Attendance: 2,247.