Luton Town’s miserable away form continued as they were held to a draw by 10-man Macclesfield tonight, writes Mike Simmonds.
The hosts were forced to play 70 minutes without a regular goalkeeper after Rhys Taylor was sent off for fouling Andre Gray, but stand-in, midfielder Peter Winn, was disappointingly barely tested all evening.
Hatters’ side was taken by Alan Neilson, Stuart Cash and Carl Emberson after the shock announcement manager Paul Buckle left the club just hours before kick-off.
The trio made three changes as Steve McNulty, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner and Jon Shaw came back in, while Janos Kovcas, Arnaud Mendy and JJ O’Donnell dropped to the bench.
Yet again, Wayne Thomas’ international clearance hadn’t arrived in time for him to play, while former Hatters Matthew Barnes-Homer, John Paul Kissock and Yaser Kasim all started.
Hatters made a fine start as Gray hit the base of the post from 20 yards, before Shaw skewed the rebound wastefully off target.
Town took the lead on 15 minutes though when Shaw showed great control to take on Smith’s long ball forward and, with the home defence crying for offside, Taylor saved at his feet, but there was no stopping Gray’s follow up.
Waide Fairhurst thought he had levelled swiftly afterwards but was denied by a stunning fingertip save from Mark Tyler and Ronnie Henry’s goal-line clearance.
The game took a crucial turn on 21 minutes as Gray was sent clear and sent flying by the onrushing keeper Taylor, earning him a red card from referee Chris Kavanagh.
Kasim was sacrificed with midfielder Peter Winn coming on and he saved Jake Howells’ free-kick at the second attempt.
Hatters made a change at the break, replacing Scott Rendell with O’Donnell and Gray should have his second of the evening on the hour when latched on to Jonathan Smith’s through ball, but he could only fire straight at the retreating Winn.
Keiran Murtagh missed a glorious chance to level moments later after slicing through Town’s defence, but planted his effort wide.
The hosts were deservedly level on 75 minutes though as Town dropped off badly, allowing Fairhurst to angle an excellent drive in off the post.
Despite never being at their best, Hatters had two great chances to snatch it in the final five minutes.
First Gray escaped the hosts’ defence, but blazed over, while substitute Stuart Fleetwood was denied by a stunning block from Winn who tipped his shot on to the bar as a dejected Hatters dropped 11 points off the play-offs with a mere one game in hand.
Silkmen: Rhys Taylor, Ryan Jackson, Keiran Murtagh (Tony Diagne 84), Matthew Barnes-Homer, Sam Wedgbury, John Paul Kissock, Waide Fairhurst, Craig Barham-Barrett, Yaser Kasim (Peter Winn 23), Thierry Audel, Pablo Mills (C). Substitutes not used: Jack Mackreth, Dean McDonald, Micah Evans.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Greg Taylor (Stuart Fleetwood 87), Steve McNulty, Alex Lawless, Jon Shaw, Scott Rendell (JJ O’Donnell 46), Jake Howells, Jonathan Smith (Arnaud 70), Ronnie Henry (C), Andre Gray.
Substitutes not used: Janos Kovacs, Stuart Fleetwood, Scott Neilson.
Referee: C Kavanagh.
Assistant Referees: I Johnston and T Nield.
Fourth Official: A Moore.
Booked: Murtagh 40; McNulty 59; O’Donnell 60; Mendy 83.
Sent off: R Taylor.
Attendance: 1,984 (278 Hatters).
Star Hatter: Steve McNulty. Towering presence in the air.