Not good Darts as Hatters’ title hopes take severe blow

Blue Square Bet Premier: Dartford 1 (0) Luton Town 0 (0)

A brilliant solo strike from Ryan Hayes saw part-time Dartford beat Luton 1-0 at the well-appointed Princes Park tonight, writes Mark Wood.

Both sides had chances but the Darts produced the one moment of quality as they completed the double over Luton whose woeful away form continued.

Town made just one change from the weekend as Arnaud Mendy came in for the suspended Alex Lawless.

The Darts enjoyed some early pressure as Tom Bonner headed over from a free-kick on seven minutes, while Janos Kovacs stretched well to cut out Adam Green’s cross.

A lucky ricochet fell nicely for Nathan Collier as he extended Town’s defence and Ronnie Henry did superbly to block Elliot Bradbrook’s shot from the edge of the area.

Steve McNulty’s dicey pass fell nicely for Bradbrook and he slipped Collier through, only for Mark Tyler to pull off an excellent one-on-one save.

At the other end Scott Neilson slipped Andre Gray in and his near-post shot hit the foot of the upright.

A Jon Shaw cross midway through the half dipped just wide before Mendy’s slip allowed the Darts to pour forward and Tyler was again at his best to turn Green’s low drive past the post.

Far too many misplaced passes were killing the Hatters, but they almost took the lead on the stroke of half time only for Neilson to have his close-range effort cleared off the line.

Town started the second half brightly, Neilson having a shot blocked, while Jake Howells was just beaten to the ball by keeper Marcus Bettinelli after some neat interchange play with Gray.

Scott Rendell was introduced on the hour for the ineffective Shaw and he was just unable to get on the end of David Martin’s knockdown on 64 minutes.

JJ O’Donnell then replaced Martin but could only head straight at the keeper after a good run and cross by the impressive Neilson.

But Town were caught with a sucker punch on 72 minutes when Hayes burst down the right and arced a brilliant left foot curler from 25 yards past Tyler’s despairing dive.

Luton looked to respond as O’Donnell was just unable to turn home Rendell’s cross and the centre forward looped a header over.

Darts sub Jacob Erskine was on the pitch for mere seconds as he skinned McNulty and raced clear, but once again Tyler saved with his legs. However, it wasn’t enough as Town’s recent miserable league run continued with boos comes from the away contingent at the final whistle.

Darts (4-4-2): Marcus Bettinelli, Richard Rose, Adam Green, Tom Champion, Tom Bonner, Ryan Hayes (Jon Wallis 90), Elliot Bradbrook (C), Danny Harris (James Rogers 89), Lee Noble, Nathan Collier (Jacob Erskine 90+2), Mark Arber.

Substitutes not used: Louis Wells, Jack Evans.

Hatters (4-4-2): Mark Tyler, Janos Kovacs, Jon Shaw (Scott Rendell 60), Jake Howells, Arnaud Mendy (Greg Taylor 75), Scott Neilson, Jonathan Smith, Ronnie Henry (C), Andre Gray, Steve McNulty, David Martin (JJ O’Donnell 66).

Substitutes not used: Matt Robinson, Dean Brill.

Referee: Wayne Barratt.

Assistant Referees: Stephen Finch and Jonathan Pickford.

Fourth Official: Adrian Quelch.

Booked: Gray 85.

Attendance: 1,802.

Star Hatter: Scott Neilson. By far Town’s most attacking player.

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