Ten-man Hendon hammered by free-scoring Hatters

FA Cup, fourth round qualifying: Luton Town 5 (3) Hendon 1 (1)

A CALAMITOUS start was easily overcome by the Hatters as they cast aside plucky 10-man Hendon to progress into the FA Cup first round proper at Kenilworth Road this afternoon, writes Mark Wood.

Carl McCluskey glanced the Greens into a fifth-minute, but after Aaron O’Connor had equalised from the spot it was all Luton.

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Goals from James Dance and Tommy Wright put the Hatters ahead at the break and, after Kevin Maclaren was sent off for a second booking, Town scored twice more through Stuart Fleetwood and O’Connor, but in truth it could have been many more.

Town made five changes from the team that claimed a fine 1-0 victory at Grimbsy last Friday night.

Janos Kovacs missed out after his loan lapsed, injury ruled out Adam Watkins, George Pilkington was rested and Mark Tyler and Robbie Willmott dropped to the bench. As a result in came Kevin Pilkington, Dean Beckwith, Will Antwi, John Paul Kissock and O’Connor into the starting line-up.

Luton forced a couple of corners in the opening seconds and went close with the second when Kissock’s delivery was flicked on by Wright, but Dance could only send his far post header just over.

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Kenilworth Road was shocked though as the Isthmian League Premier Division high-flyers snatched the lead after just five minutes. A stupid foul by Beckwith presented the Greens with a well-placed free-kick on the right and captain Scott Cousins’ beautiful free-kick into the box was perfect for McCluskey to glance his header home.

Town though were behind for just a matter of minutes as Beckwith made amends for his earlier indiscretion as he was first to a loose ball in the box and was felled by a combination of Michael Peacock and Jamie Busby as referee T Robinson pointed to the spot.

O’Connor stepped up to take the kick and he comfortably planted it to the keeper’s left to put the Hatters level.

And Town snatched the lead on 13 minutes – but at a price. Curtis Osano’s cross was perfect for Dance to power home a great header from close range, but the midfielder was hurt in the process and subsequently stretchered off as he was replaced by Danny Crow.

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O’Connor was then denied a brilliant goal by one of team-mates Fleetwood five minutes later. Cousins’ slip allowed the former Rushden player to seize on the ball close to the halfway and his zig-zagging run saw him power into the box before dragging a shot across Sean Thomas that was destined for the bottom left-hand corner, only for an offside Fleetwood, in a moment of madness, to tap home at the far post and see his ‘goal’ chalked out for offside.

Keen to make amends Fleetwood pulled rank at a free-kick on the edge of Hendon’s area two minutes later, after Kissock had thumped an initial effort into the wall, but his curling shot was well scragged by Thomas in the Hendon goal.

But Town did bag a third on 25 minutes as they took advantage of Hendon’s reduced numbers, who were temporarily down to 10 men with Casey Maclaren off the field and no substitute ready.

Crow’s inch-perfect crossfield ball was ideal for O’Connor who controlled before rolling a sublime pass into Osano’s stride. His powerful left-foot effort was spilled into the air by Thomas and Wright was on hand to head into the unguarded net.

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On-song Luton looked dangerous every time they went forward and went close again two minutes later. Fleetwood, Crow and Jake Howells were all involved to set up Kissock but his first-time curler dipped just over the bar.

Wright was clattered by the keeper as he looked to take advantage of some haphazard defending before doing well to block Elliott Charles’ effort at the other end.

Stoppages completely disrupted the game’s rhythm as four minutes of stoppage time were added.

Charles saw a cross-shot deflected across the face of goal by Howells and Jamie Hand and Kevin Maclaren were then booked after a case of handbags in the middle of the pitch.

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Luton started the second half in lively fashion, Fleetwood having a shot headed wide and Crow looping a header off target.

But the Greens went close to halving the deficit three minutes in when a long throw fell to James Parker and his improvised overhead kick drifted just wide.

A defence-splitting pass then almost played Isaiah Rankin in as the Greens proceeded to lay siege to the Luton goal.

Belal Aite-Ouakrim beat Beckwith as he fired wide following a jinking run before Wright made way for Christian Tavernier on 57 minutes.

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Having been on top for most of the second half, Hendon were reduced to 10 men when Kevin Maclaren put in a poor challenge on Kissock and his second yellow card was duly followed by red.

Antwi flicked a header just wide from a Howells centre and a dull second half was finally enlivened when Howells darted forward and slipped in Fleetwood who rounded Thomas and fired into the empty net on 71 minutes as Town started to boss the game.

Seconds later O’Connor capitalised on a defensive mistake as he skipped into the box and fired home.

Kenilworth Road then erupted as Charlie Henry finally made his first team bow after a year on the sidelines as he replaced Hand.

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Town continued to threaten as Kissock was just unable to get on the end of O’Connor’s driven cross across goal and Fleetwood curled just wide as Town turned the screw.

Crow seemed to be denied a certain penalty as he was clattered by Michael Peacock in the box and Osano then had an effort parried as Crow was unable to force home the rebound.

Crow tamely rolled at Thomas while O’Connor whizzed across the face of goal with Fleetwood unable to get a telling touch as the Hatters were in complete control.

Henry miskicked when teed up in front of goal by Howells before thudding a free-kick into Hendon’s wall.

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A brilliant cross by Henry couldn’t quite be headed home by Crow, before the diminutive striker fired well over in stoppage-time as Town easily booked their place in the next round.

Hatters (4-4-2): Kevin Pilkington, Dean Beckwith, Stuart Fleetwood, Aaron O’Connor, Jake Howells, Will Antwi, Curtis Osano, James Dance (Danny Crow 15), John Paul Kissock, Jamie Hand (C, Charlie Henry 73), Tommy Wright (Christian Tavernier 57). Substitutes not used: Mark Tyler, Robbie Willmott, Paul Carden, Collin Samuel.

Greens (4-4-2): Sean Thomas, James Parker, Scott Cousins (C), Michael Peacock, Ryan Wharton, Casey Maclaren (Isaiah Rakin 26), Jamie Busby (James Burgess 73), Carl McCluskey (Byron Bubb 41), Elliott Charles, Kevin Maclaren, Belal Aite-Ouakrim. Substitutes not used: Bradley Fraser, Danny Dyer, Berkley Laurencin, Junior Lewis.

Bookings: Hand 45+4; K Maclaren 45+4; K Maclaren 63; Rankin 65.

Sent off: K Maclaren 63.

Referee: Tim Robinson (West Sussex).

Assistant Referees: A Degnarain and S Purkiss.

Fourth Official: D Flanagan.

Attendance: 2,329 (Hendon 193).

Star Hatter: Aaron O’Connor. All-action display and deserved the hat-trick he should have had.

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