Luton Town 2 (1) Swindon Supermarine 0 (0)
LUTON Town reached the second round of the FA Trophy this afternoon, but made incredibly hard work of booking their passage against an impressive Swindon Supermarine, writes Mike Simmonds.
The visitors belied their position in the lower reaches of the Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division with a valiant display and were unlucky not to score, especially in the second half where they were the better side for long periods.
Town boss Gary made eight changes to the team that drew 1-1 with Lincoln City on Tuesday night, but still selected vastly experienced side as Mark Tyler, Greg Taylor, Dean Beckwith, Stuart Fleetwood, Curtis Osano, John Paul Kissock, Ryan Brunt and Alex Lacey all started.
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Youngsters JJ O’Donnell, Colby McAdams, Lewis Kidd and Charlie Smith were on the bench, but in in front of just 1,298, the hosts made an uninspiring start to the game at a deserted Kenilworth Road, devoid of any kind of atmosphere.
In fact, Swindon had the first shot on target, with Ashley Edenborough warming the gloves of Tyler from 20 yards, while Ben Wells sent a swerving attempt that the Luton keeper comfortably grabbed.
Town on the other hand struggled to find any cohesion in their play, and it wasn’t until the 20th minute they had an effort in anger, with Kissock’s driven free kick easily deflected behind.
The visitors should have gone ahead on 22 minutes as Edenborough turned Beckwith, but lunged at the vital moment as his shot went wide.
With desperation starting to creep into their game, Fleetwood took aim from distance, and his hopeful strike was off target.
After 36 minutes, the most entertaining piece of action in the first half saw Marine’s number six Dave Bampton tangle with Watkins and then motion to the Hatters youngster to walk away, incurring the wrath of the hardy few home supporters.
Hatters finally piped up though as Fleetwood dispossessed Kyle Lapham and saw his shot deflected behind, while keeper James Rae was stupidly shown a yellow card for needlessly thumping the ball into the stands.
From the set-piece. Luton were ahead though as Kissock’s corner was headed back across goal by Lacey for Fleetwood, who demonstrated excellent technique hook a volley over his shoulder and into the net for his fifth of the season.
Town should have been 2-0 up immediately afterwards as faced with a three-on-one situation, Watkins fed Fleetwood, only for the striker to fire wastefully over the bar.
Town made one change at the break, as Tommy Wright came on for Dan Gleeson, with Osano dropping to right back. Fleetwood moved out to the left flank and played in Taylor, whose cross couldn’t be converted by Brunt.
Hatters almost doubled their lead on 55 minutes when Fleetwood sized up a free kick and curled it inches wide of Rae’s post.
From then on though, the visitors took over as Max Etheridge turned well to deliver a shot that Tyler was easily equal too.
Marine should have been level moments later too when Edenborough’s run split the defence, but faced with Tyler, he drilled wide.
The visitors were dominating now and some shocking defending from the hosts saw Osano easily dispossessed, and Edenborough scuffed wide with just Tyler to beat.
Luton were living dangerously as Edenborough’s blast from the edge of the box was superbly tipped over the bar by Tyler and from the corner, Tom Cole’s header went wide.
Marine were now all over the hosts in a highly disconcerting 10 minute spell for Hatters, with any neutral supporter struggling to pick who was the Blue Square Bet Premier side.
Swindon came close again too when Ben Wells somehow beat Fleetwood on the byline and his cross was desperately cleared by the feet of Tyler.
Hatters were reduced to potshots by this stage, with Fleetwood cutting in from the left and seeing his shot spilled by Rae, with Brunt just unable to turn home.
Luton finally showed their class as Kissock tricked his way through the defence and unleashed a rocket that cannoned against the underside of the bar, with Keane dragging the rebound just wide.
An undeserved second arrived for Town on 73 minutes when substitute JJ O’Donnell showed great determination to deliver a cross from the left and fellow replacement Wright timed his jump to perfection to loop a header into the corner.
Swindon remained unbowed though with Nick Stanley driving a cross into the box and Edenborough turning it wide.
With various Hatters players trying and failing from free kicks all afternoon, Watkins finally had a go and spanked a drive that Rae tipped over the bar.
Teenager Colby McAdams was handed his first team debut in the closing stages, replacing crowd favourite Kissock, while in the final seconds, Swindon were rather harshly reduced to 10 men when Sean Wood clipped O’Donnell and picked up a second booking to leave the field.
The decision didn’t affect the outcome though as Town eventually went through on an afternoon that was significantly more difficult than they had bargained for.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Dan Gleeson (Tommy Wright 46), Greg Taylor, Keith Keane, Dean Beckwith, Stuart Fleetwood, Curtis Osano, John Paul Kissock (Colby McAdams 89), Ryan Brunt (JJ O’Donnell 68), Alex Lacey, Adam Watkins.
Subs not used: Lewis Kidd, Charlie Smith.
Swindon Supermarine: James Rae, Kyle Lapham, Danny Allen, Rob Dean, Tom Cole, Dave Bampton (Harry Etheridge 86), Ben Wells (Sam Morris 69), Sean Wood, Max Etheridge, Ashley Edenborough (Steve Cook 80), Nick Stanley.
Subs not used: Matt Robinson, Jon Beeden.
Referee: J Hopkins.
Assistant referees: L Wood, S Purkiss.
Fourth Official: A Crawford.
Attendance: 1,298 (55 away).
Bookings: Cole 19, Beckwith 32, Rae 38, Dean 54, Watkins 74, Wood 86, Wood 90+2.
Sent off: Wood 90+2.
Star Hatter: John Paul Kissock – the only real flashes of creativity came from his boots.
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