Crawley Town send Hatters packing in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy

Luke Guttridge with a headed attempt on goal. Picture (c) Liam Smith

Luke Guttridge with a headed attempt on goal. Picture (c) Liam Smith

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Luton Town’s hold on the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy was finally ended as they were knocked out by Crawley Town tonight.

Luton Town’s hold on the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy was finally ended as they were knocked out by Crawley Town tonight.

The Hatters won the competition on a heady day at Wembley five years ago, but there were no such scenes this time around as they bowed out meekly against their League One opponents.

Town made four changes for the match as Elliot Justham, Alex Wall, Jake Howells and Luke Guttridge came into the starting line-up in place of Mark Tyler, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, Andy Drury and Mark Cullen.

Former Luton hero Keith Keane lined up for the Red Devils, too, his first return to Kenilworth Road since leaving the club for Preston North End in July 2012.

The visitors had the best chance of a deafeningly quiet opening to the game as Gavin Tomlin headed straight at Justham, while Lewis Young then miskicked when he had a sight of goal.

Young then curled at Justham from distance and Matt Harrold headed narrowly wide from Tomlin’s cross as Luton struggled to get going.

With manager John Still watching on from the directors box, his side took 20 minutes to fashion their first real opportunity; Stevenage hero Wall cutting in to blast narrowly over.

Crawley then fluffed another chance as Sonny Bradley couldn’t make a connection when Harrold’s header reached him.

Justham was called upon to make a fine save, clawing away Gwion Edwards’ long range effort and, when the ball was worked back in, Tomlin’s blast deflected narrowly wide off the stretching Luke Wilkinson.

Hatters came closest on 38 minutes when from a quick throw, Guttridge found some space and his low drive was inches wide of the mark.

Town made two changes for the second half as Alex Lawless and Matt Robinson replaced Griffiths and Smith.

After Wall shot weakly at Jensen from Guttridge’s raking pass, the visitors stepped up a gear and took the lead with 51 minutes on the clock.

Young’s jinking run opened up the defence, Harrold hooked against the bar, with Edwards, called up to the full Welsh squad this week, fairly hammering the rebound home.

Crawley almost had a second with Elliott and Young shooting just wide, before Luton brought on Charlie Walker and his introduction finally breathed some much-needed life into the Hatters.

With his very first touch, Walker came desperately close, racing on to Benson’s flick and lobbing against the bar with Jensen saving his follow up.

Guttridge and Edwards exchanged fizzing drives that flew over, with Walker continuing to pep Town’s attack up, as his low drive went straight at Jensen.

Town were denied by the woodwork again as time ticked away, Guttridge’s piledriver hammering into the bar. They almost forced penalties late on, but Dean Leacock made a vital intervention and when Benson headed wide, the game was up

Hatters: Elliot Justham, Alex Lacey, Scott Griffiths (Alex Lawless 46), Steve McNulty (C), Luke Wilkinson, Nathan Doyle, Jonathan Smith (Matt Robinson 46), Jake Howells, Luke Guttridge, Paul Benson, Alex Wall (Charlie Walker 60).

Subs not used: Mark Tyler, Jim Stevenson.

Crawley: Brian Jensen, Dean Leacock (C), Sonny Bradley, Gwion Edwards (Jimmy Smith 84), Lewis Young, Keith Keane, Matt Harrold, Bobson Bawling, Gavin Tomlin, Mat Sadler, Marvin Elliott.

Subs not used: Conor Henderson, Izale McLeod, Josh Wright, Jamie Ashdown.

Booked: Wall 56, Wilkinson 61.

Attendance: 2,186 (125 Crawley)

Referee: Andy Woolmer.

Hatters MOM: Luke Guttridge - desperately unlucky not to nab a late leveller as he left the woodwork shaking.