Guttridge strikes as Hatters fight back to draw with Colchester

Luke Wilkinson makes an acrobatic clearance for Luton v Colchester. Liam Smith. PNL-140730-085822002
Luke Wilkinson makes an acrobatic clearance for Luton v Colchester. Liam Smith. PNL-140730-085822002

Substitute Luke Guttridge scored with his first touch to earn Luton Town a deserved 2-2 pre-season draw against strong League One opponents Colchester United.

Mark Cullen put the Hatters in front midway through the first half and they were unlucky to head into half time all square after a Paul Connolly own goal soon after.

Cullen celebrates Luton's opening goal against Colchester. Liam Smith. PNL-140730-085734002

Cullen celebrates Luton's opening goal against Colchester. Liam Smith. PNL-140730-085734002

Jabo Ibhere edged the U’s in front early in the second half with a well taken goal only for Guttridge to rifle in moments after entering the fray on 66 minutes.

With Town’s squad split in two to cope with a late, rearranged pre-season fixture at Boreham Wood – a goalless draw which took place simultaneously – there wasn’t quite the intensity of Saturday’s friendly against Royal Antwerp, but the early exchanges were not without incident.

Fraser Franks almost opened the scoring a quarter of an hour in with a back post header that rattled the upright, while at the other end Elliot Justham kept Drey Wright out with his legs after a fabulous cross-field pass from Freddie Sears put his U’s team-mate through on goal.

Luton made the breakthrough on 26 minutes when Cullen finished off an initially superb one-touch passing move via Ross Lafayette’s miss-control-cum-assist.

But the lead didn’t last long as Connelly could not avoid putting through his own net three minutes later. Gavin Massey – who had missed a chance early on – raced through on goal but saw his shot saved by the legs of Elliot Justham and when the ball was fired back in it ricocheted in off the knee of the defender.

A sharp one-two on the 18-yard line between triallist Angelo Balanta and Ross Lafayette was as close as the hosts came to a second.

But six minutes after the break Colchester took the lead with another teasing through ball from Sears that saw Ibere lunge to dink over the on-rushing Justham.

From the restart, Town’s goalscorer was shown enough space to shoot but his long range effort, though hit fiercely, was aimed straight at keeper Sam Walker.

Hatters boss John Still made his first changes in the 66th minute when Mark Onyemah and Balanta were replaced by Jonathan Smith and Guttridge – and with the latter’s first touch Luton were level when he blasted in under a sprawling Walker.

The midfielder almost claimed an audacious quick-fire brace with a cross-cum-shot that saw Walker back-peddling to guide over the bar.

Town then saw a strong shout for a penalty waved away late on after Ricky Miller appeared to have been bundled over in the box. A free-kick was instead awarded on the edge of the penalty area but Matt Robinson could only fire over.

Colchester’s George Moncur showed some late flashes of attacking intent but found Justham in his way with a late shot in the 90th minute.

Luton Town: Justham, Connolly, Onyemah (Smith), Franks, Wilkinson, Lawless, Cullen, Lafayette (Miller), Balanta (Guttridge), Stevenson, Robinson

Unused subs: King, Rees, Martin, Trotman,

Colchester United: Walker, Gordon, Okuonghae, Eastmond (Lapslie), Ibhere (Bonne), Sears (Szmodics), Wright (Watt), Eastman, Clohessy, Massey (Vose,), Moncur

Unused subs: Lewington, Olufemi, Kent.

Attendance: 1,475