Johnstone’s Paint Trophy second round: Gillingham 2 Luton Town 1
Luton Town went out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy this evening after a late goal by Gillingham’s Bradley Dack took the League One side through to the third round.
It had looked like Hatters would force penalties at least at the Priestfield Stadium after Cameron McGeehan’s first half strike was cancelled out by Max Ehmer.
However, Dack came off the bench to sweep home the winner as a much-changed Luton, who won the competition back in 2009, made a dignified exit.
Boss John Still opted to make six alterations to his team for the tie, with Dan Potts, Alex Lawless, Jack Marriott, Nathan Doyle, Magnus Okuonghae and Mark O’Brien all coming in.
Hatters couldn’t get going in the opening 15 minutes though as Gillingham had the only moments of note, Brennan Dickenson firing over from 25 yards, while Cody McDonald volleyed a corner off target.
Despite neither side even coming remotely close after that, Luton were somehow in front on 41 minutes.
Luke Guttridge managed to draw the hosts out of position and found Potts whose deflected cross was met perfectly by the run of McGeehan to nod home a fifth of the campaign.
Hatters almost had an immediate second as Olly Lee’s shot was gathered by Stuart Nelson after some neat link-up play with Josh McQuoid.
Still made three clearly pre-planned changes at the break, bringing on Danny Green, Ryan Hall and Scott Griffiths, resting goalscorer McGeehan, Lee and Guttridge with an eye on Saturday’s clash against York City.
Griffiths took up an unaccustomed right back role, but made one fine clearing header at the back post as Gills finally upped their pressure.
You always sensed Hatters had a break away goal in them though and it was almost the case on the hour mark as Hall found McQuoid and he was denied by a fine low save by Nelson.
The Gills were level on 65 minutes though as Town paid the price for some awful defending, as from Green’s misdirected header, Okuonghae couldn’t clear the loose ball and although Tyler saved with his legs, Max Ehmer had the easy task of side-footing home.
McDonald headed over at the back post as Luton started to look shaky at the back, but Town did settle down once more and came close on 77 minutes with Green’s delightful through ball from deep was just stolen off Marriott’s toes by Nelson in the nick of time.
With spot kicks looming, Gills had the winner with six minutes go to as Bradley Garmston overlapped Griffiths on the left flank for Dack to make it 2-1.
Luton had a glorious chance to equaliser with time running out as Hall’s cute flick reached Potts in a wonderful position only for the full back to shank a volley well wide.
Gills: Stuart Nelson (C), Max Ehmer, Jordan Houghton (Bradley Dack 71), Jake Hessenthaler, Cody McDonald, Jermaine McGlashan, Aaron Morris, Emmanuel Osadebe, Luke Norris (Ben Williamson 62), Brennan Dickerson (Bradley Garmston 75), Harry Lennon.
Subs not used: Glenn Morris, Josh Wright.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Alex Lawless, Dan Potts, Magnus Okuonghae, Mark O’Brien, Nathan Doyle (C), Olly Lee (Scott Griffiths 46), Josh McQuoid, Luke Guttridge (Ryan Hall 46), Cameron McGeehan (Danny Green 46), Jack Marriott.
Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Luke Wilkinson.
Booked: Guttridge 43, Green 62, McGlashan 74.
Referee: Michael Bull.
Hatters MOM: Mark O’Brien - defender enjoyed a rare outing in his preferred centre half position.