Luton Town were knocked out of the Capital One Cup in controversial fashion with a 2-1 first round defeat against Swindon Town this evening.
Chasing an equaliser in the closing stages, Luke Rooney went down in the area claiming a penalty, but referee Paul Tierney deemed it a dive and brandished a yellow card, to send the winger off for his second booking.
The decision was met with howls of derision by the Hatters faithful as it looked to all and sundry like there was clearly contact, with Rooney about to pull the trigger, only for the official to rule otherwise.
Earlier, Rooney had give Luton the lead with his first goal from the penalty spot, before two late strikes from Michael Smith earned Swindon a just about deserved place in round two.
The hosts had made two changes for the tie, with former Swindon midfielder Rooney and Fraser Franks coming in for Alex Lacey and Jake Howells as Town boss John Still switched to a 3-5-2 formation.
It was the visitors who settled far quicker, stroking the ball around with real ease as Luton were reduced to chasing shadows early on.
Nathan Byrne’s teasing cross was inches wide and some more delightful interplay around the Hatters’ area saw a shooting chance for the highly-rated Massimo Luonge as he side-footed over.
Another ex-Robins forward Paul Benson had the ball in the net soon afterwards, but it was ruled out for offside as the opening exchanges had the distinct feeling of a friendly both on the pitch and in the terraces.
Winger Byrne was proving a real thorn in Town’s side on the right flank and another good cross saw Ben Gladwin shoot straight at Tyler from inside the box.
A raft of bookings saw Rooney, Nathan Thompson and Louis Thompson all see yellow, as did Benson.
Hatters efforts were coming from distance, with Scott Griffiths, Andy Drury and Franks all off target.
After the break, the deadlock was finally broken out of nothing on 53 minutes when Benson’s nod forward was adjudged to have been handled by Nathan Thompson.
The captain’s pleas went on deaf ears though as Rooney stepped up to drill low past Wes Foderingham.
Finally the tempo was lifted as Rooney looked full of confidence, while Swindon raised their potency levels as Luongo skimmed at Tyler.
Hatters rang the changes as the half wore on, with Luke Guttridge returning for his first competitive action since March, while Ross Lafayette made his Luton debut.
The Robins always looked a threat with the talented Michael Smith catching the eye, although it was Byrne who did the damage, enticing Drury into a trip to win a penalty.
Michael Smith’s low effort beat Tyler to level the scores and he was soon celebrating again on 82 minutes, dancing through the hosts’ defence to coolly slot into the net.
Tyler showed fine reactions to save from Williams shot destined for the bottom corner, while Luongo’s fizzer was wide of the mark too.
Hatters never seriously threatened a leveller, Lafayette’s burst clear their only real opportunity, but the danger was easily snuffed out.
Rooney was then dismissed in the closing stages, leaving the field shaking his head in bemusement, as Town will now get back to League Two action at home to AFC Wimbledon on Saturday.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Fraser Franks, Steve McNulty, Luke Wilkinson, Paul Connolly, Matt Robinson (Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu 78), Andy Drury, Luke Rooney, Scott Griffiths, Paul Benson (Ross Lafayette 72), Mark Cullen (Luke Guttridge 66).
Subs not used: Alex Lacey, Alex Wall, Jake Howells, Elliot Justham.
Robins: Wes Foderingham, Nathan Thompson (C), Nathan Byrne, Massimo Luongo, Jordan Turnbull, Ben Gladwin (Andy Williams 54), Yaser Kasim, Michael Smith, Brad Smith (Jack Barthram 46), Louis Thompson (Lee Marshall 90), Raphael Rossi Branco.
Subs not used: Connor Waldon, George Barker, Tyrell Belford, Will Randall.
Referee: Paul Tierney.
Bookings: Rooney 27, Kasim 29, L Thompson 31, Benson 33, Franks 66, Connolly 90.
Sent off: Rooney 90.
Attendance: 4,410 (436 Swindon).
Hatters MOM: Luke Rooney. A real bundle of energy and didn’t deserve to be dismissed.