League Two: Newport County 1 Luton Town 1
Luton Town failed to take advantage of their game in hand as they dropped points for the umpteenth time this season in a thoroughly disappointing draw at struggling Newport County last night.
With matches starting to run out, Hatters knew a win was the only acceptable outcome against a side second from bottom in the table, notching just two victories on home soil this term.
It had all looked on course too after four minutes when Danny Hylton opened the scoring from the spot, but Luton were pegged back on 28 minutes, before a now all too familiar scenario of trying and failing to net a winner in the second period, ensured a 12th 1-1 scoreline of the season.
Town made four changes from Saturday's draw with Exeter as Scott Cuthbert, Johnny Mullins, Isaac Vassell and Ollie Palmer all came back in for Jonathan Smith, Jack Senior, Jack Marriott and Luke Gambin.
Sean Rigg sent an early effort from range narrowly wide, before Town won a spotkick on four minutes when Palmer's quick throw sent Hylton away.
The striker cut inside Sid Nelson to draw a reckless challenge from the centre half, with referee Charles Breakspear, who gave Luton both their penalties in the 2-1 win at Kenilworth Road, whistling in the visitors' favour once more.
Hylton stepped up to send Day the wrong way and comfortably notch his 24th of the season.
On a shocking pitch, which made any kind of passing football a lottery, Cuthbert was almost caught out when he sliced a clearance towards his own goal and when Matt Macey couldn't hold on, Alex Samuel hooked wide on the turn.
The hosts equalised through the half when a free kick some 30 yards was taken by Rigg and he fired it past Macey, who could only stand motionless and watch it fly past him.
Although it appeared to swerve slightly in the air, it appeared a costly error from the keeper after Luton had been working so hard, Cuthbert in particular, to try and maintain a clean sheet.
That saw the hosts with their tails up, as they were first to everything, especially in midfield, with Luton forced to dig in and remain on level terms.
On the stroke of half time, Town may have led 2-1 themselves, Palmer springing the offside trap to race clear cut in before seeing his angled shot tipped over by Day.
Hylton had further penalty shouts in stoppage time waved away by Breakspear, as the striker wasn't to reappear for the second period, replaced by James Justin.
Although Luton were the dominant force in terms of possession during the early moments of the second period, County went closest, Scot Bennett's 20-yard volley only just clearing the bar.
Justin reached the byline and crossed for Palmer to head wide as Town once again struggled to produce a clinical edge that has stunted their automatic promotion hopes.
Mullins was forced off on 67 minutes after what looked like a recurrence of his leg injury, as Town were indebted to a stunning stop from Macey to keep them level on 70 minutes, superbly keeping Tom Owen-Evans' shot out.
Breakspear then didn't endear himself to the home fans by booking Joss Labadie for diving in the area, while with seven minutes to go, he reduced the hosts to 10 men, former Hatter Mark O'Brien shown a second yellow for cynical lunge on Vassell who was clean through.
Despite the numerical advantage, it was the hosts who looked the more like scoring, Samuel and Marlon Jackson inches away with, with the former testing Macey low down.
However, in the final moment of stoppage time, Town should have won it, Vassell dinking over a cross, only for Palmer to see his header cleared off the line.
Hatters head to Colchester this weekend, in desperate need of a positive result if they are to have any chance of maintaining their swiftly dwindling hopes of automatic promotion.
Exiles: Joe Day, Dan Butler, Darren Jones, Joss Labadie (C), Alex Samuel Scot Bennett, David Pipe, Sid Nelson (Tom Owen-Evans 55), , Mark O'Brien, Sean Rigg, Ryan Bird (Marlon Jackson 85).
Subs not used: James Bittner, Jazzi Barnum-Bobb, Mickey Demetriou, Aaron Williams, Jaanai Gordon.
Hatters: Matt Macey, Stephen O'Donnell, Alan Sheehan, Scott Cuthbert, Johnny Mullins (Olly Lee 67), Glen Rea, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Jordan Cook (Jack Marriott 77), Isaac Vassell, Danny Hylton (James Justin 46), Ollie Palmer.
Subs not used: Stuart Moore, Lawson D'Ath, Akin Famewo, Jonathan Smith.
Booked: Rigg 48, O'Brien 66, Pipe 89, Owen-Evans 90.
Sent off: O'Brien 83.
Attendance: 2,304 (311 Luton).
Referee: Charles Breakspear.
Star man: Scott Cuthbert. Immense all night