Skrill Premier: Wrexham 2 (1) Luton Town 0 (0)
Ten-man Town imploded as they went down 2-0 at promotion rivals Wrexham in front of the BT Sports cameras at the Racecourse Ground this evening, writes Mark Wood.
Goals in each half from Andy Bishop and Johnny Hunt sunk the Hatters whose miserable evening was compounded late in the second half when wreckless substitute Alex Wall was sent off for an idiotic stamp on Neil Ashton to complete their Friday 13th horror show.
Town made two changes from the team that was held to a goalless draw by Grimsby Town at Kenilworth Road last weekend. Striker Andre Gray dropped to bench while injured defender Alex Lacey missed out with a twisted ankle as Shaun Whalley and Mark Cullen came into Luton’s starting XI.
A slick surface saw both teams slip over early on and, although the hosts started the better, Luton did threaten as Jonathan Smith saw a low drive blocked on the edge of the area.
The Hatters had the ball in the net on 18 minutes when Paul Benson flicked on Mark Tyler’s long clearance for the onrushing Cullen to lift the ball past Joslain Mayebi, only for the linesman’s flag to rule it out.
Instead it was Wrexham who snatched the lead three minutes later when left-back Ashton overlapped and whipped in a terrific cross to the back post for the predatory Bishop to volley home.
It was the first time in 408 minutes that Luton’s defence had been breached, but the Hatters refused to be cowed as a swift breakout ended in Smith firing straight at the keeper from the edge of the area on 28 minutes.
The Hatters were offering little going forward and it was returning Wrexham centre-half David Artell who had the next shy at goal as he curled comfortably into Tyler’s midriff on 35 minutes.
Steve Tomassen was booked for a wild lunge on Cullen before Artell gave away a free-kick on the edge of the area for tripping Jake Howells as he looked to surge into the box after some next interplay, but Whalley’s drive from the resulting set-piece flew a yard over the bar.
Luton were starting to come into the contest more and a dreadful backpass by Stephen Wright allowed Paul Benson to nip in but Mayebi smothered well at his feet.
More good work by Howells then saw him slip Cullen in but his shot was too close to Mayebi as Jay Harris dragged harmlessly wide at the other end.
Town though were unable to find a way through as the Red Dragons led 1-0 at the break, meaning the Hatters are still yet to score in the first half this season after eight games.
Energetic Luton made a lively start to the second half as Cullen sent a header wastefully wide six minutes in following a jinking run and cross from Whalley.
At the other end Tomassen and Harris had shots deflected wide before Joe Clarke rose highest at the far post to thump his header against the upright on 55 minutes.
Unperturbed Town had great shouts for a penalty waved away moments later when Whalley floated a superb pass into the path of Luke Guttridge and he went down in a tangle in the box with the already booked Tomassen, but the referee waved away any question of a foul.
And Luton were made to pay a heavy price as Wrexham doubled their lead on 58 minutes. Whalley failed to react to the loose ball as Theo Bailey-Jones crossed to the back post and Brett Ormerod’s header back across goal was forced home from close range by Hunt as the Racecourse Ground erupted.
Town moved swiftly, introducing Wall and Alex Lawless in place of Cullen and Whalley before Smith was booked for one foul to many as he caught Ashton.
Ormerod fired well over for the hosts before Gray replaced Howells and Wrexham replaced the evening’s tormentor Bailey-Jones with long-term nemesis Adrian Cieslewicz.
And Cieslewicz almost had an instant impact as he raced on to a through ball on 75 minutes but Andy Parry recovered with a great sliding tackle.
Town captain Ronnie Henry was then booked with 12 minutes to go when his cynical sliding challenge took out Cieslewicz on the halfway line as he looked to break at pace.
And things went from bad to worse for Luton on 80 minutes when Wall’s high boot seemed to catch Ashton and the raw striker then seemed to stamp on the prostrate full-back as referee Darren Handley raced over to brandish the red card.
Parry then followed him into the book as he was yellow-carded for a late tackle as Town threatened to implode in the closing stages.
Junior Ntame flashed a header over for the hosts a minute from normal time as five extra minutes were addea. A Cieslewicz cross almost led to a third as Tyler fumbled in stoppage time and, although Town cleared the danger, the damage had already been done on another bleak night for the Hatters.
Red Dragons (4-3-3): Joslain Mayebi, Stephen Wright (Junior Ntame 46), Neil Ashton (C), Joe Clarke, Jay Harris, Andy Bishop, Brett Ormerod, Steve Tomassen, Johnny Hunt, Theo Bailey-Jones (Adrian Cieslewicz 72), David Artell. Substitutes not used: Andy Coughlin, Andy Morrell, Mark Carrington.
Hatters (4-4-2): Mark Tyler, Jonathan Smith, Steve McNulty, Jake Howells (Andre Gray 72), Scott Griffiths, Mark Cullen (Alex Wall 61), Andrew Parry, Luke Guttridge, Shaun Whalley (Alex Lawless 61), Ronnie Henry (C), Paul Benson. Substitutes not used: Elliot Justham, James Stevenson.
Booked: Tomassen 37; Smith 62; Henry 78; Parry 83.
Sent Off: Wall 80.
Referee: Darren Handley.
Assistant Referees: Nik Barnard and Barry Lamb.
Fourth Official: Ryan Johnson.
Attendance: 3,122 (Luton 190).
Star Hatter: Andy Parry. Decent showing from the youngster who stuck to his task well.