Hatters defeated as Lions show their teeth late on
Checkatrade Trophy: Luton Town 1 Millwall 3
Luton Town ended their Checkatrade Trophy group stage campaign with defeat to League One Millwall this evening.
With 70 minutes gone, it had looked like Luton were going to be on their way to the knock out section with a home draw, leading 1-0 through Shaun Hutchinson's own goal.
However, the introduction of Fred Onyedinma saw the hosts' previously secure back-line struggle to cope with the Lions striker, as he quickly made it 1-1, while Harry Smith's double then knocking the stuffing out of Town's youngsters.
Boss Nathan Jones as expected made 11 changes to the side who beat Exeter City 3-1 in the FA Cup, with Craig Mackail-Smith handed his first start since breaking his leg against Plymouth in March, while Jack Senior was back from injury too.
Millwall also swapped most of their team, making nine alterations, but Luton had a glorious chance on four minutes, counter-attacking at blistering pace, with Senior's cross nodded wide by Josh McQuoid from eight yards.
The Lions only effort of note saw Harry Smith head straight at Craig King, as Luton looked the most likely to score, with another excellent cross from the impressive Senior diverted over the top by Isaac Vassell, who then scuffed at Tom King after an incisive burst.
Home stopper King turned over Aiden O'Brien's hooked volley midway through the half, while Vassell thought he had his first strike in Luton colours on 35 minutes.
Released by Jake Gray, he sped away and with the target in his cross-hairs, drilled low and hard, only for Lions keeper Tom King to flick out a boot and divert inches wide.
Jonathan Smith tried his luck from 20 yards, unable to keep his effort on target, as Luton could reflect on yet another impressive half of football from their youngsters in this much-maligned competition.
After the break, Millwall were more lively early on, with David Worrall heading over, although Town broke, Jake Gray finding Vassell when a ball to Mackail-Smith would have been better, the Luton forward denied by King's right glove from an acute angle.
The deadlock was broken on 57 minutes though when Mackail-Smith wriggled clear in the box, delivering a low cross that was turned into his own net at full stretch by Lions skipper Hutchinson.
Millwall should have levelled on 62 minutes as Onyedinma robbed Akin Famewo with his first touch, and bearing down on goal, selfishly opted to go it alone, when Smith was free for a tap-in, King saving well with his legs.
Mackail-Smith's return lasted just three more minutes, replaced by Zane Banton, as Onyedinma did have the equaliser five minutes later as Gregg Wylde outpaced Stephen O'Donnell and his cross was perfect for the striker to clip over King.
With the visitors starting to run the show, the Luton stopper kept his side on level terms, tipping Joe Martin's 30-yarder over, and then standing up well to palm Onyedinma's close-range toe-poke away.
Banton tricked his way into the area, King repelling his low attempt, before Millwall completed the turnaround as Calum Butcher's rasping low drive drew a fine save from King, only for Smith to convert the rebound with nine minutes left.
With Luton's heads dropping, as they struggled to keep a lid on their opponents attacks, the Lions had a flattering third late on, when Smith was left unmarked to nod home his second.
Even later on, Jones did hand the 11th debut to an academy graduate since taking over, with Arthur Read replacing Gray, as Luton now await Thursday's draw to see where they will be heading to in the next round.
Luton: Craig King, Stephen O'Donnell, Jack Senior, Akin Famewo, Frankie Musonda, Tyreeq Bakinson (Freddie Hinds 86), Jake Gray (Arthur Read 90), Jonathan Smith, Josh McQuoid, Craig Mackail-Smith (Zane Banton 66), Isaac Vassell.
Subs not used: Liam Gooch, Jack Snelus, Harry Bean, Kavan Cotter.
Millwall: Tom King, Shaun Cummings, Joe Martin, Shaun Hutchinson (C, Tony Craig 84) David Worrall (Kris Twardek 90), Gregg Wylde, Calum Butcher, Aiden O'Brien (Fred Onyedinma 62), Harry Smith, Paul Rooney, Kyron Farrell.
Subs not used: Jordan Archer, Shaun Williams, Alfie Pavey, James Brown.
Bookings: Harry Smith 67.
Referee: Oliver Langford.
Attendance: 2,251 (370 Millwall).