Hatters held to a stalemate at Carlisle
League Two: Carlisle United 0 Luton Town 0
Luton Town were held to a goalless draw at fellow promotion chasers Carlisle United this evening.
After a subdued first half, the visitors did improve in the second period, and looked the more likely to score against a Cumbrians side low on confidence, but crucially couldn't create enough chances of a clear-cut nature to consistently test home keeper Mark Gillespie.
Hatters boss Nathan Jones made two changes from the 2-0 defeat to Stevenage, with Olly Lee back for his first league start since Boxing Day and Luke Gambin included as well for Scott Cuthbert and Jonathan Smith.
Alan Sheehan, on his 50th Luton appearance, put an early free kick over the top from 25 yards, as Danny Hylton saw an early yellow for his challenge on Danny Grainger.
Town then escaped from a muddle defensively to burst forward through Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, who held off a challenge and found Hylton, the striker dragging his shot wide.
Carlisle hosts had their first effort of note on 18 minutes, after Matty Macey uncomfortably palmed a corner away, he handled Nicky Adams' hopeful follow up.
The hosts looked dangerous from their long, flat throws into the area, with one such delivery allowed to go all the way to the far post, as Jamie Proctor's close range attempt was blocked by a combination of Macey and Sheehan midway through the half.
Jordan Cook, who had impressed on the right hand side in the early stages, reached Gambin's high, hanging cross, sending a downward header that Gillespie was equal to.
Proctor came close again as he got his head to a cross, but Macey gathered, while he was fortunate to see John O'Sullivan's effort deflected narrowly over the top.
After the break, a clever short corner routine saw Grainger thunder his effort into the side-netting, while Hatters looked to respond, Gambin over the top from 25 yards.
The visitors were close again moments later, Cook's deep cross met by the stretching Hylton who couldn't keep his volley down.
That signalled a good spell of pressure, Cook just unable to twinkle his way through the defence to lose the ball at the final moment, while Sheehan's free kick was parried by Gillespie, with Rea's rebound charged down.
Luton kept pressing, knowing their hosts could buckle after coming into the game on the back of four straight defeats and not scoring in any of them either.
O'Donnell saw his low cross blocked by Gillespie, with the Cumbrians keeper producing an even better stop from Hylton's blast, magnificently tipping over the bar just after the hour mark.
Jones swapped Vassell for Jack Marriott midway through the half and the striker sent a rasping drive that wasn't too far away, while Glen Rea had two quickfire efforts charged down.
There was a lengthy stoppage on 70 minutes as Dan Potts went down with a nasty looking head injury, and was stretchered off, with 10 minutes of stoppage time added.
Late on, the game became like a basketball encounter, although neither side appeared to possess the conviction to actually win it, Macey saving from James Hooper and Marriott dragging well wide at the death.
The result saw Luton climb to fifth in the table after Stevenage lost to Blackpool, although they dropped seven points behind third placed Portsmouth, who hammered Grimsby 4-0, putting even more importance on Saturday's home clash with Exeter City.
Cumbrians: Mark Gillespie, Danny Grainger (C), Luke Joyce, Jamie Proctor, Nicky Adams, Shaun Brisley, John O'Sullivan (George Waring 85), Reggie Lambe, Shaun Miller (James Hooper 82), Tom Miller, Gary Liddle.
Subs not used: Max Crocombe, Joe Ward, Cameron Salkeld, Jordan Holt, Alex McQueen.
Hatters: Matt Macey, Stephen O'Donnell, Dan Potts (James Justin 78), Alan Sheehan (C), Glen Rea, Olly Lee, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Jordan Cook, Luke Gambin (Ollie Palmer 86), Isaac Vassell (Jack Marriott 65), Danny Hylton.
Subs not used: Stuart Moore, Lawson D'Ath, Jonathan Smith, Akin Famewo.
Booked: Hylton 6, Lee 17, Joyce 20, Brisley 58.
Referee: Lee Mason.