Hylton on the spot twice as Hatters knock out Exeter
FA Cup, first round: Exeter City 1 Luton Town 3
Striker Danny Hylton netted twice from the penalty spot as Luton Town progressed to the second round of the FA Cup during an incident-filled contest at Exeter City this afternoon.
The forward, who was a figure of dog's abuse for the home fans all afternoon after winning what they felt was a soft spot-kick early on, held his nerve to confidently beat keeper Bobby Olejnik on both occasions and shove the jeers firmly back down the throats of City's supporters who also chanted '3-1 to the referee' at full time.
However, it wasn't as if man in the middle John Busby can be guilty of favouring the away side, as Hatters had to do it with 10 men for the final 15 minutes, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu harshly dismissed for his second yellow, despite clearly being aggressively shoved to the ground by City's David Wheeler, who was also cautioned.
Rather than just try and cling on to their 2-1 lead, Luton went for a game-sealing third and it arrived late on when the returning Craig Mackail-Smith was clipped in the area, Hylton coolly wrapping up the victory, to make it nine games unbeaten now.
Earlier, Hatters boss Nathan Jones made three changes, with Jack Marriott missing out due to an ankle injury, while Stephen O'Donnell and Cameron McGeehan dropped to the bench, with James Justin, Olly Lee and Mpanzu coming into the side.
However, for the third time this season, Luton were dealt a blow prior to kick-off, with Johnny Mullins injuring his foot during the warm-up and hobbled off, meaning Glen Rea moved into defence, with McGeehan restored to the starting line-up.
The hosts made the brighter start, with Robbie Simpson sending one shot high and wide, only for Luton to move in front on 10 minutes, with their first venture into the home side's penalty area.
Hylton was clipped by Pierce Sweeney when running on to Jordan Cook's pass, as referee Busby pointing to the spot, with the striker producing the cheekiest of chips over the diving Olejnik for his ninth goal of the season.
Town's leading scorer then had a wonderful chance midway through the half, as he dispossessed Olejnik by the corner flag, nutmegging the stranded stopper before bursting into the box, but trying to take on all the covering defenders, was eventually crowded out, with Alan Sheehan's volley deflected behind.
Despite the advantage, Hatters never looked comfortable in the opening period, dispossessed time and time again, second to almost everything, with their passing going astray, as Exeter looked dangerous every time they got the ball wide and ultimately into the box.
Boss Jones labelled it the 'worst' first half he had witnessed since taking over as the Grecians should have levelled midway through when a super break on Town's right from Lee Holmes saw the midfielder deliver an inch-perfect cross but David Wheeler glanced wide.
Highly-rated 16-year-old Ethan Ampadu then produced a glorious cross as Wheeler got up above Justin at the far post, nodding narrowly over.
Hylton picked up his seventh booking of the season, although can count himself hugely unlucky this time, as after fouling Ampadu by the byline, he was pushed over by Olejnik, with the official opting to book the Exeter keeper and Town's striker, to the delight of the baying home public.
A rare moment of pressure saw Hatters close to a second when Jordan Moore-Taylor diverted a cross goalwards, requiring Olejnik to acrobatically tip behind.
Exeter were deservedly level on 39 minutes though as Olly Lee's pass out was intercepted by the impressive Ampadu, who strolled round the Hatters midfielder's challenge.
Taking aim from 25 yards, his shot cannoned against the inside of the post, only for Reuben Reid to tap the rebound in from six yards.
The Grecians almost had an instant second, Reid beating Justin and forcing Walton into a smart stop, the loose ball just eluding Simpson, with Ampadu firing over.
Home fans howled for a second booking for Hylton for what they felt was a dive by the touch-line, as he escaped any punishment, although City's Jake Taylor didn't, rightly cautioned for simulation when going over Sheehan;s outstretched leg.
After the interval, Holmes tested Walton from outside the box, although Luton were belatedly showing signs of life, starting to get their passing game going, defending much higher up the pitch and finally enjoying some concerted possession in advanced areas.
Hylton's effort was straight at Olejnik and Gillead's shot blocked, as they almost retook the lead on the hour mark when Mpanzu found Sheehan on the wing and his excellent cross was headed just wide by McGeehan.
Town were in front on 71 minutes though when Mpanzu's superb cross from was met by Rea at the far post and his shot hit the post before rebounding into the net via Olejnik.
The officials then appeared to lose control as visiting sub Jonathan Smith was penalised for a foul, with Mpanzu picking up the ball, only to be chased by Wheeler who bundled him to the floor behind the back of the referee.
After a chat with his assistants, the Busby opted to book both players, with a distraught Mpanzu having to leave the field for his second yellow as the visiting bench went apoplectic at the fourth official, held in check by Jones in his role of peacemaker.
Exeter looked for a leveller, Holmes putting an excellent chance over, with Reid directing a header wide, before Mackail-Smith, on for his first action since March, showed he has lost none of his pace, racing on to Hylton's through ball, as he was tripped in the area by sub Troy Archibald-Henville with four minutes left.
The Grecians defender got off scot-free for his crime, but his team-mates didn't, with Hylton sending Olejnik the wrong way to reach double figures for the campaign and seal Luton's place in Monday night's second round draw.
Exeter: Bobby Olejnik, Craig Woodman, Robbie Simpson (Joel Grant 67), Lee Holmes, David Wheeler (Troy Archibald-Henville 82), Jordan Moore-Taylor (C), Jake Taylor, Ethan Ampadu (Matt Oakley 87), Jack Stacey, Pierce Sweeney, Reuben Reid.
Subs not used: James Hamon, Lloyd James, Ollie Watkins, Liam McAlinden.
Hatters: Christian Walton, James Justin (Stephen O'Donnell 87), Alan Sheehan, Scott Cuthbert (C), Glen Rea, Olly Lee, Alex Gilliead (Jonathan Smith 62), Jordan Cook (Craig Mackail-Smith 70), Cameron McGeehan, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Danny Hylton.
Subs not used: Craig King, Dan Potts, Jake Gray, Isaac Vassell.
Bookings: Sweeney 10, Hylton 28, Olejnik 28, Mpanzu 35, Taylor 45, Reid 66, Wheeler 75, Mackail-Smith 90, Grant 90.
Sent off: Mpanzu 75.
Referee: John Busby.
Attendance: 2,972 with (310 Luton).
Hatters MOM: Danny Hylton.