League Two: Luton Town 1 Portsmouth 1
Luton Town dropped their first points at Kenilworth Road since September 13 as they were held to a 1-1 draw by struggling Portsmouth this afternoon.
The hosts had won their previous eight matches on home soil, but cheered on by a season’s best gate of 10,071, never quite matched the heights of recent performances on a bobbly surface.
Despite the bumper attendance, Luton, who were unchanged for the third game in succession began quietly, with Marcus Bean sending a hopeful volley well over the bar for Pompey.
However, the hosts started to get in their stride and a lovely passing move saw Andy Drury’s fierce goalbound shot charged down by Paul Robinson.
Town started to produce some pleasing on the eye football and deservedly claimed the lead on 13 minutes as Shaun Whalley’s prod over the top was clinically volleyed into the bottom corner by Rooney, celebrating his 24th birthday, for his fifth of the campaign.
The visitors then had their first shot on target with half an hour gone as Nigel Atangana swivelled to send in an effort that Mark Tyler claimed smartly.
Luton broke immediately through Whalley and he raced past his man, before being overtaken by Michael Harriman, whose cross saw Mark Cullen swivel and slice wide.
Pompey started to up their efforts from and Johnny Ertl’s dipping volley was brilliantly tipped over by the back-pedalling Tyler.
However, the visitors were level on 36 minutes in scrappy fashion, as Jed Wallace’s hopeful cross was missed by Luke Wilkinson and with Town’s defence in disarray for once, Ryan Taylor turned home from a yard.
The goal was only the second Luton had conceded at home since starting their unbeaten run, as Pompey netted just a sixth of the campaign away from Fratton Park.
It should have been seven moments later as Atangana took Wallace’s cut back and laid the ball on a plate for Andy Barcham, but he side-footed wide of the mark from 10 yards.
After the break, Luton began with real intent as Drury slipped Cullen through with the striker’s shot parried by Paul Jones who collected the rebound before Whalley could pounce.
Jonathan Smith, buoyed by his stunning strike against Wycombe on Boxing Day, tried for a second in three days, but his radar was well off this time.
Boss John Still rung the changes as Ross Lafayette and Ricky Miller came on, while the impressive Griffiths scampered to the byline and his cross was met by Harriman, whose low shot forced Jones into a save.
Both sides huffed and puffed, as their effort couldn’t be called into question, but although Luton looked the more likelier to score, too often their final ball went awry as visiting keeper Jones had a much quieter afternoon than he could have anticipated.
Late on, Miller had claims for a penalty after falling in the area, but they were waved away to exasperated sighs from the home terraces.
Pompey, who offered next to nothing going forward during the second period as from the interval, they appeared happy with a point, were jeered by their supporters, for breaking away in the closing stages, only to run the ball into the corner and allow Hatters to regroup.
The result saw Luton remain fourth in the table going into 2015, just two points off leaders Shrewsbury, who were held to a 0-0 draw by second-placed Wycombe Wanderers, while third place Burton Albion’s trip to Accrington was postponed.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Michael Harriman, Steve McNulty (C), Luke Wilkinson, Scott Griffiths (Jake Howells 81), Jonathan Smith, Nathan Doyle, Andy Drury, Shaun Whalley (Ross Lafayette 60), Luke Rooney, Mark Cullen (Ricky Miller 71).
Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Fraser Franks, Jim Stevenson, Paul Connolly.
Pompey: Paul Jones, Adam Webster, Joe Devara, Andy Barcham (James Dunne 76), Jed Wallace, Ryan Taylor (Craig Westcarr 77), Johnny Ertl (C), Paul Robinson, Nicky Shorey, Marcus Bean, Nigel Atangana (Lee Holmes 90).
Subs not used: Jack Whatmough, Ben Chorley, Miles Storey, Michael Poke.
Referee: Darren Deadman.
Booked: Bean 68, Westcarr 81.
Attendance: 10,071 (Pompey 1,021).
Hatters MOM: Scott Griffiths. Gave everything and caused Pompey real problems with his forays forward.
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