Chances go begging as U’s hold the Town

Blue Square Bet Premier Cambridge United (0) 0 Luton Town (0) 0

LUTON Town lost further ground in the race for the Blue Square Bet Premier title after this 0-0 draw at lowly Cambridge United tonight, writes Mike Simmonds.

The hosts hadn’t won at home in the league since November 27 and went into the game on a run of one win in 12, but easily held the Hatters at arm’s length, as Town slipped 11 points behind leaders Crawley Town.

As indicated before the game, boss Richard Money made a number of changes from Sunday’s FA Trophy game, five in total, and sprung a number of surprises, none more so than Adam Newton coming in for his first start since September 25.

Hatters’ ex-U’s of Danny Crow, Paul Carden and Robbie Wilmott all reclaimed their places, with Crow and Carden booed mercilessly throughout.

The first 25 minutes was an instantly forgettable affair, with Liam Hughes’ shot that dribbled wide, the only chance of note.

Hatters thought they had the lead on 27 minutes when Wilmott’s fierce free-kick was headed towards goal by Zdenek Kroca but thundered against the underside of the bar and away with visiting players protesting to no avail that the ball had crossed the line.

United finally created their first significant opening on 35 minutes as Hughes drove forward, but fired a 20-yarder straight at Mark Tyler.

Wilmott should have put Hatters ahead on 38 minutes after a fine run by Newton who beat two men and slipped the ball into the winger’s path, but his slide-rule shot flashed across goal.

Cambridge came on strong in the latter stages of the half as Danny Wright’s header from a corner looped on to the top of the bar, before David Partridge slammed the rebound well over.

They then had the chance of the half when Carden lost the ball in midfield and Wright was sent clean through only to shank his effort horribly wide with just Tyler to beat.

Cambridge’s fans were cheering a goal moments before half time as Luke Berry’s spectacular overhead volley flew past Tyler, but the referee had already blown for a handball.

Kevin Roberts also came close, when his cross whizzed inches wide, as the travelling Hatters fans voiced their displeasure at the interval.

Those thoughts were obviously felt by Money, who had Claude Gnakpa and Alex Lawless stripped and sent out during half time to warm up, replacing Carden and Newton.

Luton’s team also appeared well before the start of the second period, no doubt with Money’s words ringing in their ears.

The visitors started brightly too as Luke Graham’s cross was headed goalwards by Lloyd Owusu and tipped over by Simon Brown, while Gnakpa sent his header straight at the keeper.

Cambridge had another goal ruled out with 55 minutes on the clock as a free-kick was pumped into the box and Mark Bentley, who was clambering all over Gnakpa headed across for Wright to bundle home. Referee Mark Heywood initially awarded the goal, but a linesman’s flag rightly chalked the strike off.

United were a far more potent threat and a poor ball by Wilmott released Hughes, who teed up Jordan Patrick. The winger’s shot was fumbled by Tyler, but Hughes could only prod his follow up wide.

Hatters had another excellent chance on 66 minutes when Owusu was gifted possession, but scuffed wide from 18 yards, before Gnakpa’s audacious shot was held by Brown.

The hosts always had a willing outlet in Wright, but thankfully his radar remained awry, after being found by Hughes’ wonderful pass.

With the game opening up, Gnakpa and Wright traded efforts that flew wide, while the Cambridge striker spanked another effort off target.

As time ticked on, Keith Keane’s blast was palmed aside by Brown and Gnakpa’s header flew over as Money was left to reflect on another frustrating evening, while the home side’s fans celebrated as if they had won the league.