FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round: Woking 0 (0) Luton Town 1 (1)
Mark Cullen’s 32nd-minute header was enough to see Luton scrape to a 1-0 victory over Woking at the Kingfield Stadium in FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round this afternoon.
A lively and controversial first half could have seen the Hatters awarded two penalties and they did just enough to grind out victory over workmanlike Woking in a scrappy second half.
It extended Luton’s unbeaten run to nine games and as a result Town will be ball number 77 in tomorrow’s first round draw at Wembley.
Town made six changes from the team that won 4-3 at Tamworth the week before. Elliot Justham was handed his debut in goal as into the team also came Anthony Charles, Jake Howells, Cullen, Matt Robinson and David Martin as a last minute replacement for Scott Griffiths who was originally on the team sheet but was injured in the warm-up.
Mark Tyler, Andy Parry and Andre Gray dropped to the bench, while Alex Lacey and Luke Guttridge were rested.
Luton made a bright start to the game as they attacked from the start, but controversy ensued on seven minutes when Shaun Whalley went down under a Jack Parkinson challenge in the area only to be booked for simulation.
In an open start, Charles headed wide from a Martin corner, while at the other end the Cards went close when Ronnie Henry could only head Kevin Besty’s cross straight at Steve McNulty as the rebound squirmed inches wide.
Martin and Howells combined well on the left as the former Welsh U21 international forced Sam Beasnt to save well with his feet as the ball span up over the bar.
Woking though were enjoying plenty of the play as Giuseppe Sole rose well to flash a header just wide on 25 minutes.
And the cards should have taken the lead three minutes later when Robinson’s sliding challenge ran kindly for Sole as he raced clean through but, with just Justham to beat, he could only fire wastefully over.
McNulty made an important interception as Betsy tried to release Gavin Williams before more controversy erupted on 31 minutes as Whalley again tricked his way into the box and seemed to be taken out by Josh Payne’s sliding tackle, only for referee Colin Lymer to signal a corner. But justice was done as Martin’s near post delivery was powerfully headed home by Cullen for his third headed goal against the Cards at the Kingfield this season.
Woking were still well in it though as Sole did superbly to nip in front of Charles as he burst on to a long ball forward and, as he looked to race clear, he was caught by the high book of the experienced defender, who thankfully just saw yellow as McNulty was close by.
Justham had to be aware to save John Nutter’s free-kick through a crowded box on 37 minutes, before the Cards twice went close a minute before the break.
Payne’s scorching 20-yard effort forced a fine full-stretch save from Justham and when the ball was chipped back into the box the unmarked John Goddard saw his header hacked away from the line by Howells.
Another swerving Payne effort was then well fielded by Justham as an eventful half drew to a close.
Woking continued to push for an equaliser after the break as Justham did well to palm away Betsy’s powerful swerving effort seven minutes in, before Williams twisted and turned his way past the already booked Charles but could only loft his effort over the bar.
An injury to one of the linesman led to a brief stoppage as he was replaced, but it was Woking who were in the ascendancy.
The pressure was lifted on the hour when Martin robbed a defender and raced down the wing but saw his byline cross cut out, while Benson could have done better when the far post corner came his way.
Town were inviting pressure on themselves with too many rushed passes, but started to come back into the game as Benson was just unable to capitalise on a half chance and Whalley dragged harmlessly wide.
It was a scrappy and nervous second half as the Cards harried at every opportunity.
Both teams made changes as Gray was introduced for Martin on 72 minutes to give Town some added zip.
The Hatters went close four minutes later when Charles’ header from Whalley’s corner dipped just over the bar and, with the winger now playing on the left flank, he saw a decent effort headed behind by McNerney.
Woking threw centre-half McNerney into the attack for the last 10 minutes as the Cards desperately looked to force a replay.
Whalley did really well to drive to the byline and get a cross in with six minutes to go, but Benson was unable to profit.
A lack of composure when in possession continued to plague the Hatters, while Betsy continued to look the Cards’ most likely source of a leveller.
Six minute of stoppage-time were added and Luton almost sealed victory in the second minute when Benson pressurised Parkinson and his back pass from an acute angle was nowhere near his keeper as it ran just wide of the far stick.
Cards captain Mark Ricketts managed a 95th-minute effort from the edge of the area that was easily saved and that was it for chances as Luton progressed into the first round proper.
Cards (4-4-2): Sam Beasant, John Goddard (Anthony McNamee 66), John Nutter, Joe McNerney, Jack Parkinson, Gavin Williams (Craig Sutherland 72), Kevin Betsy, Josh Payne, Adam Newton, Giuseppe Sole ( George Frith 80), Mark Ricketts (C). Substitutes not used: Aaron Howe, Will Salmon, Niall Wright, Reece Beecles.
Hatters (4-4-2): Elliot Justham, Jonathan Smith, Steve McNulty, Anthony Charles, Jake Howells, David Martin (Andre Gray 72), Mark Cullen, Shaun Whalley, Matt Robinson (Andy Parry 77), Ronnie Henry (C), Paul Benson. Substitutes not used: Solomon Taiwo, David Viana, Mark Tyler, Alex Wall, Jim Stevenson.
Booked: Whalley 7; Charles 36; Benson 51.
Referee: Colin Lymer.
Assistant Referees: John Pike and David Spain.
Four Official: Jonathan Creswick.
Attendance: 1,452 (Luton 537).
Star Hatter: Jake Howells. Put in a really reliable shift against the dangerous Betsy.