Skrill Premier: Lincoln City 0 (0) Luton Town 0 (0)
Jaded Hatters fought hard as they battled to a goalless draw against Lincoln City at Sincil Bank this afternoon as they equalled the club record of 19 league games unbeaten, writes Mark Wood.
Luton’s midweek exertions against Barnet looked to have caught up with them on the day, but they still created the better chances as they dug deep to secure a draw and stretch their lead at the top of the Skrill Premier to five points, although Cambridge United now have three games in hand.
The draw may have ended a run of seven-straight wins, but it did see the Hatters equal their record run of consecutive league games unbeaten set in 1968 and 1969.
Town named an unchanged team from the side that had battled to a 2-1 victory over Barnet on New Year’s Day, while Lincoln’s two new Cambridge loan men, Mitch Austin and Delano Sam-Yorke went straight into their side.
Sam-Yorke made a bright start as he robbed Scott Griffiths but, having moved the ball across the box, Mamadou Fofana could only fire well over.
At the other end Andre Gray threatened as he was muscled over by Nat Brown in front of the away supporters, but their appeals for a penalty were ignored. Mark Tyler then had to be alert to beat Sam-Yorke to a through ball that had held up on the sodden pitch.
Joe Davis put in a terrific header to clear away a dangerous cross on 13 minutes, before Griffiths’ half-volley from just outside the box from a half-cleared free-kick was easy for Paul Farman.
An awful challenge by Luke Foster on Paul Benson on the edge of the box saw the City man enter the referee’s notebook on 18 minutes, but Luke Guttridge’s goal-bound effort was headed away by Brown, before the creative midfielder rolled an effort tamely at the keeper from Davis’ astute pass.
Great play by Gray released Jake Howells midway through the half and Town went close from the resulting corner, but Paul Benson could only head Guttridge’s delivery wide.
Town started to get on top and almost took the lead on 33 minutes when Howells and Griffiths combined and the left-back burst into the box, but saw his shot fly just over the bar.
The visitors went close again eight minutes before the break when Benson could only head Guttridge’s corner over the bar when he should have hit the target.
Lincoln finally started to come back into the match, with Brown’s header flashing wide from a corner and Fofana shooting well over.
Confusion in the Luton defence then saw three Town players each leave the clearance to one another as Sam-Yorke drilled over.
But it was the Hatters who ended the half the stronger as Benson could only pop his header over the bar from Howells’ cross three minutes before the break.
City’s defence was then forced to hurriedly defend as Alex Lawless wove his way into the box. Guttridge seized on the loose ball but Gray could only mishit Ronnie Henry’s low cross in the box before Howells had huge shouts for handball turned down after his effort seemed to thump off Tom Miller’s arm.
Town weren’t done yet either, but Benson could only direct Griffiths’ cross at Farman as the half finished goalless.
An early Guttridge effort in the second half was deflected harmlessly at Farman, but he was injured in the process as he was eventually replaced by new Peterborough loan man Kane Ferdinand.
Griffiths was booked for a silly tug on Austin as he looked to break away and from the subsequent free-kick Brown’s header bounced up in the mud and Tyler did well to hold on.
The Imps were looking far more lively in the second half as Griffiths had to put in a goal-saving tackle on Austin as he prepared to slide home after good work down the left.
Conner Robinson rifled over as Lincoln’s pressure started to mount and Gray was booked for kicking the ball away.
Town were looking jaded after their heroics on Wednesday, but the impressive Davis put in a crunching challenge on Austin as Luton were forced on to the back foot.
Having weathered the storm, both sides started to slip more as the pitch cut up. A rare moment of quality by Lawless almost saw him slip Benson through on 69 minutes but his first touch wasn’t good as he left the ball behind in the mud.
A cracking Sam-Yorke volley flashed just over with 15 minutes to go, while Town almost snatched a winner with eight minutes to go when Ferdinand threaded Gray through, but he took too long and saw his shot blocked.
Still searching for a winner Gray skirted in behind the City defence with two minutes to go but his near-post effort was turned behind by the keeper.
It was the Hatters who finished the stronger as they still managed to play some patient stuff despite the increasingly treacherous conditions.
Gray whistled a late effort wide and, although the Hatters finished powerfiully, they were unable to force a winner.
Imps (4-5-1): Paul Farman, Tom Miller, Luke Foster, Nat Brown (C), Sean Newton, Todd Jordan, Mamadou Fofana, Jon Nolan (Dan Gray 90+2), Mitch Austin (Nick Wright 73), Conner Robinson, Delano Sam-Yorke. Substitutes not used: Waide Fairhurst, Danny Rowe, David Preece.
Hatters (4-3-3): Mark Tyler, Ronnie Henry (C), Steve McNulty, Joe Davis, Scott Griffiths, Luke Guttridge (Kane Ferdinand 50), Matt Robinson, Alex Lawless, Jake Howells, Paul Benson, Andre Gray. Substitutes not used: Alex Wall, Mark Cullen, Elliot Justham, Alfie Mawson.
Booked: Foster 18; Griffiths 50; Gray 53; Henry 82.
Referee: Ross Joyce.
Assistant Referees: Robin Cox and Andrew Tonks.
Fourth Official: Alan Marshall.
Attendance: 2,928 (Luton 974).
Star Hatter: Joe Davis. Young defender relished the conditions and excelled on the day