Hatters fight back to earn a point at Stanley

Luke Rooney celebrates making it 2-1
Luke Rooney celebrates making it 2-1

Luton Town hit back from going 2-0 down after 16 minutes to earn a battling point in a breathless League Two clash at Accrington Stanley this afternoon.

Hatters found themselves trailing to goals from James Gray and Luke Joyce, but Luke Rooney and Jake Howells ensured Luton were on level terms by the break

In the second period, both goalkeepers excelled as chances came and went, as Luton had to be satisfied with a share of the spoils.

Town had made three changes as Luke Guttridge and Fraser Franks dropped to the bench with Scott Griffiths missing out altogether, while Alex Lacey, Paul Connolly and Howells came back into the side.

Midfielder Matt Robinson made his 50th appearance for Hatters, but there was still no place for Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu despite his goalscoring exploits in the week.

There was precious little to talk about in the opening few moments, before Stanley took the lead when Hatters were sliced open on their right hand side.

George Bowerman played in Piero Mingoia and he broke into the box to cross for Gray to slide past Mark Tyler on eight minute.

Hatters, who had looked so solid defensively in recent weeks, then completely fell apart as a high ball was headed goalwards by Luke Joyce.

His weak effort deflected off a Town defender in the box and trickled into the net via the post, with Tyler unable to claw it out.

Unimpressed by what he was witnessing, Town boss John Still reacted to his side’s shocking start by hauling off Lacey on 21 minutes, with Guttridge coming on.

The change gave instantly gave Hatters more pep going forward as Guttridge was off target from 25 yards.

With their tails still up though, Stanley looked for a third, Adam Buxton shooting at Tyler from a free kick.

The busy Guttridge almost stole a leveller, when he tried to pounce on a back header, but Lynch was out to hang on.

Hatters did halve the deficit on 32 minutes though when they eventually managed to sustain some attacking pressure in the final third.

Robinson’s shot was well blocked by Rob Atkinson, but Drury picked up the pieces and found Rooney, who cut in from his flank to curl a peach of a strike beyond Lynch and into the far corner.

The winger, now full of confidence, gathered the ball in a central position, burst forwards and unleashed a low drive that Lynch palmed away.

Hatters still looked uneasy at times, with Robinson gifting possession away far too easily, and Hatters almost paid the price five minutes before the break.

Bowerman’s whipped effort was turned over by Tyler, with the corner then headed wide by the unmarked Tom Aldred.

They say 2-0 is the most dangerous lead to have and this proved to be the case when Guttridge won a free kick on the edge of the box and Howells stepped up.

There was an air of inevitability about the strike, which although wasn’t truly hit, took a number of deflections to beat the wrong footed Lynch.

Hatters then amost went into the interval with the lead as Rooney’s deep cross was headed narrowly over the bar by Mark Cullen.

After the break, Luton put a lovely attacking move together, started by Robinson’s penetrating run, with Drury finally dinking a cross over that Benson glanced wide.

Rooney then slid a glorious pass through for Cullen who turned his defender inside and out, but slipped at the crucial moment, and the opportunity went begging, while Guttridge had another effort charged down as the play went from end to end.

Stanley tried to wrest the initiative back as Howells had to slide in with a wonderful last-ditch challenge and from the resulting corner, Naismith nodded over.

Another lovely piece of play that was knitted together by Guttridge saw Drury race into the box but Lynch made himself big to smother his attempted chip.

The keeper was called upon again to repel Rooney’s low shot, but Accrington came back well, Windass hammering wide when well placed, while Benson looped a header narrowly off target.

Gray then escaped the attentions of Wilkinson and from a tight angle, saw his volley wonderfully tipped over by Tyler.

Robinson’s audacios volley from distance was grabbed at the second attempt by Lynch as Still replaced Cullen with Wall.

Hatters thought they had the lead for the first time when Luke nWilkinson headed home Drury’s free kick, but he was clearly leaning on his man and it was disallowed.

In a nervy finale, it was Accrington who looked the more likely as Gray escaped Town’s defence only to see his rasping left footed superbly tipped round the post by Tyler.

The corner was then headed goalwards by Rob Atkinson, but his header was bundled off the line by a grateful Howells.

Stanley: Jay Lynch, Adam Buxton, Luke Joyce, Tom Aldred, James Gray, Kai Naismith, Piero Mingoia, Nicky Hunt (Marcus Carver 89), Rob Atkinson, Jordan Mustoe, George Bowerman (Josh Windass 67).

Subs not used: Joe Lumley, Dean Winnard, Shay McCartan, Will Hatfield, James Alabi.

Hatters: Mark Tyler, Paul Connolly, Jake Howells, Steve McNulty, Luke Wilkinson, Alex Lacey (Luke Guttridge 21), Andy Drury, Matt Robinson, Luke Rooney, Mark Cullen (Alex Wall 79), Paul Benson.

Subs not used: Fraser Franks, Elliot Justham, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, Ross Lafayette, Jim Stevenson.

Bookings: Hunt 83, Carver 90.

Attendance: 1,562 (586 Hatters).

Hatters star man: Luke Guttridge - his arrival changed the game.