League Two: Luton Town 1 York City 1
Luton Town saw their sequence of four straight League Two victories ended after a hugely frustrating 1-1 draw against bogey side York City this afternoon.
The hosts went into the match having not beaten their opponents in the last eight games and despite enjoying plenty of the ball throughout, never really looked like they would come close to ending that stat.
After Keith Lowe put the visitors in front, Cameron McGeehan’s spot kick just after the hour levelled matters, but with the Kenilworth Road faithful expecting a rousing finale, it failed to materialise.
Luton boss John Still made one change to the starting line-up as Dan Potts was handed his first league start at left back with Scott Griffiths dropping out of the squad completely.
After netting seven in their last two games on the road, Hatters supporters were expecting a fast start, although a repeat of those numbers appeared some way off as goalscoring changes were at a premium.
Patience was definitely the order of the day as from the early stages it was clear York were set up to slow proceedings down whenever they could, taking an age over every set-play and using all the tricks in the book.
Chances were few and far between for Hatters as McGeehan had an early effort easily stopped by Scott Flinders, while when the visitors offside trap malfunctioned, Craig Mackail-Smith was sent clear by Olly Lee, only to drag well wide from 15 yards.
With 17 minutes gone, Hatters had another rare opportunity, McGeehan’s cross met by Mackail-Smith for Guttridge whose close-range toe-poke was turned behind by Flinders.
City had their first sighter on 20 minutes, Russell Penn shooting well over, while Michael Coulson followed suit later.
Hatters kept knocking it about trying to prise an opening, but without the invention of a Paddy McCourt, away on international duty, too often looked good until the final third before running out of ideas when repeatedly attempting to go through the middle of a congested defence, the move more often than not breaking down down.
With home supporters’ frustrations becoming audible, York then had the lead out of nothing.
Midfielder Penn, who had been the Minstermen’s worst culprit when it came to time-wasting, delayed and delayed his set-piece, but when he eventually did deliver, Scott Cuthbert was beaten at the back post allowing unmarked centre half Keith Lowe to prod home.
The visitors then had legitimate shouts for a penalty after Oliver went down in the area under a challenge from Cuthbert, but referee Darren Handley gave nothing.
With Mackail-Smith not reappearing for the second period after a recurrence of his hamstring injury, leading scorer Jack Marriott came on in his place.
Hatters looked to start positively, with Potts finally taking play deep into opposition territory after too often cutting back inside during the first period.
He won a free kick which was punched out to Josh McQuoid who sent a rising volley into the stands.
Luton still weren’t threatening Flinders’ goal with anywhere near the regularity they would have wanted as if anything York were the more likely, Antony Straker’s back post volley deflecting behind off Cuthbert.
The Town defender was then in action at the other end, meeting Guttridge’s free kick at the back post, heading across goal for Wilkinson to nod wide.
Hatters finally utilised the pace of Marriott on 62 minutes as he picked up Lee’s raking pass and although Femi Ilesanmi halted his progress, Potts took the loose ball up and charged into the area, going down under pressure from Penn.
Mystifyingly, referee Darren Handley didn’t even show the York man a card of any colour, despite his obvious indescretion.
With Mackail-Smith off, McGeehan took the duties and confidently slammed down the middle for his sixth of the campaign.
Back on level terms, Luton pressed for an immediatea second, with Wilkinson’s close range header from a corner producing a quite brilliant tip over from Flinders.
From then on though, try as they might, Hatters couldn’t ever build up a full head of steam as York came back into the encounter and might have snatched victory, Penn sending two presentable efforts from range off target.
Cuthbert was wide too after taking aim from 20 yards with Town’s frustrations boiling over late on, as players from both sides got involved in a set of handbags during the closing stages.
Time ran out though with Luton left to reflect on a disappointing outcome, although they did extend their unbeaten run to five games and remain 10th in the table, just five points off new leaders Portsmouth.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Scott Cuthbert, Dan Potts, Steve McNulty (C), Luke Wilkinson, Jonathan Smith (Alex Lawless 57), Olly Lee, Josh McQuoid, Luke Guttridge (Nathan Doyle 82) Cameron McGeehan, Craig Mackail-Smith (Jack Marriott 46).
Subs not used: Ryan Hall, Danny Green, Elliot Justham, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu.
Gills: Scott Flinders, Marvin McCoy, Femi Ilesanmi, James Berrett, John McCombe, Michael Coulson (Rhys Tuner 82), Vadaine Oliver, Russell Penn (C), Anthony Straker, Keith Lowe, Michael Collins.
Subs not used: Josh Carson, Dave Winfield, Reece Thompson, Michael Ingham, Ben Godfrey, Emile Sinclair.
Attendance: 8,612 (York 222).
Booked: McCoy 67.
Referee: Darren Handley.
Hatters MOM: Olly Lee - midfielder kept play moving as quickly as possibly in an intelligent manner throughout.