League Two: Barnet 2 Luton 1
A moment of madness from Hatters captain Scott Cuthbert saw Luton Town slip to a gut-wrenching last-gasp defeat against Barnet this afternoon.
With two minutes of stoppage time remaining, the Town skipper needlessly handled a deep free kick into the box, gifting the Bees a penalty which John Akinde confidently slotted past Jonathan Mitchell.
It had looked like the worst Luton would leave with was a point after Cameron McGeehan’s 85th minute strike drew Town level and as the clock ran down, it was they who looked the more likely to go on and win.
But both Joe Pigott and Danny Green missed decent openings, as Akinde’s late spotkick condemned Hatters to defeat on a day when other results had gone their way, Wycombe held by Notts County and Leyton Orient losing at home to Hartlepool, meaning Town dropped to eight points behind the play-offs.
Earlier, Luton boss Nathan Jones made three changes, handing recalls to Magnus Okuonghae, Paul Benson and Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, while Glen Rea kept his place after being released from his Republic of Ireland U21 duty.
The switches saw Alan Sheehan move over to left back, while Josh McQuoid was fit enough to return to the bench alongside Olly Lee.
Jones had warned Hatters to expect a relentless approach from the hosts in his pre-match press conference and they got exactly that, with Martin Allen’s side old school tactics helped out by a gale-force wind, as Luton were barely out of their half in the opening 10 minutes.
Barnet pumped the ball forward whenever possible, with Sam Muggleton’s missile-like long throw seeing Town’s defence put under constant threat, Michael Gash glancing a header narrowly wide.
It took Hatters a good 20 minutes to fashion anything remotely resembling an opportunity, as Jack Marriott’s cross was cut out, while the striker then warmed Graham Stack’s hands, Alie Sesay clearing the loose ball.
With the conditions giving Barnet a clear advantage, Mitchell had a nervy moment on the half hour, catching the wind, to narrowly miss the top corner with the keeper at full stretch.
Moments before half time, Luton proved you could get the ball down and play on a poor surface though, a wonderful one touch passing move from back to front, ending with McGeehan’s effort palmed away by Stack.
After seeing out the first half’s aerial bombardment Luton frustratingly then fell behind from Bees’ first attack of the second period.
With a Town attack breaking down, their defence was caught completely out of position, as Barnet set off on a four on two attack, Luke Gambin cutting inside to curl a low left-footed finish past Mitchell and into the bottom corner.
Hatters thought they had levelled on the hour mark when Ruddock Mpanzu played Marriott in, but as he cleverly dinked over the onrushing Stack, he was flagged offside and the goal was chalked off.
Town then swapped Smith for Paddy McCourt with the winger almost setting up a equaliser immediately as his cross saw Rea beat Stack, but not James Pearson, who had taken up a position on the goal-line.
McGeehan was next to go close too as after another good move, firing over, while McCourt continued to try and work his magic, setting off on another mazy run and once reaching the byline, his cross fell for Rea only to lash off target.
With Barnet doing all they can to see the game out by any means necessary, including Curtis Weston seeing yellow for not leaving the field quickly enough, McCourt had a shot kicked away, with Marriott dragging narrowly wide.
However, with five minutes to go, the Bees paid the price for their blatant gamemanship as sub Danny Green’s lofted cross to the back post was headed goalwards by Cuthbert.
Stack couldn’t hold the effort and McGeehan was on hand to lash the rebound into the roof of the net for his 13th of the campaign.
That brought the 1,800 plus travelling fans alive and Luton looked like they could go on and win their first game after conceding first since April 2014.
Crucially, they fluffed their lines twice though as Sheehan’s header was flicked wide by Pigott, while Green wasted an even better opportunity.
Once again Hatters shifted the ball from defence into attack and with Green through to face Stack, he opted for the audacious outside of the foot lob, but saw it fly into the visiting fans.
Barnet then won a free kick when Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu was caught in possession and Luton’s defence cracked again, with Cuthbert penalised and Akinde ensuring the points stayed at the Hive.
Bees: Graham Stack, James Pearson, Michael Nelson, Alie Sesay, Sam Muggleton, Andy Yiadom (C), Sam Togwell, Curtis Weston (Mauro Vilhete 77), Luke Gambin (Bondz N’Gala 67), Michael Gash (Mathew Stevens 90), John Akinde.
Subs not used: Jamie Stephens, Tom Champion, Harry Taylor, Fumnaya Shomotun.
Hatters: Jonathan Mitchell, Stephen O’Donnell, Alan Sheehan, Scott Cuthbert (C), Magnus Okuonghae, Jonathan Smith (Paddy McCourt 62), Glen Rea (Danny Green 80), Cameron McGeehan, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, Jack Marriott, Paul Benson (Joe Pigott 72).
Subs not used: Elliot Justham, Alex Lawless, Josh McQuoid, Olly Lee, Danny Green.
Attendance: 4,008 (1,823 Hatters).
Booked: Smith 7, Pearson 70, Weston 78, Sesay 80, N’Gala 83, Akinde 90, Sheehan 90, Cuthbert 90.
Referee: Graham Salisbury.
Hatters MOM: Jack Marriott - was always on the shoulder of the last man.