Luton Town’s unlikely efforts to reach the League Two play-offs ultimately came to an end despite a 2-0 win over Stevenage this afternoon.
Hatters had gone into the game, needing a highly improbable eight goal swing over Plymouth to reach the top seven, but in the end proceedings at Kenilworth Road were rendered meaningless as Argyle won 2-0 at title chasing Shrewsbury.
The visitors made a hefty eight changes to their side with the play-offs already secure, naming former Town skipper Ronnie Henry, plus ex-Hatter David Martin and one time loanee Harry Worley in their starting line-up.
Town were unchanged and gave their hopes an instant boost inside five minutes as Jonathan Smith found Elliot Lee, his shot was saved low down by Chris Day, allowing Mark Cullen to sweep the rebound into an empty net.
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Hatters’ intentions in the opening moments were never in doubt as Steve McNulty tried his luck from 30 yards, sending a rising drive from distance narrowly over.
The hosts were close to a second on 18 minutes too as Smith’s deep cross saw Jake Howells stretch every sinew to meet it at the back post, only to find Henry in the way.
Knowing Luton needed goals and plenty of them, the visitors used all the tricks at their disposal to keep them at arms length for the majority of the opening though, in a display synonymous from a side managed by Graham Westley.
It took until 40 minutes for another opening to be created with Smith’s low drive easy for Day, although had he got his head up, the midfielder might have noticed a better option, the completely unmarked Howells screaming for the ball.
However, just as news filtered through that Plymouth were moving 2-0 up at Shrewsbury, Luton got their second in injury time, with a wonder strike from Michael Harriman, who advancing in the box somehow hooked a volley into the top corner with his weaker left foot.
Knowing their chances were slim at best in the second half, Town still gave it a go in the early stages as Lee danced around his man on the byline and crossed but Cullen got his feet in a tangle to volley wide.
McGeehan then wasted a superb opportunity when picked out by Howells’ cross, rather than volley it first time, he opted to bring it down, allowing the defence to get back and block.
Howells and Lee sent efforts off target as Luton kept up their attacking intent, while Cullen beat the offside trap to race away as Day’s legs blocked his low drive.
The forward then shanked another angled drive disappointingly side as Stevenage’s patched up defence was there for the taking, Luke Wilkinson’s towering header cleared off the line by Roarie Deacon and Smith’s follow up into the stands.
A wonderful move from back to front produced another opening, McNulty, Howells and Cullen all involved, teeing up Harriman’s rasping drive that flew wide.
Lee should have opened his account, tamely shooting at Day after being set up by Cullen, but with Argyle showing no signs of letting their advantage slip, Hatters began to drop their intensity.
In fact, it was the visitors who finally began to threaten in the latter stages, with a low shot by Jack Jebb, calling Elliot Justham into his first meaningful work.
The keeper then blocked from sub Calvin Zola as Bruno Andrade beat Lewis Kinsella with ease, as Lee continued to hunt a farewell goal, only to fire into the side netting.
Stevenage came mightily close to a consolation in the closing stages as Zola pounced on Wilkinson’s poor back header, but the striker’s chip was slowed down by Justham’s fingertips as Harriman completed the clearance.
After the final whistle, the majority of Hatters’ supporters stayed behind to show their appreciation for the Luton players and management staff on their lap of acknowledgement, hoping next season, they are cheering a play-off place at the very least.
Hatters: Elliot Justham, Michael Harriman, Scott Griffiths (Lewis Kinsella 78), Steve McNulty (C), Luke Wilkinson, Nathan Doyle (Ryan Hall 72), Jonathan Smith, Cameron McGeehan, Jake Howells (Luke Guttridge 75), Mark Cullen, Elliot Lee.
Subs not used: Alex Lacey, Lewis King, Alex Wall, Nathan Oduwa.
Boro: Chris Day, Harry Worley (David McAllister 56), Jon Ashton, Simon Walton, Charlie Lee, Ronnie Henry (C, Ben Kennedy 57), Tom Conlon, Roarie Deacon (Calvin Zola 76), Bruno Andrade, Jack Jebb, David Martin.
Subs not used: Michael Richens, Calvin Zola, Ryan Johnson, Fejiri Okenbirhie, Dave Beasant.
Referee: Nigel Miller.
Booked: Worley 5, Doyle 20.
Attendance: 10,054 (1,032 Stevenage).
Hatters MOM: Michael Harriman. Scored a cracking strike and hopefully it’s not his last game in a Luton shirt.