Hatters show promising signs ahead of big kick-off

Luton Town boss John Still
Luton Town boss John Still

Luton Town finished their pre-season campaign with a Jekyll and Hyde 1-1 draw against League One Peterborough – where the good outweighed the bad and promised much for next weekend’s campaign curtain-raiser at Carlisle.

Manager John Still had said after Tuesday’s 2-2 friendly draw with Colchester that this final preparation game would allow him to field the starting XI that will most likely feature in the Cumbria next Saturday.

What a mouth-watering prospect that League Two opener now is, as for 45 minutes Town took the game to Posh and should have bagged more than the solitary goal that Mark Cullen expertly claimed.

The striker’s showing was one of a number of eye-catching first period performances - despite being guilty of a bad miss along with Paul Benson - but Luton’s drive all stemmed from the outstanding Matt Robinson and £100,000 man Andy Drury.

When they departed at half time as part of eight changes Town lacked the same impetus and Peterborough’s Britt Assombalonga converted from penalty spot to ensure a draw.

Luton should have opened the scoring in the seventh minute when Drury, with a sublime cross from deep, picked out an unmarked Cullen 12 yards out, but the striker headed over with the goal at his mercy.

That miss paled in comparison when Benson scooped over the bar from point-blank range following a tenacious run and cross from the byline courtesy of Scott Griffiths.

For all their passing possession football, Peterborough had failed to trouble Town’s goal. Instead, Drury’s influence increased in attack while Robinson put in a series of crowd-pleasing challenges that kept Town ticking over as they assumed control of the contest.

Former Hatters loan keeper Ben Alnwick was belatedly called into action just after the half hour mark, beating away a stinging Alex Lawless volley, which proved to be the Welshman’s last taste of action as he was replaced with Luke Rooney on 33 minutes – a precautionary measure.

Conor Washington was on target soon after for the visitors but former United stopper Mark Tyler dealt well with the long-range daisy-cutter that skipped off the turf deluged by heavy summer downpours.

The hosts still looked the likelier to score and Cullen did everything but as he surged to the 18-yard line only to tickle an effort into the arms of Alnwick.

Tyler palmed away a late John Taylor drive after Luton had allowed him space to turn but the men in orange took the lead on the stroke of half time when Robinson capped a fine performance with a perfectly weighted ball through to Cullen who raced clear and drove low into the far corner.

Only Alex Lacey – who moved into right back – Steve McNulty and Rooney remained on the pitch after wholesale half time changes which only served to disrupt the Hatters’ flow.

Just before the hour mark Alex Wall flashed a shot, on the turn, just past the Posh post, while the visitors’ half time substitute Nathan Mendez-Laing did likewise with a long-range blast.

Assombalonga was rather more wayward but Hatters goalie Elliot Justham scuffed the resulting goal-kick straight into the path of Washington who shook off the attentions of Fraser Franks and slammed a shot that required two attempts for the keeper to gather.

It was a warning that Peterborough were starting to find their feet and some further calamitous defending saw McNulty bundle Washington over in the box, allowing Assombalonga to level from the penalty spot with a quarter of an hour left to play.

The visitors should have taken soon after but Kgosi Ntlhe fired wide at the back post, while the closest either side came to a deciding goal was when Taylor then struck the base of the upright.

Next stop Brunton Park and the big Football League return.

Luton: Tyler (Justham), Wilkinson (Franks), McNulty, Lacey, Lawless (Rooney), Drury (Guttridge), Benson (Lafayette), Griffiths (Howells), Cullen (Wall), Robinson (Mpanzu), Connolly (Stevenson)

Unused subs: Smith

Peterborough: Alnwick, Ntlhe, Bostwick, Taylor (Conlon), Payne, Assombalonga, Washington (Vassell), Anderson, McEvoy (Mendez-Laing), Zakuani,

Unused subs: Day, Richens.

Attendance: 2,154