Impressive Hatters knock out holders Wrexham

FA Trophy second roundLuton Town 2 Wrexham 0

Mark Cullen scored Town's opener
Mark Cullen scored Town's opener

A hugely impressive performance from Town’s supposed second string was easily more than good enough to knock holders Wrexham out of the FA Trophy this afternoon, writes Mike Simmonds.

As promised, Hatters boss John Still made wholesale changes to his side, 10 in fact, with only Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu retained from the side who hammered Alfreton Town 5-0 last weekend.

Anthony Charles made his first start for almost two months, while there were full debuts for youngsters Ian Rees and Brett Longden.

Conversely, Wrexham showed exactly how seriously they were taking the competition, with just two alterations to the side who had played in the FA Cup against Oxford.

Despite the freshness of Town’s XI, it was they who were by far the more cohesive in the opening period, with some lovely one touch passing football as Red Dragons’ Andy Coughlin was easily the busier keeper, saving from skipper Jake Howells and Shaun Whalley.

Luton were then rewarded for their excellent start as they took the lead on 15 minutes as Whalley’s corner reached the unmarked Cullen at the back post.

Although back-pedalling and off balance, he managed to somehow direct his looping header over the flat footed Coughlin and into the net.

Town continued to impress in the first half, playing the better football with one lovely exchange through the midfield leading to Wall’s shot blocked earning warm applause.

Midfielder Rees was unlucky not to mark his first start with a goal as after Wall leapt well to win a long free kick, he saw his close range effort deflected on to the post and behind.

The visitors’ defence remained indecisive as a long ball from Elliot Justham was left along and Cullen slid his shot wide of the post

Matt Robinson then displayed the confidence coursing through the Town, winning possession and unleashing a shot that was wide of Coughlin’s goal.

The chances didn’t stop there either as Whalley wasted a decent opportunity and when the ball broke to Mpanzu, he fizzed an effort into Coughlin’s gloves.

Wrexham finally had a modicum of pressure for the closing moments of the half, but never looked like testing Justham, who surely couldn’t believe what a quiet afternoon has was having.

After the break, Hatters should have been 2-0 up as Wall was criminally caught offside when Town fashioned a two on one break and despite slotting home Whalley’s cross, it was ruled out by the linesman’s flag.

Robinson broke away and was brought down inches from the box, earning Jay Harris a booking, but Whalley shanked the free kick wastefully off target.

Hatters kept up the pressure as Whalley’s low corner was missed by Charles and hit Cullen’s chest only to rebound narrowly over the bar.

Wrexham’s chances were then made even harder as Harris was dsmissed just after the hour, sliding in to foul Mpanzu in full flight and after playing advantage, referee D England went back to caution the Wrexham midfielder, thus ending his afternoon.

The visitors boss Andy Morrell brought himself into the fray to try and force a leveller, and his side missed a great chance to level when Andy Bishop’s close range header flew wide.

Hatters had a crucial and richly deserved second on 77 minutes though when another Whalley corner was met by Neil Ashton who had just taken the captain’s armband and although Charles was in close proximity, it was the visiting defender who had the final touch.

Ashton almost reduced the arrears, beating Justham to a long free kick, but Charles was on hand to nod clear off the line as Town made serene progress to the third round, something that few would have believed was possible prior to kick off.

Hatters: Elliot Justham, Brett Longden, Jake Howells (C), Joe Davis, Anthony Charles, Matt Robinson, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, Ian Rees, Shaun Whalley, Alex Wall (Zane Banton 85), Mark Cullen.

Subs not used: Charlie Smith, Arel Amu, Tinashe Chabata, Craig King.

Wrexham: Andy Coughlin, Stephen Wright, Neil Ashton, Joe Clarke, Jay Harris, Andy Bishop, Dean Keates (C Robbie Evans 76), Johnny Hunt (Andy Morrell 71), Leon Clowes, Joe Anyinsah (Rob Ogleby 61), Mark Carrington.

Subs not used: Joslain Mayebi, Andy Morrell, Steve Tomassen, Robbie Evans.

Referee: D England.

Assistant referees: J Hayes, A Neil.

Fourth official: A Da Costa.

Attendance: 1,617 (89 Wrexham).

Bookings: Longden 43, Harris 56.

Sent off: Harris 65.

Hatters MOM: Matt Robinson, all action display from the young midfielder.

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