League Two: Luton Town 1 Mansfield Town 1
Cameron McGeehan’s 77th minute blast rescued a point for the Hatters in their clash against Mansfield Town at Kenilworth Road this afternoon.
After conceding early on to Matt Green’s close-range strike, it had looked like Luton were going to be left empty-handed, until McGeehan took aim from outside the box, drilling in an eighth goal of the season.
Without star striker Danny Hylton, boss Nathan Jones had opted to bring in Jake Gray, with Jordan Cook moving further forward, while Isaac Vassell was left on the bench despite being described as ‘rampant’ in the week.
Luton had clearly set out to dominate possession early on against a giant Stags side, who weren’t allowed to string two passes together in the opening five minutes, such was the utter dominance of the Hatters with the ball.
Empolying a slightly confusing formation that saw Dan Potts and Stephen O’Donnell pushed right forward, with Glen Rea holding and McGeehan taking the quarter back role, with Gray beginning deeper too, visitors Mansfield were allowed all of two touches during the early exchanges.
However, most of Luton’s passing was either sideways or backwards as bar an effort from Cook, Mansfield didn’t looked troubled and while most were still trying to work out exactly who was playing where, the hosts found themselves behind, due to their Achilles heel once more, defending set-plays.
There was nothing special about it either as on nine minutes, Mansfield swung the corner over, Rhys Bennett headed it goalwards and the prolific Matt Green was lurking to nod over the line from close range, stretching Luton’s long wait for a clean sheet to eight matches now.
The hosts did come came close to levelling on 12 minutes though as Alex Gilliead and O’Donnell combined well with the on-loan Newcastle man crossing for Jack Marriott who was denied by the prostrate Krystian Pearce, with Town screaming for a handball, and then keeper Scott Shearer.
Chris Clements’ pot shot was handled by Christian Walton, as Town were reduced to an effort from distance by Marriott that was deflected as Luton continued to look susceptible to conceding whenever a decent ball was swung into the box, which was clearly Mansfield’s gameplan.
Town almost had a lovely equaliser on the half hour, as Cook set off on his own, twinkling his way into the box and aiming for the bottom corner, only narrowly missing his intended target.
He then set up McGeehan for an effort that was always rising, as Mansfield quite clearly showed their hand, slowing the game down at every opportunity, employing what can only be described as fairly cynical time-wasting tactics.
After the break, Jones rather surprisingly sent the same 11 out again, although there were signs of a greater intensity as a deflected attempt from Marriott went behind, before Gilliead went on the outside of Bennett and pulled back for Gray, whose curler wouldn’t come down in time.
The hosts did force a number of corners too, one of which was met by captain Scott Cuthbert but blocked and hacked away before it could cross the line.
Despite having the likes of Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu plus Vassell on the bench, Jone continued to keep faith with the same side, when the pace, power and unpredictability the pair offered would have been an option.
His side should have levelled on 65 minutes though when Gray’s driven cross was headed back by Rea, dropping perfectly for Alan Sheehan eight yards out, who on his left foot, had time, space, but could only volley horribly over.
Finally, Mpanzu and Vassell were introduced with 23 minutes to go, as Gray set off on a purposeful run, his effort again deflected behind, while Rea was crowded out too.
Luton were then level on 77 minutes as McGeehan showed just why he is such a vital component of this Luton side, taking Marriott’s pass 25 yards out, and drilling his shot into the bottom corner, before celebrating with his animated manager in the dug out.
Hatters didn’t necessarily throw the kitchin sink at their opponents in search of a winner, preferring to stick to their passing and probing approach, but they continued to press, with Cuthbert’s side-footer drawing a flying stop from Shearer, with McGeehan clearly held from Sheehan’s dinked cross, although no penalty was given.
McGeehan had another sighter from a bit further out, but couldn’t get the same connection or direction, while Rea rose well from another corner, his header saved and the rebound blocked away.
Marriott then almost won it with the last kick, his left-footed curlier inches wide, as Luton remained fourth in the table, although did pull a point back on Doncaster in third, after they lost at Blackpool.
Hatters: Christian Walton, Stephen O’Donnell, Dan Potts (Isaac Vassell 68), Scott Cuthbert (C), Alan Sheehan, Glen Rea, Alex Gilliead, Jake Gray (Olly Lee 80), Cameron McGeehan, Jordan Cook (Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu 68), Jack Marriott.
Subs not used: Craig King, Jonathan Smith, Johnny Mullins.
Stags: Scott Shearer, Rhys Bennett, Malvind Benning, Lee Collins (C), Krystian Pearce, Chris Clements, Pat Hoban (Jack Thomas 55), Matt Green, Kevan Hurst (Alex Iacovitti 58), Kyle Howkins, Mitchell Rose (CJ Hamilton 72).
Subs not used: Brian Jensen, Ashley Hemmings, Danny Rose, Darius Henderson.
Bookings: Thomas 60, Rose 72, Lee 90.
Referee: Graham Salisbury
Attendance: 7,787 (295 Mansfield).