League Two: Luton Town 2 Newport County 1
Cameron McGeehan netted a hugely controversial last minute penalty as Luton Town saw off Newport County at Kenilworth Road this evening.
Heading into the last seconds of injury time, Town midfielder Pelly-Ruddock burst into the area and went over an outstretched left of a visiting defender.
It looked at first like referee Charles Breakspear was going to book the Luton man for diving, but in fact, he pointed to the spot, much to the ire of the County players, who buffeted Mpanzu in the aftermath, making clear their feelings over the decision.
Once the posturing had died down though, there was still there was the small matter of actually converting the spot kick and McGeehan, who had already beaten keeper Joe Day once from 12 yards, deserves huge credit for doing the same again, as Kenilworth Road erupted.
It had appeared that Luton were going to suffer further home frustration as after taking the lead through McGeehan’s first spot kick just after the hour, an error from keeper Christian Walton saw Jennison Myrie-Williams left direct from a corner with 20 minutes to go.
However, in a game they would most likely have drawn last season, Hatters found an extra gear in time added on to grab the winner, that left boss Nathan Jones roaring with unadulterated passion as he left the field.
The Luton chief had made just the one change, with Olly Lee replacing Glen Rea, while a quiet opening was punctuated by a break from Jordan Cook, as he took aim from 20 yards, with Joe Day parrying his shot and Dan Potts dallying over the rebound.
Cook tried his luck again on 13 minutes, with County’s defence doing their job, while Marriott then swivelled in the area, Day easily holding his low attempt.
Town dominated possession as is the norm these days at Kenilworth Road, although Sean Rigg served notice County weren’t here to make up the numbers, sending two efforts wide, before forcing Walton to tip over at the near post.
Hatters still couldn’t create anything classed as a clear-cut opportunity, Danny Hylton going close, his low drive repelled by a fine Jamie Turley block.
Mpanzu then started to go through the gears, whipping over a cross that Day finger-tipped away, the keeper then easily holding on to McGeehan’s follow up.
County started to find their feet though, with Luton unable to pierce the visitors’ back-line, until seven minutes before the break when Stephen O’Donnell’s pinpoint cross was headed badly wide by a completely unmarked Hylton from five yards out.
Mark Randall almost made the striker pay for his profligacy instantly, waltzing thrown Hatters’ defence with the cover back in the nick of time.
To their credit, Town were defending solidly from the visitors’ set-piece delivery, something that hasn’t always been the case, Randall then scuffing a decent chance wide.
Luton who came out for the second period trying to raise the intensity that boss Jones craves, as they almost did that within 12 seconds, Hylton flicking on for Mpanzu, who once again, didn’t keep his composure when the shooting chance arose, whacking well over.
The midfielder went close moments later too, released by Hylton again, and although on target this time, Day was out bravely to block with his body.
Town then took their time in working a wonderful opening for Marriott, who when played in by Cook, saw his shot destined for the bottom corner, flicked behind by Day.
Hatters finally upped their forward press in in an all-action five minutes spell, as began winning the ball back much higher up the pitch, snapping into their challenges, with Hylton starting to become a real influence.
It was the forward who played a huge role in the opener too, pick-pocketing possession back from Turley in the area, forcing a foul from the Newport defender in the area, allowing McGeehan to send Day the wrong way and break the deadlock.
After doing all the hard work to open the scoring, Hatters then threw all of that away, as Newport brought on Jon Parkin and his presence alone unsettled the hosts from a corner, Jennison Myrie-Williams’ delivery going straight through Walton’s weak punch and into the net.
Facing further home frustration, Town tried to up their urgency, Cook sending Hylton clear, although Day was out quickly to deny the Town forward with his feet.
With five minutes to go, the hosts were down to 10 men as Johnny Mullins, who had been booked moments before, then received his second for an ill-timed challenge as youngster Akin Famewo came on for his Town debut.
To their credit, Hatters kept two upfront, as both sides were inches away in stoppage time, Mpanzu’s deflected effort and Lee’s angled volley narrowly wide, as was Ben Tozer’s delightful curler.
However, in the final seconds, Mpanzu won the penalty for McGeehan to send Kenilworth Road into raptures, as County’s players lost their discipline big time, picking up a number of bookings, with angry scenes after the full time whistle as well, with many in the ear of Mpanzu once more.
A clearly animated Town boss Jones got his player out of the firing line though, the manager roaring with passion as he left the pitch, with his side staying at the summit ahead of this weekend’s trip to Stevenage.
Hatters: Christian Walton, Stephen O’Donnell, Dan Potts, Johnny Mullins, Scott Cuthbert, Olly Lee, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Jordan Cook (Akin Famewo 86), Cameron McGeehan, Danny Hylton, Jack Marriott (Isaac Vassell 90).
Subs not used: Craig King, Jonathan Smith, Jake Gray, Josh McQuoid, James Justin.
Newport: Joe Day, Dan Butler, Darren Jones, Jamie Turley, Joss Labadie, Mark Randall (Ben Tozer 82) Jennison Myrie-Williams, Marlon Jackson (Jon Parkin 69), Jordan Green (Jazzi Barnum-Bobb 67), Scot Bennett (C), Sean Rigg.
Subs not used: Paul Bignot, Josh Sheehan, Tom Owen-Evans, James Bittner.
Bookings: Mullins, Jones, Butler, Tozer, Myrie-Williams, Parkin.
Red cards: Mullins.
Attendance: 7,058 (115 County).
Hatters MOM: Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu