Misfiring Hatters are downed by Argyle

Jake Howells
Jake Howells

League Two: Luton Town 0 Plymouth Argyle 1

Hatters’ stuttering start to life in League Two continued with a disappointing 1-0 defeat against Plymouth Argyle.

The reverse was harsh on Luton who impressed greatly in the first half with some lovely passing interchanges.

Unfortunately, that all elusive goal just wouldn’t come, despite two excellent chances for Jake Howells, as they were left to rue their missed opportunities.

Hatters boss John Still made four changes for the game after a disappointing 2-0 reverse against Shrewsbury Town last time out.

Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu came in for his first start of the campaign, with Alex Lacey beginning at centre half too.

Scott Griffiths was back as was Andy Drury, with Paul Benson out due to a slight hamstring injury, while Matt Robinson started the first game of his three match ban, as Luke Wilkinson and Jim Stevenson dropped to the bench.

There were also welcome places amongst the substitutes for Jonathan Smith and Alex Lawless for the first time this campaign.

From the first whistle, Hatters looked far more at ease than in recent weeks, as Argyle captain Curtis Nelson was in the book early on for blatantly handling Luke Guttridge’s instinctive pass forward for Mark Cullen.

From the set-piece, Plymouth keeper Luke McCormick palmed Guttridge’s effort over, while the midfielder then had Town’s next effort, turning on Luke Rooney’s pass, but his low shot was easy for McCormick.

Connolly was next to receive yellow for a late challenge against his former club, but Hatters immediately broke with almost devastating effect as Griffiths charged forward, found Jake Howells and his cross was half volleyed over by Rooney.

With Ruddock Mpanzu back in the side, Hatters had that crucial athletiticism in midfield, as he got back expertly to snuff out the danger when Steve McNulty dallied and then within a few moments, almost broke through at the other end.

Argyle should have been 1-0 up on 17 minutes when the ball found its way through to Lewis Alessandra, who was left one-on-one with Mark Tyler.

The Plymouth’s striker shot was uncharacteristically weak though as he could only fire into the arms of the advancing keeper.

Cullen finally started to find some space in the visiting half, but could only drag wide of goal on 20 minutes, while Alessandra sized up a curler for the Pilgrims, although his radar went awry.

The hosts’ neat football carved open a magnificent chance on 28 minutes as Rooney, pulling the strings from deep, found Ruddock Mpanzu. Guttridge then took up possession and slipped a delightful ball through to Howells, but his scuffed effort was finger-tipped wide by McCormick.

Plymouth then worked a chance too as Dominic Blizzard, who had earlier been booked, saw his daisycutter confidently handled by Tyler.

Hatters were occasionally guilty of trying to do too much at the back and were given a warning shot when one passing move was cut out and Reid volleyed well over.

Luton’s front three continued interchanging well as Cullen flicked on for Howells, who couldn’t hit the target.

Most of Argyle’s threats were coming through top scorer Reid and he scampered away to test Tyler, Town’s keeper saving well low down.

Howells’ battle with McCormick continued as after ref Mick Russell accidentally got in the way of an Argyle attack, Luton sliced their way through with some wonderful quick passing by Guttridge and Ruddock Mpanzu.

That saw Howells bearing down on the Argyle keeper, but he showed tremendous reactions to stick out a leg and deflect his shot away for a corner, before giving Russell an earful for his intervention.

In the second period, Argyle appeared to finally have a handle on Town’s attacks as McNulty made a brave block to prevent Alessandra’s shot hitting the target.

Connolly slid in to win a corner and from the dead ball, Luton were close to an opener as after some pinball, Ruddock Mpanzu’s fierce drive was blocked by Kelvin Mellor.

With an hour gone, Plymouth were inches away from breaking the deadlock too as Reid showed great vision to tee up Blizzard whose controlled side-footer skimmed just wide.

However, Town paid the price for their missed chances on 68 minutes as Blizzard displayed some lovely feet to danced his way past a few challenges and found the bottom corner past the despairing dive of Tyler.

Still rung the changes as Lawless made his return, while Ross Lafayette replaced Cullen and the latter should have levelled up the scores on 77 minutes, as a ball rebounded into his path, but from just outside the box, he blazed wide.

Blizzard then should have put the result beyond doubt, but tamely prodded wide from Reid’s cross.

Hatters never really threatened a comeback after that as Nelson’s back header that almost lopped into his own net, their only real chance, while when McNulty thundered wide.

Guttridge had shouts for a penalty in injury time, but the ball was won before he was barged to the floor and with that went Town’s hopes of a leveller.

Hatters: Mark Tyler, Paul Connolly, Scott Griffiths, Steve McNulty (C), Alex Lacey, Andy Drury (Jim Stevenson 79), Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, Jake Howells (Alex Lawless 69), Luke Rooney, Luke Guttridge, Mark Cullen (Ross Lafayette 72).

Subs not used: Jonathan Smith, Alex Wall, Elliot Justham, Luke Wilkinson.

Argyle: Luke McCormick, Kelvin Mellor, Lee Cox, Curtis Nelson (C), Lewis Alessandra, Jason Banton (Alex Bray 58, Deane Smalley 70), Reuben Reid, Dominic Blizzard, Carl McHugh, Anthony O’Connor, Peter Hartley.

Subs not used: James Bittner, Ben Purrington, Oliver Norburn, Tyler Harvey, Nathan Thomas.

Referee: Mick Russell.

Booked: Nelson 2, Connolly 7, Blizzard 25, Bray 60

Attendance: 7,864 (Argyle 527).

Hatters MOM: Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu - genuine box to box display from the midfielder.