FA Trophy Third Round Replay: Luton Town 0 (0) Cambridge United 1 (1)
Luton Town suffered a first-ever home defeat in the FA Trophy as they were knocked out by Cambridge United in their third round replay tonight, writes Mike Simmonds.
Just before the break, Ashley Chambers’ strike took a wicked deflection off Ryan Inniss for the game’s only goal as the visitors earned a trip to Skrill South side Eastleigh in the next round.
Defeat for Town will not matter one iota though in the grand scheme of things, with title rivals Cambridge now facing a further fixture to cram into their already congested schedule.
Hatters made three changes to their side from the 2-2 draw at the weekend, as they rested Jake Howells and Kane Ferdinand with Saturday’s home Skrill Premier clash against Wrexham firmly in mind, while David Viana dropped to the bench.
Right-back Luke Trotman, 16, came in for his Town debut, Jon Shaw started for the first time since August and Ian Rees came into midfield.
Town fashioned the first shooting opportunity when Rees, who impressed especially in the first half with his composure when in possession, found Alex Wall with a cute pass, but U’s keeper John Sullivan saved easily.
Liam Hughes and Josh Coulson flashed headers wide, while Chambers’ long range free-kick was straight at Elliot Justham.
Shaw had a rare sight of goal only to see the ball nicked off his toes by Sullivan, who was then fully extended as he palmed Brett Longden’s daisycutter behind.
The keeper was called upon again, turning Mark Cullen’s bobbling drive away, before the U’s took the lead on 39 minutes.
There was a huge slice of luck about the goal though as Chambers took aim from just outside the box only for Inniss to divert the ball past a completely wrong-footed Justham.
Luton almost made an immediate response when Trotman, another who gave a decent showing, sent over a deep cross and Cullen’s side-foot volley was bravely blocked by Richard Tait.
The visitors started the second period by far the more dangerous as Justham saved well low down from Chambers, before Ryan Donaldson scorched narrowly off target and Town’s keeper had to parry Luke Berry’s effort away too.
Hatters struggled to get going, although Wall had huge shouts for a penalty turned down, but he was quickly subbed as, on a booking, the red mist started to descend.
Sullivan then came to the U’s rescue when Shaw escaped his marker to power a header goalwards from point blank range.
Second half sub Zane Banton thought he had a leveller on 79 minutes, turning in after Cullen’s shot was half stopped by Sullivan, only to see his celebrations cut short by the linesman’s flag.
The youngster, a real livewire once more, went close again, toe-poking into the side netting, while Sullivan made possibly his best save of the night in the closing stages, palming Cullen’s well placed curler away.
With that stop went Town’s chances of an equaliser, but when the final whistle went, it’s doubtful there wouldn’t be more than a few Hatters fans secretly raising a smile over the outcome.
Hatters: Elliot Justham, Luke Trotman, Brett Longden, Anthony Charles (C), Ryan Inniss, Solomon Taiwo, Ian Rees, Shaun Whalley (David Viana 68), Mark Cullen, Alex Wall (Zane Banton 63), Jon Shaw. Substitutes not used: Charlie Smith, Tinashe Chabata, Craig King.
U’s: John Sullivan, Greg Taylor, Josh Coulson, Ian Miller (C), Ryan Donaldson (Michael Spillane 75), Tom Champion, Richard Tait, Liam Hughes (Kevin Roberts 68), Luke Berry, Ashley Chambers, Nathan Arnold. Substitutes not used: Will Norris, Ryan Horne, James Akintunde.
Referee: D Trelevean.
Assistant Referees: N Pratt and C Husband.
Fourth official: G Kinnear.
Bookings: Wall 48, Spillane 81.
Attendance: 2,312 (U’s 326).
Star Hatter: Brett Longden. Promising display from the young full-back, both in defence and going forward.