Town let the lead slip twice during Gills draw

League One: Luton Town 2 Gillingham 2

Saturday, 16th March 2019, 5:49 pm
Updated Saturday, 16th March 2019, 5:56 pm
Danny Hylton celebrates opening the scoring against Gillingham

Luton led the lead slip from their grasp twice as they were held to a 2-2 draw by Gillingham this afternoon.

The hosts looked to be picking up yet another three points towards their quest for promotion, leading 2-1 with just 11 minutes to go.

However, Elliot Lee then gave away a needless free kick some 25 yards from goal and Luke O'Neill's wonderful set-piece beat James Shea, flying into the net to earn the Gills a point.

Home boss Mick Harford made just one change to the starting 11, Alan McCormack missing out as expected, Luke Berry in, with Alex Baptiste and George Thorne back on the bench too.

Town threatened inside 20 seconds, Sonny Bradley's ball forward chested down by Danny Hylton, with James Collins unleashing an effort that was batted behind by keeper Tomas Holy.

James Justin then sized up the top corner, but couldn't keep his attempt from the edge of the box down, his next shot much closer, forcing Holy into a save at his near post.

Gills then started to get into the game, O'Neill's crosses from the right flank causing a host of problems, Brandon Hanlan unable to get enough on one of his deliveries.

Berry thundered over on the angle, while with 35 minutes gone, Gillingham should have been ahead, O'Neill once again the creator, Hanlan sending his free header wide.

Graham Burke's rasping drive didn't test Shea, before Hanlan did, escaping Bradley on the left and cutting into the area, firing straight at Luton's keeper.

With Town's final ball uncharacteristically sloppy all afternoon, Andrew Shinnie took matters into his own hands, seeing a 20-yard curler flash inches wide.

With half time looming, Luton had the lead as a corner fell on the edge of the box, Callum Reilly's intended clearance going back towards his own goal, falling invitingly for Hylton to take a touch and prod past Holy for his seventh of the season.

After the break, Luton thought they had made it 2-0 only for Collins to see his effort ruled out for offside when sliding home Hylton's attempt after magnificent work once more by Shinnie.

Lee tested Holy from 25 yards, but Town were were left to rue that flag moments later, as Reilly made amends for his first half error, to beat Jack Stacey and dink a cross over that Tom Eaves buried on 53 minutes.

Town weren't behind for too long though with 67 on the clock, Shinnie burst forward, picking out the run of Stacey perfectly as he had done against Bradford on Tuesday night.

The end result was the same again, visiting stopper Holy expecting a cross, only to see Stacey just roll it inside his near post, making it two in two games.

Shea was then needed to make a fine reaction save as O'Neill went for goal this time, and from his low drive, Eaves got a touch, that the already committed keeper managed to stick out a leg and divert away.

The keeper had an easier task in saving Eaves' next strike, an ambitious volley from distance that he back-pedalled to claim.

However, he was powerless to prevent O'Neill making it 2-2, with 11 minutes to go.

Town quickly brought on Kazenga LuaLua, the winger causing some late problems, with Luton almost snatching it in stoppage time, Collins nodding Stacey's deep cross wide at the back post.

A draw was by no means the end of the world for Town after Barnsley were held by Doncaster yesterday evening, with Hatters back up to five points in front of the Tyke once more.

They did see their advantage over Sunderland cut to seven, the Black Cats, who still have a game in hand, beating Walsall 2-1 at the Stadium of Light.

Hatters: James Shea, Jack Stacey, James Justin, Matty Pearson, Sonny Bradley (C), Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Luke Berry (Dan Potts 66), Andrew Shinnie, Elliot Lee (Kazenga LuaLua 79), James Collins, Kazenga, Danny Hylton (Harry Cornick 90).

Subs not used: Harry Isted, Alex Baptiste, George Thorne, George Moncur.

Bantams: Tomas Holy, Luke O'Neill, Max Ehmer ©, Brandon Hanlan, Tom Eaves, Graham Burke, Barry Fuller, Callum Reilly, Leo Da Silva Lopes (Josh Rees 86), Mark Byrne, Connor Oglivie.

Subs not used: Bradley Garmston, Regan Charles-Cook, Tahvon Campbell, Elliot List, Billy King, Tom Hader.

Booked: Hanlan 90.

Referee: Andy Haines.

Attendance: 9,963 (601 Gills).