Wasteful Hatters fire blanks as they drop more points

Blue Square Bet Premier
AFC Telford United 0 (0) Luton Town 0 (0)

Wasted second half chances thwarted the Hatters as they were held to a goalless draw at the New Bucks Head by lowly AFC Telford United this evening, writes Mark Wood.

Strikers Jon Shaw and Andre Gray both wasted presentable second half chances as Luton passed up the opportunity of three points and the chance to move back into the play-offs.

Town made eight changes from the weekend’s FA Trophy win as they reverted to the same side that beat Barrow 6-1 last week.

Scott Neilson almost burst on to a Will Salmon error in the opening moments, while Jonathan Smith’s heavily-deflected shot was easily held by the keeper.

An open start saw both teams threaten on the break, Gray overrunning one opportunity, before just being unable to direct Ronnie Henry’s inviting cross on 13 minutes.

Gray was threatening to get in behind while Steven Leslie’s free-kicks looked the Bucks’ best bet of a breakthrough.

But it was the hosts who had the first meaningful effort on 21 minutes when Steve Jones burst down the wing and Smith’s header fell invitingly for Leslie to volley goalwards and Mark Tyler parried well before gathering at the second attempt.

Town struggled to deal with another Telford cross moments later before Leslie twice fired wide as the home side coped far better with the freezing conditions and a deteriorating pitch.

The Bucks threatened again on 37 minutes when a deep cross was headed down to Jake Reid on the edge of the box but his blast was blocked by Greg Taylor.

Town were conceding far too many free-kicks as Telford’s high-tempo pressing game paid dividends. Nathan Rooney sent a 20-yard free-kick straight at Tyler five minutes before the break before Luton finally started to knock it around and exert some pressure before half time.

AFC came out firing in the second half as Gerard Kinsella burst on to a loose ball three minutes in and his drive from just outside the area grazed the bar on its way over.

At the other end Gray latched on to Lawless’ block and his square ball was fly-hacked by Neilson with Shaw seeing his shot blocked.

Town should have seized the initiative on 57 minutes when Arnaud Mendy did well to win the ball and slip Gray in and his low cross was scooped wastefully over from eight yards by Shaw.

Gray then did superbly to wriggle free in the box as he forced his way on to a throw but keeper Ryan Young got just enough behind his shot to turn it behind for a corner.

The Hatters started to crank up the pressure as Mendy sliced over the bar from 18 yards with 20 minutes to go.

Handball appeals against Jordan Rose were waved away before Henry’s cross found Gray unmarked in the box, but his header was straight at the keeper before he and Smith got in each other’s way as the midfielder’s strike crashed off Gray and behind.

Jones’ opportunistic low effort was well fielded by Tyler on 79 minutes while Taylor whizzed a laid off free-kick well wide.

Both Jake Howells and Stuart Fleetwood were thrown on as Town pressed for a winner but, despite three minutes of stoppage time, the resilient Bucks held out as they equalled their worst run of games without a victory, 14 matches set in 1913-14.

Bucks (4-4-2): Ryan Young, Will Salmon, Daniel Preston, Nathan Rooney, Phil Trainer (C), Gerard Kinsella, Steve Jones (James Spray 83), Jake Reid (Kieron St Aimie 75), Steven Leslie, Kris Taylor, Jordan Rose. Substitutes not used: Jason Stokes, Joe Lamplough, Joe Collister.

Hatters (4-4-2): Mark Tyler, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Greg Taylor, Janos Kovacs, Alex Lawless, Jon Shaw, Arnaud Mendy, Scott Neilson (Jake Howells 75), Jonathan Smith, Ronnie Henry (C), Andre Gray (Stuart Fleetwood 82). Substitutes not used: Scott Rendell, Simon Ainge, Dean Brill.

Bookings: Mendy 52.

Referee: Declan Ford.

Assistant Referees: Craig Taylor and Christopher Husband.

Fourth Official: Simon Brown.

Star Hatter: Lathaniel Rowe-Turner. Flawless defensive showing.

Attendance: 1,606.

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