No change at the top as Hatters are held by Magpies

League Two: Luton Town 1 Notts County 1

Saturday, 9th December 2017, 6:21 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 8:56 am
Johnny Mullins celebrates his opener against Notts County

It's as you were at the summit of League Two after the Hatters were held to a 1-1 draw by second-placed Notts County in an absorbing top-of-the-table clash this afternoon.

Witnessed by a season's high crowd of 10,063, it had looked like Luton were well placed to go three points ahead of their title rivals at one stage thanks to Johnny Mullins' first goal of the campaign, until a second half rush of blood from keeper Marek Stech.

The usually dependable stopper rashly came steaming off his line to try and claim a free kick he always looked second best for, beaten to the punch by ex-Premier League striker Shola Ameobi. who nodded into an empty net.

A game that was always bubbling nicely away then saw chances at both ends late on, although it was the visiting side celebrating the point with more gusto, with Luton held at home in the league for the first time this campaign.

Hatters boss Nathan Jones kept faith with the same XI who won handsomely at Gateshead in the FA Cup last Sunday, meaning fit-again striker James Collins had to make do with a place on the bench.

The visitors threatened first, Ryan Yates's header flipped over the top by Stech, the County midfielder then prodding the ensuing corner wide.

Town looked uncustomarily nervy in the early stages, some poor defending allowing Jon Stead to swivel with his tame shot easy for Stech.

Stead then bumped Alan Sheehan aside and turned Mullins, his low effort not having enough to significantly trouble Stech.

The Magpies clearly had the ascendancy, forcing corner after corner, with Luton unable to get going, or even out of their own half at times, such was the visitors dominance.

However, they dug in to maintain on level terms, with Elliot Lee doing his utmost to draw the hosts forward, showing plenty of perseverance and tenacity to drag Luton up the field.

It was from one such moment of closing down by the striker that led to the corner which saw Hatters take the lead with their first shot on target after 26 minutes.

Skipper Alan Sheehan sent his delivery to the far post, and Mullins was there to plant a downward header beyond Ross Fitzsimons for his first goal of the season, becoming the 22nd player on target for Luton as well.

Jorge Grant looked for an immediate reply, shooting at Stech, but buoyed by the opener, Luton finally wrested control back, Elliot Lee continuing to cause all kinds of trouble.

One glorious passing move from side to side saw Town almost fashion a wonderful team goal, Luke Berry dispossessed before he could shoot.

Luton were indebted to two excellent clearing headers from Dan Potts to prevent an equaliser, one at the back post stopping Stead from what looked like a certain leveller.

Stech did well to hold Carl Dickinson's snap shot from 20 yards, with Yates firing over the bar as County finished the game as they started, but crucially Luton had made the most of their dominance during the middle period.

Town made a far better start to the second half, Hylton wonderfully spinning his man to have an effort charged down, before Berry's cross was just above both Potts and Hylton.

County mustered an opening, Matt Tootle's cross headed over by Grant, as Yates pounced on a loose ball to sidefoot wide from the edge of the area too.

However, as Luton had done previously, the visitors were level when on the back foot, as Mullins gave away a needless free kick on the hour mark, although Town's players were furious Hylton hadn't won a decision for a similar incident moments before.

It was sent into the box, and with Stech, who had looked jittery at times during the afternoon, vacating his premises, Ameobi flicked the ball over the line.

Luton didn't let the strike faze them though, Mullins failing to direct Sheehan's corner on target, with Hylton getting underneath his header from Shinnie's delivery as well.

Grant continued to look to be County's most likely source of a goal, seeing another effort held easily enough by Stech.

Roared on by the home support, Hatters tried to step it up again in the closing stages, as it always looked like the game was going to be decided, if at all, by a set-piece.

It almost came true too, the ball dropping to Glen Rea just eight yards out, but he swung a right boot to loft wildly into the night sky.

County might have won it, sub Lewis Alessandra wriggling clear and slamming over with Ameobi unmarked to his right, before Luton created one more glorious chance in stoppage time.

Sheehan's corner was nodded into Mullins' path, but just as he looked to win it, Fitzimons threw himself in the way to get a crucial block and ensure the spoils were shared.

It wasn't doom and gloom for the Hatters. not by any stretch, as they extended their unbeaten run to nine games, plus their lead over fourth placed Exeter to six points, as the Grecians went down 3-1 at Colchester this afternoon.

Hatters: Marek Stech, Jack Stacey, Dan Potts, Johnny Mullins, Alan Sheehan (C), Glen Rea, Olly Lee, Luke Berry, Andrew Shinnie (Luke Gambin 83), Elliot Lee (James Collins 79), Danny Hylton.

Subs not used: James Shea, James Justin, Jack Senior, Lawson D'Ath, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu.

County: Ross Fitzsimons, Matt Tootle, Carl Dickinson, Elliot Hewitt, Richard Duffy (C), Shola Ameobi, Jorge Grant, Terry Hawkridge (Lewis Alessandra 74), Shaun Brisley, Ryan Yates, Jon Stead (Alan Smith 90).

Subs not used: Branislav Pindroch, Nicky Hunt, Dan Jones, Rob Milsom.

Booked: Dickinson 23, Brisley 53, Stead 68, Ameobi 76.

Referee: Charles Breakspear.

Attendance: 10,063 (810 County).

Hatters MOM: Elliot Lee. Constant threat to the Magpies back-line with his direct running.