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15:23 26th April 2011


It was fun in sun for the Town as they eased to a comfortable win over Eastbourne Borough to seal their place in the Play-Offs. At a sun-drenched Kenilworth Road the Town came close to going ahead as early as the second minute when Lloyd Owusu headed over Jake Howells' cross. The Hatters were bossing possession and a fantastic run and shot from Robbie Willmott almost broke the deadlock on 15 minutes only for Rikki Banks to pull off a fine save. However the Town, and Willmott, were not to be denied three minutes later. Banks looked favourite to pick up Dan Gleeson's ball down the right flank but Willmott sped in, robbed the ball and rolled home from an acute angle to make it 1-0. The Hatters were playing some terrific football and it should have been 2-0 on 27 minutes when Owusu slid an opportunity over the crossbar from six yards following Jason Walker's square pass. Claude Gnakpa hit the side-netting on 32 minutes, Howells saw a shot blocked two minutes later before Walker spurned a great chance on 37 minutes after dashing onto Alex Lawless' excellent raking pass. Zdenek Kroca saw a close range header superbly kept out by Banks on 52 minutes before Gnakpa was denied by the crossbar a minute later as chance after chance rained down on the visitors' goal. The Frenchman saw a header tipped over the crossbar on 58 minutes and from the resultant corner the crossbar was rattled for a second time when Owusu's header bounced off the woodwork. After Banks had kept out another effort from Gnakpa the goalkeeper was finally beaten for a second time when Walker floated a superb ball into the path of the Frenchman to head home on 65 minutes. Banks continued to repel the Town attack but could do nothing to prevent Willmott from making it 3-0 when the winger ran at the Eastbourne defence and drove a shot from the edge of the area beyond the goalkeeper. Gleeson, Owusu - twice - and Dan Walker all came close to making it 4-0 as Eastbourne finished the game with 10 following the dismissal of Darren Baker for a second bookable offence. Full report to follow. For minute-by-minute analysis, see below. Luton Town 3 (Willmott 18, 77, Gnakpa 65) Eastbourne Borough 0 FULL-TIME It's all over here at Kenilworth Road and the Town have secured their place in the Play-Offs with a routine victory over Eastbourne. Reaction, interviews, pictures and much more to come. COYH! 90 mins + 3 - And it is almost four as Walker's pace gets him in behind the visitors' defence. He beats Banks but the angle is against him and he can only guide a deflected shot wide. Eastbourne clear the resultant corner and that's almost time. 90 mins - Four added minutes to find a fourth goal. 89 mins - Time ticking down here - the Hatters know they don't have to extend themselves further - but then Newton sends Jason Walker away but even though his shot hits the bar it wouldn't have counted - he was offside. 85 mins - Five minutes left for one more maybe? 84 mins Third and final change for the Hatters as Dan Walker replaces sponsors' man of the match and two-goal hero Willmott. 82 mins - It's all happening here and Eastbourne have been reduced to 10 men for the last eight minutes as Baker receives a second yellow and a subsquent red for a foul on Howells. 81 mins Second change for the Town as Gnakpa goes off to a roaring reception and is replaced by Ed Asafu-Adjaye who gets a big cheer himself. 80 mins - Oh my word what a hit. Gleeson has yet to score this season and he wont come much closer as he sweetly hits a right-foot rocket that skims the outside of the post and out. That would have brought the house down. 79 mins - Almost four, almost five in the space of a few seconds as Owusu sees two fantastic shots repelled by Banks. Surely a relation to Gordon. Got to be. It would be double figures without him. 78 mins - Gnakpa through almost four but sees his shot blocked. 77 mins  GOOOOOOOOAL! HATTERS 3-0 Eastbourne - Wow - wait for the highlights for this. With nothing on, ROBBIE WILLMOTT picks the ball up on the half-way line down the left flank. He runs, and runs, and runs, and runs and then, when he gets to the edge of the area lets fly with a low shot that bounces inside the post past the despairing dive of Banks for his second and the Town's third. Super stuff. 75 mins - Still all the Town here as Gnakpa continues to run rings around the visitors' defence. He sets up a chance for Walker who tries an acrobatic effort that is deflected behind for another corner but again the Sports clear. 73 mins - Handball shouts from the Kenilworth Road end as Howells stands up a left-wing cross but the ref hasn't seen anything and gives a corner...which Eastbourne clear. 71 mins - Just under 20 minutes left and this second half has been pretty much been the Claude Gnakpa versus the Eastbourne goal show. The scorer of the Hatters' second goal runs with the ball and then whacks a left-foot shot wide of the target from the edge of the area. 68 mins - Well that's Claude's 13th goal of the season but he's got a booking to add to his performance today for a challenge on Eddie Hutchinson. He's perplexed, as are we. 65 mins  GOOOOOOOOOAL! HATTERS 2-0 Eastbourne - AT LAST. It's been coming and who would have guessed? CLAUDE GNAKPA leaping to head first time from six yards first time after superb play from Walker to float the ball over the top of the visitors' defence to find the Frenchman. That should be game over. 63 mins - Another update, another chance as Howells looks up down the left and spots Gnakpa at the back post but he can't guide his header home under pressure from Jenkins. 61 mins - Chance-a-minute stuff here as Gnakpa, one a one-man mission to get that elusive second, is denied again by Banks as his fierce curling, swirling drive from the edge of the box is parried over the crossbar by the Eastbourne goalkeeper. 60 mins - Hearts in mouths time for the Town as Eastbourne have the ball in the net through Pacquette's back post header following a right-wing cross but to the relief of everyone inside the ground the goal is chalked off for offside. 59 mins - This is getting silly now. From the resultant corner whipped in by Howells, Owusu rises above everyone and plants a bullet header against the crossbar. Incredible. 58 mins - More work for Banks and the Hatters' search for that second goal continues. This time Howells centres from the left with a fine cross onto the head of Gnakpa who sees his header tipped over. 55 mins - And the Hatters right back is followed in the ref's book by the Eastbourne right-back Baker for a crude challenge on Walker. 54 mins - Gleeson is the first Town man in the book but I can't tell you why. We think he's said something out of turn to the ref. 53 mins - I have absolutely no idea why it's 1-0 still as Willmott's right-wing free-kick is headed against the crossbar by Gnakpa at the back post. It should be five or six by now. 52 mins - Oh what a chance and the Hatters are cursing the reflexes of Banks - almost Gordon-esque - to keep out a terrific close range glancing header from Kroca following Pilkington's left-wing centre. 51 mins - Shot for Tyler to deal with as Eastbourne attack but it's a simple task of getting on his knees to gather Steve Brinkhurst's daisycutter from 25 yards. A low-key start to this second half so far. 47 mins - A free-header for Pilkington and on St George's Day he really should score at the back stick unmarked when meeting a right-wing, inswinging corner from Howells after Walker had done well to win the flag-kick. 46 mins Annnnnnnnd we're off for the second as the Town kick-off shooting towards the Kenilworth Road end. And there's been a change at the interval for the Hatters with Adam Newton replacing Keane. He lines up in the middle of the park alongside Lawless. Meanwhile Eastbourne have taken off the booked Demetriou for Neil Jenkins. HALF-TIME Referee Johnson calls time on the first 45 minutes here and the Hatters are a goal to good thanks to a fantastic goal from Robbie Willmott - combining pace, skill, endeavour and accurate finishing. In fairness it could be a bucket-load more but alas the Town find themselves just the one goal up. See you 15 minutes. 45 + 2 mins - Yet another chance for 2-0 as Howells floats a cross towards both Gnakpa and Owusu with one of them - not sure exactly who - heads agonisingly wide of Banks' right-hand post. 45 mins - We've got two added minutes to play at the end of this first half. 44 mins - Half a chance for the Hatters to make it two as Banks drops a high ball but Lawless can't turn home the loose ball and Banks gathers at the second attempt. 43 mins - First real chance for the visitors as Jamie Taylor turns with his back to goal to fire over Tyler's crossbar from 10 yards. 42 mins - Willmott's having a really good game and he's definitely got the beating of right back Baker down the left. He seizes on a mis-control to blast the ball forward to run on to but he'd put too much on it and despite a spirited chase it goes out of play. Unlucky. 41 mins - Another chance for Banks to keep out and it's a back post from Walker - getting up between two Eastbourne defenders - to nod goalwards following patient build-up play from the Town, stemming from a deep right-wing cross from Gnakpa. 39 mins - Six minutes to the break and conceivably the Hatters could - and perhaps should - be four or five goals to good here. 37 mins - Is it ever going to come? Lawless again is the architect, sending a delicious pass over the top to an onside Walker. His first touch good and he's in on goal. He takes a step past his marker to shoot but sees his effort blocked by the legs of Banks before Eastbourne clear the rebound. Unlucky. 34 mins - A second is surely around the corner as Howells shows skill and tenancity to drive forward from left back and see a goalbound shot blocked behind for a corner. Willmott pings it in and Eastbourne head the ball skywards. It eventually drops to Gnakpa but the winger gets his shot all wrong and it flies over the bar. 32 mins - Still the Hatters hunt a second and they nearly get another one as Tyler's punt downfield eludes the head of Demetriou which allows Gnakpa to bare down on goal. He cuts inside one man and gets the ball on his left foot but his shot from six yards only finds the side netting. 27 mins - Deary me it should be 2-0 this time. Lawless threads a beautiful pass through for Walker to run on to. It's 2v2 and Walker has Owusu for company and the former squares the ball for his partner but the big man can only spoon an effort over the bar from seven yards on the stretch. He can't believe it and neither can I or anyone else inside the ground. 24 mins - He said after the goalless draw at Mansfield he needs to score more but Keith Keane needs to work on his accuracy judging by this effort. The Hatters patiently work the ball to the number four 25 yards out and with cries of shoot echoing around the ground he does just that but hits the scoreboard with his shot and he curses with frustration. 21 mins - Almost a chance for two-zip. Willmott overcooks a right-wing corner but Keane picks up the loose ball down the left, swings the ball back in to Gnakpa who rises to head across goal and wide of the target with Owusu unable to latch onto it. 18 mins  GOOOOOOOOOAL! TOWN 1-0 Easbourne - Banks turns from hero to villian in the space of three minutes and ROBBIE WILLMOTT has his goal his play deserves and the Town lead. Gleeson sends a raking pass down the line that the goalkeeper looks favourite to collect. Willmott speeds after the ball, though and, just as Banks is about to pick it up, Willmott slides in, intecepts and from a ridiculously acute angle rolls the ball home for his fifth goal in Luton colours. Get in! 15 mins - Oh! Super individual stuff from Willmott and the Town are almost ahead. The winger races down the left, cuts inside and drills a wonderful effort goalwards that looks to be heading for the top corner until the outstretched hand of Banks turns the ball behind for a corner that Gnakpa heads wide. 14 mins - Eastbourne have been wasting time at almost every opportunity so far and referee Johnson's patience is wearing as thin as the Town fans and gives a goalkeeper Banks a ticking off. 13 mins - It's worth noting that Demetriou, who was booked on seven minutes, is playing left-back and will have to contend with Gnakpa for the remaining time he's on the pitch. 12 mins - The Hatters are still on top here early doors but have yet to test Banks in the Sports goal as yet. 8 mins - Another shot off target from the Hatters as Lawless seizes on a stray pass from the visitors but his effort with the outside of his boot flies harmlessly wide. 7 mins - No escape this time of a booking for a visiting player as Mick Demetriou is shown a yellow card by referee Johnson for blocking off Gnakpa. Willmott swings in the free-kick that Kroca glances goalwards but he doesn't get enough on it and the Sports clear. 6 mins - By the way despite being sent to the stands at York on Tuesday manager Gary Brabin is in the Hatters' dugout this afternoon. 5 mins - The Frenchman is up on feet but walks off gingerly. Keane takes the free-kick 40 yards out that is half-cleared to Lawless 25 yards out but his effort is always rising as he hits it first time. All the Town so far. 4 mins - Concern for the Town as Gnakpa is floored by a tackle by Simon Johnson. No booking for the Eastbourne number 8 and Claude is down receiving treatment. 2 mins - Half a sniff for the Hatters inside two minutes. Willmott takes the ball down the left. Howells bursts down the flank on the overlap and he pings a cross to Owusu 10 yards out who sends a header over the crossbar. 2 mins - The Town are lining up with Tyler in goal, Kroca and Pilkington centre halves, Gleeson at right back, Howells at left back, Lawless and Keane in central midfield, Willmott on the left wing, Gnakpa on the right with the big man-little man combination in Jason Walker and Owusu in tandem in attack. 1 min So at Kenilworth Road bathed in sunshine we're off for this our penultimate league game of the regular season. The Hatters need a point to secure their place in the play-offs. Eastbourne kick-off and the Hatters are kicking towards the Oak Road end. Enjoy the updates. COYH! 14:56 HERE THEY COME Out come the two sides onto the superb Kenilworth Road pitch. Town in orange, Eastbourne in red shirts, black shorts and red socks. 14:55 T-SHIRT WEATHER Kenilworth Road is a colourful scene right now. Fans flocking to the ground in all manner of club colours. Kick-off just five minutes away. 14:50 PRESS BOX PREDICTIONS Andrew Barringer: 4-0 Luton, Simon Pitts: 4-0 Luton, Justin Dealey: 3-0 Luton, Brian Swain: 3-0 Luton, Mike Simmonds: 5-0 Luton, Mark Wood: 4-0 Luton, Bill Cole: 4-0 Luton. 14:30 ON THIS DAY In 2005 the Hatters were crowded League 1 champions after a 2-1 victory at Wrexham with goals from defenders Chris Coyne and Curtis Davies. 14:12 TODAY'S TEAMS Here they are, as promised. Luton Town: Tyler, Gleeson, Kroca, G. Pilkington, Howells, Willmott, Lawless, Keane, Gnakpa, Owusu, J. Walker. Subs: Newton, Barnes-Homer, Asafu-Adjaye, D. Walker, K. Pilkington. Eastbourne Borough: Banks, Baker, Austin, Taylor, Johnson, Pacquette, Crabb, Brinkhurst, Demetriou, Kelly, Hutchinson. Subs: Jenkins, Smart, Strevett, Purcell, Elphick. 14:05 FIVE CHANGES Claude Gnakpa, Zdenek Kroca, Robbie Willmott, Alex Lawless and Lloyd Owusu come in and start against Eastbourne. Ed Asafu-Adjaye is back and he's on the bench after his loan spell at Histon. Full team to follow. 13:55 SPRINKLE, SPRINKLE   The sprinklers on duty at a scorching Kenilworth Road this afternooon. 13:30 SLIP SLOP SLAP At school all those years ago I was taught in Geography lessons about the Slip Slop Slap intiative in Australia. You'd be wise to follow the advice of slipping on a shirt, slopping on sun cream and slapping on a hat at Kenilworth Road this afternoon. Especially if you're in the executive boxes with the sun in your eyes. It's hot out there. 13:10 BY GEORGE Happy St George's Day. Skipper George Pilkington is 20/1 with Coral to score the first goal this afternoon. He's 5/1 to score at any point in the 90 minutes to. Get on! 12:45 TOLD YOU SO   Not only is a lovely afternoon but the pitch is looking absolutely fantastic. Hats off to the groundman. What a lovely day. All we need now is three points... 12:30 GLORIOUS Welcome to an absolutely stunning day at Kenilworth Road. The Hatters are at home to already relegated Eastbourne Borough and the sun is shining like it's summer. The players probably won't enjoy running around for 90 minutes in 25+ degree heat but watching it in the stands will be lovely. So if you're contemplating not coming and doing the gardening instead, get yourselves down to Kenilworth Road and enjoy the sun and the football! There's a full preview to come but I thought I'd open up with this to tempt you all down so what are you waiting for? For ticket news click here.  
    Data provided by Press Association


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