The start of the Gary Brabin era at Kenilworth Road ended in frustration as Barrow held the Hatters to a goalless draw.
In a topsy-turvy week for the Hatters, Brabin was thrust into his first game as manager a little over 24 hours after it was announced that he had replaced Richard Money in the Town hot-seat.
Rome wasn't built in a day, as they say, and despite an improved display from a home side who showed a renewed dynamism and willing to attack and chase, the game ended in stalemate as a tough Barrow side packed the defence in the second half to shutout the Hatters.
The managerial reshuffle did not bring the wholesale changes to team selection sometimes seen when a new regime comes in, but Brabin nevertheless stamped his authority on the team with three alterations to the XI that lost at Southport on Saturday.
Freddie Murray, returning from injury, came back in on the left of defence, Robbie Willmott recovered from his groin strain to reclaim his position on the wing, and Danny Crow replaced Lloyd Owusu up front.
The new gaffer received a standing ovation from the Kenilworth Road faithful before kick-off and that optimism seemed to filter down to the pitch where the men in orange started with real vigour and drive.
Brabin's old Cambridge charges Danny Crow and Willmott in particular started brightly with some neat interchange play, and Matthew Barnes-Homer came close to causing a Barrow own-goal as early as the second minute when he chased down a loose back-pass which the panicking Simon Spender rashly booted inches wide of his own post for a corner.
The new tactic of leaving two players up when defending corners almost paid off when Mark Tyler plucked Andy Ferrell's delivery out of the air and immediately launched the ball upfield to Willmott,running off the shoulder of the back line. For a moment it looked as if the pacey winger had got the wrong side of Barrow's Paul Edwards, before the left-back thwarted him with a last-second acrobatic clearance.
The Hatters were playing with real purpose in the opening stages, with Crow especially looking like he was out to impress the new manager. On 13 minutes he cleverly took down a long chipped ball forward, but his snap-shop from 25 yards went safely past visiting goalkeeper Clark Masters' post.
If the Town had started brightly, they truly shone on 18 minutes as a lovely passing move ended in Murray overlapping to pick up Jake Howells' perfect through-ball, with only a fine reaction save from Masters preventing Crow from converting the low cross from close-range.
With Willmott, Paul Carden, Barnes-Homer and Howells all heavily involved, the Hatters really looked to be enjoying their football with some fine one-touch approach play, and with Zdenek Kroca in fine form at the back, the hosts were managing to dominate a lively Barrow side.
The Cumbrians - with a dramatic mix of experience and rawness that found room in a five-man midfield line-up for the 42 year-old Darren Sheridan as well as the untested Paul Smith, signed only this week from an amateur Merseyside Premier club - were certainly not sitting back and their ambitious play made for an open first half-hour.
As Barrow worked themselves back into the game, Smith showed fantastic technique for a rookie on 34 minutes when he controlled the ball just outside the area and curled in a superb dipping shot which looked destined for the top corner before Tyler responded with a top-class flying save.
In what was becoming an end-to-end passage of play, the Hatters went straight up the other end, and after a cheaply-conceded corner by the visitors' Paul Bolland, the Town worked the ball into the area only for Willmott - leaping onto a rebound from Bolland's scrambled clearance - to thrash a shot well over the bar.
As Town piled on the pressure before half-time, Barnes-Homer tested his range with an edge-of-the-area drive after seizing on a loose ball, but the beaten Masters was relieved to see the ball zip the wrong side of the post.
Moments later, Willmott found himself racing clear of the last man when Crow and Barnes-Homer combined brilliantly to set him through, but Masters was quickly off the line close down his shot.
The two sides went in goalless at half-time, but the home crowd had seen enough promise and endeavour in the first 45 minutes to warmly applaud the Town down the tunnel.
After a very slow start to the second period, George Pilkington thought he'd put the Town in front on 52 minutes after nodding in Kroca's header across goal, only for the referee to penalise Kroca for an apparent push as he illegally rose highest to meet Keith Keane's floated free-kick.
The referee was again in action shortly afterwards when Edwards went in recklessly on Willmott, and with the Hatters winger lying prone and in need of medical attention, Edwards had his name taken for the first booking of the game.
Joint player-manager Sheridan needlessly followed him into the book immediately afterwards for dissent, before Louis Almond completed a hat-trick of yellows inside two minutes for kicking the ball away after fouling Adam Newton.
When the dust settled from that somewhat farcical passage of play, Crow should have put the Town in front, but could only head straight at the goalkeeper with a free header following Murray's left wing cross.
Another chance for the Hatters came on 65 minutes when great skill from Willmott sent Barnes-Homer free down the right. His cross was handled by Sheridan just outside of the area, but Keane's quickly taken free kick allowed Town's number nine to play a low cross towards Howells, which the youngster could only steer wide as he stretched to meet the ball from 10 yards.
With 20 minutes remaining on the clock and the Town still to find a breakthrough, Brabin made his first tactical change, withdrawing Carden for Claude Gnakpa. The enigmatic Frenchman slotted in on the right wing to attack the vulnerable, booked Edwards, while Willmott switched to the left with Howells moving into central midfield ahead of Keane.
As the Town struggled to create opportunities against a doggedly resilient Barrow, Crow was guilty of wasting a rare chance with 80 minutes on the clock when Keane battled through midfield and chipped the ball over the Bluebirds back line, only for the diminutive striker to spoon a shot high and wide of the goal.
That chance appeared to reinvigorate the home side, and moments later Gnakpa charged down the right and shrugged off the challenge of Edwards to flash a drilled cross into the six-yard box, only for Bolland to force the ball clear under pressure.
As the Town continued to pile forward in search of a winner, Masters flapped at Keane's cross and Barnes-Homer's firm shot was blocked on the line by a well-positioned Mike Pearson. The striker was again denied when Sheridan put his body on the line to deflect his goal-bound effort out for a corner in injury time.
The Bluebirds, though, held out to the end, and there was to be no golden finale for Brabin's men, as the referee called time on a new dawn which showed promise, but ultimately familiar frustration for the Hatters.
For minute-by-minute analysis see below.
Result from Kenilworth Road
Luton Town 0
FULL-TIME It's all over here at Kenilworth Road as the Town's first game under Gary Brabin ends goalless. Reaction from Gary, plus photos, reports and analysis to come.
90 mins + 4 - We're inside the final minute of added time.
90 mins + 3 - Then Barrow break and with the Town caught short of numbers, Smith, when well-placed, curls a shot way over.
90 mins + 2 - All hand to the pump for Barrow as Sheridan blocks a goal-bound shot by Barnes-Homer. Then ping-pong in the area ensues as the hosts press for a late winner.
90 mins + 1 - Three minutes left here now.
90 mins - We've got four additional minutes to play to find a winning goal.
88 mins - Two left plus stoppages here.
86 mins - Oh chance for the Hatters to pinch it. Keane lofts a free-kick into the mix that Masters drops. It falls at the feet of MBH who drives a shot goalwards but Mike Pearson hacks the ball of the line and away to safety. Damn.
86 mins - We've got just under five minutes left. All the Town still, Barrow defending in numbers.
83 mins - Still time elapses and the Hatters aren't helping themselves as poor passes go astray. Then Gnakpa bursts past his man and fires in a low cross that hits a Barrow man and the visitors clear.
81 mins - Chance for that goal goes begging as the Town press. Keane lofts a ball into the path of Willmott who is clattered by Masters. The ball breaks free to Crow but, with the angle against him, he can only shoot high in the Kenilworth Road end.
80&nbsp;mins&nbsp;- 10 minutes left now and with time ticking down the Hatters need the breakthrough soon.
75 mins - 15 minutes left, still goalless. Still time for Town to win this. The game is being played exclusively in the Barrow half now.
73 mins - The Hatters are seeing plenty of the ball but can't quite find the finishing touch. Gnakpa wins a corner that Willmott pings in, up goes Kroca but the Czech's header is way over Masters' crossbar.
70 mins &nbsp;Here's the first change then as the Frenchman replaces Carden, a roar goes up for Claude who heads it with his first touch within seconds. Howells now in&nbsp;centre of midfield with Willmott switched to the left flank. 20 minutes for the Town to find a winner.
69 mins - Cleared by Barrow, Town still on top, Claude still waiting to join the fray.
68 mins - Claude Gnakpa getting ready for action...free-kick meanwhile to the Town.
65 mins - Back come the Hatters and after Sheridan concedes a free-kick for handball, quick-thinking from Keane finds MBH whose pass across goal is met by Howells but the midfielder can't get enough on his shot and Masters can gather.
63 mins - Almost a major scare for the Town as Tyler plays Pilkington into trouble. Pilks is robbed by Rutherford who feeds Curtis whose square but, fortunately for the hosts, up goes of the offside flag. Phew.
62 mins - Ooh, half a sniff for the Hatters as Keane lofts a sky-high cross from the right that both Howells and Murray attack. The ball almost falls for Crow sniffing for a tap-in before the Bluebirds clear.
61 mins - The ref's sure been busy with his book in the past five minutes as Murray becomes the first Town man yellow carded of the night for a foul on Spender.
59 mins - Chance. And the Town should lead. Murray flies down the left flank and picks out Crow unmarked eight yards out but his header is straight at Masters.
57 mins - Make that three bookings as Almond is cautioned for kicking the ball away after the referee had penalised him for handball.
55 mins - Barrow clear the resultant free-kick to Carden 25 yards out but the midfielder's first time shot sails harmlessly over the bar into the Kenny end.
54 mins - First booking of the night and it's a Barrow man that is given it as Edwards goes in on strongly on Willmott leaving the Town winger in pain. He's up but hobbling. Edwards is then followed into the book by the boss Sheridan for chatting back to the ref.
52 mins - The ball is in the Barrow net but it's not going to count as from&nbsp;a Keane free-kick, Kroca heads across to Pilkington who nods home unmarked but the ref had already seen a push in the box and the goal is chalked off.
50 mins - Oh unlucky but it's good stuff from the Hatters as Crow picks the ball and slips MBH in. He beats his man and opts to square back to Crow but a Howells touch prevents the striker from receiving the ball back, not knowing who Barnes-Homer's pass was aimed for.
49 mins - Slow start to this second half but the Town on top.
46 mins - No changes for either side at the interval, by the way.
46 mins Annnnnd we're off for the second half as the Town get us underway again shooting towards the Kenilworth Road end.
HALF-TIME Referee Hopkins signals for the break and despite great chances for both sides it remains goalless. The Hatters have looked sharp going forward but Barrow aren't sitting back either. It's a good game but it's deadlocked at 0-0. Join us in 15 minutes for the second half updates. COYH!
45 mins - As one minute stoppage time is added the Kenilworth Road crowd breathe a sigh of relieve as Almond's low teasing cross eludes everyone in the Town box and bobbles away to safety. That was close, any touch and it could have been 1-0.
44 mins - Great move from the Hatters again this time as MBH and Crow combine brilliantly to send Willmott racing through. Masters is quick off his line however and gets a hand to Willmott's attempted shot from just inside the penalty box. Unlucky once more.
43 mins - Carden toes the ball to Willmott who slips in Crow onside but he can't quite get on the end of it as the ball zips off the turf.
42 mins - Four or so minutes without&nbsp;a worthwhile mention and then Barnes-Homer receives the ball 20 yards and with one thing in his mind he looks up and drives a shot just past the post. Decent effort.
38 mins - Chance for the Hatters which stems from Paul Bolland's unnecessary header out of play for a corner. Barrow half clear and the Town win it back as Sheridan gets his pocket picked by Crow who squares to Willmott who balloons a shot way over the bar.
35 mins - Back come the Town and decent work from MBH and Keane tee-up Crow to shot high and wide when under pressure from 12 yards.
34 mins - All of sudden the Hatters are under the cosh. Keane gives the ball away to Curtis down the inside left channel. He spots Paul Smith on the edge of the area unmarked and the man signed today blasts a super effort goalwards that's heading for the top corner before Tyler sticks out a fingertip to turn it over the bar. A stunning save and a let off for the Town.
29 mins - Pressure rising now from the Town as again Howells and Barnes-Homer link-up well. Carden then goes for goal with an shot from 20 yards but Sheridan is there to block.
27 mins - Sooner or later the Hatters' craft is going to open up Barrow as MBH does well to hold the ball up before sliding through Crow. He spots Howells wide and unmarked to his left but Crow's touch can't quite find the midfielder. Unlucky.
25 mins - A lot work is being put in by front six out there, chasing, harrying and closing down but Barrow are still pouring forward looking for a breakthrough themselves...then Edwards' eyes open up as he sees the target but his effort is so far wide it's landed up in the final block on the right-hand side of the Kenilworth Road end.
22 mins - The Town are looking good going forward at the minute as another nice move is engineered. Carden breaks up play which allows WIllmott to square to MBH. He then feeds Howells but his lovely little ball around the corner can't guide the ball back into the striker's path. The crowd appreciated that.
19 mins - Half a sniff for the Hatters as Keane's deep free-kick to back post is headed across by Pilkington but Kroca, following-up, can only head over.
18 mins - Even better from the Town and this time they're unlucky not be ahead. Howells, who has now swapped flanks with Willmott, sends Murray bombing down the left. His low cross finds Crow at the near post and the striker's instinctive shot is turned away by the arm of Masters in the Barrow goal. Good move, good save.
17 mins - Better stuff from the Hatters and it's great endeavour from Willmott to rob Edwards of the ball. He switches play to MBH who crosses for Crow but he can't turn it home.
14 mins - More routine work for Tyler to do as he dives out to prevent Louis Almond's left-wing cross from causing danger in the penalty box.
12 mins - Just as we notice joint Barrow (player) boss Darren Sheridan is playing - he's 42, by the way, good skill from Crow get him away from a tight space before he tries his luck with a low shot from 25 yards that goes two yard wide.
10 mins - The visitors win another corner, their third already, but the Hatters clear once more. Pretty even stevens so far.
8 mins - Barrow win another but the Hatters break swifly, but it's route one stuff as Tyler claims a Bolland header and boots it upfield. The ball bounces once and all of a sudden Willmott races through. He's only got the keeper to beat but has Paul Edwards for company. Just before the Town winger can get a shot away the Bluebirds man gets in a vital toe in to clear the danger. Willmott goes down but he's okay to continue.
5 mins - Barrow win another corner- they are not sitting back here happy with a point - but the Hatters are defending well.
4 mins - By the way, the Town are lining-up with Tyler, Newton at right-back, Murray at left-back, Kroca and Pilks, the captain, at centre-back, Willmott right wing, Howells left wing, Carden and Keane in the middle of midfield and MBH and Crow up top.
3 mins - Nearly a mix-up in the Barrow defence and the Town win a corner as goalkeeper Clark Masters and right-back Simon Spender get in a pickle but they can't force home an opportunity from the flag-kick.
2 mins - Low shot from distance from Wayne Curtis is dealt with by Tyler getting down to make a comfortable save. No alarms there.
1 min Annnnnd we're off as Barrow get the Brabin era underway, the Town are shooting towards the Oak Road end where about 30 away fans are sitting.
Great reception for Gary Brabin and the Hatters side. Louds chants of "Come on Luton" go up from the Kenny end and Main Stand. We're almost set...enjoy the updates. COYH.
19:44 HERE THEY COME
Out come the two sides onto the Kenilworth Road pitch. Town in orange, Barrow in blue and white.
19:38 SPRAY IT
Seven minutes to kick-off the Kenilworth Road playing surface is getting a quick watering by the sprinkers.
19:36 BARROW BOY
The two journalists covering Barrow have just informed us that their number 23, Paul Smith, has been signed today...to play for just today's match.
19:35 PRESS BOX PREDICTIONS
Andrew Barringer: 4-0 Luton, Matthew Parsfield: 2-0 Luton, Simon Pitts: 3-0 Luton, Justin Dealey: 4-0 Luton, Mike Simmonds: 4-0 Luton, James Cunliffe: 1-0 Luton, Mark Wood: 3-1 Luton, Bill Cole: 1-0 Luton.
19:25 ON THIS DAY
The Town have won half of the 16 games played on this day, 29th March, including the last three.
In fact the Hatters are unbeaten in their last five games.
The last was victorious: a 2-1 home win over Crewe Alexandra in 2008. Their largest margin of victory was a 7-1 thumping of Norwich City at Kenilworth Road in 1932. Wouldn't that be a nice scoreline tonight?
19:05 THE TEAMS
Here they are you lovely people, hot off the press...
Luton Town: Tyler, Newton, G. Pilkington, Kroca, Murray, Howells, Keane, Carden, Willmott, Crow, Barnes-Homer.
Subs: Graham, Morgan-Smith, Gnakpa, K. Pilkington, Owusu.
Barrow: Masters, Spender, Pearson, Bolland, Rutherford, Ferrell, Curtis, Sheridan, Smith, Edwards, Almond.
Subs: Pearson, Goodfellow, Blundell, Cook, Nicholas.
18:55 THREE CHANGES
Freddie Murray, Danny Crow and Robbie Willmott start. Full teams to follow.
18:50 SUITED AND BOOTED
New boss Gary Brabin looks suave in a suit. Dressed for the occasion.
18:40 WEATHER WATCH
A nice evening here in LU4 but it's a bit on the chilly side.
@SimonStattoP on twitter: "When #Luton #ltfc score tonight it'll be their 100th goal in the Conference at Kenilworth Road. Hear it live on @diversefm COYH!"
17:40 YOUTH TEAM TRIUMPH
Good news to start the evening, the Town's Under-18s have beaten Stevenage 2-0 in the Youth Alliance this afternoon with goals from Alasan Ann and Christian Tavernier. Well done boys.
16:55 CLEAR OBJECTIVES
The last-minute rush to get new manager Gary Brabin's programme notes in time for tonight's issue of Talk of the Town was well, well worth it.
In his first notes the new Town boss simply says: "The most important thing is not about me at this point but the players performing at their maximum for the next 10 games and making sure we're spot on for potentially the 11th, 12th, and 13th games of the season - the play-off semi-finals and a potential final at Eastlands."
Crawley might be over the hill and far away with 10 games left to play but the objective for Brabin and his players is quite simple: to get playing well enough to ensure the Hatters are charging back towards the Football League in time for the start of 2011/12.
There's no doubt Monday's events - the departure of Richard Money by mutual consent and the elevation of Brabin to the managerial hot seat - caused a stir around Kenilworth Road and the non-league scene.
Southport on Saturday was a shock to the system. A performance so below par that it led to Money's exit and Brabin's promotion.
As Brabs goes on to say in his first programme notes "after the spirited performances against Mansfield and Rushden we thought we'd turned the corner but then the disappointment of the Southport game was very, very disappointing and it was certainly the worst we've ever performed since I've been at the club".
So a new era begins - Southport is forgotten - and, more importantly, so does the start of one of the most important final 10 games left in the Hatters' history.
As the new gaffer points out it is going to be a crucial run in and it all starts tonight against Barrow at Kenilworth Road.
The team that couldn't buy a win away from Holker Street have found form - winning their last three on their travels.
So while expectation and all eyes will be on Brabin and co. to get the new era underway with three points, don't forget that there will be another 11 men on the pitch trying to prevent that from happening.
But the Town will be hoping to toast a new start with three points tonight - so why not come along as be a part of it and back the boys?
Well once more, as ever, win, lose or draw this evening lutontown.co.uk will be following every step of the way.
As usual we'll have all the goals and incidents as it happens live with the usual news in the run-up to kick-off with team line-ups and plenty of chat as your official website has, as ever, the usual updates keeping you bang up-to-date with all the action - and in a number of ways.
There's none of those boring ball-by-ball "defensive thrown-in taken by Luton left-back" updates as we continue to and bring you an updated and detailed text commentary. This is a great way to keep in touch and has been popular to those supporters not able to get to a computer or a radio as the service is also available and is updated live on our fantastic mobile site. Check it out if you're on the move @ http://mobile.lutontown.co.uk
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