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MATCH REPORT

PUBLISHED
21:55 11th October 2011

EBBSFLEET UNITED 2-2 TOWN

The Town conceded an injury time equaliser to surrender a two-goal lead at Ebbsfleet United. Goals from Amari Morgan-Smith and James Dance had put the Hatters two goals to the good with 71 minutes on the clock. But the hosts hit back with Michael West scoring twice with efforts from outside the box - the first on 76 minutes and the second three minutes to added time. Town boss Gary Brabin was forced into one change following Saturday's excellent 2-1 win over Kidderminster. Keith Keane picked up his fifth yellow card of the season at Aggborough and faced a one-match suspension. First team coach Paul Carden was given the nod to fill the void in central midfield. The Hatters started brightly in the opening minutes twice creating good opportunity in the space of 60 seconds. Firstly Aaron O'Connor sprinted down the right flank after receiving Jamie Hand's pass to cross for Robbie Willmott but the hosts were able to clear and a minute later Willmott and Morgan-Smith's pressure gifted the latter the ball but his well-hit shot whistled inches past the post. As the Town continued to push forward, Dance blazed over on seven minutes after trickery from Morgan-Smith down the right touchline. Ebbsfleet weathered the Hatters' early storm as Liam Daish's side slowly got back into things. So much so the Hatters were thankful to a great parry from Mark Tyler to keep the scores goalless on the quarter-hour mark - the goalkeeper making a great save to turn away Giannoulis Fakinos' shot after good hold-up play from centre-forward Callum Willock. Back came the Town: Dance shot goalwards on 19 minutes but his deflected effort had the sting taken out of it enabling home stopper Preston Edwards to make his first real save of the evening. Three minutes later Willmott's deep cross from the left found O'Connor in the area but his header dropped the wrong side of the crossbar and two minutes later, on 24 minutes, a dangerous Willmott corner from the right somehow eluded everyone in the penalty area when any touch from a visiting player would have seen the deadlock broken. Still the Hatters poured forward and the home side had Edwards to thank for a fantastic save to prevent a goal-bound effort from O'Connor from making it 1-0 on 31 mintues after Dance had beaten Yado Mambo down the left flank. As Ebbsfleet failed to clear their lines from the resulting corner, Hand came close to stealing home with a near post header. It began to get pretty even - both sides trading possession and swapping half-chance efforts as half-time approached. But to their credit, the Town kept to their task and, a minute before the interval, took the lead in sensational fashion from Morgan-Smith. The Hatters' leading marksman took a pass in his stride down the left, nutmegging his marker in the process and, before the goalkeeper could react, the former Ilkeston man was celebrating his ninth goal of a flourishing campaign as his sumptuous right-foot finish arched into the top corner. It was a goal worthy of a higher stage than the Blue Square Bet Premier. With the Hatters looking great value for a half-time lead the hosts almost replied immediately and only a great save from Tyler and a glaring miss preserved their one-goal advantage. The Town failed to clear a corner with the ball falling at the feet of defender Paul Lorraine. His shot from six yards was stopped by the legs of the Town keeper before the home skipper spooned the rebound over the crossbar with the goal gaping. Ebbsfleet began the second half brightly, striker West had the ball in the net 30 seconds after the restart. The hosts continued to push forward in search of an equaliser but the Hatters doubled their advantage on 71 minutes. Curtis Osano's throw found Dance who tip-toed past the challenges of two home defenders and poke a low shot underneath the body of Edwards. Two goals to the good the Hatters saw their lead halved five minutes later when, out of nothing, West blasted a hopeful shot from range that Tyler couldn't keep out at his near post. That raised the home side's hopes and Tyler prevented the comeback from being complete on 79 minutes when he dived to his left to keep out Scott Ginty's low shot on the turn. It looked as though then Town had held on to three valuable points but the hosts had other ideas and West broke Hatters hearts in the third of four added minutes when he crashed home his second of the evening in off the underside of the crossbar to seal a dramatic comeback. There was little time for the Hatters to comeback from that and the home side celebrated an unlikely point. For minute-by-minute analysis see below. Result from Stonebridge Road Ebbsfleet United 2 (West 76, 90+3) Luton Town 2 (Morgan-Smith 44, Dance 71) FULL-TIME It's all over here and the Hatters have surrendered a two-goal lead. Full report, reaction and photos to come. 90 mins + 3 EBBSFLEET 2-2 Town (West) - Comeback complete from the hosts and it's a great goal, MICHAEL WEST looks up 18 yards and cracks a great effort home in off the bar. 90 mins - Chance for Watkins is saved by the home keeper...and we've got four added minutes to see this out. 89 mins - We've got about 90 seconds of normal time left. 87 mins - Time ticking down. Three left for the Hatters to hold on. 84 mins Six minutes left on the clock...second change for the Town. Adam Watkins replaces Morgan-Smith. 79 mins - Almost a sniff for 2-2 as Scott Ginty tries a shot on the turn that Tyler has to dive to keep out. Phew. 76 mins  GOAL! EBBSFLEET 1-2 Town (West) - Out of nothing Ebbsfleet are back in it. With seemingly nothing on MICHAEL WEST blasts a well-hit shot from outside the box that Tyler can't hold and the ball trickles over the line. 71 mins  GOAL! Ebbsfleet 0-2 TOWN (Dance) - Well chances have been few and far between in this second half but the Hatters double their lead and gain some breathing space. It's simple too: Osano's throw down the right finds JAMES DANCE and he strides past two Ebbsfleet defenders and pokes the ball underneath the body of Edwards. 67 mins - For the time being Fleetwood's out in O'Connor position on the right flank. 66 mins First change for the Town, Stuart Fleetwood replaces O'Connor. 62 mins - 1,651 inside Stonebridge Road tonight. No away figure as yet but there's about 700 plus from Bedfordshire here. 60 mins - An hour gone, still 1-0 Town. 51 mins - Don't worry I'm still here...just not much has happened so far in this second half. 46 mins - Ball in the Hatters net but don't worry...Michael West's shot isn't going to count as he's offside. 46 mins And we're off for the second half as the Town kick-off. No changes at the break. HALF-TIME The referee signals the end of the first 45 and while it's been tough the Town have the lead thanks to a stunning goal from Amari Morgan-Smith. Wouldn't have been out of place in the Premier League, that. Superb. Check back in 15 minutes for the second half. COYH. 45 mins - Almost 1-1 but somehow Ebbsfleet spurn a super chance. Tyler firstly making a great save with his legs before the ball breaks and a man in red - no idea who - spoons the ball over the bar with the goal at mercy. 44 mins  GOAL! Ebbsfleet 0-1 TOWN (Morgan-Smith) - What. A. Goal. Simply magnificent stuff brings AMARI MORGAN-SMITH his ninth goal of the season. He takes a pass down the left in his stride which nutmegs his marker Craig Stone. He looks up and from the edge of the penalty area bends a delightful shot into the top corner. BRILLIANT STUFF. 42 mins - Almost a sight of goal for the hosts as Ram Marwa's centre from the right is headed wide by Willock. 40 mins - Five minutes to the break. The Hatters are upping it now. 35 mins - Ten minutes to the break and it's pretty even here now. The hosts are growing in confidence. The Hatters on the other hand look menancing on the counter attack. 31 mins - CHANCE. And it's almost 1-0 to the Town. Dance beats Mambo down the left, runs towards goal on the byeline and picks out O'Connor at the back post who turns and hits a firm effort goalwards that Edwards does brilliantly to keep out. 30 mins - Ebbsfleet are forced into their first change of the night. Fakinos is limping off and has been replaced by Alex Stavrinrou. 24 mins - Somehow still goaless as a right-wing corner from Willmott eludes everyone in the box: Kovacs and Pilkington unable to supply a touch when any would have resulted in an opening goal. 22 mins - Back come the Hatters and although he's flagged offside Aaron O'Connor is lucky to see a header drop the wrong side of the crossbar after a great cross from Willmott. 15 mins - Almost 1-0 to the host and the Town have Mark Tyler to thank to keep out Giannoulis Fakinos's goal-bound shot after good hold-up play from Callum Willock. 12 mins - Still goaless here but the Hatters are well on top. A goal would be nice. 7 mins - Almost another half a sniff for the Hatters as again they attack the Ebbsfleet left. Morgan-Smith weaves down the right flank and pulls it back for James Dance six yards out but his shot goes way, way over the crossbar. 3 mins - Ooooo that's close...really, really close. Willmott and Morgan-Smith put pressure on the home defence and the ball breaks to the latter who shifts past two men before firing a terrific shot goalwards that whistles just high and wide. It would have been a great strike. 2 mins - Almost a dream start for the Town inside 90 seconds. Morgan-Smith does well to turn inside and find Hand who pings a ball down the right wing for an onside O'Connor to sprint down the right. He looks up and tries to pick out Willmott in the box but it eludes everyone and Ebbsfleet breathe a sigh of relief. 1 min And we're off as Ebbsfleet get us off and underway. Enjoy the updates. COYH 19:40 HERE THEY COME Out come the two sides onto the Stonebridge Road pitch. Ebbsfleet in red, the Town in white shirts and navy shorts. 19:30 PRESS BOX PREDICTIONS Andrew Barringer: 3-0 Luton, Simon Pitts: 2-0 Luton, Mark Wood: 4-1 Luton, Mark Bazeley: 3-1 Luton, Bill Cole: 3-1 Luton, Euan Duncan: 3-1 Luton. Away win then? Let's see. COYH. 19:28 SECRETARY'S SCRIBBLINGS As it's titled in tonight's programme, Peter Danzey, the Ebbsfleet secretary writes: "When the fixtures came out in July I am sure that everyone, like myself, looked to see when we were playing tonight's opponents. With all due respect to the other clubs in the Blue Square Bet Premier this is the 'big one'." 19:20 ON YOUR BIKE In front of the press box are two exercise bikes which, so I'm told, are available to one member of each side for their substitutes to use to warm-up. 19:06 THE TEAMS Ebbsfleet: Edwards, Stone, Fakinos, Lorraine, West, Marwa, Willock, Phipp, Howe, Mambo, Darvill. Subs: Ginty, Simpemba, Welch, Azeez, Stavrinou. Town: Tyler, Osano, G. Pilkington, Kovacs, Blackett, Hand, Carden, Dance, Willmott, O'Connor, Morgan-Smith. Subs: Fleetwood, Kissock, Watkins, Antwi, K. Pilkington. 19:05 ONE CHANGE Paul Carden comes in for the suspended Keith Keane. Full teams to follow. 18:55 NOT INVOLVED? Danny Crow, Alex Lacey, JJ O'Donnell and Dean Beckwith in tracksuits head for the away dugout. 18:45 TRAVELLERS EXPECTED Finished work and heading clockwise on the M25 there are already a few hundred Town fans here. More expected in the next hour. 17:00 WEATHER WATCH It's a warm and sunny evening here in Kent. 16:00 GETTING THERE Slowly but surely parts of manager Gary Brabin's jigsaw are falling into place. It's fair to say the boss hasn't had luck on his side since he's taken over the reins at Kenilworth Road. A post away from promotion to the Football League, a penalty shootout defeat to AFC Wimbledon and a horrendous injury list robbing him of an entire defence have frustrated the likable Liverpudlian. Always smiling - although I bet there have been some frowns in the dressing rooms after some results this season - the manager now has cause for optimism. Saturday's 2-1 victory over Kidderminster was packed with good new stories. The return of the captain, George Pilkington, for his first game since that ill-fated day in Manchester. The return of Shane Blackett for his first appearance since last November. A second away win of the season against a side above them in the table that lifted the Town back into the play-off places. Things are looking up. However "Leagues aren't won or lost in October" Brabin said yesterday. "I'm not concerned about the league table until sometime after Christmas." Only when all of his senior players gradually get themselves off the treatment table will the boss begin to think about titles and championships. Until then it's a case of keep grinding out those wins and improving performances. While the return of Pilkington and Blackett have raised spirits, Brabin - who hasn't hidden behind the list of the walking wounded as an excuse - still has almost half a dozen players still missing for tonight's game with Ebbsfleet United. There'll be no Keith Keane, Alex Lawless, Freddie Murray, Dan Gleeson and Charlie Henry. Five players who would probably get into the first XI of most, if not all teams in the Blue Square Bet Premier if available. Suspensions and injuries have meant that Brabs hasn't been able to keep a settled side each week. Therefore, considering the chopping and changing, for the Town to be going into tonight's game six points behind the league leaders with a game in hand it's a testament to the manager's management skills that they lie where they do in the table. Expectation says perhaps they could be higher - but this is no ordinary league. Ebbsfleet and their manager Liam Daish must be sick of the sight of the so-called 'top' teams having faced Wrexham and Gateshead in the past week. The Fleet faithful will also be wary of a Town side whose last visit to Stonebridge Road was a miraculous 6-1 win. It's 90/1 with the bookies that lightening strikes twice that Brabin's men repeat the feat of March 2010, but all the visitors will be concerned about is leaving Kent with all three points. The importance of three points will no doubt be made known to the Hatters squad tonight. Some big games are lurking around the corner as the race for promotion hots up... Well, whatever happens tonight and throughout the season, your official website will have everything covered: every step of the way: live, on radio and via social media. If you can't make the match then 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 WAP site. On Hatters Player you all have access to our live commentary. Remember, Player is available as ever which means you all have access to our live commentary. If you haven't heard it yet then where you have been? It's still brought to you by Simon "Statto" Pitts but he's got company this time! The DiverseFM team have collaborated with BBC Three Counties radio and the Club to bring you the Luton Town Show. Following the final whistle we'll have all the reaction from the men that matter this afternoon, bringing you exclusive video content from Gary Brabin and from the dressing room. We'll have plenty of content to keep you interested as we'll have all of the post-match reaction from Brabs as well as match action from Gareth Owen to follow after the final whistle. Be sure to check out www.hatterspics.co.uk - our online image library. Like a picture you see and fancy having that on a mug? Well, fancy no more - with Hatters Pics it's a reality. Remember, we want you to get in touch. Join the updates and get in touch. Email andrew.barringer@lutontown.co.uk and we'll pick the best comments to go live on the site during our live updates. Don't forget we're also on twitter and Facebook so feel free to interact with your fellow fans online. Enjoy the game. #COYH
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