Cambridge United 1
The Hatters had to settle for a point at promotion rivals Cambridge to leave them nine points off the top of the Blue Square Bet Premier.
A fine first half display saw Gary Brabin's men in charge and a goal to the good following Stuart Fleetwood's fourth goal of the season on 17 minutes.
The Hatters were good value for their lead going in at the break but after the interval the hosts upped the ante and deservedly equalised on 13 minutes from time when substitute Liam Hughes netted within three minutes of his introduction.
Brabin made three changes to the side that beat Northampton 1-0 in last Saturday's FA Cup tie. Greg Taylor made his debut at left-back, Fleetwood returned from a one-match suspension whilst James Dance made his first appearance since fracturing his eye socket and jaw against Hendon. There was no Keith Keane or Amari Morgan-Smith whilst John Paul Kissock dropped to the bench together with ex-Cambridge man Robbie Willmott. Kevin Pilkington continued in goal.
It was the Town - and Fleetwood - who has the first chance of the game six minutes in. Taylor's clipped pass found the striker in the penalty area but his low shot was straight at Danny Naisbitt in the Cambridge goal.
As the opening stages continued to be dominated by the Hatters' passing football, another chance fell their way on nine minutes when Jake Howells curled a direct free-kick over the crossbar after Aaron O'Connor
had been tugged back on the edge of the box.
Back came the hosts and the men in amber had big shouts for a penalty three minutes later when Luke Berry's goalbound shot hit George Pilkington but the home side's appeals unmoved referee Tony Harrington.
But the Town were enjoying a fine period of possession and Brabin's men made their dominance count by going ahead on 17 minutes and it was simple in its formation: Dance played a delightful throughball to Fleetwood and the striker made no mistake by placing a calm and assured finish past Naisbitt.
The momentum was well and truly all with the men in white and on 22 minutes the lively O'Connor saw a fierce shot from the edge of the box blocked by Josh Coulson. The rebound fell nicely for Fleetwood but a block saw O'Connor unfortunately handle with the touch setting up Dance to lash home but the goal was rightly chalked off.
O'Connor thought he should have had a free-kick two minutes later when he was barged off the ball by Coulson before Kevin Pilkington need to be alert to tip around an Ashley Carew cross that took a massive deflection off Taylor on 25 minutes.
The pace of O'Connor was really causing Cambridge problems and the Town forward should have done better on the half-hour mark when he was sent bounding clear of the home defence following Dance's lovely pass but his touch was poor and Naisbitt was able to gather.
While the Hatters were still showcasing some tidy football, Cambridge slowly began to creep into the game and after a flurry of off-target half chances they almost equalised on 37 minutes when right-back Kevin Roberts' 35-yard thunderbolt was turned away spectacularly by diving away to his right.
But the Town ended the first half well with O'Connor and Curtis Osano both going close as the break approached: the former connecting well with a left-foot shot from the edge of the area that was held by Naisbitt and the latter showing excellent skill to glide into the box and see a cross-cum-shot blocked.
Both sides began the second half well in an end-to-end opening five minutes with Hatters attacking with gusto on the break and the U's upping the ante at the other end with George Pilkington and Janos Kovacs doing well to repel the home side's attacks.
There was little of goalmouth action in a 15-minute spell that Cambridge began to dominate but they only had Ashley Carew's free-kick from the edge of the box to show for their superiority with Pilkington making a comfortable save on the hour.
The Hatters were being pegged back in their own half as Cambridge pressed for an equaliser but the chance came for Brabin's side to double their on 68 minutes when Alex Lawless raced down the right and found Fleetwood who dummied for O'Connor to drive forward and blast a shot goalwards that was saved. The rebound, however, was seized upon by the Hatters and Fleetwood saw a low shot trickle the wrong side of the post with Naisbitt beaten.
Right-back Roberts almost handed the Hatters their second of the afternoon minutes later when he forced his own goalkeeper into a smart save from his own chest-pass back to him following Dance's right-wing cross.
Cambridge though were enjoying the lion's share of possession and the home crowd thought they'd found an equaliser on 76 minutes when Michael Gash's turn and shot beat Pilkington but the goal was disallowed for offside against the striker.
But 60 seconds the Town failed to heed that wake-up call when the hosts levelled. Tom Shaw did well to battle his way into the penalty area down the left flank and his cross was met by substitute Hughes from six yards.
All of a sudden it was all Cambridge and Carew bent a free-kick into the arms of Pilkington on 80 minutes before Shaw curled a shot from the edge of the box inches wide with four minutes left on the clock.
The Hatters were living dangerously at the back as Cambridge pushed for a dramatic late winner but it never came and in the end the points were shared to leave the Town in seventh place in the table.
For minute- by-minute analysis see below.
Result from Abbey Stadium
Cambridge United 1 (Hughes 77)
Luton Town&nbsp;1 (Fleetwood 17)
FULL-TIME It's all over here and it's ended all square. Check back for&nbsp;a report, all the reaction and images from today's game only on your official website.
90 mins - Three added minutes, almost chance for Town, Fleetwood cut-back turned behind by Roberts, inches from an own goal. From the corner, the ball eventually finds the head of Taylor whose header loops into the hands of Naisbitt.
88 mins - Two minutes left here.
86 mins - Cambridge still pouring forward in search of a winner, Shaw curling a left-foot shot inches wide from 22 yards.
84 mins Second change for Town: Adam Watkins on for Hand.
80 mins - Cambridge fancies this now, up steps Carew from a set-piece from 20 yards that only finds the midriff of Pilkington.
77 mins First change for the Town as Ryan Brunt replaces Dance.
77 mins &nbsp;GOAL! CAMBRIDGE 1-1 Town (Hughes) The Hatters aren't so lucky this time though as Tom Shaw's run into the box down the left is hammered home by substitute LIAM HUGHES who has only been on the pitch for three minutes.
76 mins - Hearts in mouths time for the Hatters as Michael Gash has the ball in the net for the U's but his effort on the turn that beats Pilkington is disallowed for offside.
74 mins - Second change for the hosts as Berry is replaced by Liam Hughes.
71 mins - Almost an embarrassing moment for U's right-back Roberts who chest pass back to Naisbitt had to force the goalkeeper into an instictive save.
68 mins - Back come the Town, first real foray forward for a while as Lawless scurries down the right to Fleetwood who dummies into the path of O'Connor who goes for goal and sees a shot blocked. The ball then is popped back out to Fleetwood whose low shot rolls just the wrong side of the post.
63 mins - First change of the afternoon is for the host as they introduce Jordan Patrick (no, not that one) for Peter Winn.
60 mins - On the hour, half a chance for Cambridge and Pilkington is called into evasive action as he plunges to his right to keep out Ashley Carew's free-kick from outside the box.
58 mins - Not a lot to tell you about at the minute but Cambridge are on the front foot here.
52 mins - End-to-end stuff at the minute but little in clear-cut chances. A good game, one which the neutrals would enjoy. Not sure there are many of those hear though.
48 mins - No changes for either side at the break.
46 mins - Attendance 4,796 with 1,754 in the away end.
46 mins And we're off for the second half, the Town kick-off shooting towards their 1,800 fans.
HALF-TIME And that's the break here at the Abbey Stadium and the Town deservely lead at the break thanks to Stuart Fleetwood's fourth goal of the season. Check back in 15 minutes for the second half updates. COYH.
45 mins - Two added minutes added but the Hatters are hunting a second before the break with Osano doing well down the right after more neat stuff from Dance and Howells.
44 mins - Another chance for O'Connor from the edge of the box as Cambridge half-clear their lines the number 14's effort is held by Naisbitt.
37 mins - Almost 1-1 as Kevin Roberts' stunning 35-yarder is turned around the post by Pilkington, flinging himself away to his right. Top effort, top save. Still 1-0.
34 mins - Half a sniff for Cambridge but a shot from outside the box sails harmlessly wide.
30 mins - And again and this time it should be 2-0 as the impressive Dance sends O'Connor springing clear of the Cambridge but his touch is poor and the hosts are let off the hook.
29 mins - Still the Hatters press, O'Connor and Dance doing well, Osano then whips in a right-wing cross that Dance flicks on but the ball drifts wide.
25 mins - Pressure from the hosts as Pilkington does well to tip around Ashley Carew's cross that had deflected goalwards by Taylor.
24 mins - Almost a chance for 2-0 again as O'Connor hunts down a long ball but his knocked off the ball&nbsp;by Coulson. Nothing given.
22 mins - Chance. All the Town now as O'Connor bursts ahead of steam on the edge of the box and fancies his chance with a powerful shot that is blocked by Josh Coulson. The ball rebounds to Fleetwood who turns but then ricochets up and hits O'Connor on the arm before Dance finishes well...no goal, handball.
17 mins &nbsp;GOAL! Cambridge 0-1 TOWN (Fleetwood) Well it had been on the cards and a bright opening from the Hatters sees them in front in simply, clinical fashion. James Dance threads a ball through to STUART FLEETWOOD who does the buisness from eight yards with a smart finish underneath the body of Naisbitt. Get in.
12 mins - Back come the hosts and referee Harrington waves away penalty appeals as Luke Berry's shot is deflected by George Pilkington. Handball was the shout. Nowt given.
9 mins - Town on top at the minute, as O'Connor wins a foul on the edge of the penalty area that the linesman signals for, Howells curls a left-foot effort inches over the crossbar. Encouraging stuff early doors for the men in white.
6 mins - Chance - the first of the game - and it's for the Town as Taylor clips the ball into the feet of Fleetwood who takes a touch in the box and sends&nbsp;a low left-foot shot into the hands of Naisbitt in the home goal.
3 mins - Quiet start here in the sunshine, the Hatters are kicking away from their support with the line-up suggested earlier - 442 with Howells and Dance on the flanks in midfield with Lawless and Hand in the middle, Fleetwood and O'Connor up top.
1 mins&nbsp; And we're off here at a packed Abbey Stadium as the hosts kick off.
14:56 HERE THEY COME
Out come the two sides, Town all white.
14:50 PRESS BOX PREDICTIONS
Andrew Barringer: 4-3 Luton, Simon Pitts: 2-2, Bill Cole: 1-1, Ian Ryan: 2-2, Mike Simmonds: 2-1 Cambridge, Mark Wood: 2-1 Luton.
The Abbey is filling up here, the away end almost half-full already.
442 I reckon...Taylor and Osano full backs, Pilkington and Kovacs at centre-half, Lawless and Hand in centre-mid, Dance on the right wing, Howells on the left with Fleetwood and O'Connor up top.
What a strong bench that looks. Excellent stuff. #impact.
14:25 THREE CHANGES
Greg Taylor get his Town debut, Stuart Fleetwood returns from suspension and James Dance comes back following injury. Kevin Pilkington remains in goal.
Town: K. Pilkington, Osano, G. Pilkington, Kovacs, Taylor, Dance, Hand, Lawless, Howells, Fleetwood, O'Connor. Subs: Tyler, Willmott, Kissock, Watkins, Brunt.
Cambridge: Naisbitt, Roberts, Jennings, Coulson, Wylde, Shaw, Gash, Carew, Jarvis,&nbsp; Berry, Winn. Subs: Hughes, Marriott, Patrick, Hudson, Thorpe.
14:20 TEAMSHEETS...WHERE ART THOU?
I've seen someone with a teamsheet but they've not got as far as the press box yet. Anyway, James Dance, Greg Taylor and Ryan Brunt all out on the pitch warming up with the rest of their team-mates.
14:05 JEZ GEORGE'S PROGRAMME NOTES
The Cambridge boss writes: "I know there will be some pantomine villians today but I have nothing but respect for Gary Brabin, Paul Carden, Danny Crow, Dan Gleeson and Robbie Willmott.
"From my perspective, I remember Dan Gleeson as a 15-year-old youngster that joined United and progressed through the ranks as Josh Coulson has done since, with his hometown club. I signed Robbie Willmott as a 15-year-old from Buntingford and his sale last January became a financial imperative for the club."
13:57 TEAM NEWS...
Standby, it should be with us in the next 15-20 minutes.
13:45 ON THE PITCH
Greg Taylor and Dan Gleeson are just two of the players out on the pitch at the moment as the Hatters squad take a look at the grass currently bathed in sunshine.
Arrived in Cambridge and it's a lovely sunny, crips Autumnal afternoon in the city. A few Town supporters already milling about outside the ground.
Plenty of talk on Facebook and Twitter about our 1,800 supporters travelling to the Abbey Stadium. Including a retweet from John Hartson.
11:30 TOWN ON TOUR
You could be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss was about but, as games go, it's another big one for the Town this afternoon in the Blue Square Bet Premier.
Cambridge United's season has surprised many - flying high in third in the table - but Jez George's side have already done the business over the Hatters, winning 1-0 at Kenilworth Road back in late September.
While it's hardly a "revenge" mission for the Town, Gary Brabin will take his side to his former club looking to bounce back from the disappointment of their last league action, the 2-1 defeat to leaders Fleetwood.
That defeat put the Town seven points behind the Cod Army which means Brabin and co's task becomes doubly hard this afternoon - the management and players know what's expected - a defeat and victories elsewhere could see the Hatters 10 points off the top.
Injuries to Amari Morgan-Smith, Keith Keane, Danny Crow and Tommy Wright have stretched resources slightly but there are three reasons to be optimistic this afternoon.
Firstly, the possibility that Dan Gleeson and James Dance could return to the squad from injury; secondly that striker Stuart Fleetwood returns from suspension and is joined in the squad by new signing Greg Taylor and work experience striker Ryan Brunt. Third, finally and most importantly, the Hatters will be backed by a magnificent 1,800 supporters who have snapped up every single ticket available.
Taking all of the above into consideration It promises to be an exciting afternoon.
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