AFC Telford United 1
The Town were left ruing hitting the woodwork twice as they were held to a frustrating draw by AFC Telford at a cold Kenilworth Road.
Stuart Fleetwood struck the post inside the first 60 seconds in what was an electric start to the game with the Hatters spurning several chances as they cut open the visiting defence.
Captain George Pilkington saw a header hit the other post on 39 minutes but two minutes later Robbie Willmott fired the Town ahead after good work between Danny Crow and James Dance.
However, the Town's failure to double their lead came back to haunt them when the visitors levelled things up when Sean Newton's direct free-kick from 25 yards found the net.
Crow, Willmott and substitutes Ryan Brunt and Aaron O'Connor
both had chances late on to win it but the Bucks held on to earn a point and leave the Town contemplating what might have been.
Beforehand, boss Gary Brabin made three changes to the side that won 1-0 at Newport County with match-winner that day Crow given a start in attack alongside Fleetwood. Willmott and Keith Keane also started in midfield. O'Connor and Greg Taylor dropped to the bench whilst Jamie Hand was left out of the squad altogether.
The Hatters started with real gusto and could have been a goal to the good inside the first minute when superb interplay between Crow, Alex Lawless and Curtis Osano down the right flank saw Crow cross low for Fleetwood at the near post to drive a shot goalwards that struck the inside of the post. Telford couldn't clear their lines and, from a left-wing corner from Willmott, Keane glanced a header from close range a yard the wrong side of the post.
It was a breathless, 100mph start from the men in orange and they almost found the net on five minutes when Dance strode forward and fed Crow who instantly squared to Willmott 10 yards who saw his fierce effort destined for the top corner tipped around the post by visiting goalkeeper Ryan Young. The danger wasn't over for the Bucks, however, as Lawless curled a vicious shot over the crossbar from 20 yards after the visitors failed to clear the resultant corner.
After the flurry of chances for the Hatters inside the opening five minutes it seemed Andy Sinton's side had weathered the storm as they slowly found their feet.
In fact the Bucks were pushing forward looking menacing on the break and the Town had goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington to thank on 23 minutes for keeping the score goalless when palming away at the feet of striker Craig Farrell who had raced clear of the home defence. Farrell saw a follow-up shot headed away by Pilkington before a minute later Kevin Pilkington held Steve Jones' ambitious effort.
Stirred by the chances created by the visitors, the Town stepped it up a gear and almost broke the deadlock on 25 minutes when fancy footwork from Fleetwood fashioned a chance for Dance to drive a stinging shot goalwards that warmed the gloves of Young. The danger wasn't over again, though, as, from a short-corner routine, the ball eventually drop to the feet of Fleetwood who lashed a shot from close range into the Oak Road end, scattering the visiting support in the process.
The Hatters continued to lay siege against the stubborn Telford back-line with a host of half-chances flying off-target with Lawless - twice - and Willmott both seeing chances go begging.
But you could sense a goal was coming and after the woodwork denied the Town a second time when Pilkington's header from a Dance cross came back off the post on 39 minutes, Brabin's men finally got their noses in front two minutes later.
Dance and Crow - who were beginning to strike-up a good understanding down the right - combined to shift the ball left to Willmott who had all the time in the world to send an low and accurate finish past the advancing Young for his sixth goal of the campaign.
Seven minutes after the restart Willmott has the first effort of the second half, seizing on a poor pass out of defence from the visitors to drive forward and let fly from the edge of the box with an effort than flew over Young's crossbar.
But the Town were made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal on 55 minutes when the visitors made it one each. Dance lost the ball in midfield and Lawless conceded a free-kick 25 yards out that Newton curled up and over the wall and beyond Pilkington.
Hurt, the Hatters responded almost immediately when Janos Kovacs showed skill and strength to drive up-field and thump a shot from 25 yards over Young's crossbar.
Crow almost restored the Town's advantage on 62 minutes when Pilkington superbly-flighted deep pass was met by the head of the striker but his effort dropped agonisingly the wrong side of the post.
But Telford were far from out of it and they almost took the lead three minutes later with a carbon copy of their equaliser when goalscorer Newton hit a sweetly-struck free-kick inches past Pilkington's right-hand post.
The Hatters were huffing and puffing as by now Telford were intent on keeping a point and frustrating the hosts as Brabin introduced Adam Watkins, Ryan Brunt and Aaron O'Connor
in a 12-minute spell in a bid to restore the lead.
As the clocked ticked into the last 10 minutes the Town continued to press but found Young and the Telford tough to breach. The keeper kept out a bouncing long-range effort from Brunt on 83 minutes before visiting skipper Shane Killock threw himself at another Brunt shot inside the box with the ball heading Young's way.
A minute later, with six left on the clock, Osano crossed for O'Connor to head at Young from 15 yards but, try as they might, the Hatters could not find a late winner for the second successive game and they had to settle for a frustrating point.
Disappointment all round but it's the magic of the FA Cup on Saturday when Cheltenham Town are the visitors.
Keep the faith.
For minute-by-minute analysis see below.
Result from Kenilworth Road
Luton Town 1 (Willmott 41)
AFC Telford United 1 (Newton 55)
FULL-TIME It's all over here, reaction, images and a full report to follow.
90 mins - Into the last minute...four added minutes.
88 mins - Two minutes left to find&nbsp;a winner.
84 mins - Another chance for the Town...Osano cross from the right met&nbsp; by the head of O'Connor, into the grateful arms of Young.
83 mins - More work for Young in the Telford goal to paw away a dipping, bouncing effort from Brunt....and then another as the Town work it well in the box as Brunt is through but his effort is brilliantly blocked by visiting skipper Shane Killock.
80 mins Third and final sub, Adam Watkins on for Crow.
79 mins - Hatters dominating possession and there's a chance as Willmott cuts inside and lets fly from the edge of the box that Young turns around the post for a corner.
75 mins - 15 minutes left for the Town to find a winner here. They're on top at the minute.
71 mins Second change...Ryan Brunt on for Fleetwood.
70 mins - 20 minutes left, still the Town pushing forward.
68 mins First change for the Hatters tonight, Aaron O'Connor
65 mins - Oooooh, that's close and Telford are inches away from taking the lead in an almost carbon copy of their equaliser as Newton curls a pacy free-kick goalwards that flashes wide.
62 mins - CHANCE. And it's almost 2-1 Town as Pilkington floats a superb deep pass into the box that's on the head of Crow but the striker's head drops agonisingly the wrong side of the post.
58 mins - The Town need to hit back and they almost do so, Kovacs showing great skill to burst forward. He's encouraged to drive forward and when he reaches 25 yards from goal his effort sails over Young's crossbar.
55 mins GOAL! Town 1-1 TELFORD (Newton) - Bad news. Dance gives the ball away in midfield and Telford flood forward. Lawless upends a visiting player 25 yards from goal and SEAN NEWTON curls home straight from the free-kick with Pilkington unable to keep it out.
52 mins - Off target effort from Willmott from 20 yards sails into the Kenny End after Telford had gifted the goalscorer with the ball 40 yards from goal.
51 mins - First booking of the night is for the Town, as Crow goes in the book for a late challenge by the dugouts.
49 mins - Quiet start to the second half here but Young is called into action to climb high and climb a cross from Dance down the right. Good play all round.
46 mins Annnnnnnnnnd we're off for the second half here at Kenilworth Road. No changes for either side at the break. Telford kick-off, the Town are now kicking towards the Kenny end.
HALF-TIME After one added minute at the end of the first half the referee calls time on the first 45 minutes and the Town are ahead. Check back in 15 minutes for the second half updates. COYH.
42 mins - That's Robbie Willmott's sixth goal of the season.
41 mins &nbsp;GOAL! TOWN 1-0 Telford (Willmott) - Deadlock. Broken. Not to be denied this time as Crow and Dance combine 20 yards from goal to tee-up ROBBIE WILLMOTT 12 yards out who cooly slots home past the advancing Young. Frustration over.
39 mins - CHANCE. And for the second time tonight the Town are denied by the woodwork. Dance hangs up a fantastic cross from the left that George Pilkington meets but his header comes back off the post with Young beaten.
38 mins - Willmott and Howells combine again down the left, the latter gets a shot away that hits Will Salmon. Corner...which Telford clear.
35 mins - And again as the Hatters continue to look for the opener, Willmott cuts inside from the left and sees a shot sail just high and wide.
31 mins - Another off target shot from the Town as Crow squares to Lawless on the edge of the 18-yard box to curl over Young's crossbar.
28 mins - Still the Hatters push forward as Willmott drives a dangerous low cross into the box that Dance can't get to but Osano retrieves the ball on the right and floats a cross into the penalty area that Lawless heads wide.
25 mins - Back come the Town though and it's almost 1-0 as Fleetwood shows some really good nimble footwork to break into the box. Crow lays the loose ball off to Dance who lashes a firm shot goalwards that stings the hands of Young. From a short-corner routine the ball drops to Fleetwood who somehow whacks the ball from close range into the visiting Telford supporters in the Oak Road end.
23 mins - Kevin Pilkington hasn't had much to do but he's called into evasive action to keep the scores goalless. Telford striker Craig Farrell races through on goal and gets past Pilkington but the stopper does well to get a hand to the ball to turn away. Great goalkeeping.
15 mins - It's getting a bit scrappy now, the Bucks are finding their feet after that 100mph start from the Town.
12 mins - Telford have ridden that early storm from the Hatters here.
8 mins - Worth a mention? Probably not but I'm going to anyway. Dance runs through on goal and squares to Lawless but his effort this time isn't close, no where near in fact as his shot bounces on the Oak Road stand&nbsp;roof.
5 mins - The Hatters are well on top here and are unlucky not be two goals ahead already as they go close twice more. This time great play from Crow and Dance sees the former find Willmott in the box and the winger fizzs a fierce shot goalwards that Ryan Young, the Telford keeper tips wide. From the resultant corner Telford half-clear and the balls drops to Lawless who curls a first-time shot just over the crossbar. Breathless beginning. Still 0-0.
2 mins - Oh, almost, almost and the Town go close twice in the space of 60 seconds in a breathless beginning. Firstly Lawless, Osano and Crow combine brilliantly for the latter to cross low for Fleetwood at the near post who's low shot comes back off the inside of the post and away to safety. Then from a left-wing corner whipped in by Willmott, Keane glances a header just wide.
2 mins - The Hatters are lining up, as one might expect with a back four of Howells, Osano, Pilkington and Kovacs, a midfield four of Lawless, Keane, Willmott and Dance with Fleetwood and Crow up top.
1 min And we're off, enjoy the updates as the Town kick-off. COYH.
19:43 HERE THEY ARE
Two teams out, Town in orange, Telford in white shirts, black shorts. Standby for handshakes, coin toss and a moment's silence for Gary Speed.
19:37 PRESS BOX PREDICTIONS
Andrew Barringer: 3-0 Luton, Simon Pitts: 2-1 Luton, Mike Simmonds: 3-0 Luton, Mark Wood: 3-1 Luton, Bill Cole: 3-1 Luton.
19:30 WEATHER WATCH
Still, dark, cold here inside Kenilworth Road. 15 minutes until kick-off.
19:10 ON THIS DAY
The Town's record on&nbsp;29th November: played 15, won eight, drawn three, lost four and have scored 25 and conceded 20.
The last time a game involving the Hatters on this date was for a 3-1 FA Cup defeat at Southend United.
Prior to that the Hatters had won the previous five and had won six of the previous seven, which included a 2-0 win over local rivals Watford at Kenilworth Road in 1992.
18:55 THREE CHANGES
Town boss Gary Brabin makes three changes to the side that won 1-0 at Newport County at the weekend. Keith Keane, Robbie Willmott and the match-winner on Saturday Danny Crow, come in for Aaron O'Connor
, Jamie Hand and Greg Taylor. Taylor and O'Connor are on the bench.
Town: K. Pilkington, Osano, G. Pilkington, Kovacs, Howells, Willmott, Keane, Lawless, Dance, Fleetwood, Crow. Subs: Tyler, Brunt, Taylor, O'Connor, Watkins.
AFC Telford: Young, Salmon, Newton, Whitehead, Killock, Farrell, Davies, Valentine, Smith, Cain, Jones. Subs: Brown, Adams, Preston, Chamberlain, Robinson.
18:35 TEAMS COMING SOON
They'll be here in the next 10-20 minutes so standby...Unchanged? Who knows...
18:30 GARY SPEED
If you haven't found out via our Twitter and Facebook accounts today, we will be having a moment's applause for Gary Speed, the Wales manager who died on Sunday aged 42.
18:00 DARK SKIES
The rain of earlier has subsided and has made way for dark, clear skies. It's very cold here in LU4 so wrap up warm. The club shop has new stock of gloves, scarves and, in particular, some fancy new hats. Pay it a visit before kick-off tonight and keep warm!
17:30 WIN FOR YOUNGSTERS
The Hatters' Under-18s won this afternoon to go fifth in the Youth Alliance table. For a report and reaction click here.
16:30 BUILDING BLOCKS
They say it's better late than never.
Danny Crow's winner at a wet and windswept Spytty Park on Saturday was a crucial one. In the end it was irrelevant when the goal came - the most important thing was that a goal did come to ensure Gary Brabin's men earned three vital and hard-earned points which helped them make ground on five of the six teams above them in the Blue Square Bet Premier.
Brabin and assistant manager Alan Neilson, who spoke to the press yesterday, now want that last-gasp goal to be the catalyst for a winning streak. Consistency has been hiding so far this season but now, after a battling display against a team in what's considered a false position (Newport won 4-1 at Fleetwood remember), the signs are looking good. And believe me, it was far from easy in South Wales. Swirling wind and driving rain meant from the referee's first whistle neither team were going to score three or four goals at a canter.
Tonight, however, the Town hope to make it six points in three days as they welcome Andy Sinton's AFC Telford United to Kenilworth Road. Brabin and co. will be looking to end a run of two consecutive league defeats in front of the home faithful following reversals against promotion rivals Wrexham and Fleetwood.
The Bucks, who lie 17th in the league standings, matched the Hatters' result at the weekend by beating Barrow 1-0 on their own turf, playing the last quarter-of-an-hour with 10 men. On the road Sinton's side haven't tasted victory since an excellent 1-0 win at York City back in August. That was eight games away from home ago. It's nine if you include a heavy 4-0 defeat to Chelmsford City in the FA Cup 10 days ago.
Neilson quite rightly pointed out that Telford will not roll over and let the Town dominate proceedings come 7.45pm tonight. "We all know that teams like to come here and frustrate us. It remains to be seen if Telford will play like that or not," said the assistant boss yesterday.
Whether Telford will park the bus or go gung-go, patience, determination and belief will be required.
That got the Hatters that important result on Saturday and, with flying winds forecast again, the players, management and supporters may require the same again this evening.
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