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MATCH REPORT

PUBLISHED
12:39 8th January 2012

TOWN 2-0 NEWPORT COUNTY AFC

Town 2
O'Connor 35, Crow 66 Newport County AFC 0 The Hatters made it four league wins in a row for the first time in a year with a straightforward victory over 10-man Newport County. After a largely uneventful first 30 minutes, the game turned when former Town striker Ryan Charles was shown a straight red card for a foul on Dan Gleeson. Two minutes after his dismissal the Hatters had the lead through Aaron O'Connor's header when he glanced home Jake Howells' corner. And the Town made the points safe on 66 minutes when Danny Crow slid home from a yard out to connect with Greg Taylor's low left-wing cross. Crow was one of two changes to the side that beat Kettering 5-0 on New Year's Day with Gleeson also returning. Curtis Osano and James Dance were the two that missed out. The Town began patiently but could have been a goal down to the lowly visitors on eight minutes when Elliott Buchanan blasted a left-foot shot a yard wide of the post having been found in space on the edge of the area. The Town continued to remain patient as they attempted to unpick the lock in the Newport defence and on 12 minutes Alex Lawless almost did that: receiving the ball 35 yards out and jinking past several motionless white shirts before driving a right-foot side half-a-yard wide of the post from the edge of the box. At the 20 minute-mark the only surprise to those inside Kenilworth Roadwasn't the fact there hadn't been a goal, it was the fact that neither side had created a clear-cut chance. County - who had been beaten by bottom-of-the-table Bath on Tuesday - were showing no signs of a side low on confidence and on the half-hour Buchanan came within a whisker of putting Justin Edinburgh's side ahead when blasting a shot from six yards onto the woodwork. It was hardly end-to-end, 100 mph stuff but Janos Kovacs - fresh from signing a permanent contract to keep him at Kenilworth Road until June 2013 - headed wide when well placed on 32 minutes as the Town began to find their stride. But you felt that something needed to change to inject some life into a game and the turning point arrived on 33 minutes when Charles, who had caused the Town defence a few worrying moments, saw red for a high tackle on Gleeson in the centre circle. The visitors would have hoped to get to half-time goalless - to reassess and regroup - but just two minutes after Charles' dismissal the Town made their numerical advantage count. Gleeson won a corner down the right which was swung in by Howells to O'Connor who sent a fine glancing header into the corner of the net. It was his seventh goal of the season. The Exiles now needed to push forward in a bid to level and almost did so on 40 minutes - Sam Foley showing nimble footwork to beat two Town men before curling a shot inches wide. Gleeson's participation ended a minute later when he was substituted for Dance and, as the Hatters pushed for a second killer goal before half-time, Howells came within inches of scoring for the third game running when sending a fine effort just wide from 22 yards after taking a square pass from O'Connor. With slender scoreline in their favour, the Hatters were in the hunt for a second and O'Connor and Dance combined at the start of the second half that opened up the County defence but Crow could only skew a shot high and wide from 10 yards. The Town weren't helping themselves by frustratingly giving the ball back to their opponents but it was the visitors who almost gifted the Hatters a chance to make it 2-0 when Keith Keane took advantage of a slip from Ismail Yakubu just outside the penalty area, but with the ball bobbling awkwardly into the path of the number four, Yakubu cleared the danger. A flurry of half-chances came and went for the Town in a spell just past the hour mark before the Hatters made it 2-0 on 66 minutes - exploiting the visitors on the break. Dance did well to cut-out a County attack and play a fine pass inside to Watkins who had space to drive goalwards. It was four versus three in the Town's favour on the counter and with plenty of options Watkins shifted the ball left to Taylor, galloping up from full-back, who slid a perfect low pass across the face of goal for Crow to tap in his eighth goal of the season. The Town pushed for more, Lawless firing a thunderous low shot into the side netting moments later before O'Connor was denied a second by a fine block by Foley after he'd tip-toed into the County penalty area. Substitutes Stuart Fleetwood and Robbie Willmott threatened to extend the Hatters comfortable lead but a third goal never materialised and the Town held onto a fifth straight win in all competitions and a third successive clean sheet. Consistency is the name of the game and another win further enhances the Town's place in the play-offs. Wrexham and Fleetwood's leads have had three points taken out of them. Okay, so now they have games in hand but the Hatters are now growing in confidence. Can they win a fifth game in succession on Tuesday against Stockport? Fingers crossed, eh. BE THERE. Luton Town 2 (O'Connor 35, Crow 66) Newport County AFC 0 Result FULL-TIME It's all over here at Kenilworth Road and the Town have got the job done, their fourth successive league of the season. Report, reaction, photographs and highlights all to follow. COYH. 90 mins + 3 - O'Connor cross, deep to back post, Taylor, header stopped by Thompson. 90 seconds or so left here. 90 mins - Four added minutes left... 88 mins - Two minutes left here. 85 mins - All the Hatters now as Fleetwood goes on a mazy run, darting past two Newport men and into the box but his finish drifts wide. 82 mins - Almost a chance for three, Dance sending O'Connor away, who cuts inside and pokes a shot goalwards from six yards that Foley does well to block. 80 mins Pilks is playing no further part...hopefully precautionary and he's replaced by Robbie Willmott. Keith Keane drops to centre-half. 76 mins - George Pilkington's taken a knock but he's up and okay now. 75 mins Second change for the Town, goalscorer Crow off for Stuart Fleetwood. 68 mins - The Hatters are hungry for more now...Lawless hitting a well-struck shot from distance a whisker wide. 66 mins  GOAL! TOWN 2-0 Newport (Danny Crow) - Well the Hatters had been struggling to gain any rhymth but with Newport attacking they punish them on the break. It's a lovely pass from Dance inside to Watkins who drives forwards. It's 4v3 in the Town's favour and he opts to square to Taylor gallopping down the left. He squares the ball brillianly with a low cross that DANNY CROW bravely tucks home, colliding with the post. He's up and he's okay though. That could be game over. 63 mins - Attendance this afternoon is 6,108 which includes 228 shouting for Newport. 61 mins - Another break down the left for the Hatters and the same result as Taylor bursts into the box and whack a right-foot side out for a throw. 60 mins - Hour gone and almost another opening for the Town as they work the ball well down the left with Howells who cuts the ball back for Watkins who gets a shot away but doesn't get the right connection and the ball bounces out for a throw. 55 mins - A yellow card for the visitors' centre back Gary Warren as he chops down O'Connor in the centre circle. 54 mins - Almost an opening for Keith Keane as he closes down Ishmail Yakubu but the ball takes a funny bounce and the Town number four is unable to control it in the box. Yakubu gets back to make it harder as the ball spins away. 50 mins - Half a sniff for the Hatters as they get in behind the Newport defence, Dance and O'Connor combining to set Crow away but, off balance, the striker screws a shot high and wide. 49 mins - So where are we? County need a goal to get back into this, the Town need another to make it comfortable. 46 mins And we're off as Newport restart us. Town now kicking towards the Kenny end. No changes for either side. HALF-TIME The Town lead at the break. Come back in 15 minutes for the second half updates. COYH. 45 mins + 2 - Oh, close, close and it's almost 2-0 before the break as O'Connor feeds Howells 22 yard from goal and his super curling left-foot effort just drops wide. 45 mins - Three added minutes here. 41 mins Early chage for the Hatters as Dan Gleeson has taken a knock and has been replaced by James Dance. 40 mins - Oh, close and Newport come close, Sam Foley doing well to beat to men before curling a shot inches wide of the post from the edge of the box. 35 mins  GOAL! TOWN 1-0 Newport (Aaron O'Connor) - A nightmare few minutes for the visitors as they have a man sent-off and the Town punish them by taking the lead. Former Hatter Ryan Charles sees red for a challenge on Dan Gleeson in the centre circle and two minutes later Gleeson wins a corner, Howells centres it and AARON O'CONNOR glances home his seventh goal of the season. 33 mins - NEWPORT RED CARD (Ryan Charles) 32 mins - Back come the Hatters as Kovacs heads narrowly wide from a Howells free-kick. 30 mins - Wow, almost 1-0 County as Buchanan get in behind the Town defence and hooks a venemous shot onto the angle of post and bar. The ball rebounds free to Sam Foley who heads goalwards but it hasn't got the power and Pilkington can gather. 27 mins - Well it's taken almost half-an-hour but finally we have a shot on target...Adam Watkins sees a shot saved from 25 yards out by Thompson. 25 mins - Not really worth mention and wouldn't usually but Newport break down the left with Charles who does well to pick out Sam Foley but the visitors'  number 10 gets his shot horriby, horribly wrong and it bounces about 10 yards wide. 24 mins - So much for my 5-0 repeat 'prediction'. 20 mins - Nothing happening much...typing in the hope that things will change. 17 mins - Still goalless here, and still a real dearth of clear-cut chance. 12 mins - Better from the Town as they work the ball patiently to Lawless who spots a gap through a mass of Newport bodies to advance 15 yards to the edge of the box and fire a shot half-a-yard wide of Glyn Thompson's right-hand post. 10 mins - 10 on the clock, and that chance for Newport, that's been in it. 8 mins - Chance and it's for the visitors. The ball falls to the feet of Elliott Buchanan on the edge of the area. He's got space and time and blasts a left-foot shot a yard wide of the post. 7 mins - Howells and O'Connor have swapped flanks here early doors. 5 mins - Five gone here, Hatters marginally on top but there's been no goalmouth action for either side in the opening stages. 2 mins - Okay then so Town lining up with Kevin Pilkington in goal, Greg Taylor left-back, Dan Gleeson right-back, Janos Kovacs and George Pilkington centre-backs, Alex Lawless holding in centre-mid with Adam Watkins and Keith Keane ahead of him. Aaron O'Connor is on the right wing, Jake Howells on the left and Danny Crow is down the middle. 1 min Annnnnnd we're off here as the Town kick-off shooting towards the Oak Road end. Enjoy the updates. COYH. 14:55 HERE THEY COME Out come the two sides, the Town in orange, County in white. Standby for handshakes, coin toss and photographs. And then we'll be off and away. Enjoy the updates. COYH. 14:45 PRESS BOX PREDICTIONS Andrew Barringer: 5-0 (why not again?), Simon Pitts: 2-1 Luton, Mark Wood: 4-1 Luton, Mike Simmonds: 3-0 Luton, Lauren Archell: 2-0 Luton, Bill Cole: 3-1 Luton. 14:30 WEATHER WATCH II Cold, sun trying to peer through with some dark, threatening clouds in the distance. 14:22 ALL CHANGE Our visitors this afternoon have made five changes to the side that lost to bottom-of-the-table Bath City on Tuesday night. 14:20 YOUNGSTERS HELD In their first game of the New Year the Hatters' Under-18s drew 1-1 with Peterborough United this morning. Jemale McKenzie scored the Town goal. 14:10 TWO CHANGES Dance and Osano out, Crow and Gleeson in. Town: K. Pilkington, Gleeson, G. Pilkington, Kovacs, Taylor, Lawless, Keane, Watkins, Howells, O'Connor, Crow. Subs: Kissock, Willmott, Fleetwood, Dance, Tyler. Newport: Thompson, Warren, Yakubu, Foley, Jarvis, Hughes, Pipe, Charles, Rodgers, Buchanan, Sandell. Subs: Potter, Baker, Knights, Matthews, Harris. 13:55 ON THIS DAY It's not a great record for the Town on this day. Just three wins from 14. And who remembers the one back in 2006 against Liverpool at Kenilworth Road? 3-1 up against the European champions in the third round only to go and lose 5-3? The Hatters haven't won on this date since a 4-0 win over Northampton Town at Kenilworth Road in 1961. Overall record: Played 14, Won 3, Drawn 4, Lost 7, Scored 29, Conceded 33. 13:45 TEAM NEWS COMING SOON In the next 15-20 minutes it will be here...standby. 13:00 WEATHER WATCH In a word: changable. It can't make it's mind up out there. On the plus side it isn't as wet and windy like it was at Newport in November. Thank god. 11:45 CONNECT FOUR The buzz word for Gary Brabin this season has been consistency. The Hatters boss has been exasperated by his side's failure to string a run of results together this season and as a result he's seen Wrexham and Fleetwood streak clear to battle it out for the sole automatic promotion place. But the title race is far from a two-horse race - especially with 20 games to go - and the manager is hoping that the Town's Christmas and New Year form of three straight victories can be the springboard for a successful second half of the season. The win at Tamworth on 17th December was one of the best of the season. Brabin himself said afterwards it was the first time the team had played they way he'd always envisaged. Then back-to-back 5-0 victories over beleaguered Kettering Town followed on Boxing Day at Kenilworth Road and Nene Park on New Year's Day. Cynics might say that the standard of the opposition in the past two fixtures has given the Hatters false hope of catching the top two. However, you can only beat what's in front of you, and - more to the point, and most importantly, confidence is rising. You can see it. Confidence is a wonderful thing when you have it and the Hatters have it in abundance at the moment. Regardless of the opposition, there was a real style and swagger in which the Town put the Poppies to the sword. Not since the middle of last season have the Hatters won four games in succession in the league (abridged between 13th November and 4th January - cup games and the icy weather intervened). Today the Town have a chance to make it four league wins on the bounce. Newport County are the visitors. Another side currently experiencing problems. Players on the transfer list, a change in manager a quarter of the way through the season and a recent defeat to the league's bottom side. Expectation will be on Brabins's side to record another big win. Wrexham and Fleetwood enjoy the spotlight in the FA Cup third round this afternoon when they meet Brighton and Blackpool respectively in two ties that have captured their imagination. In comparison the Town's meeting with County today is mundane - but its importance in the bigger picture couldn't be more vital. COYH Well, whatever happens today, and indeed throughout the season, your official website will have everything covered: every step of the way. 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 after, 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 Gary 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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